I was tagged in this blog hop by an always excellent blogger and very good chum of mine, Tara of VegeTARAian. You can read her post over here.
Why do I feel the need to sit down every week or so and tell perfect strangers about the latest place I went to sip on an excellent coffee? Why does any of it matter, if there are 70,000 food blogs and who knows how many food-based instagram accounts out there? What is my blog adding to ‘the conversation’?
These are questions I’ve been struggling with and procrastinating over for the last 6 months or so.
What am I working on?
The long answer: Right now, I’m ‘working on’ what I want my blog to be. Corridor Kitchen’s been running for almost four years and I’ve realised quite recently that the ‘template’ or ‘format’ I developed to keep the posts manageable and my motivation high has become needlessly restrictive; it’s actually started to de-motivate me.
I’d like to delve deeper into the topics I want to know more about. Enough of this surface-level soundbite bullshit. Unless, on a particular day, I feel like writing some surface-level soundbite bullshit! It’s my blog, I can write about what I like, isn’t that the point!? I’ve also become ridiculously hard on myself. If I’m not at the hot new coffee joint the second it opens to give people the 411, I often just let the post go altogether.
Chasing decent traffic and heeding far too much advice about staying ‘true to brand’ or ‘on topic’ can sometimes leave me frozen, unable to write a thing. Never mind that fact that anything I write on my blog will be, by definition, ‘true to brand’ because I wrote it. So I’ve resolved my blog, my rules. Fuck what everyone else is writing about if I’m not interested.
The short answer: Whatever the hell I like.
How does my writing differ from others in its genre?
It doesn’t, because there’s a very established format for food blogs. Most food blogs either fit neatly into or include some combination of the four archetypes below:
- The ‘reviewers’, those who write about the places in their area or a specific food type (e.g. they might write about specialty coffee worldwide, or they might write about New York restaurants). These blogs often have a hip, sometimes flippant tone and a finger-on-the-pulse bent and they are incredibly useful when you’re looking for a great restaurant or café somewhere.
- The recipe developers, who create or adapt recipes and sprinkle in a lovely little personal story into each post (I learnt this formula early on, it is what drew me to food blogging). The great thing about these blogs is they are very universal and relatable; their sense of place does not rely on you knowing a ‘scene’ or context’.
- The aggregators or ‘food mag’-style websites – those that aim to cover everything they can relating to food and may have many contributors. These can be amazing for the breadth of information they cover, their reach.
- The originals, who are truly doing something different, refuse to fit into or be part of any of these genres
Ok, ok, my writing does differ, because I have my own voice. But so does everyone else.
Why do I write what I do
I came to start the blog because fear of death.
I have always written; journals, in my free time, all through school from the time I could write until I graduated from uni. I do well in instances where people set me a task and give me a grade. The blog was in itself a writing ‘assignment’ I set myself (write a blog, you’ve got nothing else on kid), because I had an epiphany and realised I can set my own damn work.
I write a food blog because food is easy to write about, we all eat, we all have an opinion about what we stuff in our gobs.
I write about coffee because that I am obsessed with it and I think I know what a good one is, how to make it and where to find it. And I don’t see any reason why that information should not be shared, for free, unsponsored and as free of influence as can be, for anyone who wants it.
I reckon there are shitter writers than me out there writing about the same topics and I refuse to give the entire online space over to them.
How does my writing process work
Of late, it doesn’t work so well. But I’m starting to free myself up.
I take notes on my phone or a notebook when I have an idea or want to remember a phrase. I will sit down and force myself to bang out an entire post in a couple of hours. I will leave that for at least 24 hours and then check back and revise. I’m too lazy to do that a second time, so I’ll often leave the writing at that.
Sharing the love
Ok, now for the good bit. Four excellent bloggers below have agreed to be tagged in this hop by yours truly. I’d put more faith in their wisdom than mine if I were you.
Enviro-warrior, Tasmanian, Travel nut, stellar photographer (seriously) and good mate, Toni over at Shape of Things to Come seriously gives a fuck about sustainability and lives that principle. She’s in Peru right now putting her money where her mouth is.
Simon from The Heart of Food is one of the first Aussie bloggers I really started reading and got to know in person. He is a meticulous perfectionist, consummate photographer and all-round nice guy who’d surely give you his last panna cotta lamington if you asked. His posts are rare but precious things.
Ed has been blogging at Tomato since 2005 on food, writing, journalism, pr, ethics, you name it. His blog makes for a cracking read and that’s no surprise as he’s an ex-journo, social media consultant and self-described ‘punk rock food warrior’.
And Ai-ling over at Food Endeavors of the Blue Apocolypse is my blogging and IRL kindred spirit. She wears so many hats I’m surprised her head hasn’t come off her neck. She’s a food-obsessive, Perth-promoting, force-to-be-reckoned with.
