In praise of ugly food


If you spend any time on Instagram, you may start to feel a bit insecure about your cooking and baking. Impeccably staged, lushly lighted, stunning photographs featuring glistening vegetables, intricately decorated pie crusts, and artfully composed plates could make anyone eye their grilled cheese sandwich with disdain. But just because a dish is not gorgeous doesn't mean is not delicious, says Kat Kinsman at Serious Eats

Kinsman relates an event she witnessed at a Southern Foodways Alliance symposium, where chef Sean Brock created a chicken and dumplings dish with his mother. At previous demonstrations, everyone snapped multiple images with their phones, uploading the beautiful shots to social media. With Brock's dish, however, people hesitated, and Kinsman realized it was because the dish wasn't photogenic. But it was delicious, and part of an historic event, so Kinsman took a photo and posted it with the caption "Some food isn't pretty and does not need to be."

Her concern is that by only posting images of the most visually pleasing foods, we are in danger of creating a history that will omit some of the most valuable and important foods of our time. Kinsman is "terrified that the less-lovely and monumentally delicious ducklings will be lost to the ages, overshadowed by prettier dishes in this new era of visual gluttony." 

In the world of potential dystopian futures, one without ugly food may not seem that bad. But imagine a world where people never knew about chicken and dumplings, beef stew, baba ganoush, hummus, or split pea soup. That is not a future I would like to see. To combat this, Kinsman makes sure to post photos of dishes that are meaningful to her, regardless of how pretty they may look. I think that's a splendid idea, and I'm sharing a photo of yesterday's lunch of potato and dumpling soup, similar to the German chicken soup with dumplings recipe from Food & Wine by Molly Yeh.


  • Rinshin  on  12/10/2017 at 11:05 AM

    Don’t think this is ugly at all. I much appreciate less staged look like this compared to only for photos look. I want to make this recipe.

  • Nancith  on  12/10/2017 at 1:33 PM

    Maybe unassuming is a better description! I agree that homey, or homely, food can be extremely tasty & satisfying.

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