Blog On

I will probably regret this.

I haven’t written here for almost a week because I’ve been cooking—testing and retesting recipes for a magazine project—which might seem like a contradiction for a blog that is even vaguely about food, but—and here I realize that I am probably shooting myself in the foot, or the skillet as it were—can anybody possibly be interested in what goes on in my kitchen?

My friend Sara Foster wrote me last week from the Bahamas, where she was on some sort of junket with a bunch of food bloggers. These lucky bloggers were there in the Bahamas because they are at the top of their field, which is amazing to me. First, that food blogging is a field. And second, that the people at the top of it, almost without exception, follow the same formula: Several days a week, they write and post pictures of what they have cooked and eaten.

I’m not sure what I am doing with this blog or why I’m doing it (and I have mild regret over it on an almost daily basis), but I cannot imagine I will ever make this blog about what I cooked and ate. Except for sometimes, when it is tied to something else, something relevant. (I have to admit that when I do post recipes, especially for something weird like when I pan-fried some oatmeal recently, people dig it. My friend and blogging mentor Mickey Kaus says that you know immediately: a good post: you get lots of hits. Write a dud and you know that, too.) Still, I can’t imagine why anyone would, on a daily basis, want to peek into my bedroom– I mean kitchen window at what I’ve done—unless they were coming for dinner or getting the leftovers, and if they do want to know, I urge them to dig deeper into themselves, to ask themselves why.

When I am not hacking here in “wordpress” for free, I spend some of my time writing cookbooks, and the given, each time we go to sell one, is that there are already too many cookbooks. It is our job to build a strong, long argument for why the one we’re proposing should exist. Meanwhile, here are these blogs. Blogs and blogs and blogs—countless of them. such as Orangette, a sort of slice-of-lifey blog with food that was recently published as a memoir, and 101 Cookbooks (which I happen to like for reasons I can’t explain), ditto Smitten Kitchen; and reportedly the most successful of them all Simply Recipes, which is…. simply recipes. It’s not that I don’t like these blogs. I just don’t understand them, or their enormous appeal. I do no read blogs about what people eat and I don’t think I ever will. But I’m the exception. People eat this stuff up.

A recent Times article about the top 50 food blogs reports staggering numbers of readers. Is this all just baggage from our Calvinist roots. We have some elicit, pornographic relationship with food that is satisfied over the Internet? I mean, at the same time that we (that’s the collective American “we”, not me) ogle over pictures of thumbprint cookies and yesterday’s soup, we are shopping in grocery stores where it is impossible to find whole fat yogurt. What is up with that?


4 thoughts on “Blog On

  1. Ooh, me! I was one of those bloggers having the week of my life in the Bahamas (hi Sara!), but I do think that a certain kind of food blogging was overrepresented there: the cook, photograph and blurbing type. There might be a lot of easy traffic in a gooey irresistible pictures of freshly-baked chocolate chip cookies (guilty as charged), but I find myself most loyal to those that have interesting things to say about what they’re eating. I don’t think I’d enjoy a food blogosphere (god I hate that word) only defined by cooking-heavy sites and I’m glad there is room out here for all of us.

  2. Since you asked . . . Personally, I follow Smitten Kitchen religiously and among others like Orangette, 101 cookbooks and The Amateur Gourmet too. (And I’ve even had what I’m beginning to think is the unmitigated hubris to start my own recently: I had NO IDEA how very very many cooking blogs there are out there.) What I like about blogs is the personal point of view. Its not just recipes, its human foibles and commentaries that go along with the process of cooking the recipe. Its a another person’s voice letting you know what kinds of substitutions they considered making, what drew them to this recipe in the first place, and can be like a friend walking you through the steps. Its part of the same appeal that makes cooking shows so popular. For my own blog (query how successfully) I’ve tried to add the info I always wish I had when I find a new recipe: what’s the nutritional info on this? how big a dent is this going to make in my grocery budget? will the leftovers be tasty or insufferable or (heaven forbid) inedible and have to be tossed out? I think another part of the appeal is what feels like hand-holding: hey this person can pull off this recipe, I can too! Anyway, that’s what I see as being “up” with that.

  3. i for one love your perspective, which is why i love reading your words in magazines, in cookbooks, and on this blog. writing about food always comes down to voice. the medium might be shifting, but i agree with deb above – those blogs that have something interesting to say about food (or politics or fashion or global warming) in some sort of relevant context with unexpected perspective are those we want to read. like yours.

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