Foodie aesthetic?

Figure describes foodie aesthetic examples

In the next section, we turn to Wilson’s food waste blog posts to show how she aestheticises eating leftovers into a practice of discipline that bolster the white middle-class construction of femininity as controlled and clean. Users find her food waste blog posts via an interactive search button on a small menu on the right of the homepage. Food waste is not a category on the menu but blog posts about food waste are hashtagged #foodwaste, #whatleat and #simplicious. Wilson uses these hashtags across her Instagram, Facebook and Twitter accounts, enabling her to establish and join like-minded communities of users on social media. As is typical ofblogs as a genre, Wilson’s posts are word centred, although visual images of dishes, often reposted and repurposed from her books, pepper the verbal texts. Overall, at the time of our research, 90 of Wilson’s blog posts had been tagged #foodwaste and these posts had been shared between 50 and 100 times by her viewers on other social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook. Although this is very low sharing compared to followers of very well-known food and wellbeing celebrities and influencers, it mirrors other Australian food-related celebrity social media such as that of paleo chef and television presenter Peter Evans (see Chapter 8).

Unlike male celebrity food waste activists such as the UK’s Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, who mobilises TV and social media to advocate for waste reductions across the whole food system, drawing on a masculine persona of authority and expertise, Wilson’s campaign is clearly feminised. She constantly references her everyday life, staying at the level of household waste and feminised food work, and drawing on feminised genres such as recipes, confessionals and tips (Craig, 2018; Swan, 2017). Although like other food waste bloggers, Wilson’s content invokes a range of constructions of food waste, from thrift, sustainability, ethics, grandparent traditions and responsibility to others facing hunger (Narvánen et al., 2018), her project promotes an individualistic approach to household food waste. Her main focus is repurposing edible food waste through micro-food rescue practices, including re-creating new meals from plate waste, and cooking the edible parts of foods that are usually discarded. Ignoring the ways in which minoritised groups can be economically forced into eating leftovers, the blog constructs preparing and eating food waste visually and verbally as fun, fashionable, and even ‘sexy’.

In line with Wilson’s homepage, the digital images of the leftover meals reproduce a middle-class aesthetics of wholesome elegance, simplicity, cleanliness and discipline. Thus, the food waste posts do not depict images of food waste, meal preparation, kitchen equipment or even people eating food. Rather, images draw on middle-class white foodie visual tropes of simplicity: dishes of vibrantly coloured, mismatched tableware and wholesome food placed on a natural-looking surface (hessian, wood, cotton) and photographed from above, communicating casually humble home-made food, upcycling and a stylised spontaneity, and authenticity (Taylor & Keating, 2018). This is a constructed faux-casual aesthetic, invoking a wider set of active themes of nostalgia, frugality and self-imposed restraint found in food popular culture, and downshifting lifestyle media (Wincott, 2016). Wilson’s representation conceals the classed resources deployed to achieve this domestic aesthetic and the material labour involved by making the dish appear effortlessly made (Hollows, 2003) and reproduces frugality as a lifestyle, rather than the lived realities of daily essential ‘belt-tightening’ (Wincott, 2016). Hence, she produces ‘differentiated’ food waste strategies, distanced from material need and highlighting their aesthetics.

What is a foodie?

So what foodie meaning? Foodie is a gourmet or a person who has an ardent/refined interest in food and alcoholic beverages.

Figure shows foodies

It involves seeking new food experiences as a hobby rather than simply eating out of convenience or hunger. The Foodie aesthetic, however, is dedicated to showing off these foods in very aesthetically pleasing manners. You may also take note of the color combinations, plating arrangement, and composition in their photographs. Most foodie shows provide a strong emphasis on food.

Producing digital foodie-waste femininity

This visual imagery sidesteps the association of food waste with stigma, poverty and dirt, reproducing what we call ‘foodie waste’ - a white bourgeois feminised foodie aesthetic and ethical practice premised on symbolic and material privilege. As identified above, Wilson’s food waste posts reproduce a sense of cleanliness and control, and a wholesome, sustainable aesthetic associated with white middle-class femininity (Logan, 2017). Ideas about cleanliness and dirt have been used to differentiate women by class, gender and race, symbolically and materially (Anderson, 2000; Swan, 2012). White women have and continue to be protected from the ‘defiling contact with the sordid or disordered parts of life’ (Davidoff, 1973 cited in Swan, 2012, p. 187). Furthermore, colonialism entwined notions of cleanliness and being civilised (McClintock, 1995) with the inculcation of‘disciplines and routines of personal hygiene’ part of the ‘civilising’ project of British imperialism, associated with self-refinement (Shove, 2003) and which in Australia was a way in which Indigenous people and Asians were racially excluded (Bashford, 1998). As Jennifer Roth-Gordon writes:

understandings of race are centrally preoccupied with the ability to discipline ourselves and exhibit proper bodily control. White bodies are defined by their ‘natural’ proclivity towards discipline and their capacity for refinement and control, in contrast to non-white bodies that can be defined by ... a lack of personal hygiene or bodily cleanliness.(2011, p. 213)

The notion of cleanliness and discipline is further amplified as an aesthetic and ethical practice through Wilson’s ‘simplicious flow’ philosophy that constructs eating leftovers into a quest for purity, simplicity, self-imposed discipline and morality. Indeed, these themes interrelate across all her interests in simplicity, control and purity from anti-sugar, pro hiking, clean living, ‘healthy’ cooking techniques and ethical consumption.

Highlighting discipline and morality, Wilson presents wasting food as lazy and hypocritical. Her verbal texts express a commitment to using ‘every last bit of food’. She claims to enjoy using the very last ‘dredges’ of food in her fridge to make a packed lunch before she goes on holiday. Conspicuously absent from her blog are the times where she and her readers could not be bothered or did not have time to undertake the labour-intensive food waste work. The foodie waste practices that Wilson encourages echo self-disciplining techniques visible in make-over shows that offer participants the promise of attaining a respectable bourgeois feminine subjectivity if they eat, look and clean better (McRobbie, 2004; Nathanson, 2013).

Minimalist aesthetics and voluntary simplicity practices are cultural and moral practices reserved for the elite, the latter resulting from already possessing too much (Logan, 2017). The achievement of a minimalist home design suits either the childfree or those who can rely on the labour of either middle-class housewives, domestic racially minoritised or white working-class servants (Leslie & Reimer, 2003). Similar to voluntary simplicity practices of decluttering which reject abundance in favour of ascetism, foodie waste minimalism needs to be understood as part of resourcing ethical middle-class white selves.

Wilson’s minimalist food waste persona draws on the historical construction of white middle-class femininity as requiring control and discipline. Through its conversion into an aesthetic of moral purity, food waste loses its stigma. Indeed, our reading of her blog suggests that accruing value to what is considered waste relies on occupying a particular classed and racialised status: ‘The capacity to convert the discarded into something of value depends on the authority of those who do the re-evaluation’ (Negrin, 2015, p. 200). Wilson’s foodie waste minimalism is characterised by a disciplined and moral practice that is distinctively recognisable as middle-class white femininity to her readers.

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