Telluride Daily Planet, Sunday, September 20, 2015
I am staring down at my phone, at an Instagram post from a food blogger I like, trying to fathom how a sweet potato waffle gets 13,616 likes. Yes, of course, she has a lot of followers — 841K is what it says — with some of those followers possibly purchased, traded for, who knows, but enough people staring at a waffle to form a political party, and, for all I know, one that could usher in a kinder, sweeter (or more savory) era of breakfast-oriented national politics.
On second thought, no!
Does it mean we’re always hungry? That we follow the blogger? That we’re breakfast lovers? That the photo is particularly evocative? That we are inclined to follow a viral waffle? That we simply like the power of liking? That we heart and need the breakfast-in-bed waffle lifestyle? That we like it when people care enough to make food well and make it look pretty? That we are mindlessly touching screens like we used to mindlessly stare out windows? What?
Surely, the waffles look good; they do. On closer scrutiny, I kid you not, they happen to have used my plates in the styling, my everyday dinner set. The two sweet potato waffles have a fried egg on top, and a few wedges of compulsory avocado on the side. A tiny pitcher of syrup dots the NNE corner of the post. After scrolling through 231 comments, most of them a few words max and meant to get the attention of @someone, I am still staring at this blog post on my phone, thinking about all the recipes I’ve tried from these various bloggers. I am on my couch. Our deer family outside is busy eating our grass as sun glints through the quaking aspens.
Like a lot of us, I used to have a wall full of cookbooks. Everything from the old Rumford Cookbook that was my mother’s to dozens and dozens of books collected over many years and gifted from a friend in the publishing industry. I had my mother’s recipe box, the one my dad and I made for her, each index card stamped with a rooster I’d carved out of a pink eraser. I had all the yellowed newspaper clippings of appetizers and casseroles, with scribbled-in notes, cross-outs, substitutions. A little “good” at the top, underlined, was the old version of a Like.
Most of those cookbooks are gone now, given away. Some of the recipes I’ve kept just to honor tradition, but frankly, my mother, however French, was not a great cook. The war years (Paris, 1939-45) took away her appetite permanently and she fed us diligently but without — understandably — much delight in the process. Her kitchen hours were spent simply, with simple ingredients, some of them packaged, and Mozart playing on the transistor radio. I am unsure what she would have made of food blogs and posts on Instagram. She might have opted to post pictures of her roses, the magnolia tree, the dogwood, the precious white strawberries. Food would not have captured her fancy, not like it did my daughter’s, who started reading food blogs seriously at the age of fourteen.
Nowadays, we have six ingredients in the fridge and we can Google or hashtag what to do with them for dinner, sometimes rather ingeniously. We can order ethnic condiments online for overnight delivery. With the barrage of recipes coming at us from the blogosphere, we can learn about salting chocolate chip cookies, using beets to make burgers, cauliflower to make rice and coconut flour to make bread. We can search #waffles and get over a million Instagram posts, which doesn’t include #waffle (singular), #wafflelove, #waffletime or scores of others. Every day we can try something novel. Every meal, every snack, every smoothie can be new, improved, exciting and practically ready to photograph. We can photograph it, in fact, and post it to our own Instagram account. In my case, I would probably get my average: 15 likes. #notimpressive #ohsowhat
All of this in contrast to a moment in the kitchen the other day when we cut apart a large farmer’s market peach, paring out the bad parts and wondering how good it would be, lamenting the bruise after having spent about $3 for it. I slice off a hunk and drop it in my mouth like an oyster. The rest goes in my husband’s lunchbox. When he gets home, he says, “That peach from today?”
I know what he doesn’t even have to say. That it was absolute perfection. The best peach of the season, so sweet and tangy-skinned, so soft and ripe and juicy and reminiscent of everything summer. A non-virtual heart-of-the-now moment of taste, of pleasure, of sweetness and, yes, even lifestyle. Conclusion? #sometimessimpleisbest