Aditti Ahluwalia. (File Photo: IANS)
We live in a world today where the behemothic allure with all things "food" has led to the birth and the glorification of both the savant and the Simon-pure! The culinary Gurus now enjoy a revered spot in the spotlight and so does the food that they dish out. Whats served on the plate isnt about merely eating it anymore. I too am guilty of clicking pictures of my food before eating it... I aim, I adjust, I click, I filter and voila!!... My coiffed food is ready to be shared, now that it exhibits a settled sureness.
Deep down I do wish there was content that could stand on its own. That said, the common consensus is that food posts have completely changed the way we eat. Amidst the chic and opulence of the young world, a one million follower worthy #AvocadoToast on Instagram has dulled the shine from the face of a decidedly non mesmeric #OmelletteOnToast. Irrespective of who is posting their food trivia online, amateur or professional, the very act of sharing intricately staged food photographs sets the tone for a one of a kind, cultured trend. Food nowadays is strategically built to gain traction.
Sharing is caring. Right?
Sharing was a generous act. Once upon a time. When we had no agendas. We may still love to share but the only "sharing" one seems to do these days is the "online" kinds... It gets us enough solicited attention. Be it the photo sharing colossus named Instagram or the thickly spread, all encompassing Facebook or the small, snackable, update-centric Twitter, today it's all about sharing your content, with or without emotion attached to it. And to make it easier, the advent of super sophisticated smartphones has surpassed the use of any other gadget as the chief method of accessing the Internet.
The old saying that we eat first with our eyes rings so true today... Albeit in a contorted way. It's aesthetics first, taste later. Interestingly, I keep food notes. It's an innocuously cathartic luxury, as nourishing as it can be. It is not just only a list in my notepad. It's a compilation of everything that has made my tongue flip in delight. No great meal goes forgotten, not on my watch. At the same time, I am also guilty of hacking unceremoniously, what doesn't make the "aesthetic" cut, before I shoot. I might add an unnecessary glaze just so it will make the dish shine bright as if kissed by the morning glow of the Sun.
Alas! Perfecting the look kills the goodness at times but since everyone's gaze is filtered through a lens, posting your meals online is no more a freeing act. We require visual stimulation alright. Social media has changed the way we look at food and the shift in trends is also impacting the way everything is presented to be "Instaworthy". Restaurants are rethinking everything from menu items and decor to lighting and tableware in order to meet the photo-requirements of the guests and influencers coming through the door. Flashy launches happen almost every other day on a wave of sponsored liquor, again an Instagram-bait for the seeker. The focus on reviews and reprovals as a marketing tool has also given birth to an entire army of bloggers, who apparently have the potential to alter consumer perceptions.
Interestingly, these are mostly individuals we don't know at all, yet we choose to trust them over branded products and content.
But what goes around, comes around! It's a circular process because once we get influenced by social media, into buying a certain experience, we also have the liberty to communicate our experiences using the same technology. It's called "Feedback". This entire cycle has compelled restaurants to pay the much needed attention because the usefulness of the data both ways cannot be undermined. Over 318 million Instagram posts have been hashtagged "food" after all, so one can imagine the outreach.
Our web dominated existence has given a new meaning to "living in the moment". It's all about "what's trending", isn't it? That social media, in any capacity or form is a tailor made talk tool, is a no brainer. Above all it's a social currency! There is no "tangible" price to pay while using social media, ergo it's ready use by billions worldwide. But the number of "followers" our handle attracts, can definitely put one in a place of eminence within a niche segment. Outside the cost of a website, one escapes any other overheads, including advertising, which makes Social Media, an affordable divulgatory tool for a business, no matter what the size of the enterprise. The muddy morass of social media is littered with a hoard of #hashtags, and that's the only way forward! Interestingly enough, most adults today have more than one social media account, so imagine the extent of influence.
As fun and laid back as social media can be and no matter how the businesses benefit from the added exposure, the food must still come first, followed by the apt use of our most precious resource, our time.
When was the last time we just enjoyed each other's company and appreciated the food on our plate for it's simplicity... As opposed to faffing around with our phone cameras to capture the "look" as much as the curators did with the "look and feel" of what would have once been real and delicious? Will there ever again be a day when eating out will be all about conversations and breaking bread, the way it used to be. Food for thought!
(The writer is a food blogger)