Writing a blog is by and large a solitary activity, and social media, paradoxically, can be anything but. But lately I’ve had the pleasure of becoming, dare I say it, part of a community. It’s a loosely-bound, organic kind of community, but a community nonetheless.
In a time when it’s commonly assumed we’re all living nutso, hectic, increasingly isolated lives, with the breakdown of family values, declining influence of religion, lack of moral fibre and increasing technologification (not a word) of daily life, I find this quite heartening. So I thought I’d take a break from writing about food and coffee today and turn instead to the food blogging community.
How to become part of something
Having an interest makes you interesting, at least to people who share that interest. This is why women’s mags will always tell you if you’re having trouble meeting people, join a club, take a class, or get a hobby. It sounds lame but that’s because they leave out two important ingredients:
1. The interest has to be genuine (verging on obsession helps), and
2. It takes time.
Photo courtesy of Food Scene Investigation
Most people can spot a faker from a mile off. I know I can, especially if what you’re faking is my bread and butter. It’s hard to have genuine interactions with people who are liars. But not only that. Say you want to become part of a community based on an interest in… nail polish. You want to really *love* nail polish. To death. Because everything you do in that community will be defined by nail polish. We see this all the time in cults. If you don’t want to drink the kool aid, you have to leave the cult. Your bible study group won’t have much to say to you if you stop reading the bible. I dread to think what I’d do with friends if I stopped drinking coffee. Senhor R and I have often turned to each other and said ‘What would you do with someone who didn’t love food? What would you talk to them about? How could you be in a relationship with them?” That’s it. Right there. That’s why I’m a food blogger and not a nail polish blogger.
Doing the time
This goes hand in hand with the genuine interest thing, because if you aren’t obsessed with something, how the hell are you going to be part of a community based on it for years to come? But more importantly, it takes time to make yourself known. In the case of blogging, no one’s really going to read you that much at first. On social media, conversations, building up rapport, all that stuff – that can’t just suddenly happen. Even meeting people you’ve chatted to online can be weird and awkward, you may not get on. You may not ever meet. But when you’re present – online, at events, wherever, you’ll be seeing the same faces and names popping up over and over again, and yours will be too.
A Community doesn’t have to mean BFFs 4-eva
This is a really important point. I’m not saying you’re not going to meet your BFF food blogging or bible studying or nail polishing – you very well just might. But I am saying that it doesn’t matter if you don’t, and that being your aim is…lame. Because an interest-based community is by definition, based around an interest, it’s fine to meet your community just for dinner, or bible study, or nail polishing, or things related to or based around that. Anything else is just icing on the cake and not everyone’s a fan of icing (or so I’m told). The aim of the game is not to make friends by having an interest. Pursuing that interest is the aim in and of itself.
Why become part of something?
Study after study has shown that being part of the herd makes us want to kill ourselves a little less. It gives our lives meaning, we feel connected. Note I’m not encouraging you to join a clique, with rigid rules, a reluctance to let in new people and a tendency to shun those who don’t follow protocol. I’m talking about a group where people come together to do something, together, that they are interested in, and that gives them a feeling of purpose. But the main reason to become part of a community is IT’S FUN! And yes that warrants caps and an exclamation point.
Are you part of an interest-based community (or as I am now calling it, an IBC)? What’s been your experience?
When I say coffee, I mean espresso. So it’s easy to forget that there’s more than one way to brew a bean. Luckily, the Black Coffee Pop-up is in Sydney this week showing off the ins and outs of non-espresso coffee methods, brewing pour-over, siphon and the aero-press coffees from 19-22 April at Outré Gallery in Surry Hills.
Black Coffee is exactly what it sounds like. The brainchild of Seven Seeds barista Mark W Free (the one in the hat), Black Coffee has appeared at Somewhere Store Gallery in Melbourne and serves nothing but black coffee – no milk, no sugar, no espresso, and, according to their website, ‘no bullshit’.
The focus on the coffee part of coffee makes sense to me. And I have to admit it’s nice to savour more than a thimblefull and really drink in that aroma. We tried the Market Lane Boa Vista from Brazil (pourover), its heady aroma of roasting chestnuts drawing us in. The taste is far mellower than the smell, far from the concentrated hit I’m used to, but it grows on you.
Recently there’s been a growing trend towards coffee geekery and gadgetry (in fact, towards geekery and gadgetry in general), but also a renewed interest in no-fuss food and drink. The time is right for something like the ‘pay what you you feel’ Black Coffee pop up, proving that anyone can make coffee, you don’t need a fuck off espresso machine, a commercial grinder or a crash course in barista basics.
