My friend and I recently differed on the designs of our respective (and totally hypothetical at this point in our lives) “dream living rooms.” A fan of the tv show “Hoarders” and an allergy sufferer, I see a copious amount of books as clutter teeming with dust. (I’m a big fan of ebooks.) My friend, on the other hand, aspires to owning a floor-to-ceiling library.
I don’t necessarily disagree with the aesthetic value of a large in-home library; however, I was surprised by the rationale behind my friend’s aspiration. She saw a collection of books as an outward reflection of who she is as a person– essentially, “I read therefore I am.” She wanted visitors to see the titles and infer worldliness and sophistication in character.
I found this interesting because the value, to me, of books is not the physical items but rather the experience of using them. In a world where everything is social, reading is one of the few intimate activities: a quiet moment where you, alone, experience the words and ideas of another human being. The importance of books, therefore, is in the transfer– and for the reader: the absorption– of ideas; once the transmission has occurred, the book itself becomes merely a vessel that has done its job in facilitating communication.
I feel similarly about the meme of taking and sharing photographs of food via social media. When I ask friends the motivation behind this activity, the responses are mixed; however, whether it’s a desire to document entry into exclusive eateries, showcase a particularly beautiful meal or give a culinary update, the general reason is: I just wanted to share. (Frankly, until social media is able to teleport a spoonful of crème brulee right into my mouth, the “sharing” is useless to me.)
Like reading, I consider eating to be a wonderfully personal activity: try as you may, you can never adequately convey to another person the experience of taking in gastronomic artistry. Whether using words or vegetables, the craftsperson has transformed raw ingredients into a manifestation of ideas, inspirations and feelings, often rife with nuance and therefore uniquely experienced. With each bite or turn of the page, you feel something different and special and the best you can do to describe it is simply to say, “I experienced something great and it was a deeply meaningful moment.”
This is not a rant against food showcased on social media– it’s a fine way to direct friends to places to go and food to try. Instead, it is simply an appeal to post-ers to remember to stop and smell the roses (or taste the broth… or digest the idea…)– to not be so focused on proving what it says about you but instead on what it says TO you. If indeed you are what you eat, remember to savor the experience.