Food as eye-candy
Fake food has always been an open secret. Back in the day, enterprising kakimas would nip out and buy sandesh from the corner store, head home, knead a melted bar of Cadbury’s and sandesh together and dazzle guests with chocolate sandesh “made from scratch”.
Today, as the world goes virtual, so do food hoaxes. In a world of airbrushed appearances, food outings on social media are curated artefacts. Earlier, your restaurant food pictures on social media made your friends and followers eat their hearts out, wondering how you could afford that. (The trick’s borrowed from carpool: eat out in a group, order different dishes, take pictures from different angles to make everyone’s posts unique, split the bill).
When the virus put everyone under lockdown, everyone became a chef and online food porn manifested our wildest fantasies. Soon, the smart ones realised that all foodgasms need not be real. So, you could sip a synthetic pineapple milkshake but post it online as #turmericlatte #sunshinedrink. Who’s to know? The mason jar should look fancy. Baingan bharta is infra dig. Replace onions with slivers of garlic, and caption it saying “roasted aubergines with pine nuts”. Click a bowl of fruit salad with avocado thoughtfully placed next to the humble chikoo, and you are global and local. Normal dough can impersonate sourdough online; mashed potatoes, hummus; paneer, feta cheese. All charming white lies. Because food is not basic fuel, it reflects our tastes and deep pockets (or not). Food is personality, lifestyle, comfort, nostalgia, aspiration, daring and decadence. We show what we eat to hide our scars or flaunt our trophies.
With the visuals in focus, much of food envy lies in its plating. Every item must be eye candy, the mains, the sides, and it goes without saying, desserts and drinks and garnishes. Not to forget plates. Monochrome is the flavour of the season.
If food is the movie star, expect fact and fiction to blur. Recently, someone captioned a picture of two muffins and two red hearts on a plate as “Husband’s anniversary surprise. Had no idea he could bake”. Truth is, she arranged store-bought muffins on the plate, drew the hearts with red toothpaste and whipped out her camera phone.