It’s a good time to be a caffeine addict, however you take your coffee.
Ideally, we’d always have the time- and space- for a relaxed sit-down coffee in the morning sun. But in the fast-paced Sydney CBD where space is at a premium, it’s just not always possible. Luckily, limitations often breed great ideas and with these three teensy espresso bars, there’s definitely no need to compromise on quality. Here, in no particular order, are my picks for the three best Sydney CBD hole-in-the-wall coffee spots.
1. Joe Black X, 70 King Street
Not to be confused with Joe Black, Joe Black X is housed in a teensy alcove, squished up against the new Louise Vuitton store. There’s only one seat so it’s takeaway only, with menus scrawled on cardboard signs and delicious Little Pudding cakes peeking out of the display fridge. When I order my macch the barista has me watch him pour it and say ‘when’. Always a good sign.
Bean: Their own blend, roasted by Toby’s estate.
Food: Sandwiches, cakes and breakky treats abound. These guys are very diy, poaching chicken and making meusli and yogurt onsite.
Joe Black X
70 King Street
Sydney, NSW 2000
2. The Lab Cafe, 109 Pitt Street
The Lab is situated at the Pitt Street end of the Hunter Connection. They now have five stores in total. Their cakes and muffins are housed in bell jars with a bunch bagged up to go. My friend (not as much of a caffeine head as I) wanted something sweet so grabbed a muffin, which she said was delicious. And the staff are friendly too.
Bean: Di Lorenzo.
Price: $3 for a small, $3.60 for a large.
Food: Muffins, friands and biscuits.
The Lab Cafe
9/109 Pitt Street
Sydney, NSW 2000
0451 038 795
3. Workshop Espresso, 500 George Street
Workshop has been doing a roaring trade since it opened in 2009, and it’s easy to see why. There’s always a glut of people outside – I was there early one Thursday morning and all seats were taken, with 6 people waiting for takeaways ahead of me. But never fear, these guys are efficient, friendly and know their stuff. You can also purchase their signature blend to take home.
Bean: Workshop blend by Toby’s estate, a variety of single origins.
Price: My takeaway macch was $3
Food: Word on the street is they have great breakky and lunch selections – they use Sonoma bread, a lot of toast-based things, sambos and cakes.
Shop RG01A, 500 George Street, (The Galleries Victoria)
Sydney, NSW 200
02 9264 8836
Do you have a favourite hole-in-the-wall coffe place?
There’s something in the water in Alexandria. One by one, disused warehouses are being converted into cafes and bars. Sympathetic renovations abound – think Allpress Espresso, Kitchen by Mike, Don Campos, Bread and Circus or Sonomo HQ. Further afield you’ve got the likes of Brasserie Bread and Freda’s Bar and Canteen taking up residence. Add The Grounds to the list of cavernous and ultra modern spaces slightly off the beaten path of the inner southwest.
The Grounds is situated on the corner of Huntley street and Bourke Road. It’s is in the same ‘complex’ as 4143 at The James Barnes. It felt like this place would never open, but open it did for the first time yesterday, so this morning I went to check it out.
When we arrive, I count ten staff. We order our coffees and are told since we’re having them in, to take a seat and then order. The coffee takes a while, which is odd considering the gaggle of waiters clustered around the till and the small number of customers. To be fair, we did arrive at 7:15am on their second day of trade, and I know from experience that a POS system can be a pain in the arse to get going. When it arrives, the coffee is good. Well-rounded flavour, and well presented.
The Grounds is an amazing space. Imagine a kind of barn (well, former pie factory), all rustic wooden finishes and concrete floors (drool), lit with tungsten lights and dotted with industrial touches like exposed copper pipe. This space cries out to be described in cliches – rustic, post-industrial, but above all, beautiful. You can view the coffee roasters through glass panels and on the wall behind neon yellow letters spell out ‘Research Facility’.
The ‘barn’ opens out onto a large garden/courtyard and there’s plenty of seating to while away the hours. There you’ll find a micro-garden of herbs, fruit and veggies, with chickens no less, giving Cornersmith a run for its money in the made-from-scratch stakes. They also bake their own bread and roast their own beans, and plan to hold cupping and coffee making classes. If you take a quick squiz at Katie Quinn Davies’ (no relation) shoot for The Grounds, I think you’ll agree their home style food (could they BE any more on trend) looks pretty bloody scrumptious. I for one can’t wait to try it.
All in all I’m delighted to have these guys in my backyard. And I plan to spend a lot of time in theirs.
