Insta-Chefs by Tom
The book store, a place the middle classes frequent when they are detoxing from Amazon and pretending to stick two fingers up to capitalism. Within these forgotten establishments, you’ll find familiar tropes; the intoxicating smell of printed paper, veneer wooden shelves, way too many staff with an almost tangible smugness and a seating area where people are supposed to sit reading books but instead sit reading their iPhones.
However, a new consistency is emerging. To the untrained eye, it looks like pile of cookery books taking centre stage like a shrine to the culinary gods. A prominent pile of cookery books doesn’t sound particularly new or something to take note of, but where are the familiar faces? Where is that chubby bloke from Essex brandishing some Italian pasta he’s pretended to cook for his pretend friends? Well he’s not there because these aren’t ‘normal’ cookery books. No, these are the Avant Garde, these are the Instagram Chef books.
You’ll have noticed if you peruse social media that the photographing of self-prepared food has become a popular endeavour. Instagram, being photo focused, is at the forefront of this and we now have Insta-famous chefs. Only they aren’t chefs, they are just attractive people who can photograph food with in-vogue filters and then hashtag the fuck out of them. Worse still is some of them preach about the health benefits of their food – capitalising on the diet fad market too. This has blown up into a massive industry and we now have hugely successful books such as ‘Girl casually sitting with bowl on lap’ and ‘Millennial in tight fitting training shirt near some inconsequential food’. These books are now best sellers and are hugely popular.
I procured one of these douche bibles to find out why.
First off is the apparent (and initially commendable) agenda of wanting to make cooking seem simple and easy – hinting the question; “Why isn’t everyone cooking like this?”. Well Joe, we aren’t all cooking like you because we don’t have coconut oil, kumquat seeds or the tears of an Eskimo. So far, so Jamie Oliver, but at least Mr Oliver can cook and come up with great recipes (once you’ve completed the pilgrimage to procure the necessary ingredients).
As I read on, the recipes are pretty terrible. I admit they look fantastic, but they rely on the overly complicated, expensive ingredients. Lazy statements like “let the ingredients speak for themselves” emerge. I personally would rather know how to cook them in an interesting way. Fundamentals are also missing – I encountered one recipe for a pie and it didn’t even mention seasoning. Wow.
I then decided to cook a recipe. This was going well, but save the expensive ingredients, I realised something – this is familiar. I’ve been cooking like this since I was a child. This isn’t clever stuff, it’s just cooking. The same cooking you’ll find in ‘Good House Keeping’ or be taught by your parents. There’s nothing new here.
So why are these books successful if they aren’t offering anything new? It’s the same reason as to why their authors are famous on social media – vanity. Popular culture has always been obsessed with looks over substance, unfortunately this ethos has now infiltrated cookery books.
Bring back my sweet, soft Essex boy. #neverenoughgarlic