The way people chose to eat their food is absolutely fascinating to me. I just finished watching a girl eat a Krispy Kreme donut at a coffeeshop that isn’t Krispy Kreme. She carefully placed the donut on a stack of neatly arranged paper napkins. She watched it for a few seconds, allowing it to respectfully settle in, before picking it up again and taking a small bite, tilting her head back ever so slightly.

She ceremoniously set the donut down between every bite clearly trying, as best she could, to make it last longer. Once the donut was safely on the table she never took her eyes off it, smeyesing (smiling with her eyes) at it the whole time. Before each bite she took, she inhaled through her mouth, filling it with donut essence. She caught me staring at her a few times but I couldn’t help myself, I couldn’t look away; It was utterly captivating.

Forgive My Gawking 

I can spend hours staring at how someone slurps their soup, butter’s their bread, or cuts their steak. I am gripped with how some people are blissfully random while others are painfully systematic when it comes to eating their food. How some are neat and tidy, while others look like they are having a food fight with themselves.

I’ve known for a while that people’s eating habits were a kind of obsession. I remember being  at a steakhouse in Montreal, decades ago, a restaurant that only serves one dish (steak frites) when a fellow diner caught my attention while he was placing his order. He asked the server to bring the fries on a separate plate from the steak. This, to me, was appalling to say the least. Dipping his fries in the mustard gravy the steak is swimming in would be such an inconvenience.  When his food finally arrived I watched carefully as he proceeded to begin eating his fries and not stop until they were all gone. He then stacked the meat plate on top of the empty fries plate and began to eat that.

Wasn’t he worried that he would fill up on fries and not be able to enjoy the meat? Wasn’t he worried the meat was cooling and maybe getting rubbery? Wasn’t he worried he was doing it all wrong? I must have had a ‘resting vomit face’ so hard while watching this debacle that I remember my friends telling me to please stop. That story is so insignificant, yet it is seared in my mind as though it were a life-changing event and yet where I spent my 10th, 11th, and 12th birthdays are a mystery to me.

Sometimes the watching is not a pleasurable affair. I remember one time in the Dubai Airport when I was watching a guy eat some kind of rice dish and his chewing was so disturbing it disgusted me. With each chew his mouth completely opened, his tongue could be seen moving the food from right to left, and revealed every stage of the mastication process. I was horrified as some food managed to escape his mouth and fall into his plate, lap, and floor; not that he was making it hard for the food to escape. Utterly horrified, yet I never looked away.

Mukbanging 

My food watching obsession has led me down the dangerous rabbit hole that is Mukbang videos. Mukbangs (eating broadcasts) are videos of people eating large amounts of food on camera; usually loudly and unnaturally.

Mukbang Defined
Mukbang—made up of the Korean words for “eating” (meokneun) and “broadcast” (bangsong)—originated in South Korea in the late 2000s–10s.

Mukbangs have gained in popularity, partly due to our fascination with binge eating, and partly due to its Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response (ASMR) inducing properties. Apparently, listening to eating sounds such as slurping, chewing, crunching, and sucking causes tingling and positive sensations in some people which in turn helps them relax, focus, and reduce stress. ASMR leaves some watchers with an overall eutrophic sensation. Some mukbangers opt not to speak or even show their faces, simply recording their mouths devouring large quantities of odd foods. Many mukbangers have even parlayed their love of eating into profitable careers.

Unquenched

Mukbangs are no replacement for the real thing when it comes to quenching my eating voyeurism tendencies. The simple fact that the mukbangers are aware of the camera being there already affects their behavior. If their main focus is the ASMR, then the sounds are exaggerated on purpose.

Don’t get me wrong, watching Mukbangs has become an integral part of my life, that I am happy to indulge in a few times a day. But it is no replacement for the real thing: staring at strangers eating in public until they ask me to stop. Mukbangers, I am watching you religiously – You too strangers eating in my vicinity.