And my response…

Thank you to everyone who left a comment re: the last post. I was genuinely interested to see what people thought – if they responded to Mike’s comment in a similar or completely different way to me. I thought it would generate some interesting responses (and I think it did!).

Now for my response. When I woke up this morning and read the latest batch of comments, Mike’s comment did peev me… a lot. Now, this isn’t a personal attack at Mike at all – but his comment did hit a raw nerve, which prompted me to make that last post, and to write this one.

Yes, I realise that this is a public blog, and as I have chosen to allow people to leave comments, I cannot possibly (and don’t) expect that everyone who does comment will agree with me or even like what I do here. Of course, like most people who blog I do hope that most of the time people will be courteous, reasonable and well-informed when expressing contrary as well as complimentary opinions. Again, I know not to expect that this will happen all the time. But of course, as I’m a person just like everyone else, I do have feelings and will respond emotionally to certain comments more than others, for all kinds of reasons. People who read the site will respond differently to posts. I know this, I know this.

I’ve been thinking for most of the day (in between helping prepare lunch and hanging out with Jac, my sister and her boyfriend – I hope to post about today’s lunch tomorrow evening) about why Mike’s comment peeved me so much. Call it over-analysis if you will (a couple of you did, in your comments :)), but this is my personal blog (yes, which I do share with friends as well as strangers on the net) and I can and do use it to express about my thoughts and feelings on things that bother/excite/interest/disgust/horrify/please/obsess/terrify/electrify/whatever me. Perhaps this is what makes the site different to other food blogs which stick strictly to food-related posts. It’s just me, I guess. I analyse stuff. This is the style of the blog, the owner and her writing.

So, the reasons I felt peeved:

1) My immediate response – before thinking about whether the advice about garnishes was given with a genuine desire to help or not – was “Duh!” You know when someone is trying to be helpful and offers you advice but in doing so clearly shows you that he or she has assumed your complete ignorance, inexperience or naivety when all of those are completely off the mark? That’s how I felt when I read Mike’s advice re: garnishing meals. I was incredulous that someone could (and did) assume I had never heard of garnishes before.

I guess I was annoyed that someone would leave a comment telling me about garnishes in a tone that seemed to imply he had assumed I had never heard of garnishes. You know, I’m just someone who has been posting photos of the food I’ve eaten for over 12 months (and before that, at my previous sites), has eaten many meals (like most people) both at home and when dining out (like most people), and has not been living in a cave for the past 31 years (that might make it a little hard to do one’s PhD). Yes, thank you for alerting me to the existence and role of the garnish. It felt a little insulting, I guess. I’m not suggesting he set out to be insulting, I mean, he doesn’t know me, and I don’t know him – but that’s how I felt. If “insulting” is too strong a description, it was definitely patronising, and at the very least annoying. It was definitely annoying enough to get me thinking about why I was annoyed, which has resulted in the previous post and this one.

I then thought, well, perhaps he hasn’t read any of the older posts where I have posted photos of garnished home-cooked meals (just for example: here, here and here). I have posted both garnished and non-garnished meals. But perhaps he hadn’t noticed that.

While we’re on the subject, here’s an aside about garnishes.

Yes, garnishes can enhance the appearance of a dish. But what Mike suggests about garnishes creating “increased anticipation” (which therefore, according to him will “increase the enjoyment”) does not apply to me where Jac’s homecooked meals are concerned.

I feel anticipation as I’m about to sink my fork or spoon into my dinner because the dish or meal before me smells really good and I’ve been smelling it the whole time it’s been cooking. I’ve been listening to the sound of the knife hitting the chopping block as Jac’s chopped the green beans, and I’ve heard her using the vegetable peeler on the carrots. I may have even helped her with the preparation of the meal (I always offer, but sometimes she gets into a groove and tells me she’s quite happy to do it herself, so I’m left to chatter to her and tell her about my day while watching, smelling and listening). I know that Jac has put in a lot of care, effort and love to cook my dinner – to cook me something I will enjoy. Mike has written a post on his site about his take on garnishes, which you should read, to get a better idea of his rationale on the role of the garnish. He writes: “Suddenly an ordinary meal looks so good, prepared with thought and care and you can’t wait to eat”. Where a homecooked meal is served up for dinner that has been prepared by my partner whom I love dearly and whom I know loves me too, I don’t need a garnish to make the dish more enjoyable or seem more special, because to me it is already special. She’s a great cook – it is already appetising.

