Welcome to another installment of Shrimp & Grids, the column where we dissect the meals of Instagram’s most followed. Why would we subject ourselves to such scrolling? Because whether we like it or not, the influencer economy is shaping what we buy, wear and yes, eat. Let’s dig in!
Did you know that Jason Derulo—okay, I can stop right there, the answer is probably no. So, a few updates on the cinematic portrayer of The Rum Tum Tugger: first, he’s very good at the internet. Derulo boasts 7.8 million Instagram followers, which pales in comparison to his audience of 47.1 million over on TikTok, where he posts fun videos about being a new dad, destroying Cruella advertisements, and becoming a Smurf. Delightful. Second thing to know about [sings] Jay-son Deruuulo: he has a new single out. It’s called “Jalebi Baby,” a reference to the South Asian/Middle Eastern treat. It’s about eating, ahem, jalebi, and nothing else. So, naturally, Derulo taught his TikTok followers how to make jalebi.
There are a billion varieties of jalebi; unique regional recipes stem everywhere from India to Morocco, each of which have variations on flour content, spices, and shapes. But generally speaking, jalebi is a sweet fried dough doused in simple syrup. Derulo doesn’t give the exact ingredients for his recipe, but essentially, he heats up simple syrup; mixes flours, curd, and water; puts the mixture in a squeeze bottle; deep-fries spirals of dough dispensed from the bottle; then douses those fried spirals in the simple syrup. I didn’t know how badly I needed to squeeze dough straight into 350-degree oil, but dang, does that look fun.
Are we influenced? Unclear if I’ll ever get “Jalebi, Baby” out of my head. Damnit, Derulo, you’ve done it again.
Have we talked about Tabitha Brown? We gotta talk about Tabitha Brown. The pandemic gave rise to Brown, who churns out deeply soothing TikTok videos of vegan recipes, sprinkling in contagious catchphrases including “like so, like that” and “that’s your business.” Brown brings an infectious, off-the-cuff charm to her videos, and lends pure joy to the various plant-based meat substitutes she discovers. As the one person in the city of Los Angeles without any dietary restrictions, I’m not actively seeking vegan recipes. But a few minutes (hours?) after getting sucked into Tabitha’s TikTok, I find myself thinking, You know what? Hearts of palm really would make a delicious fish substitute. I invite you, reader, to bathe in Tabitha’s content.
Anyway, Tabitha has had a very good July. The TikToker teamed up with McCormick to make a special-edition, all-purpose seasoning called Sunshine. Ingredients include, but are not limited to: ginger, garlic, pineapple, mango, maple syrup—whew, lot going on here. It’s only available online, and according to Brown, it sold out in 39 minutes. Now That’s What I Call Influencing. More Sunshine is said to be available this fall, just in time to season your Tofurkey.
Are we influenced? I would follow Tabitha Brown directly into the sun.
Wanna watch Paris Hilton eat cereal for nine minutes? I sure do. And now I can, thanks to her new YouTube series, “Paris Tries.” Paris Hilton is in many ways the original influencer, famous for being famous pre-Kardashians, pre-social media. She came to fame two decades ago, in a different era, and her affect remains the same: detached, icy, popular girl vibes. It admittedly feels a bit out of place on YouTube. In a good way, though. YouTubers often feel needy, overly enthusiastic, as if begging the viewer not to click away to another video. Paris, refreshingly, couldn’t care less if the viewer lives or dies. Perhaps it’s that I am once and forever a tween of the aughts, but hearing Paris Hilton deadpan, “I love to take marshmallows out of Lucky Charms and put them on top of Rice Krispies,” soothes me in a way meditation could only dream.
Paris rates cereals based on the “Sliving” scale. “Sliving” = “slaying” + “living your best life.” It’s an update to her Simple Life era catchphrase, “That’s hot,” which she iconically trademarked. The main takeaway from episode one of “Paris Tries” is that Paris really loves sugary cereals (only with almond or oat milk, of course). “I’m hoping this tastes like that, like, Funfetti cake batter,” she says before digging into a bowlful of Funfetti cereal. “Like, cake flavor would be insane. With, like, sprinkles.” Paris takes a bite of Funfetti cereal. “Mm-hmm. That’s exactly what I thought.” Five Sliving stars for Funfetti cereal.
Are we influenced? Watching a full-blown adult eat and enjoy a bowl of S’mores cereal is, frankly, inspirational. Good thing she’s taking her kitchen adventures to bigger, better places.