SANDI TOKSVIG on self­ies

Food is one of life’s plea­sures and Sandi Toksvig is de­lighted that you are en­joy­ing your meal. Just don’t send her a pic­ture of it

Good Housekeeping (UK) - - News - IL­LUS­TRA­TION CLARE MACKIE

The other day, some­one sent me a pho­to­graph of their prawn cock­tail. It wasn’t some­one I knew all that well, and I wasn’t sure what the cor­rect re­sponse was sup­posed to be. I didn’t think we were the sort of col­leagues who shared crus­tacean com­pli­ments or even de­lighted in each other’s free­dom from seafood al­ler­gies. To be hon­est, I was un­aware that the prawn cock­tail had even made a come­back. It had been a very pop­u­lar dish back in the Sev­en­ties, but that was also the time when or­ange juice served in a small glass on a plate with a doily was con­sid­ered an ac­cept­able start to a meal.

It made me think of the thor­oughly en­ter­tain­ing Em­peror Elaga­balus, who ruled the roost in Rome from 218 to 222. Most em­per­ors aren’t noted for be­ing a laugh, but this one came to power at the age of just 14, which is never a good age to be made om­nipo­tent. When my kids were that age, they weren’t even al­lowed power over the TV re­mote con­trol. Elaga­balus thought it was hi­lar­i­ous to in­vite poor peo­ple to din­ner and serve them paint­ings of food in lieu of an ac­tual meal. My prawn cock­tail photo ar­rived just as I was stuck on a train with no buf­fet car and I felt un­ex­pected sym­pa­thy with the hun­gry of An­cient Rome.

Pho­tograph­ing one’s din­ner and send­ing the im­ages out into the world is quite the thing these days, and I’m not at all sure why. I con­stantly have to be re­strained in restau­rants from go­ing up to cou­ples who are sit­ting to­gether bathed in the glow of light from their re­spec­tive phones while not say­ing a word to each other. I long to grab their de­vices and make them swap the world of mod­ern com­mu­ni­ca­tion in favour of some­thing old-fash­ioned like a con­ver­sa­tion. I’m afraid I doubt that the old adage ‘a pic­ture is worth a thou­sand words’ will work for a mar­riage where, after 20 years, you find all you have are a thou­sand pic­tures of shep­herd’s pie but no idea what your part­ner is think­ing.

Ap­par­ently, there are peo­ple who even ask for bet­ter-lit ta­bles in restau­rants to make sure their din­ner pho­tog­ra­phy is suit­ably il­lu­mi­nated. I can’t think of any­thing worse than sit­ting in a spot­light so the world can watch me spill soup down my front. I don’t want peo­ple to watch me eat at all.

I read about a new phe­nom­e­non in South Korea called muk­bang, which means ‘eat­ing broad­cast’, where peo­ple tune in to watch some­one eat vast quan­ti­ties of food live. I used to do that at home when my son was a teenager, but I can’t say I would have paid for the priv­i­lege.

They say the com­put­ing power of the mod­ern phone is greater than that used by NASA to send men to the moon in 1969. As it hap­pens, be­cause of my dad’s job, I was at mis­sion con­trol in Hous­ton when Neil Armstrong be­came the first man to step out on the moon. I saw those com­put­ers and watched the live pic­tures come up on the big screen, and not once did Mr Armstrong send any­one a snap of his din­ner. He and ev­ery­one else had bet­ter things to do. Now we hold in our hand the abil­ity to ac­cess the world’s knowl­edge and we use that power to send each other shots of salad.

I sup­pose hu­man be­ings have al­ways wanted to record some­thing of their ex­is­tence. Cave peo­ple were ob­sessed with show­ing each other what a bi­son looked like, even though the crea­tures must have been run­ning about out­side for all to see. If not depict­ing an­i­mals, then there were also plenty of Palae­olithic peo­ple who rather more drea­rily wanted to share the shape of their own hand. The irony is that by record­ing some­thing, we ac­tu­ally en­joy it less. Ap­par­ently, the squint­ing that we do when try­ing to cap­ture an im­age has an ef­fect on us. We start us­ing the pro­cess­ing part (the left side) of the brain in­stead of just rev­el­ling in the en­joy­ment part (the right side). So the very act of telling ev­ery­one how happy we are di­min­ishes the ac­tual hap­pi­ness.

While I was writ­ing this, my prawn cock­tail cor­re­spon­dent sent me a pic­ture of av­o­cado on toast. It looked like… well, av­o­cado on toast. I de­cided I needed to re­spond but all I had in the fridge were some an­cient car­rots and a lit­tle weary beet­root. I ar­ranged them into a slightly rude still-life homage to Elaga­balus and sent it. I’ve had no re­ply, but I’m ashamed to say my plea­sure was im­mense.

By record­ing some­thing, we ac­tu­ally en­joy it less

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.