As a 90s-born millennial, my first encounter with cooking began with seeing videos, reels, and shorts on social media. But then, when trying my hand at the dishes that I have seen in 30- to 60-second videos, I realised that cooking isn't exactly done with a snap of a finger as shown in short videos. The process is much longer and more complex, which could be better understood when put into words.
Videos are undoubtedly great to watch; they are appealing, aesthetic, and make the food look extra appetising. They offer instant gratification, but how many of us actually get it right by seeing such short videos on social media? The moment we pick up the cooking spoon, we begin realising that the process is completely different from what is shown in the short videos. The reels on social media would make a nice trailer, but are they enough to help in making a decent meal?
Cookbooks, on the other hand, are significant even in the age of social media because they include even the most intricate details and tips that would enable any first-time cook to come up with a decent dish. Also, when learning a recipe from a cooking book, you tend to feel the passion for the art of cooking in the author's words.
That being said, I would admit that social media is a great tool to aid food writers in attracting their readers. It's an undeniable fact that visual media is more appealing. Social media cannot be considered a threat to classic food writing. In contrast, it could be a platform for food writers to showcase glimpses of their works through visuals to attract readers to their books.
Authors On Art Of Documenting Food
In a discussion that recently happened at Women Writers' Fest, authors Roopali Mohanti, Pressy Pandarinath, and Shikha Bafna also shared similar opinions. When asked if the instant gratification of the 30-second reel of quick recipes changes the way that we look at and consume food, Roopali Mohanti, author of Servings Simple Yet Exotic, said, "While there is instant gratification while looking at a short video, the process of making a dish doesn’t change. In a 30-second video, I would be skipping a lot of steps because I can’t put it all out there."
She added that she has only learned to embrace social media very recently, adding that "while social media might make it look very beautiful and easy, that’s not what it actually is; you have to go through the entire process."
Pressy Pandarinathan’s memoir Ammi, which is more of a tribute to her mother’s recipes, consists of a lot of titbits that cannot be included in a social media video. Calling the content that’s put out on social media "a trailer to the bigger thing," Pandarinathan pointed out that social media does help in bringing people to your book so that they get into the depth of it, but otherwise it’s going to be impossible to put a 300-page book into snippets.
Shika Bafna's works have been published in publications across the globe. Bafna also served as the co-editor of a food magazine group's second issue. She agreed with Mohanti’s views about the process remaining unchanged.
Sharing that she and her parents share a lot of cooking videos on social media, which encourages her to cook more, adding that social media helps her push to learn more and explore different kinds of food.
Watch the discussion here
Suggested Reading: Women Writers' Fest: Does ChatGPT Threaten Writing And Creativity?