CW: This review contains discussion of sexual themes and actions. Videos linked to are SFW but contain suggestive imagery.
Over the simmer of dishes on the stove, Eleanor heard a voice that was not Gwen’s – tinny, as if from a great distance:
“Now we’re gonna go ahead and grease up our pan.”
She must have been listening to a cooking demo of some kind in her phone. Eleanor was about to return to the book she was reading, but the voice continued speaking.
“And I like it really greasy…don’t be afraid to get a little messy.”
Eleanor glanced up, her eyes wide. She shot a look to Dania, sitting nearby, who seemed not to have heard. Eleanor craned her neck to see Gwen as she stood by the stove. Her eyes were focused in front of her, but whatever was playing on her phone, Eleanor couldn’t make out.
The tutorial continued for a minute, the speaker just loud enough to be heard over the simmer of meat. In a silent moment, Gwen laughed aloud before returning to her cooking.
What’s going on? Eleanor wondered.
“You can follow me on Twitter,” the voice chimed, “@themercedesxxx. Follow Sin Kitchen, @sinkitchen.”
Eleanor took her phone out, and began to type the handles into Twitter.
“And when you make your ~sinful~ cornbread,” continued @themercedesxxx, “make sure to hashtag us…#sinkitchen.”
Eleanor clicked on the Twitter link for Mercedes Carrera’s profile, which meant her phone was suddenly filled with hashtags for #dirtytalk, #taboo, #femdom, and several pictures of Carrera herself, wearing almost nothing at all.
“Hahh,” she exhaled impulsively, turning the phone away. Dania, catching sight of this, glanced up.
“Nothing,” Eleanor said. “Twitter.”
As Dania turned away again, Eleanor quickly raised her phone and searched for @SinKitchen. In the other room, she could hear the next video starting.
“Hi, I’m Nora Belle,” said a new voice. “You might know me from such films as ‘The Ream Team’ and “I Wanna B——k Your Daughter #17. Today on Sin Kitchen, we are making spaghetti with…hand-squeezed meat sauce.”
Is that what the kids are calling it today, Eleanor thought. The page for Sin Kitchen was much tamer, with posts about new episodes that had just dropped, and playful banter with fans who had tweeted at them. Their bio summed up the show: “Your favorite adult actresses cooking your favorite foods.”
“I’m gonna eat the rest of this off-camera, ’cause it’s not the most attractive thing to eat,” said Nora Belle. Eleanor stood and walked towards the kitchen. “So…probably best if you guys don’t watch.”
As she crossed the doorway, Gwen looked up. On her phone screen, a woman was using a meat hammer to crush a pair of tomatoes, as the title “SIN KITCHEN” flashed onto the screen.
“How are you?” Gwen said. She indicated the screen. “Have you seen Sin Kitchen before?”
“No?” Eleanor held up her phone, with the Twitter feed. “I found them on Twitter, though.”
“Nice,” Gwen said. “I think you’d enjoy it.”
“I don’t…” Eleanor considered what she would say next, as another video began to play on the phone. Gwen reached out and stopped it, before the pair of performers on the screen began baking.
“So it’s just a cooking show with porn actors?” Eleanor asked.
“What’s a what with porn actors?” Dania said, again looking up.
“Essentially,” Gwen explained. “They find popular actresses and have them cook their favorite dishes. I think it humanizes them a lot, since the show is unscripted and you occasionally see them messing up or laughing about the situation.”
“Uh-huh,” Eleanor agreed.
“It’s difficult to describe,” Gwen said. “Here, watch a few episodes. They’re only four or five minutes each, if that. You’ll understand it.”
As Gwen returned to her meal in process, Eleanor took the phone back to the couch. Dania came over and sat beside Eleanor.
“You’re watching too?”
“I want to know what it is as much as you do,” Dania said. “I’ve been hearing the voices, too.”
Eleanor scrolled through the page, and selected a video: Alex Chance, with her recipe for “Mac N Cheese.”
– – – – –
When Gwen exited the kitchen, her meal on a plate and the dishes cleaned, she found Dania still holding the phone, watching. Eleanor, in a stuffed chair, had returned to reading. Gwen could hear faint audio from the phone: “so this is syrup, and it is delicious…”
“What do you think?” Gwen said, as she sat down.
“I like it,” Dania said. “It’s kinda weird, but sorta funny. Like, it’s almost sexy, it spends the whole time basically teasing that it might become porn again.”
“That’s what I enjoy the most about it,” Gwen said. “The coy comedy. There’s a clear subversion of the stylistic ways porn is shot all throughout: the handheld camera, the background techno music, the closeups on faces and hands. It’s almost authentic, but when you apply the style to something like food preparation, it becomes ridiculous.”
