Add a little hashtag, stir

Rihan Najib | Updated on November 02, 2018

Busy berry: In 2017, after the amla was endorsed by social media star Kim Kardashian West, the humble Indian gooseberry started trending like never before   -  ISTOCK.COM

Social media platforms demand that we not just consume food, but also interact with it

It’s true. First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then one day, they upload you on Instagram and appropriate you.


This time last year, we woke up to the news that the humble Indian gooseberry — amla — had considerably more social media currency than we could ever have imagined. Amla, a powerhouse of vitamin C and antioxidants, was until then a staple visual of Indian shampoo and Chyawanprash advertisements. The kinds where an assortment of ingredients swirl their way into a bottle, instantly lengthening a model’s hair and transforming a short, sickly boy into a gleeful picture of health.

In 2017, amla was endorsed by social media star Kim Kardashian West. Others followed suit in their embrace of the fruit, including popstar Britney Spears and Modern Family actor Sofia Vergara. It was a moment of vindication for Ayurveda adherents and Indian mothers. They were just about recovering from their last victory — 2016’s turmeric latte craze. Who would have thought that homely haldi doodh would have its second coming as ‘Golden milk’, commemorated in an article in The Guardian as “a drink fit for Midas”.

Of the many aspects of public life upended by the wide-ranging effects of social media, disruptions are evident in the way we eat. Instagram mandates that we not just relish our food, but also interact with it. We seek out novel cuisines or trending fads and don’t stop at merely consuming the food — we also document the event through carefully curated images, adding relevant hashtags that will connect us to a virtual community of like-minded people. Eating, as an act, has moved out of the zone of necessity and into that of performance.

Food fads that trend on Instagram have become an industry unto themselves, with restaurants and food outlets modifying their ware to keep up with waxing and waning interests. In 2018, when a mermaid motif was the top trending aesthetic in make-up and cuisine related online communities, a key ingredient that came into prominence was the blue-green algae spirulina, which gives food its vivid oceanic blue colour.

The colour of choice last year was a bright mossy green, derived from matcha, a fine powder made by grinding dried green tea leaves. Matcha was the hipster food of choice, invading muffins, yoghurt, guacamole and smoothies. In addition to their (at times overhyped) health benefits, what works in their favour is their vibrant colours which make for compelling food photography that can then be shared, reposted and plugged into a trend. Clearly, with social media, it’s not about doing something as much as it is about being seen doing it.

Just in case you missed the trendiest food fads of 2018, here is a list that can help you catch up.

1. Move over, millets. Make way for plant meat and nut milk.

Quinoa and millets had their place in the sun, and it’s now time for plant meat — vegetarian alternatives to meat that mimic its flavour and texture. Made from soy, textured veggie protein, wheat gluten and other assorted veggies, its cruelty-free appeal is fast winning fans. And to wash that meat-free bacon down, try a glass of nut milk, made from, you guessed it — nuts. What was once the sole domain of vegan kitchens is fast going mainstream, entering supermarkets and restaurant menus alike.

2. Waste not want not with root-to-stem cooking

Again, something that would make mothers roll their eyes and ask, “is this what the West calls modern cooking?” Root-to-stem cooking involves using the parts of vegetables that are usually discarded, such as carrot tops, potato skins, cauliflower stems and leaves, radish stalks, beet greens, and so on.

3. Edible glitter

If the first two entries made you think that this list was an ode to sustainability and ethical eating, allow us to put an end to that notion. Glitter-covered food is all the rage. From coffee to cupcakes, no Instafoodie handle is complete without at least one offering that would look more at home in a pride parade. But, before you go rummaging through the children’s art supply closet, this isn’t that sort of glitter. Instead, this variety is a combination of sugar, food colouring, cornstarch and more.

4. Poke bowls

Firstly, it’s pronounced “Poh-kay”. So what makes them so special? Well, the Hawaiian-created Poke bowls are basically a more Insta-friendly version of sushi. Where sushi is all about amazing flavours tightly and neatly wrapped into rolls, Poke bowls are essentially a deconstructed version with all the elements on display for the camera lens. The bowl has a base of rice, which is then topped with fish, veggies and flavour-packed sauces.

5. Raw water

This health craze puts less emphasis on health and more emphasis on craze even as it purports to do the opposite. Raw water is just that, untreated water. This, proponents believe, means that it contains more naturally occurring minerals and fewer contaminants. While this sounds great, things aren’t so straightforward. We’ve evolved to treat water for a reason. Just try guzzling a glass of Yamuna Cola and you’ll understand why. Even the most pristine water bodies can play host to havoc-inducing microbes. So, unless you’re looking for some vitamin D(ysentery) we suggest you give this one a miss.

Rihan Najib

Published on November 02, 2018

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