While you are tucking into your diet food log on to see the exotica the world is eating
Luscious, creamy, buttery. Decadent, delicious, divine. Momofuku Crack Pie, first thing in the morning, accompanied by a salty pistachio alcoholic milkshake. Best of all, it's completely guilt free. Just like the chocolate cupcakes covered in dark fudge and bright sprinkles I just went through. Followed by a warm apple turnover covered with a golden crust and scoop of rapidly melting ice cream.
The pie's in New York. The cupcakes are in Melbourne. And the apple turnover is on a friend's dining table in Amsterdam, lying on top of her infamous purple Hello Kitty oven mitts, charred by various cooking disasters. As for me, I had steaming, virtuous, ghastly oats porridge for breakfast, after 45 minutes of hardcore interval training at the gym. So this is how I get my kicks. Logging onto Facebook, and checking out all the wonderful things my friends are eating and cooking.
As it turns out, I'm not the only one. The Internet's enabled all of us to live vicariously through family, friends and strangers — doing, trying and tasting things we might never have had access to before. As phones get increasingly sophisticated, equipped with cameras and easy access to the Internet, it's getting easier and easier for people to give the world minute-by-minute updates.
Given the steadily increasing interest in food, it's only natural that the Internet now links foodies across the globe, enabling them to share photographs, recipes and stories. Which makes for endlessly fascinating content.
Foodfeed for example (http://foodfeed.us/) calls itself “a service that helps you share your eating habits with everyone, from anywhere. Just be sure Mom doesn't get your feed.” Using twitter (the popular microblogging service) people from all over the world send updates on what they're eating, as they're eating it. Nrgza in London, for example, says she's drinking “Caramel Horlicks. This stuff smells like candy, rainbows, unicorns and lullabies.” The_Maki in Vienna, meanwhile is luxuriating over “Stilton and Port, reading Sherlock Holmes. Party like it's 1899!” And in Wellington, New Zealand, Cleopatra's munching her way through “lamb and yams… and other things which don't rhyme.” (Note: Confused by the strange names? These are all ‘handles' or online pseudonyms.)
While blogs and books tell us plenty about food cultures and recipes, sites such as these furnish us with a more colourful, immediate picture of the world beyond our windows. Besides catering to the inexplicable fascination all of us have for other people's lives, it also demonstrates that despite eating very different food, all of us do have plenty in common. Peanut butter sandwiches, for instance. The eternal struggle against the forces of chocolate. And the inevitable caving in to dessert. Look at Daniel from Germany who's food list includes “Haagen-Dazs macadamia nut brittle, pizza and beer, McSundae caramel, Haagen-Dazs cookies and cream.”
For those of you who also want pictures, there's TasteSpotting (http://tastespotting.com/), described by its founders at “our obsessive, compulsive collection of eye-catching images that link to something deliciously interesting on the other side”. The website's so popular, it has spread to Facebook, drawing almost 5000 fans, and as always, Twitter, with more than 10,000 followers.
Or try Food Gawker (http://foodgawker.com/), a neat user-friendly gallery for food bloggers to showcase their skills. A lot of work clearly goes into these pictures, because they're stunning. They also helpfully link to blogs which explain the recipes. Think: “Popcorn coated in marshmallow peanut butter wonderfulness. Spicy cinnamon rolls with cayenne and toffee bits. A classic Polish dumpling filled with delicious sauerkraut, topped with crispy bacon and onion.”
Then there's Foodspotting (www.foodspotting.com), which enables you to find and share food recommendations. All you need to do is take a picture of whatever strikes your fancy, say a particularly succulent kebab at the restaurant down the corner from your house.
What's all the excitement about? Well, it enables you to sit at home tamely drinking ragi malt while you travel the world, in real time, through pictures being uploaded by foodies. Past a breakfast of Ukrainian vatrushka. A dessert of coconutty lamingtons from Australia. Balsamic vinegar strawberry fudge brownies for an ice-cream social in San Francisco. You might not be invited, but you still get to enjoy the food.