Is Food for Sharing Anymore?
Sat at a table with enough food to last over an hour’s dining, and a laptop or recording device opposite, the idea of the Korean phenomenon Mukbang is for celebrities to connect with their fans by sharing a meal via live stream.
Stripped of cultural dogma and social stigmatisms, Mukbangs can be seen to target singleness in the setting most emphasised: eating a meal.
Meeting at a café, cutting cake at birthdays, offering up your day in anecdotes over the evening meal – food is all about sharing. The sociability of food has even leapt over the sensory ravine that we assumed the internet would create to, instead, create new audiences and occasions by working with it.
How has food managed to navigate the internet without its social nature getting lost in the internet’s favour of the independent?
Yes, the sheer abundance of online recipe catalogues and foodie blogs cannot be ignored. But beneath the title of almost all recipes found online, be it on All Recipes.com or BBC Good Food, share icons allow the reader to link recipes to anyone existing on any site from Facebook to Gmail, Twitter to Pinterest, engines made by conversing – these sites are hardly silent.
From Binging with Babish to Tasty to Munchies, portion-controlled cooking shows are available online. The auto-play – subtitled and muted – automation of videos on Facebook and Youtube make them suitable for consuming bitesize length cooking shows. It may be due to this that channels such as Babish’s have three million subscribers, and platforms like Tasty have even become a platform with a brand and merchandise.
Cooking shows are not new concepts, but the way in which food and the internet are interacting show us how cooking is not just entertainment, but a social practice, and therefore, as all experiences that are social, will survive the internet because it is intrinsic to humans.
Of all the ways in which food is shared, videos are the most expansive. Independent consumption is a kind of sharing, like reading, that is explored by oneself and then shared afterwards, in conversation online or in person. It’s the age we live in. This is how we share now.
It seems that cookbooks are yet another facet of the food industry, amongst sourdough, canned soup, and DIY brewing, experiencing a renaissance. But while cookbook sales are flourishing in print, this success can be linked back to online audiences subscribing to plans, such as Joe Wicks’ Lean in 15, coincidentally the best-selling book of 2016 1. Increased availability, choice in format, and celebrity activity (name a chef, nutritionist, or TV personality who isn’t active in cookbooks or Youtube) has revolutionised the cooking show community by emphasising the relevance of cooking to all kinds of lifestylers.
The upcoming ‘digital detox’, prophesied by Mintel in 2009, signposted by ‘peak smartphone’ 3 may just eradicate the independent sharing of cooking, but, given the nature of a detox, are we just about to return to sharing food around the table again, with a few less screens?
2 Social media and the great recipe explosion: does more mean better? Bee Wilson
3 Have we reached peak smartphone? Kantar 20 Nov 2017
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