I’ll be honest, I’m guilty of exactly what I am about to complain about. But that’s just because I didn’t realize the problem until recently.
Anyone with an Instagram account knows that there is a myriad of photos of crazy food items. They are incredibly aesthetically appealing. But they also promote narcissism, gluttony, and waste.
I first heard about Black Tap Craft Burgers’ milkshakes from a YouTube video by Casey Neistat (see below if you’re interested):
When I saw the milkshake with the cotton candy on top, I knew that I just had to have one. However, I wasn’t too keen on the obscene wait time, or the drive to NYC just for a milkshake. I figured that if I ever happened to be in the area, I would get one; otherwise, I would probably forget about it.
Soon after seeing that video, I passed by Coney Waffle ice cream shop in Belmar, New Jersey. They are famous for their Freak Shake, now renamed the Sideshow Shake. I love milkshakes and candy, so when I heard about the Freak Shake, I was intrigued. Could it be anything like the one in Casey Neistat’s vlog?
For $18, this is what my Freak Shake looked like:
It was a mint chocolate chip milkshake with all of the following (and probably more that I have since forgotton) on top: cotton candy, chocolate waffle, ice cream cone with an extra scoop of mint chocolate chip ice cream, chocolate covered Oreo, chocolate covered pretzel with Reese’s pieces, ring pop, and gummy candies.
Does it look amazing? Absolutely. Is it possible to eat that entire thing? Gosh, I hope not.
Upon serving me, they handed me a plate and a ton of napkins, explaining that I could put all of the candy onto the plate so that I could actually attempt to drink the milkshake. They knew that there was no way that one could possibly try to eat that milkshake the way it was assembled.
So the whole purpose of this shake is the photo-op. I’ll be honest, I was excited about that myself. I absolutely took a picture before I proceeded to take it apart. I ate some of the candy, but most I kept for later. I drank some of the milkshake, but it took me three days to finish the whole thing since I couldn’t even begin to fathom how many calories that would be if it was consumed in one sitting.
And you know what? It wasn’t anything that special. The milkshake tasted like a mint chocolate chip milkshake. Nothing more, nothing less. You might as well go buy a vanilla milkshake from McDonald’s, add in some peppermint flavor, and then purchase a whole bunch of candy to put on a plate next to you while you drink that milkshake. It would be MUCH more cost effective.
The craziest part of all of this is that the Freak Shake is actually small in comparison to the newer Sideshow Shake:
And this brings me to my point. I have realized that the main purpose of a person purchasing a Freak Shake or Sideshow Shake is the photo-op. In our Instagram/Snapchat-obsessed culture, we care more about the picture than the experience.
We want everyone to see our picture and envy us for getting to go to such a unique place. Yes, I did go to Coney Waffle and yes I can afford an $18 milkshake. (Note: I did not purchase the milkshake for myself, nor would I ever even consider it because I have much better ways to spend my $18. Someone else bought it for me.)
These items also lead to gluttony and waste. Although most people couldn’t consume and entire Sideshow Shake, I’m sure that some of them will try. Don’t even get me started on all of the restaurants offering free shirts if you eat some insane amount of a particular food. We have a problem with obesity in America, yet you can have that 1-pound burger absolutely free if you can consume it in its entirety in 20 minutes without vomiting. And we’ll throw in a free t-shirt so that everyone will know about your feat. Hooray!
Many people who want the Instagram pic without the weight gain end up discarding most of the shake. They just want the picture. We are blessed to live in a country where most people are not facing hunger. And this is what we do with our privilege. Starving kids in Africa? Ehh…someone else can help them…I’ll continue to find the best angle for my Sideshow Shake and post it with the best hashtags so I can get a ton of Instagram followers!
Not convinced yet? Let’s go through a few more examples.
– Playa Bowls. I love acai bowls; I buy them because they taste amazing. But I also notice how a TON of people order them and seem to care more about the picture than the actual taste. People will walk from the Playa Bowl shop down to the beach before taking a bite because they need the perfect playa-bowl-in-front-of-the-ocean photo.
And yes, I’m also guilty of taking pictures of my acai bowls. They are really pretty, after all:
–Brother Bruno’s Pizza. I loved dessert pizza when I had it in Brazil for the first time in 2012. However, we American’s can’t keep anything simple. Bruno’s took the dessert pizza and put it on steroids.
I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t want to try it. But at the same time, they’re just getting out of hand. I would love to try a pizza with some chocolate and bananas. Or the one that has apples and caramel. But here’s a more recent photo:
That’s their raspberry/cannoli/nutella/brownie pizza, as if the other dessert pizzas weren’t unhealthy enough. They had to take it up a notch. Diabetes on a plate, anyone?
-The Unbaked Bar / Cookie DO NYC. I love the taste of raw cookie dough, as do many people, despite the dangers of salmonella due to the raw egg. A few companies realized that if they just made cookie dough without the egg, it could be consumed raw. Enter the unbaked bar and other similar shops.
Yes, those images may appear to be ice cream, but they’re actually cookie dough. And no, that cookie dough cone on the right wasn’t quite cutting it…they really needed the cookie dough-filled cookies on top.
–The Bagel Nook. I don’t feel very strongly about bagels. They’re fine. I rarely eat them. But Bagel Nook got me hooked with their Instagram pictures like the ones below:
I finally went there with my boyfriend, excited to order a tie dye bagel with cotton candy cream cheese. Yes, I did take a picture:
It looks nice, but gosh was it disappointing. It just tasted like a plain bagel with funky cream cheese. Nothing too special. I don’t plan to ever go there again. But the taste doesn’t even matter since Bagel Nook will probably always have great business since it makes such a great photo-op.
Back to the problem here. We’re purchasing these food items not because of their exquisite flavor, but because of the image that goes along with it. We can show all of our friends “hey, look, I went to this trendy place and here’s the photo to prove it!” It ties in nicely with our narcissistic culture (something that’s on my mind lately, since I’m currently reading The Narcissism Epidemic…great book, I recommend it). It doesn’t really matter if we enjoy the food item; we just want our followers to see it and in return, envy us and our lifestyle.
But that isn’t the only problem. These food items also promote gluttony. Some of these food items probably contain a week’s worth of calories.
Anyone surprised about the American obesity epidemic? Not I.
On the one hand, we have a constant barrage of beautiful men and women in the media and advertising. We have advertisements about the Brazilian butt lift, age-defying cream, weight loss surgery, plastic surgery, you name it. We all want to be beautiful. Most of us want to be beautiful without the hard work that coincides with working out and eating healthy.
“I want the six-pack abs, but I also want a cookie dough sundae. Actually, I don’t just want that sundae…I deserve the sundae since I did such a nice job at the gym today!”
I keep hearing a radio ad for a bariatric surgeon who promises that his patients can lose 30 or more pounds without even working out. Let’s not even try to get Americans to improve their lifestyle — that’s unreasonable. Let’s give them the quick fix surgery that they want, which will eventually fail when they continue drinking their two-liter of Pepsi while eating that Big Mac followed by a dessert pizza.
So as I said from the start, I am absolutely guilty of trying some of these food items myself, and documenting them through my own photos. Am I proud of that? No. But I didn’t realize quite how crazy it was until my Instagram feed began to be filled with more of these obscene food items.
In a world in which so many people are starving and suffering, we Americans must become aware of our overconsumption, overindulgences, narcissism, and wastefulness.
This issue extend far beyond a silly cookie dough cone or an overfilled bagel. But none of it can ever be confronted if we do not recognize some of the lunacies that are present in our society.