I know very well that I am a relic of a bygone age, but I have a long-established routine when I am lucky enough to visit a smart restaurant. I peruse the menu, I choose what I'd like to eat, and then I eat it. I may well, at a later date, tell friends about the experience in the way one would share a recommendation for a film or a book. What I would never do is take a picture of my roast scallops with pea and mint purée and circulate it among my friends (with the implicit message: look at me!).
In fact, I have only once taken a picture of my food, and, rather prosaically, that was a snap of a club sandwich I was served at a golf club in the Canary Islands. It wasn't any old club sandwich, you understand. A perfect circle had been cut out of the top layer of bread, and there, shining away like the sun breaking through the clouds, was the perfect yolk of a fried egg. It was a clever, witty and original take on a sandwich which I wanted to share with Mark Hix, i's resident chef and a friend of mine.
Chefs take inspiration from wherever they can find it, and a short while later, Hix's Saturday column in The Independent included a recipe for Club Sandwich a la Tenerife (of course, he gave full credit to its originator). That was my sole (forgive the pun) foray into the world of food photography, which only goes to prove how out of place I am in the modern world.
The other day, my 24-year-old daughter was running me through the pictures on her mobile phone. There were one or two of her friends and the odd snap of an event she'd attended. But predominantly, overwhelmingly, they were pictures of dishes of food. Meals she'd had in restaurants, meals she'd cooked at home. The exotic, the stylish, the commonplace. Memories of nights out, the pleasure of evenings in. Most of her friends, she said, do exactly the same. Whenever they're eating something that may be considered noteworthy, they quickly capture it on their mobile and then fizz it around the virtual world on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.
They may then eat it, and possibly even enjoy it, although it seems to me - with my admittedly old-fashioned ways - that the primary satisfaction comes from the sharing, the comparing and possibly even the bragging. I know we live in a Come-Dine-With-Me world, but at every manifestation of our fetishised relationship with food, I become increasingly concerned about whether this is having an adverse effect on our culture. It's only food, after all.
There's a rather good viral joke that has been doing the rounds recently. It goes something like this: “Remember the good old days when you went to a restaurant, you got out your Kodak Instamatic and took a picture of your food. Then you took the film to be developed, and a few days later you got the photograph back. No? So what makes you think I'm interested in the bloody pictures of your dinner now!” I couldn't have put it any better myself.