When I see garnishes such as coriander or parsley on any meal I am about to eat, the direct effect of that coriander or parsley is not one of anticipation – I will be thinking instead about where to leave the garnish after I’ve plucked it off the food. On the side of my plate/bowl? On the table by the side of my plate/bowl? Yes, regular readers will know I’m not a fan of parsley or coriander, and I realise Mike would not know this if he hasn’t read older posts. Sometimes Jac does garnish dishes because she thinks they will look better in a photo, but often I tell her not to bother because to me the dish already looks great – and, since I’ll just pick the garnish off anyway and not eat it, I don’t see any need for her (or me) to go out into the garden in the dark to cut a sprig of parsley or coriander or whatever. If I can’t or won’t eat the garnish, I don’t really see the need for it in a homecooked meal. Incidentally, Jac did want to garnish the dish in question with a sprig of coriander, but the coriander in our garden has been ravaged by beetles anyway. The parsley in the garden was a little old looking and would not have enhanced the dish’s appearance in the least. So on this occasion, we did deliberately leave out the garnish.

So ends the aside about garnishes.

2) Let’s face it, people think of different things as porn. That’s why when you go into a porn shop there are different categories – it’s not just one big barrel of porn that will turn everybody on in the same way.

Mike wrote “Just soem [sic] chopped parsley or coriander transforms a good-looking meal in to true food porn”.
I didn’t like the way he seemed to suggest that the photo under discussion was not “true food porn” because of the lack of garnish – perhaps his idea of food porn, which he has assumed to be the “true” one, always comes garnished. But it’s not mine. I know my food photos will not appeal to everyone. Some people, for example, much prefer professionally lit and posed, magazine-style shots of food, and feature such photos on their sites. But I wouldn’t leave comments on any such sites implying that their photos are not true food porn just because I may find their photos less appealing to me personally.

3) As pointed out by weirdlittlepony, I didn’t like how Mike addressed me as “food-porn person”. This, I felt is related to his opinion that my ungarnished meals are not “true food porn” – that to him, as my photos do not depict “true food porn”, I have no right to call myself a food pornographer. Perhaps this is not why he decided to call me “food-porn person”, but that’s the impression I got. I think it’s kind of rude (whether rudeness is intended or not) not to address someone by their name, or in this case, their blogging alias – when it is clearly visible on their site – and instead call them something else you’ve conjured up, which, in the context of what you’ve written may be construed as a dig at them.

4) In response to johnny who commented on my over-analysis of things, yes, I analyse things. If you’ve read this far, johnny, I’ll be amazed, since you’re not into the “over-analysis”! :) Yeah, I write in detail about things that happen to me. I think about things thoroughly before I write about them and post them on the site. It’s me. This is my personal space on the net which I share with friends and strangers. Yes, it is strange, but there are people who are interested and actually like reading this stuff, think about it and respond to it.

If you’ve only just read the previous post and this one, feel free to comment on either – as I’ve already said, I think it’s been most interesting to read how people have responded. And it’s great to have heard from a few lurkers too – hi guys, thank you for reading! :)

I have emailed Mike and alerted him to this and my previous post. I have emphasised to him that this is not intended to be a personal attack. This isn’t a “let’s flame Mike” thing at all. Yes, I’ve expressed my annoyances and negative reactions to Mike’s comment, but I can (and do!) have rational and challenging discussions involving disagreements. I think it’s been well worth thinking about this and writing about it (yes, and analysing too) – I mean, we comment on other people’s blogs and don’t necessary think we might offend them, but can inadvertently do so. I’m not the sort of person who tends to cover up her true response to a comment (whether in blog or in person) with a more public relations-friendly one.

I promise I’ll get back to food pics tomorrow evening. We ate our way through a yummy Sunday lunch with both savoury and sweet goodies – homecooked and (gulp) ungarnished, anticipated and most definitely enjoyed. Right now, I must get to bed.

Thanks again, everyone, for your interactions with me via this blog. You really make me think (as well as happy and sometimes peeved!).

EDIT, 20 Nov 2006: To minimise confusion:
The Commentgate (or Garnishgate, whichever you prefer) Post Links:

The original post, to which the comment in question was made.

My invitation to readers to comment on the comment.

My detailed analysis of my response to the comment, and my personal take on The Garnish.

The final word from me. I’m over it, really. But thank you for the interesting and thought-provoking discussion.

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