I’ll start off this post by coming clean: My name is Hashmita Agarwal and I have a food Instagram. But let’s face it, as a food photographer and food studies major in the foodie city of New York, did you really think I wouldn’t?! Expedia, Airbnb, Uber etc. have been imperative to my travel escapades, but I’d be disloyal to my brand if I didn’t dedicate another post to storytelling and recounting my experiences through food…
Now, I’m no longer part of the 40% that posts restaurant reviews, but I’m sure I contribute a lot to the “friends’ photos” that 52% of Facebook users’ plans are inspired off of – especially while I’m studying abroad.
Continuing my Instagram streak through my study abroad journey without free food, my DSLR, or any access to a kitchen has been a challenge. Although Argentina, like most of the world, is slowly catching up with food Instagram trends, factors like slow (or no) 3G, lack of good natural light, and looking absolutely ridiculous using your Smartphone to take pictures of your food while the elderly people next to you stare disapprovingly make it difficult to get that perfect shot.
Case in point, my attempt to document my visit to Rapa Nui, Argentina’s prime (and probably most expensive) chocolatier from Bariloche in Patagonia, totally encountered by me on Google Maps in order to fulfil chocolate cravings I had. I got their famous hot chocolate, a stout-flavoured 60% bar (strongly recommend!!) and FraNui, Rapa Nui’s own edition of double chocolate covered raspberries (also recommend!). I went there alone ~1AM on a difficult night and spent my time consuming all of this but also trying to ignore the two men next to me who did not, for a single minute of the 30 minutes I was there, look any other way except mine.
As a server once told me, the chic cafés and restaurants of Buenos Aires have come to realise how much people eat with their eyes and Instagram their food in today’s day. So, naturally, there are efforts on the chefs’ parts to stylise their food and on the eatery’s part to encourage the presence of their food on social media. I started off this admittedly great steak meal with the waitress offering us free dessert if we Instagrammed our food, and that’s the story of how I killed two birds with one stone.
In the past 5-7 years or so, we have lived through the great rise of the idea and the consumption of brunch. Like any other commodity in a consumer capitalist world, the standard eggs-pancakes-waffles (mimosa included) brunch menu has trickled down to other cultures, special thanks to voracious Yelpers and the Instagram food cult! “Brunch” is now at the tip on the tongue of every young Argentine who would usually eat toast and/or fruit on weekend afternoons. Of course, I made note of my first (and only, so far) brunch experience here.
Speaking of Instagramming brunch, there’s another misconception that the only foods that deserve to end up on your social media are $20 brunch entrées, lattes, avocado toasts, and trendy foods like cronuts/ramen burgers – often brought upon by what food Instagram feeds are usually filled with. It’s a pretty tried and tested method of getting more likes – the food and surroundings are aesthetic looking, familiar and worth promoting to the kind of crowd that such microblogs cater to. However, most of our experiences with food go beyond this trope of “basic food”, and I especially love incorporating those into my feed. This plate of pastel and coxinha with a caipirinha from a beachside shack was one of the best moments I had on my fall break trip to Brasil!
You’d think that the average food blogger would be loaded in terms of both, money and body fat percentage. But if there’s anything I’ve learned shadowing real food bloggers, it’s that the pros taking pictures never pay for their food or eat a dish in its entirety unless it changed their life or something. Moreover, they often go around taking pictures – with permission, of course – of food that they didn’t request for at all, in order to keep up their social media content. Instead of getting a choripán like my friend did, amateur me took a picture of the chorizo links for my Instagram instead…
None of this is to say that my food Instagram is by any means my job, a complete representation of my time studying in Argentina, or even something I religiously keep up with here. However, I love to look at Eating Out 2.0 as my way of not only marking the differences between my food experiences around the world, but also as a means of sharing my favourite part of life with whoever looks at my feed.