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Why 'Cheese Board Influencers' Became a Thing

Cheese board influencers have taken Instagram by storm, leaving the rest of us to wonder "...why?"
Erik Dungan / Unsplash
Cheese boards are everywhere. Facebook, Instagram, and even TikTok are flooded with how-to videos and mouth-watering glamour shots of artisan cheeses layered daintily around bowls of picholine olives and cocktail pickles. But the increase of cheese-board-related content isn't just a fad.

Cheese boards are nothing new

You've probably only recently noticed cheese boards on your timeline, but the practice of artfully arranging cured meats and other finger foods isn't exactly groundbreaking. The crafting of charcuterie boards (the plating technique’s more formal name) originated in France during the 15th century.
Most often, the boards feature cured meats and cheeses, though many takes will also incorporate nuts, breads, spreads, pretzels, and berries. Honestly, when it comes to cheese boards, nothing is off-limits. The only common themes are quality ingredients, a finger-food style, and a painstaking concern for visual appeal.
Given the ideal cheese board's unmistakable regard for shape, color, form and composition, it should come as no shock that the "art form" has gained traction on platforms like Instagram, where aesthetic rules all.

Instagram fueled a cheese board renaissance

As it turns out, delicately arranged cheese products can drag in a surprising amount of 'likes' and engagement. On Instagram alone the #cheeseboard hashtag has close to 700,000 posts, with #charcuterie boasting nearly 1 million. Fueled by the trend, so-called “cheese board influencers” have claimed the spotlight on social media.
Marissa Mullen is one such influencer. According to her interview with Metro, she first started sharing her cheese boards online in 2013. She was in college at the time; creating elaborately garnished spreads was a low-effort way to cater to guests while entertaining.
Seven years later, Mullen's love for artfully arranged finger foods became her full-time career. Now, Mullen's Instagram has amassed a whopping 188k following. She's even written a book on charcuterie arrangement which is due to release in May 2020.
Mullen's success and the sheer volume of charcuterie-related social media posts is proof of its exploding popularity, something which has left many of us baffled. Sure, finger food is great, and everyone loves cheese. But one pressing question remains: why the sudden popularity of glorified adult Lunchables?

For today’s young adults, cheese boards mark stability

With cheese boards (as well as any other strange internet trend) there's no way to pinpoint what exactly caused the boom. The current hypothesis? Charcuterie boards give quarter-lifers what they've been hungering for: the sense of having it together.
In her Atlantic piece about the rising popularity of glamorous kitchen appliances, Amanda Mull speculates that for young Americans, pricey cookware has become "small markers of stability and sophistication, coveted by young people for whom traditional indicators of both often remain out of reach."
In other words, young millennials are re-imagining what "having it together" looks like. For many, it looks like top-shelf blenders and gorgeous trays of brie and salami. In the end, this might explain why charcuterie boards have taken over our Instagram feeds - and how the "cheese board influencer" ever became a thing in the first place.