Instagram has become a window into a world of food. It’s given me a social life. Countless friends. Fed me. Opened up opportunities I could never have imagined. All this from a simple app on a phone. It all began when my brother gave me an Amazon voucher one Christmas and encouraged me to put it towards an iPad.
I scotched the idea of getting one with 3G. Why on earth would I want to post pictures in real time? I lugged my giant screen into restaurants where it cast a giant shadow over the food. It was, if I am being honest, a bit of a running joke. But it became the start of something magical.
Sharing IRL, not just on screen
The very act of sharing food, and sharing pictures of food, brings people together. Not just staring at a screen, but in real life.”Let’s all go to this place”, says someone. And all of a sudden, a few messages later, there’s a table full of friends, all different ages, with different jobs, people I would never have met in any other context. But here we all are night after night, laughing, eating, grabbing spoonfuls of roasted cauliflower with tahini and dukkah or saffron arancini or plum frangipane with bay custard. And it’s wonderful.
Picturing the scene
And of course there are the photos. Every picture of me at every dinner, ever, shows me staring at a phone, poking at buttons, posting a snap of dessert, but this does not mean I am not present in the moment. I don’t faff about, I don’t let my food get cold, but I am slowly learning a new skill. “You make food look so delicious!” said someone to me the other day, although of course it is the chefs who make it look so delicious, and I do my best to do it justice.
So every night now there are restaurants or popups or supper clubs and I never get bored. How could I, when there is that constant thrill of opening a menu for the first time and deciding what to order? I’m constantly in awe of the skill and creativity of London’s chefs: the diversity, the generosity, the energy. The food community has proved utterly welcoming and supportive. People celebrate each others’ success, they are ethical, they don’t cut corners to make money, they are inclusive and (mostly, anyway) open minded.
And there are the cookbooks. So many cookbooks, now with the extra excitement of knowing the writers, stylists and photographers who’ve produced them. I sit up late most nights looking through them, and planning what to make on the rare nights I am home. I have an extra table in my lounge now, that’s piled high with beautiful plates, vintage forks and random spoons, for my amateur efforts at food styling. I like to feel I’m getting there. I have more than 50,000 followers now, which is astonishing and slightly overwhelming. I guess people like my photographs of cake.
For my 50th birthday, I held a party in my favourite restaurant packed with scores of friends, almost all of them people I’d met through Instagram. I was both humbled and hugely grateful. Michael, the Symmetry Breakfast superstar, had flown over for it from Shanghai and I leaned happily against him for a moment and thought: this, this is my life now and it has never been more joyful. All this from a simple app on a phone.
Felicity’s top Instagram tips
- Who to follow
There are so many fantastic food accounts – I’d recommend @nigellalawson for her daily recipes and @jamieoliver for his brilliant, hilarious stories. @symmetrybreakfast for always inspiring me first thing in the morning. @clerkenwellboyec1 for the London restaurant essentials, plus @theboywhobakes, @dandoherty_ and @ottolenghi for sheer beautiful food inspiration.
- How to take the perfect photo
Ideally, daylight. But as someone who goes to restaurants at night this is rarely possible for me! Take lots of photos as you can delete them later, and choose only the best one to post. You can adjust the brightness and sharpness with free apps like Snapseed or VSCO. Think about what makes the food look really delicious – and that’s your money shot.
- How to get more followers
I honestly have no secret strategy. I just post regularly and try to choose the best images from my day. Plus, engaging with people who comment on my own posts and others. I’d strongly advise against any of those sites which ‘sell’ followers or likes until you’re 100% sure of the integrity of the site.
- Be positive
Instagram is largely a really supportive and positive platform. It’s all about liking the content and engaging with other people so embrace it! Be nice! And if you see photos or a feed you really love, spread the word.
- Be open
Instagram is like a window into a million kitchens. If you’re stuck on a bus, search a few hashtags and you’ll find countless recipes and styling ideas. Engage with people. Comment on stories and pictures which intrigue you. You never know, you might even find a few new friends. I certainly have!