Hello and welcome’ to the first installment of Shrimp & Grids, in which we pick through the highly manicured feeds of Instagram’s most-followed accounts and ask, “What are the Instagram elite eating?” We sort through the sponsored content, oh-so-posed tablescapes, and weird-ass recipes posted by the most followed people online—most of whom you’ve probably never heard of, despite their (many) millions of followers.
Let us explain. Influencers exist in all corners of the market, from beauty to parenting to woodworking, in pursuit of sparking jealousy/aspiration in their followers. They thus produce painstakingly curated Instagram feeds (aka their “grids”), which followers often mistake for reality. It’s easy to discount Instagram influencers as, say, frivolous or attention-seeking. But they’re integral to how we buy and sell products today: it’s estimated that brands will spend up to $15 billion on influencer marketing by 2022, which, oh my god. With that backing, influencers guide our choices in clothes, travel destinations, fitness plans, and, yes, in foods and diets, whether we’re conscious of it or not.
But the thing is, no matter how glossy a human’s life is, said human is still a human and thus requires food. And because we’re The Takeout, we’re interested in what the people driving our economy have to say about what they’re (ostensibly) eating. While Foodstagram is certainly a huge thing, even non-food influencers shape the way we eat, given their follower counts. Because, at the end of the day, influencers be influencing. It’s dark and bizarre, yes, that some random blonde mom from Utah is in part shaping our culture’s dining habits, but maybe not any weirder than the fact that ad execs have been tasked with doing the exact same thing since time immemorial. Maybe?
How does food and drink fit into the lives of the most effective advertisers in late-stage capitalism? Let’s find out!
We’ll start out easy, with the crown jewel of the influencer economy: Kylie Jenner. The line between influencer and celebrity is blurry—a celebrity can be an influencer, but isn’t always, and most influencers are not celebrities. But Kylie Jenner is both, and makes around $1.2 million per sponsored post. Anyway, like most celebs, pandemic-era regulations don’t apply to her, and she recently went on a trip to Mexico, where she apparently took shots with ten people. Can you imagine being around that many people at once? Couldn’t possibly be me.
Here we have a riff on the classic salt + tequila + lime combination: Tajín + tequila + grapefruit. Tajín is a salt-chili-lime condiment from Mexico, though popular in the U.S. as well; you’ve probably had it on the rim of a michelada before and, if you’re like me, have licked it entirely off the glass. Now, the liquor could be mezcal (indeed, Salma Hayek commented “Mezcal” on the post, which, okay, hello Salma). But fans are now theorizing on TikTok that Kylie and/or Kendall Jenner is launching a tequila brand, so we’ll go with tequila. Grapefruit is a nice shake-up from the classic lime chaser, and gives the whole drink the impression of a Paloma shot. It’s a shame there weren’t enough cute blue-rimmed shot glasses to go around, though. Who do you think got the misfits?
Are we influenced? On the flavor combo? Oh, absolutely, and would try it with Mezcal, too. On the leaving-the-country-let-alone-my-apartment-ness of the whole thing? Not so much.
Chiara Ferrangi is your classic thin blonde person about town, an Italian fashion influencer with her own clothing line and 22.5 million followers. Ferrangi has a blog called The Blonde Salad (?) and appeared as a judge on Making The Cut, the Tim Gunn reality show that came out on Amazon last March. She also has a young son, with whom, crucially, she recently made pizza. I saw this post and was delighted, because, well, it’s a photo of a child making pizza. But I continued to scroll through this feed and realize Ferrangi...only...eats...pizza??? Here’s a series in which the fully made-up fashionista experiences the three phases of pizza consumption: sexiness, pretending-to-like-someone-you-loathe-ness, and silliness.
Confusingly, she’s holding a slice of pizza with a full, unsliced pizza on her plate. Where did the slice come from? Doesn’t matter. The rules of the Chiara Ferrangi cinematic universe do not have to make sense. This is spon for Quelli Della Pizza, an Italian pizza company. Toppings-wise, it looks like we’re working with black olives, green olives, mushrooms, and a modest portion of cheese. But it doesn’t stop there. On January 17, she posted ten photos of her (and her son) eating pizza in various enviable outfits and locales for World Pizza Day. A few days earlier, she posted photos of her eating pizza in Lake Como, to the acclaim of her Instagram commenters. Now, would a person without such a commercially appealing face/body get as much love for eating all this pizza? Oh, of course not. But we should all be cheering each other on for eating pizza.
Are we influenced? You know, we could all be living a more pizza-centric lifestyle. So, sure.
Fitness Instagram is a truly terrifying place, filled with roided-out men who look like Bane from Batman and Robin (1997). (Not like Tom Hardy’s Bane, though.) Naturally, these guys mostly advertise for various protein powders, promising bulging, veiny muscles like theirs upon consumption. The challenge with protein powders is making them taste, you know, not like protein powder. A massive man named Lazar Angelov (5.7 million followers) has a breakfast recipe he calls “the fastest breakfast,” and it is filled with his very own branded protein powder:
Angelov’s recipe: 100 grams of oatmeal, 30 grams of (Lazar Angelov’s branded) whey protein, a scoop of chia seeds, and 100 grams of blueberries. Wait, so that’s basically half-oatmeal, half-blueberries. First off, that’s an aggressive blueberry ratio, but okay, blueberries are good. Sprinkle in some chia seeds for texture (and whatever other wellness claims they have), fine. And then: absolutely drench that shit in whey protein! Thirty grams of protein is more than half of the amount of daily protein recommended to adults, so, big move for breakfast. By the looks of that photo, that’s like, at least ⅔ cups of whey protein? Also, protein powder is a dietary supplement and is thus not FDA-approved, so god knows what this man is putting in his blueberry bowl. The thing is, while I don’t actually believe Chiara Ferragni eats pizza for every meal, I kinda do believe these dudes house whey protein at least three times per day.
Are we influenced? I am not convinced this breakfast isn’t simply a pile of whey protein powder, nor do I believe eating it daily would give me Lazar Angelov’s body. Not influenced!
That’s it for this week! Tune in next time, when we once again gape at people who unfortunately directly profit from our gaping at them.