Meals ready Food

Insta gratification

(right) Picture-perfect food  

Wait, wait, WAIT! I freeze, taken aback by the vehemence and irritation of my fellow journalists. I awkwardly lower the fork that is half way to my open mouth, and wait as mobiles and cameras go crazy. The bowl of food travels from one end of the table to the other. Cutlery is moved out of the way, unwary passers-by are hissed at, and the dish is turned this way and that for the perfect angle. And then there are the selfies. This is my first taste of Instagram.

I corner Rupali Dean, the other journalist from India who is in Israel with me on the invitation of Israel Tourism for Jerusalem’s Open Restaurant Week. Rupali is a food blogger and has legions of followers on social media. She explains what Instagram is and kindly opens an account for me. And there is no looking back.

A loaf of bread beckons, wrapped in a snow-white napkin with a knife next to it. Hmmm. Suggestive. I click. And give it (in my opinion) a witty caption: ‘I can live on bread alone’. I get all of four comments. I Instagram a manual juicer and receive a solitary phrase of praise. Undeterred, I continue. A vegetable curry, a soup vendor in Jerusalem’s old market, spices (I have grown up with them yet never thought to photograph before), everything remotely edible is carefully observed and photographed. The first to desert me is wit. While I thought ‘Last Supper at Tel Aviv’ was a pretty sharp caption to our final dinner in Israel, it brought me no likes, hearts or comments. Daunted, I half-heartedly write, “It is vegetarian. Delicious” to go with the image of a plate of seaweed, noodles and vegetable salad.

I am a print journalist. And it takes me a full five minutes before I locate the camera icon on my phone and focus on the subject. While I write down the ingredients or the name of the chef or something, the food bloggers with me efficiently ask questions, find the right light and the perfect captions that they then instantly share with the world in real time. I usually have to wait for a week or two before I see my work in print. This is magical and gratifying.

I think regretfully of all the Instagram moments I have missed. Of sunlight sneaking in through a gap between two tiles on a roof and dancing over big woks of oil where murukkus bubble, dance and turn gold; of the wedding feast on a bright green banana leaf with blobs of orange kosambri, creamy white morkuzhambu, red beetroot, rust-coloured sambar and white rice...; the massive tiffin carriers unpacked by families during train journeys; the garnet-coloured decoction from my mom’s filter or even just an image of her as she intently focusses on the mound of vegetables as she chops them for an avial.

Images do speak more immediately and effectively. It leaves me wondering if anyone will read my articles at all. Maybe I should just post pictures with pithy captions. This article is already 550 words long. I could have accomplished the same by just submitting a photo essay. And, just so you know, I Instagrammed my breakfast this morning. It was a yellow dhokla with an artfully-placed green chilli by its side and a smattering of white grated coconut on top. Picture perfect.

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Printable version | Oct 20, 2021 12:31:15 PM |

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