“I like the ones with – there’s a difference, right?” Dania began. “Some of the actresses are more trying to do…” She leaned forward and pursed her lips, in imitation. “And now we’re going to drip this wet batter all over this hot black pan…”
“Exactly,” Gwen said.
“But for other people, it’s just a cooking show,” Dania said. “Like this one, with Alison Rey. If they hadn’t literally shown the word “PORNSTAR” at the beginning, you’d probably never know.”
“There’s a variety,” Gwen said. “I think the ones that are more comically sexual are funnier to watch. Anything that Mercedes Carrera does is brilliant. Layton Benton has one episode where she’s cooking burgers and makes a joke about how much she likes ‘buns.'”
“Yeah, there’s a lot of ‘I love meat’ jokes,” Dania said. “I think they need to get a lesbian or two onto the show, make some jokes about…I don’t know, something else.”
“Maybe,” Gwen said. She turned her head to face Eleanor, who was still reading. “You have thoughts about it, Eleanor?”
Eleanor put the book down and looked at Gwen. “I mean, what’s there to say?”
“The show is a clever subversion of the cinematography typical to porn, placed in a safe-for-work setting that reveals the inherent ridiculous nature of porn overall?” Gwen suggested.
“Well, sure, but I’m not sure I agree with that,” Eleanor said.
“What do you mean?”
“Well, think about it,” Eleanor said. “Sure it’s ridiculous, and sort of funny, but then I suppose all porn is sort of funny, by that measure. It feels like a cheap shot to say that the production values of porn are low when that’s never been a secret.”
“Not only production values,” Gwen said. “The way people are framed, and the scripted way they talk. There’s a joy to hearing them stumble over words in Sin Kitchen when everything is so scripted and stilted in regular porn.”
“Sure,” Eleanor continued, “but I don’t think that just doing the same thing as porn counts as a subversion.”
“Is it the same thing?” Dania asked. “When there’s nothing actually erotic about it.”
“Well, that depends on how you define erotic,” Eleanor said. “The whole intro, where it’s a shot down a woman’s shirt, her cutting the tip off a cucumber, tossing the water on her shirt – it’s funny, but that doesn’t mean someone else isn’t still seeing it as regular exploitative porn.”
“I don’t see this as exploitative,” Gwen countered.
“Who’s in charge of it?” Eleanor said. “The women themselves? Are you sure they choose their own recipes?”
“I think they do,” Gwen began. “I mean, it seems that way from the way they talk about it. There’s no formal production company listed on the YouTube channel, so I don’t actually know who’s behind it.”
“There are a few times where it feels a little rehearsed,” Dania said. “Like, they probably start with something, some guideline, before they start filming.”
“Dania and I watched three of them,” Eleanor said. “They get more boring, more like a normal cooking show, as they go on.”
“It evolved,” Gwen explained. “They wanted to do a show every week, but then it got sporadic and now they post randomly. The newer ones are more focused on the cooking – there are fewer moments of tongue-in-cheek comedy.”
“Have you been following it?”
“No, I only discovered it about a month ago,” Gwen said. “But if you trace back through the upload dates, that’s the story I gathered.”
“I mean, there’s definitely someone running it,” Dania said. “Someone with connections in the industry, so they can book these people.”
“The question is who, though?” Eleanor asked. “Because yeah, it’s a little funny to watch, but it’s also the same kind of joke over and over. At a certain point, the women become props as much as the food they’re cooking does.”
“Now that I disagree with,” Gwen said. “I think they show a significant amount of personality in the videos. They’re not replaceable with any woman, they’re their own character.”
“I mean, the point of the series is that they do replace the host with any woman,” Eleanor said. “That’s the gimmick.”
“But they don’t all act the same, is what I think Gwen means,” Dania said, sitting up. “Like the best one, the one where they make Whoopie Pies. It’s an eight-minute video because the two women in it can’t stay focused on the food. It’s different from the other ones.”
“Whoever is organizing it, they don’t have a uniform style that churns out similar videos,” Gwen agreed. “There’s personality to each, and that helps them to stand out.”
“Fair, I suppose,” Eleanor sighed. “I mean, I have nothing morally against it. It’s just not my thing.”
“Well, you don’t watch porn, right?”
“Well, then, there you go,” Dania grinned.
“Okay, but I know what it’s like. Like, how it’s shot.”
“How do you know?”
“I just do,” Eleanor said, and returned to her book.
Image Credit: YouTube