Has Food Replaced Sex as Our Latest Obsession?

What's more wanton than the desire to consume what we know we shouldn't have?

Trends are often tricky to discern at the very beginning, but at the height of their influence you suddenly see them everywhere. Whether on an upturn or a downward spiral, the fact remains our individual identities are often overshadowed by the things we crave and secretly covet.

Not too long ago, I began to notice a subtle shift across my social networks. Comments were traded coyly at first, then with enthusiastic abandon. Pictures were posted proudly and bragged about the same way high school boys trade stories in the locker room. What I was seeing was hedonistic, naughty and flagrantly willful, but it had nothing to do with sex and everything to do with the Great American Gastric Conquest.

Being a foodie is nothing new, but choosing it over physical intimacy? Now this was a true revelation. Certainly I was just as guilty -- how many times had I jumped at a chance for a late night doughnut run, but protested in exhaustion when my boyfriend pressed for something more than cuddle time on the couch? And it wasn't just me. Suddenly I saw it happening to to my friends and co-workers too. People were no longer whispering about the guy or girl they brought home the night before -- they were having breathless exchanges about the gourmet burger they just ingested or the new Korean fusion food truck they were dying to hit after work.

Even illicit pornography has apparently lost its zeal. A recent trip to 7-Eleven seemed to drive this point home even further as I watched a man reach past the meager inventory of skin mags (without even a cursory glance, mind you) before running up to the register with a Food Network magazine gripped tightly in his hands. When exactly had T&A been replaced by BBQ, I wondered?

While I'm not a psychologist or researcher, I have to assume with the amount of sexual imagery readily available to us at anytime, the thrill of the unknown has given way to a desperate need to feel satisfied and comforted during a stolen moment or two on an otherwise hectic day. Anyone can make OR watch a porno these days, but how many can say they ate hand-fed veal or black truffle macaroni and cheese? Perhaps this new obsession has even managed to level the playing field between the sexes, allowing us to escape our past indiscretions and focus freely on new delicious conquests one sample menu at a time.

Because if you really think about it, food IS one of the last great taboos of American culture. Eat too little or too much and there's something wrong with you. Eat unhealthily and you're looked down upon by society. Go vegetarian or vegan and watch your friends and family suddenly become too busy to join you for dinner. Fast food is now the edible equivalent to an adult film star you fantasize about and only indulge in behind closed doors.

Like a tawdry affair left unchecked, our own food porn addictions continue to build into something more than a one-night stand. While we've yet to reach the level of our Roman ancestors (in which eating to an excess inevitably lead to some righteous vomiting between courses), it stands to reason we're only a few bites away from truly giving in to the last great sin we've yet to fully conquer.


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