When did picture phones become a standard place-setting at restaurant tables?
By that, I really mean: What’s with all these photos of food that are getting Tweeted and posted around the Internet?
Earlier this week, I enjoyed dinner at Sushi Shiono in Kailua-Kona, surrounded by a dozen peers from Outrigger Hotels & Resorts. When our waitress started filling our table with the food we had ordered, we all exclaimed over the dishes. My Hawaiian Volcano Roll (spicy tuna roll wrapped with avocado and topped with “special sauce” and macadamia nuts) arrived on a foot-long rectangular plate. The Sashimi and Sushi arrived on a Bento-style tray with a sushi roll filling an actual wicker basket. The Seafood Salad turned out to be a calabash-sized mound of fresh greens topped with heaping amounts of seafood. And the Tonkatsu—not even my hungry husband could eat all of the panko-crusted, deep-fried and sliced pork cutlet stacked nicely on this plate.
I immediately grabbed my chopsticks and picked up the end piece of my Volcano Roll and dipped it in a shoyu and wasabi combination that I’d already prepared. I shoveled three slices in before—as food continued to arrive—someone said, “Take a picture.”
Now, I’ve put in my time on plenty of food photography sets to know that a really good—and tempting—image of a plate of food takes time to style and light. Under the right conditions, my Volcano Roll would expose a tantalizing photograph. But at night? Inside a dark restaurant? With a pocket camera? No way.
But I tried anyway. After all, everyone it seems is doing it. I must join the fray. (I tend to be an “early adopter.”)
And here is the result. For the first, I flipped my setting to macro. In the second, I tried a flash.
So much for my food photography skills. But please. Let me repeat, please, please, please do not let my poor photography skills deter you from slipping down an alley off Ali’i Drive and into Sushi Shiono. They are open for lunch during the week and for dinner Monday through Saturday. If you can’t find them, call 808-326-1696. If you have GPS, plot this address: 75-5799 Alii Drive, C-3. Whatever effort it takes to find the place, trust me, it’s worth it. In addition to the Hawaiian Volcano Roll, I personally recommend the Miso Butterfish. Sushi Shiono is the kind of place that could make me fly to Hawaii Island just for dinner. Seriously. (And, in case you’re wondering, I don’t know a soul who works there. I am not related to the owner. I have no vested interest other than a hungry belly.)
The next day, a few of my cohorts and I found ourselves back in downtown Kailua-Kona around lunch and between meetings and a mid-afternoon airport departure. We considered Sushi Shiono, but because I am a travel writer and really should sample different restaurants for my readers, I suggested another culinary option. (In my mind, though, I was planning my next trip to Hawaii Island—with my husband, so he could tackle the Tonkatsu, and I could savor the Miso Butterfish again. In my reverie, we would, of course, share the Hawaiian Volcano Roll.)
We strolled the sidewalks and ended up in the historic Kona Inn at a table overlooking a grassy park-like setting and the ocean beyond. Around the arm of the coast, the bay and pier of Kailua-Kona swept. It was a beautiful setting. The question comes to me now, “Why didn’t I take a picture of it?”
Probably because I was dead-set on snapping a shot of my sandwich—the fresh catch of the day. A slab of perfectly-grilled, picture-perfect ahi. Here it is:
Finally, I got the picture. And, even more exciting, the fish sandwich was every bit as good as the photo.
But I still don’t get it. Why do people insist on taking pictures of their plates of food? If you have an idea, please share it below.
Maybe I don’t get it, because I—as I like to say—do not live to eat. I eat to live.
Another thought comes to me now, as I look back at my photographs of these two meals, especially the poorly-exposed, blurry ones of my Hawaiian Volcano Roll. It really shouldn’t surprise me, I suppose. After all, it’s the same reason we take any pictures whatsoever of our vacations—the setting sun, the beautiful coastline of Kailua-Kona, the hibiscus flowers as large as a saucer. Maybe the reason we take pictures of our food is to remind us of our experiences in life, so we don’t ever forget. A photograph of my ahi sandwich proves I really did dine at Kona Inn. I really did enjoy the restaurant’s finely-grilled fish, its view, its pleasant atmosphere. (I recommend this place, too.)
O.K. I can buy that. But, honestly, I’ll never forget the way the Miso Butterfish felt in my mouth—soft and silky with a wash of sweetened miso.
I don’t need a photograph for that.