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When I first started taking serious notice of alfresco porn in food magazines, I had no intent of singling out Gourmet. But it has become obvious that they’re the only ones who do it with such aplomb.

Granted, I only subscribe to four food magazines: Gourmet, Food & Wine, Saveur and Cooking Light (which lapsed a few months ago) so for all I know full on alfresco worship is thriving on the pages of Taste of Home and Bon Appétit (Cooks Illustrated, not so much).

Just to be certain, I checked the most recent issues in my possession for wantonly staged outdoor dining photos. Yes, there were open air scenes galore, especially since this is start of grilling season. But the non-Gourmet tableaus seemed like real scenes captured on camera, staged but with a snapshot feeling. They didn’t make me feel crazy.


Saveur’s “Bold Flavors, Ancient Roots” has regular folks in Cyprus eating mezedhes and toasting with zivania, a grape schnapps. Not even amateur porn.


Food & Wine’sThe Chef, the Pig and the Perfect Summer Party” focuses on Jean-Georges’s new Westchester weekend home and a backyard pig roast shared with family and friends. High potential for porn, yet the overall feeling is one of people having a real picnic. It just happens to be a famous chef’s picnic.


Gourmet’sSerious Pig” has many similarities to Food & Wine’s feature: barbecued pork and a table set in a backyard near a lake. But where Jean-Georges has a regular table, chairs and an umbrella like anyone could buy at a store (maybe a “nice” store but still mass produced) this young, child-free, multi-culti crew clad in overalls and fedora, sups on a wooden plank held up by sawhorses flanked by weathered wooden boxes. Presumably they’re in North Carolina and nowhere near NYC, rural bon vivants. No new construction, but a stone shed as a backdrop. The scarlet watermelonade isn’t housed in Rubbermaid or even a run of the mill pitcher; it’s in an oversized jar, kind of agua fresca style, with a metal ladle. All this hyper-stylized rusticity is what makes the scene porny. So unreal, and so alluring.

I think I’m just easily influenced. Does anyone else experience inexplicable pangs of jealousy when viewing such manufactured images?

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