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.
Part one- in which our protagonist feels somewhat out of sorts
It was the strangest thing. I was walking home from uni one day when I suddenly couldn’t walk straight. The world was spinning, I couldn’t get my balance no matter how I tried. The footpath just kept swinging towards me.
As I was almost home I hunched my back, gritted my teeth and stumbled the few blocks I had left. I crashed out on my bed for an hour in the dark, then talked myself into making dinner as I do every day. You’re fine, I told myself, who needs to keep their balance anyway?
Over the next few days, the collection of random symptoms I had just seemed to grow and grow; mind-numbing headaches, blurred vision, photosensitivity, back pain, dizziness, vertigo, depression, anxiety, fatigue and memory loss. I suffer migraines, these were not migraines (although I originally thought they were) – I couldn’t stand light and the pain was literally like being repeatedly clubbed in the head with a large flounder. The worst part was extreme what-the-fuck-is-wrong-with-me panic.
I couldn’t attend uni or work, I got reading glasses, was prescribed migraine meds, took enough painkillers to knock out a whale and spent weeks in bed before my fabulous doctor diagnosed a b12 deficiency. ‘Phew, no big deal.’ said every single person I told. Yeah, you might say that, except that left unchecked, it can lead to subacute degeneration of the spinal cord.
Part 2 – in which our protagonist has an epiphany
While I was sick, I was visiting my brother, who is a musician working a minimum wage job. I was so inspired by his work ethic when it came to his music, his creativity and his commitment to what is basically unpaid work. Both my brothers are musicians, totally self taught, always with multiple, self-directed projects on the go. It was while lying in the dark on a half-deflated air mattress in my brother’s spare room listening to him doing whatever the hell you do when you make electronic music that I really started to think about my own life. At this point, squinting out of one eye, reading food blogs to pass the time I thought ‘They are doing something, they are MAKING something. What can I make?’
Part 3 – In which our protagonist engages in storming of the brain
Since I didn’t know what was wrong with me and could barely get out of bed, I vowed I’d make something of this knack with words people often accuse me of. I decided to set myself a simple task – put together a food blog, blog once a week.
I knew I’d always eat, hell, I knew I’d always cook – I cooked that first day I lost my balance. I knew I’d always have an opinion about food. So I curled up on that air mattress with my eeepc and devoured all the blogs I love, be they about food or not, and I wrote a list for each one of everything I liked and everything I didn’t like about them. Then I wrote a list of everything I could think of that I loved to cook. Then I began to write.
Part 4 – In which our protagonist becomes unimaginably rich doing what she loves
This is actually true, if you take ‘rich’ in the extremely abstract sense. I have been blogging for exactly 1 year. It has enriched my life more than I could ever have imagined.
This is not to say that every time I sit down to write a post or duck into a café to snap away at my coffee, I’m excited to do so. In fact, quite the opposite; when I sit down to wrote a post, I dread it – I can’t be bothered and I worry that what I write will be rubbish. When I pop into a coffee shop to take pictures, I know people will stare and my coffee will get cold.
But the sum total of my experience blogging far exceeds the stress of putting together each idividual post. The bloggers I have met, both in person and online. The business and café owners that have welcomed me into their establishments like a long lost relative would welcome you into their home. Attending that blogging conference everyone’s talking about. And most of all, the way it feels to make something, create something, and to always have it there. No matter how lame the rest of your life may get sometimes, you’ll always have that thing you made.
When I started Corridor Kitchen, this was literally my thought process: I will start a blog. It will give me something to do. Hopefully I won’t die.
But now my goal is to make Corridor Kitchen as much of an inspiration as the blogs I love and am inspired by. If even one person is as inspired by my blog as I am by the blogs I was reading, squint-eyed lying on the floor of my brother’s spare room one year ago, then I consider Corridor Kitchen a success.
What about you? Why do you blog? Why do you read blogs?
They let their food go cold. They rock fancy SLRs. They tweet up a storm, posting photos of their on-trend lunches and they always know where to get a good feed. Here are five facts about food bloggers you may not know.
1. They hate food fads just as much as you do
Macarons. Masterchef. Those over-blogged ‘it’ restaurants. Food bloggers have been there, done that, or at least read it in their mile-long blogroll. At EatDrinkBlog, one food blogger admitted to me, in hushed tones ‘I don’t think macarons are that great, actually.’ I had another prominent food blogger email me to agree that Sydney’s recent night noodle markets were both overrated and lacking in noodles. Chances are your fave food blogger is as sick of hearing about Jamie’s Italian as you are…or soon will be.
2. They’re zeitgeisty, not trendy
Food bloggers will break the next big thing months before the more cautious mainstream media. By taking risks, readers feel they get the inside scoop and other bloggers can follow suit and put in their 2 cents. As a rule, food bloggers don’t blog an experience they’re not that enamoured with, unless it’s macarons, possibly served at the night noodle markets by one of the contestants of masterchef, so the initial buzz bloggers create is often well-deserved.
3. They work extremely hard at what they do
Blogging requires consistent effort, especially for big name bloggers or those who have successfully monetised their blogs. Once readers regularly stop by or start paying for content, it becomes even more important to provide consistent, quality stuff. Food bloggers know they have to bring their readers something fresh and new that they can’t find on their own. A full-time blogger may work around 15 hours a day, 6-7 days per week. I myself spend about 8-10 hours a week just to produce 1-2 posts.
4. They’re often not as tech-savvy as you might think
Bloggers aren’t all tech heads, nor are they all graphic designers. When figuring out how to do something tricky on their blogs, the default method? ‘Google it’. I’m really glad I’m not alone in this, as along with visiting forums, it’s the method I usually use. Another thing I’ll do is to get in contact with bloggers who have a feature on their blog I particularly like, and ask them where they got it. Food bloggers are usually more than happy to share their knowledge and help you out.
5. They’re not all trying to get published in mainstream media
It’s often assumed by those outside the blogging community that bloggers are trying to get published in a ‘real’ medium. For some, this may be the case – they may be after freelance writing jobs or book deals. But for many, blogging can be a hobby, or it can be a business, it can be just plain fun. I know for myself the motivation is producing something, publishing something myself.
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- Cubao Street Food, Alexandria
- The Reformatory Caffeine Lab, Surry Hills
- Brewtown Newtown
- Stay caffeinated over Christmas
- Gumption by Coffee Alchemy, Sydney CBD
Popular posts this month…
- Amaretti – The no-fuss treat posted on November 18, 2010
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- Desert Island Potatos posted on December 3, 2010
- Sri Lankan Spinach with Coconut posted on December 10, 2010
- Mousse Chocolate and other peoples’ families posted on December 15, 2010
- The quest for Mex part 1 – Mexican Red Rice posted on December 17, 2010
- The quest for Mex part 2 – Feisty Chicken Burritos posted on December 21, 2010
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Disclaimer:All opinions in this blog are mine, an everyday, real-life person. I do not accept payment for reviews and nor do I write sponsored posts. I do not endorse the content of the comments herein.