Photo: Tara Rushmer
The influence of food has evolved from flat slices to something extreme: the relentless promotion of “must-have” items that offer little taste or soul. Influencers travel in packets, battling for primo Instagram Explore placement: health-conscious content creators who turn desserts into bake, gluten-free and sugar-free monstrosities; weirdly sinister Disney adults who rate fancy donut sandwiches; maximalist “bucket listers” who create stress-inducing milkshake bucket lists and never actually eat the food that breaks their guts. For today’s food instagrammers, food is a prop – much of it randomly stitched into a Frankenstein-esque range of sushi burritos and peanut butter cheeseburgers. And it is terrible. This is all terrible.
Fortunately, there are exceptions. There are still a few great guys and girls who are using social media to share their love of food without inspiring some sort of manic treasure hunt. These people eat every bite of the food they photograph, sincerely share their favorites, and make a genuine effort to connect with local businesses. Perhaps the most sincere members of this community are the curdfluencers, a small but passionate group of social media personalities who dedicate their feeds to the humble. cheese curds.
Made from freshly pasteurized milk, curds are the young pieces of cheese that form in the middle of the cheese-making process. Think of the curd as the precursor to cheese which, instead of being formed into blocks and aged, is eaten right away. They’re a hallmark of the Wisconsin food scene and can be found throughout the Midwest, both raw and fried: a simple, gooey snack that’s loved by tourists and politicians.
Now, a select group of micro-influencers are hoping to share their love of curd with a national audience. Take Tara Rushmer, who posts curd on @curdqueen. As of this month, Rushmer has just under 3,300 followers and his own hashtag: #curdqueenmademedoit.
“I was attracted to the curdfluencer lifestyle,” Rushmer, a “born and breaded” Wisconsinite who describes himself. “My dad grew up on a dairy farm, and when people asked me what I wanted to be when I was growing up, I would say a cheese curd maker at JD’s, a local fast food restaurant in my hometown of Appleton. Now, Rushmer dedicates his Instagram, Facebook, and TikTok accounts to sharing his favorite curds.
Rushmer, who works full-time in graphic design and social media marketing, started the Curd Queen Instagram account in 2016, but things really picked up when, bored in quarantine, she sought the unparalleled pleasure of a curd. fresh. “Once in quarantine I really started to invest time in my account and it exploded overnight, gaining thousands of subscribers in about six months,” she says. Now, Rushmer is releasing paid partnerships with a variety of cheese brands, including Wisconsin Cheese’s Cheeselandia and the Culver’s fast food chain; the latter named Rushmer his “number one superfan”. “But I also love working with and supporting local restaurants and cheese factories right here in Madison and throughout Wisconsin and the Midwest,” Rushmer says.
Samantha Buschman (@wisconsincheeseplease), based in Milwaukee, also looked into the curd at the start of the pandemic. “I was unemployed when the pandemic started, but I still wanted to help local restaurants by eating out once a week,” she told me by email. “The first week I did curbside pickup for fried cheese curds and decided to do a ranking video on YouTube. Why? I have no idea. Boredom, probably.
Now, every week, Buschman’s YouTube channel watches Cheese Curd Friday. Buschman posts a curd review video on Instagram and his YouTube channel, the latter having a small but dedicated group of 33 subscribers. “I ask for curd recommendations on Facebook and Instagram and keep an ongoing list on my phone,” she says. “I’ve been to so many new places and tried a lot of different curds because of it.
While Rushmer’s feed is largely made up of branded partnerships (“Check out this incredible gift box for cheese lovers and see below how to enter to WIN one of your own! One caption reads), Buschman’s feed is focused on local businesses. During the holidays, Buschman orchestrated a “12 Days of Cheese” promotion in which she worked with 12 Milwaukee curd haulers and gave out gift cards to her followers. “It’s great for me that people are willing to give even if times aren’t necessarily easy,” she says. “I try to make a point to stay local and show my followers all the different places in town that are worth their business.”
His goal for 2021 is to collaborate with comedian and Wisconsin native Charlie Berens, known for creating Manitowoc minute, a one-minute humorous newscast that exudes Midwestern charm. “I think he’s extremely talented and smart and to involve him in one way or another would be a huge win,” she said. And while Buschman and Rushmer would both love to expand their audiences, neither are particularly concerned with the pastel aesthetic and mega-followings of Instagram’s larger food scene. Instead, they focus on micro-goals like collaborations and personal exploration. “I grew over 1,200 followers in about five months and would like to continue to grow as the year progresses,” Buschman says – but she also adds that her biggest goal is to visit restaurants outside of Milwaukee for ‘wide range of people involved in the love of cheese. Rushmer agrees. “With or without Instagram, my deep love for cheese curds was there,” she told me via email. “The free curds and other perks are just an added bonus.”
Don’t get me wrong: I’m not going to say that curdfluencing is a completely innocent operation. Everyone loves free shit. If I weren’t wrapped up in that faux fur straitjacket of journalistic ethics, I’d probably be looking for some sort of Ice Cream Princess headline on social media as well. But the existence of the micro-influencer – a very normal person with a few thousand followers, centering their food around a traditionally unphotogenic dish – gives me hope for food in the social media landscape. The food is delicious and sharing it with other equally enthusiastic people is wonderful. But food, like life, isn’t always photogenic or well-lit. Sometimes it makes you fart and sometimes it’s served on an unappealing cardboard plate. And sometimes it’s just for you, a bold treat to enjoy in private without the benefit of a ring light. Where the influence of modern food is to promote itself under the guise of promoting ridiculously trendy foods (“My lifestyle allows me to waste money on these purely cosmetic foods, don’t you not jealous? ”), The curd is a matter of pure pleasure. And it’s about as Midwestern as it gets.
Article source https://thetakeout.com/meet-instagrams-wisconsin-cheese-curd-influencers-1846153617