Raise your hands if you’ve experienced this. There is a special occasion at home or with friends, and you all decide to head out to your favourite restaurant. You settle in comfortably and order all the super special dishes. Your food comes out of the kitchen, nice and hot, beautifully garnished and placed in front of you to be devoured. However, that’s followed by the ritual that makes not just your outing complete, but also somehow aids digestion, I guess.
Out come the cameras. Along with them, out come the award-winning photographers amongst the diners at the table. How can you dare to touch the food, before all the photos have been clicked, in all angles possible? A tilt here, a nudge there, some extra flashes here and there.
Only when you have that perfect shot of the food on the table, will you proceed to the now almost formal act of eating morsels of the cold food.
This defines absolutely every outing, every meal you eat nowadays. Is it annoying? Sure! Is it compulsive? Oh yes! Is it something that’ll make your friends go, “Whoa, you ate that?” Hell, Yeah!!
In today’s times of social media, where you are a star of your life, food, along with fashion and accessories, becomes a weapon of mass-acceptance! Gone are the days when you would go out, order, eat, pay and get out. No siree! The nation wants to know what starter you ordered before that highly exotic dish you gobbled for the mains, the names of which you can’t dare to even pronounce. To make you feel better, neither can the staff who serve it. What’s more? You can click a selfie or two with the dish while you make up your mind about which angle to click the dish first from. So you see, the food we eat has now transformed from just being described as ‘edible’ to ‘instagrammable’.
Take the example of the humble milkshake. Not too long ago, a milkshake was just what it sounded like, flavoured ‘shaken’ milk, not stirred. Served in a nice tall glass with a layer of froth on top and a straw right through. It’s a different concept altogether today…With prefixes such as “Monster” and “Freak” defining a shake, you know they mean business. With the ‘presentation’ looking like the balancing-daredevil-multiple-bikers-on-one-little-bike act during our Republic Day parade every year, the milkshake seems to be pleading you to, “Put an end to my misery quickly”. And why not? The stressed out guy (in this scenario, the glass of shake), has been overburdened with so much responsibility. Is he to exist as a milkshake? Is he to balance the pretzel on top? Is he to make sure none of the fruits fall off from his head? Is he to understand how GST works? Transferring that stress to the diner…am I supposed to eat this milkshake? Or drink this muffin on top of it? Or frame it in my showcase at home, claiming it’s a trophy I won?
Being a food blogger on the side, when I’m not making comics, I love the experience of checking out new places and writing about them. But frankly, this entire pre-eating exercise of clicking ‘n’ number of pictures, talking in extremely fundu culinary terms (without having an ounce of cooking experience….sorry guys, clicking picture is NOT cooking) and comparing number of insta followers, is not my idea of appetisers. But even restaurants have warmed up to this game. I know a few chefs personally, and I have had a conversation with them about how they feel when diners dedicate the first five minutes to clicking pictures. Clearly, most chefs aren’t happy with this, since the food served is at a particular temperature, and loses out on taste as it cools down. But let’s face it, when the camera lens is your first tasting bud, there’s certain protocol to be followed.
(The writer is a comic creator, illustrator and animator)