Food Porn is Centuries Old

By Sandy Todd Webster
Dec 14, 2016

When it comes to our preoccupation with depicting food as both inspirational and aspirational, human behaviors haven’t changed much since as far back as the 16th century. According to a new study by Cornell Food and Brand Lab Director Brian Wansink, PhD, and colleagues, exalting over-the-top meals and exotic ingredients isn’t just a social media phenomenon.

If painters during the High Renaissance had hashtagged their work, they might have added flourishes to glorify #lobster; #pomegranates and #salt. The researchers found that some of the most commonly painted foods from 1500 to 2000 AD, such as shellfish and exotic fruit, were not representative of a typical diet; rather, artists painted extravagant meals based on desire rather than reality—a practice similar to today’s constantly trending #FoodPorn, say the study authors.

“Paintings from the age of Michelangelo were loaded with the foods modern diets warn us about: salt, sausages, bread and more bread,” Wansink says.

For the study, published last July in SAGE Open, researchers selected 750 European and American food paintings from the 500-year period and focused on 140 paintings of family meals. They found that 76% of all the meals depicted included fruits, but only 19% contained vegetables. Over 41% showed bread and pastries, while 39% contained meat. Salt was the most commonly depicted seasoning, and cheese the most common dairy product.

Photo Source: Copyright Wansink, Mukund and Weislogel, SAGE Open 2016 Wansink and Wansink International Journal of Obesity 2012

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Sandy Todd Webster

Sandy Todd Webster is the editor in chief of IDEA’s award-winning publications. She is Precision Nutrition Level 1 certified and is a Rouxbe Certified Plant-Based Professional cook.

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