The Grounds of Alexandria
7a/2 Huntly Street (corner Bourke Road)
Alexandria NSW 2015
Weekends 7:00am – 3:00pm
I think it’s fair to say that there can sometimes be a touch of animosity between food bloggers and the food businesses we write about. This is understandable, as no one starts out in hospitality thinking they want to run a crap restaurant and equally, no one starts out writing about food thinking they are going to produce crap writing. Otherwise, why on earth would we all keep doing what we’re doing?
Writing about blogging about food
Lately the foodie/food blogger backlash has been growing. Food blogging is increasingly being written about as a no-holds-barred free-for-all where uneducated nobodies who haven’t done the hard yards and thus aren’t entitled to their opinion put in their two cents. Chefs weigh in, journos weigh in, characterising us as annoying, inexpert, opinionated, lacking in standards and constantly compromising our own credibility. True, we have also occasionally been written about in a positive light, such as articles like this and this where we have been characterised as ‘championing’ little known cuisines/suburbs or letting people in on food ‘secrets’, or in this article, where bloggers and the food industry actually (gasp) work together. But by and large it’s been an alarmist, ‘they’re taking our jobs and our free dinners’ panic-fest of slapdash writing.
I hesitate to give any more attention to an already lame subject, but this campaign for me highlights what’s wrong with this whole not-really-outright-war-but squabble-thing that flares up every now and then between those that make/serve/promote food and those that consume/review/write about it. It’s cheap. It’s tacky. It’s divisive. And for a brand that has made liberal use of food bloggers in the past and continues to maintain a strong social media presence, it’s downright confusing. Especially when, only 1 day after the campaign launched, they were inviting prominent food bloggers to try out their product.
What’s wrong with this particular campaign goes beyond hurting peoples’ feelings, beyond hypocrisy. Social media, chums. Look it up. It’s interactive, it’s about communication, it’s about networks. People will talk and you might not like what they have to say. Ok, so the only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about, but if the people discussing you won’t buy your burgers, what’s the point?
Foodies as wankers
A recent article, where an old school journalist tracks a cutting-edge foodie, Diane Chang, eating, drinking and spending for a week, got me thinking. She’s characterised as vapid, shallow and elitist; some of her quotes you would not believe, well beyond the realm of shit foodies say.
There is no doubt that food has become a hip young trendy urban ‘thing to do’. But does this invalidate it as a hobby, an interest, a persuit? Something tells me we shouldn’t disregard this zeitgeist, and here’s why.
For the love of food
If you talk to food writers about why they blog, how they got started, their reasons have much in common. In fact, it’s almost a cliché. In the article, Diane touches on her childhood and on the experience of ‘discovering’ food, something we can all identify with. It’s kind of trivialised, but there is a genuine association and real relationship between food and memory that strikes a chord in all of us. We blog for the love of food. That may sound trite, but it’s true.
I remember mixing the cake batter, precariously balanced on a kitchen stool while my mum stood watch.
I remember the first time I learned to froth milk, my boss looking over my shoulder. The pressure!
I remember baking pavlova for my Texan housemate, and the look of pure joy that spread across her face at her very first bite.
I remember cooking my first ever roast chicken with my boyfriend, in our tiny coackroach riddled terrace.
In short, I remember food, and that is no small thing.
You can read Dianna Chang’s response to Michael Idov’s article here.
Keep in touch!
By PDGACO gaballaloans.co.uk
Popular posts this month…
- 3 great hole-in-the-wall CBD Cafes posted on April 13, 2012
- Review – Philips Saeco Intelia posted on January 10, 2012
- Café Review – The Grounds of Alexandria posted on April 4, 2012
- Kosher Whole Orange Cake posted on July 5, 2011
- Lau’s Ultimate Corn Fritters and the four fritter truths posted on March 1, 2013
- Eggplant Parma and Family Recipes
- Pigeonhole Gatherings
- On Healthy Eating – 5 tips from a food blogger
- The National Multicultural Festival 2013, Canberra
- Black Coffee Revolution – Get Brewing!
- Lau’s Ultimate Corn Fritters and the four fritter truths
- Café Review – Naked Espresso, Melbourne CBD
- Black Coffee Revolution – Aeropress
- Café Review – Excelsior Jones, Ashfield
- Black Coffee Revolution – Cold Drip
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.5 Australia License.
Disclaimer:All opinions in this blog are mine, an everyday, real-life person. I do not claim to be an expert on anything. I do not accept payment for reviews and nor do I write sponsored posts. From time to time I give away products and experiences to my readers, all competitions have completely arbitrary rules, all decisions are final and all prizes awarded as I see fit.