What about you? Do you write? Why do you write?
To see more ‘Why I Write’ bloghop entries, check out all the links at A Welcome Relief.
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.
Senhor R and I headed to Brasserie Bread one Saturday not so long ago after breakfast at Sonoma HQ in hopes of a quick coffee. We arrived during the breakky-to-lunch changeover. It was pretty damn busy in the light, bright café, with its communal tables, concrete floors and huge sheet glass windows. As you walk through the doors, the bakery counter is directly in front of you if you want to buy breads, pastries and cakes to go. To our left was the baking class room, which is visible from both he café and outside. To the right, beyond all the seating, was their order-and-pay-at-the-counter set –up of breakfast, pastries, sandwiches and Allpress coffee.
The two of us ordered and sat down, at the only obviously available table, an empty table of 10. Suddenly, the man in charge of the floor rushed over and said ‘How many of you are there?” and we said ‘2.’ He said ‘Can you move to another table?’ and gestured to a hemmed in table for two where a couple were just leaving. We said, ‘Sure, no worries.’ but then decided to sit at the bench which looks out onto the road as it was less cramped. He asked if we’d already ordered and we said we had, then he rushed off, leaving it to us to let the staff know our new table number. As we sat staring through the large windows onto Botany road, a group of 3 then sat down where we had just been. He seemed to have no problem with that.
At that point, I would have chalked this all up to one stressed-out guy on a busy Saturday, but I can’t say we felt the chilled Saturday arvo vibe they were probably aiming for. When Senhor R went to ask the same guy for the key to the bathroom, he was busy chatting and ignored him as he stood there waiting. When Senhor R returned (the bathroom was outside) he was standing in the entryway, completely blocking the way of anyone coming in or out of the cafe, for quite some time. We drank our Allpress coffee (it was fine) and our massive, too-good-too-be-true-sized bottle of sparkling mineral water. It was all ok, but something felt a little flat. At that point we decided to head off.
The next day, I received an email from Brasserie Bread, reminding me to pop in and grab my free loaf (we’d all received vouchers at Eat. Drink. Blog. as Brasserie was one of the major sponsors, providing breakfast, morning tea and a sourdough class). I replied to the email saying I’d just dropped by the other day and explaining what had happened. Sarah from Brasserie was super understanding, even going so far as to speak to the cafe manager, who told me to pop in for a free coffee any time. I declined, but appreciate the offer.
It wasn’t an awful experience by any means, but it did get me thinking. This is just one example of how one member of an organisation can tarnish their already precarious reputation. Cafes are about more than just coffee, and one stressed-out waiter can easily turn an ok experience into an uncomfortable one.
It’s also a lesson in the possible pitfalls of social media, something Brasserie Bread is heavily engaged in, and with great success. When their Melbourne store opened not long ago, they had a massive launch, which was well-attended by bloggers. They themselves have a blog, they invite bloggers to attend free baking classes (I was lucky enough to be one of these bloggers). They also have a strong twitter presence. All this builds their brand in a very grass-roots way. But by engaging in social media, you start a conversation. And unfortunately, this can leave you open to criticism. One guy has a bad day and suddenly you’re reading a moderately critical review in a minor Sydney food blog that will probably be read by…100 people? Ok, so maybe it’s not that big a deal then.
Even so, it made me reflect on my relationship with an organisation. If Sarah hadn’t emailed me, what are the chances I would have passed on my criticism? Pretty low. What are the chances I would have returned? Pretty high, but maybe only to grab my free loaf of bread. If I was a ‘normal’ customer, and this was my first visit, what then? I’d never come back again, and what’s more, I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone. I know this because I got to see first-hand Senhor R’s first experience of the organisation, and he was less than impressed.
When I sat own to write this, I knew I had four choices; One: I could tell the truth, full disclosure. Two: I could lie by omission – pretend the whole thing never happened because I can’t be impartial so just write about the food, what the café looks like, where it is, etc. Three: Play up what happened for dramatic effect and never set foot in the place again. Or Four; not write the review at all. The only choices I could see as viable were one and four. I chose option one, it felt more honest.
1737 Botany Road
Banksmeadow NSW 2019
1300 966 845
Monday to Friday – 7:00am – 3:00pm
Saturday & Sunday – 8:00am – 2:00pm
- Aerpress means no more shit #travelcoffee and #workcoffee
- Why I write and four ace bloggers who do it better
- The five best things I ate in London
- Shoreditch is awesome, airports are not
- I quit sugar? Do I bollocks.
- 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
- Boysenberry Banana Sorbet posted on November 26, 2010
- Rich Portuguese Custard posted on November 29, 2010
- Desert Island Potatos posted on December 3, 2010
- Sri Lankan Spinach with Coconut posted on December 10, 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
- Italian Paneforte with an Aussie twist posted on December 24, 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.