Food content on the internet is currency. Consumed vociferously and created daily, it has birthed many voices who are now celebrated personalities whom we feel like we know and can turn to. Some internet sensations such as A Brown Table, Minimalist Baker, Smitten Kitchen are international household names today whose recipes we cook and stories we follow. Closer to home, The Purple Foodie’s success story from keeping a blog to writing cookbooks and teaching is only one such example of many.
Here in India, we experience a food landscape that is incredibly diverse, but it is also riddled with chaos, too many warring opinions, and only a handful of young blood in the food writing space to turn the tide of conversation. Our NRIs are doing some brilliant work outside the country-Sana Javeri Kadri, for instance, is only 24, but she writes, runs Diaspora Co., and is doing some groundbreaking work in the food photography space (new cookbook out soon I think).
It is interesting to note that Sana’s style and aesthetic is what sets her canon of work apart from others. The way we consume content today has changed. Now it is packaged differently, with a fresh perspective that is both appealing and novel. Indie magazines like Lucky Peach, Cereal, Jarry, Gather and many food blogs try to put the spring back into a food scene that will get redundant if the narrative is not constantly changing to imbue a certain uniqueness of thought. In India, digital publications like The Goya Journal capture this beautifully to give the audience engaging stories around food.
One would think that India is overflowing with print magazines that wax lyrical about its food, but in the year 2018, I can’t say that I have confidence in any of our food publications. On one hand, you have magazines with untested recipes from chefs that may never work for someone at home, while another reads like a long, tedious ad catalogue. Both kinds fall short as they don’t provide anything useful to their readers who shell out good money for them. I can’t eat pretty pictures now, can I?
The conversation around food among the youth in India needs a collective jolt. As a community of food bloggers, we too, aren’t as banded together in thought as we think we are because many perceive it as a race to an end goal, rather than focusing on becoming a wholesome influential resource for our readers. The absence of a sense of community will limit us in more ways than we know.
Freelance food writers, food bloggers and chefs alike must collectively question how we should take the conversation forward to keep the narrative around Indian foods and local ingredients always an exciting one for the younger generations. Years from now people may remember a dish made with Takla or Phodshi bhaji presented by Chef Thomas to them at The Bombay Canteen, but how many of us would weave an exciting narrative around it or a photo series, speak of it as a trend, or even push the local ingredient out as if we were the ingredient’s own PR agent?
Monetising your work and keeping things fresh on Instagram is very current and now, sure, but there’s no longevity to it. As people who write about food, we have a certain responsibility to our readers to educate them about our ingredients and traditions- what’s in the markets now and how to use it at home. We’re all Nigellas and Nigel Slaters in the making, provided we start helping each other sow these seeds of curiosity in the minds of the next generation with the content we create today.
Belly Over Mind is one of many voices in this space that understands this challenge. A food blog always starts as a passion project that eventually grows wings and morphs into something bigger and more beautiful than the sum of its parts. Today, I have a responsibility as a storyteller to weave a narrative around my recipes with the help of mixed media, so that years from now, I have piqued the curiosity of enough young minds about Indian ingredients, cooking and overcoming its challenges.
So I guess what I’m trying to say is that we should band together as a community, share our meals and our knowledge more willingly and give the next generation something to be proud of so they’re not as blindly fascinated by the west as we once were.