Faux Food Photos
“Why doesn’t my finished dish look like the picture in the cookbook?”
While we are not likely to hear this question posed while strolling along the Rue de la Paix in Paris, we are all familiar with it. You stare at a photo in a cookbook, and then back at the recipe. “Scallions” you say, “definitely sliced scallions.” Scallions,” the recipe doesn’t say. The recipe calls for shallots. Perhaps I do take my scallions and shallots more seriously than the average Home Ec major, and this may appear to be just another severe case of nit-picking, but scallions are only the tip of the iceberg lettuce in this silent conspiracy. I have happened upon photographic additions and subtractions of peas, pine nuts, olives, endive, arugula, sliced lemons, kiwi fruit, caviar, mussels, and more -- all of which, I assure you, may have an adverse impact upon a recipe as well as the home cook. Rather than take umbrage to such liberties, I have chosen to turn it into a game. Like a kid looking for hidden objects in a Highlights magazine, I look for discrepancies between photos and recipes.
Here are just three things I’ve seen: In the new Winning Styles Cookbook -- exquisite grill marks on a rib-eye that is clearly indicated in the recipe to be sautéed in a heavy pan. Readers of the Woman’s Day Cookbook may wonder where the photographer purchased the speckled herbed cheese, in lieu of the called for plain feta, in the Greek Pasta Salad. In Jean-Pierre Brehier Beef Stew “My Way,” in his Incredible Cooking, he did not count on the photographer adding large, whole mushrooms, thus making it “his way.” Stylists and photographers apparently have their own agenda, and I would love to hear of anyone who has glaring examples that they have found.