As the world struggles to get back on it’s feet while coming to terms with COVID-19, and when everything feels slightly dystopian, it is our internet connections that are providing the saving grace. They are connecting us with the world in seconds. New stories are at our doorsteps, or let’s say finger tips, and the world of food could not be very far away.
In times like these, what brings mammoth satisfaction is cooking, and savouring the aroma of food wafting from the kitchen. When butter, chocolate, flour and white bread are the smells of safety and security. We spoke to some of India’s best known food enthusiasts, who are on top of things even in uncertain times. Using their kitchen as mini war rooms, to save you from boredom, and give you ideas and hacks on how to kill time.
These food ninjas tell us what they blog about, how they got into the medium as a form of culinary communication, and how they try and come up with chicer recipes every day, to stay on top of their games. (Self-isolation recipes anyone? Or are you in need of some homely advice on how to connect with your people as you stay home? These mini blogs are about bringing you solace and great advice during confusing times.) These guys are conjuring up enviable mental images for us online. After you are done lusting after the picture of a freakshake oozing fluffy pale cream, pretzels, and going insane on how much it can carry, perhaps you can try putting together one at home if you have say a tall milkshake glass.
Munchy Mumbai, a Mumbai based food-loving website, is all about travelling through the city and bringing you the best from the big bad city of food, Bombay. Choosing and picking what they like in terms of food, and trying to keep a pulse on crowd cravings, and trending food. Their Instagram posts are often coloured with words and contests which try to warm you up online, and keep you constantly dining out.
Says Sagar Rupani, its Co-Founder, “We wanted to try out new cuisines, and we just started blogging. This was five years ago, when food blogging was not that big. But today every second person is a food blogger.” He refers to the ubiquitousness of food adoring, food mad food bloggers who have mastered Insta marketing and the hashtags one must use in order to get noticed by those frantically searching the internet for great food. Continues Rupani, “We wanted to tell the world about all the different cuisines (in India). We got into micro blogging, which is trendier today. People don’t want to go through an entire website. They want the story quick.”
Hyderabad-based Karthik Gandhi seconds Rupani. He started blogging on Zomato, but found it restrictive. He didn’t want the “read more” option as he wrote, where one has to click on the words to read further. He also felt withheld creatively on Zomato which is why he decided to supplement Zomato blogging with a proper website where many more features for graphics and animation were possible. He then tried his hand at Instagram. Initially it didn’t appeal to him, and he even closed his account after a few days. But thereafter, with some help, he pushed forward and started his Insta journey. Gandhi began with three likes, and soon the followers started mounting. Today his Insta page, Gastro Hogger is more a cultural page with a firm partiality for food. He is even known as a biryani blogger by some. “I wanted it to be the other way around. For people to read my lengthy reviews on my macro blog and then move towards Instagram for a crisper version. It didn’t happen that way. People flocked to my Instagram first.”
Says Delhi-based Shivesh Bhatia, today a much-celebrated food blogger and baker, having been named Conde Nast Traveller India’s Social Media Star in 2017, and having won the more recent best food feed award at Cosmopolitan’s blogger awards in 2019, “Social media is not going anywhere. I’m constantly trying to do new things, and reinvent myself. The growing competition keeps me on my toes. I started baking when I was in class 11. I basically started posting on Instagram because I enjoyed baking and taking pictures of my desserts and soon started getting noticed by people beyond my friends’ circle. The move to a more public platform was also because I wanted to give people better access to my recipes. Initially people would ask me to email my recipes to them. Finally I was featured by Instagram as an influencer. My first food collaboration was with Foodhall.”
Behind all the pretty-in-pink pastries, exotic food styling with nasturtiums, rosy-red strawberries, basil, calendula, caisim flowers, and poky Christmas acorns accompanying cake platters, is Bhatia’s determination to not let his sites die down.
Behind every social media star is a gamut of things – keeping up with the times (even if they are COVID-days) and acquiring technical know-how that will help pictures speak to you like human beings do. Where food is not rude, but dressed up, and ready to go for the kill.