The Girl Who Ate Everything has a bit of a homework assignment to explain food blogging. I started writing a short comment, but it kept growing, even though I don’t think I have the “answer.” Because I seemed a little too verbose, I thought my thoughts would work better as a blog entry than as a comment.
For those who don’t know already, Pursuing My Passions is not, strictly speaking, a food blog, but food is one of the things I’m most passionate about. I cook fairly obsessively, and my business was founded in part because of how much I enjoy food browsing in Japanese department stores.
My food obsessions started fomenting when I was quite young, as I began cooking for myself, to a limited extent, as a child. By the time I was about 7 years old, I had some basic microwave oven and frypan skills, and in my pre-teen years I played with Bisquick and perused the Joy of Cooking. During my final semester in college, before looking at my student loan bills, I briefly entertained the idea of going to graduate school to study the role of food in revolutionary movements and peasant rebellions. (At the time I also wore my political stripes very loudly).
I'm not sure blogs are reactions against glossy idyllic portrayals of food, considering how much culinary celebrity worship goes on in blogging contexts, and how happily food bloggers devour "food porn."
Blogs do let relatively ordinary people connect their culinary experiences with other people who share similar passions. It may be hard to share my food obsessions with my friends in the same way I can do in a blog; many of my friends are happy to indulge along with me when I'm cooking, but are mildly amused by my ability to steer any conversation toward food topics. Online, people self-select when they want to participate in that conversation, so they are at least as interested in food as me, at least for a moment.
Blogging is, however, a kind of democratization of "cuisine." Without a “target market", unlike a food magazine or TV show, bloggers can, comfortably and without shame or bashfulness, rapidly shift focus between homemade haute cuisine and humble, lowbrow daily fare. Unless they want to, bloggers don’t have to make pretentions of healthfulness or authenticity, and they don’t have to promise easy results in 30 minutes or that your neighbors will be impressed by all the work you’ve done if you just follow some lovely focus-group tested recipes. They just have to celebrate food in an endearing way.
Instead of a traditional media priesthood of good taste (ahem), food blogging is more like a potluck. We might occasionally try to impress each other, but blogging is more about sharing the joy of little discoveries, minor food tragedies, and culinary triumphs. And sometimes guilt, giddiness or discontent.
The thing that makes blogging more real than a magazine, cookbook or TV series is the lack of editors and producers who needs to balance the interests of advertisers, the fickleness of their audiences, and the egos of their writers or hosts. We’re relatively content regardless of who shows up to the party.
As food bloggers, each one of us can wear many hats… restaurant reviewer, chef, event planner, food diarist, food stylist, cooking class instructor, co-conspirator… for most of us, our ability to shift between these roles wouldn’t be possible in other contexts.
Blogging has a low barrier to entry, but fairly powerful network effects… I once saw photos someone in Holland and someone else in Malaysia had taken after making a variation of a cookie recipe I had originally posted on my blog. Similarly, I’ve been inspired by flavor combinations I wouldn’t have otherwise thought about from people blogging around the world. That kind of global influence, even on a small scale, is just incredible to think about. I’m not likely not get my 15 minutes of fame by posting an occasional article online, but this ability to reach other people, and learn from each other, is really appealing.