My blog is one year old this week (If you haven't seen my green gourmet giraffe birthday cake, I recommend you check it out). It seems an appropriate time to reflect on blogging. I have learnt over this year that food blogging is a delicious dance of concealing and revealing, of sharing and daring, of detecting and connecting. (NB if you are looking for resources, go to Blogging Resources)
When I started my blog, I wrote a post about why I wanted a food blog. My reasons for starting my blog were:
- To share recipes and ideas with a community of cooks
- For challenges and inspiration
- For the immediacy and organic development that the web offers
- A way to record and order my recipes
- To express myself
- To keep in touch with friends and family
I feel that all of my initial aims have been fulfilled and more. So now here is a little peek behind the scenes to see where I have been and how far I have come:
How I Became a Blog Monster:
Early last year I developed an interest in food blogs. I stumbled across blogs while searching the internet for creative and healthy recipes to inspire me to eat well. I had despaired of finding anything but the same old vegetarian recipes in cookbooks, tv food shows and magazines. Blogs gave me the innovative recipes I sought, plus comments and photos. I loved the glam blogs with all their gorgeous photos and slick production but I was really fascinated by the everyday blogs that were just people like me sharing what they were cooking. More and more, I began to think, I can do that.
Tentatively, I started planning my own blog. I tossed around names for a blog with E. I searched for green giraffe pictures (there are just not enough on the net and I finally had to make my own). My tendency is to lurk but I decided that, given time, I might feel comfortable enough to join in the commenting. Rather than my blog being totally unread for weeks or months as I had expected, I was surprised to receive a comment on my second post from Cindy. She warmly welcomed me and I have been embraced by friendly encouraging bloggers ever since.
When I was a student I loved cooking with others in a student household, sharing ideas and learning fro each other. But these days my friends and I have less time and energy to cook together, despite the best of intentions. My mum and I talk about cooking on the phone but often don’t share the food as we live too far apart. My partner E loves to share whatever I eat but he has no interest in cooking.
Blogging has re-injected me with the enthusiasm in cooking that I had as a student when I spent a lot of time discovering recipes and learning about cooking from friends. It has saved me from the pasta and stirfries rut. I now find myself digging out old recipes I haven’t made for years, trying recipes I have always wanted to and cooking things I would never have dreamt of. I gain great insight and inspiration from seeing how others approach their cooking. My pantry is bursting at the seams, my mind buzzes with ideas and I am a bolder, more knowledgeable cook.
Of course, I couldn’t do all this without demands on my time and energy. E now calls me the blog monster – especially late at night when I am at the keyboard instead of heading for bed. The benefits are that we eat well and I am always happy to bring some food to a dinner or gathering.
Blogging and the Post-Punk Spirit:
A discussion at the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival earlier this year sparked a conversation about blogging. Stephanie questioned the quality of blogs and how they will affect the mainstream media. Of course there was a stream of protest. Yes not every blogger is a journalist or academic with copious experience in writing. But there are so many thoughtful, beautifully photographed blogs out there with oodles of enticing recipes that I am eager to try if only I had the time.
Blogs seem to embrace a post-punk spirit such as the one that that led to spotty boys starting fanzines and setting up bands in their bedrooms. Many were dreadful to begin with. Some stuck at it and learnt a lot. My favourite band Pulp illustrates this. Jarvis Cocker has written brilliant songs that have encapsulated the spirit of a nation, and yet he probably wouldn’t have if he hadn’t been encouraged by John Peel and spent a lot of time playing in dives to a handful of people. (If you want to know more about the post punk music scene, you could check out Simon Reynold’s excellent book, Rip It Up.)
Likewise I believe that blogging is something we learn by doing. It is not something we go to university to study or are trained to do. I have seen many blogs improve in quality over the past year and I like to believe mine is one of these. But it is about creativity rather than fame or fortune. I don’t want to be a Nigella or a Nigel who will entertain many but connect with very few of these.
I love the interactive nature of blogs. Not just that I can share comments, but that we can track recipes developing across blogs and nations. I can find a recipe and, rather than just being given a list of ingredients and a method, I can read about other people’s experiences, successes and warnings. My blog, then, is a resource, a place to be inspired, a way to connect with other like-minded people and share my recipes and reflections.
Since I was a child I have been gathering an overwhelming collection of cookbooks, recipes from magazines, and, more recently recipes from the internet. I have copied out a lot by hand in a little notebook.
My blog is a way of recording and reflecting on recipes. I reproduce recipes here but I always rewrite the method to give it my personal touch (and to attempt to avoid breaking any copyright laws). I expect that readers have some experience in cooking, like myself, and are not complete novices like Heidi’s correspondent. I often tweak the ingredients list in a way that makes sense to me (especially to Australianise them). I acknowledge the source where possible but as I have been collecting recipes so long that I am sorry to say I haven’t always recorded the source.
In writing out recipes for my blog, I have seen – with some horror – how often I misread the ingredients. I have also been pleased to see how that I am not afraid to be creative and even blend recipes where it suits me.
My blog is primarily a place for recipes I make but I also include some reflections on eating out and food shopping because my encounters with all-things-delicious is so much broader than my own little kitchen. I also like to think that my blog gives a little window into my life, my town, my culture and my history. Writing about eating out often gives me another opportunity to write about the sights and delights of Melbourne (and surrounds), to enthuse about favourite and fascinating foodie places, and to share another source of inspiration.
On the Stereo:
I have written on this elsewhere, but I like the challenge of trying to select different albums to listen to while I cook or eat. It means I don’t listen to the same old album over and over while all the other albums languish unloved, and I have an excuse to tell E to take an album off repeat! Unfortunately, it have given E a great excuse to buy even more new albums.
Photos are important for getting a sense of a meal, for making a post pleasing to the eye, and for prompting my memory when I return to posts. E is now used to waiting for me to take a photo before I eat. But I am often too hungry to take too many photos. I also don’t have good light at my kitchen table (so I have to stick to my work area which is full of clutter). Hence, the many close-ups photos.
Since starting my blog I think I can say that my food photography has improved. Two discoveries - the button to turn off the flash and the close-up button on my camera (thanks Nicki G) - made a huge difference. Before beginning my blog, I found reading the section on photography in foodblogschool very helpful (see resources below). Hearing about others coming home in their lunch hour to photograph food in natural light made me realise that it is not so crazy to spend a few moments with the camera before sitting down to eat.
Comments seem to be the glue that holds the food blog community together. I enjoy receiving the feedback for the encouragement, the advice, and a good laugh. I have also learnt to enjoy leaving comments where I find inspiration and delight on other blogs. I have learnt so much from all the comments, as well as got to know some wonderful people.
I wish I could spend more time visiting and commenting on other blogs. I struggle with the tyranny of choice. While I love the vegetarian, the local, the Scottish and the prolific, I find it is about so much more – some of my favourites are evocative, thoughtful, gregarious, enthusiastic, generous, informative, cheerful, historical, adventurous and healthy. I want to mention so many more but if you look at my right hand menu you will see a list of just some of the fantastic blogs which resonate with me and provide oodles of inspiration.
I always hoped that my blog would be a resource. As it has grown I have realised the need for some navigation aids, for myself and others. The most important of these is my Blog Index. As I gradually add old favourites as well as new ideas, I can now find recipes again easily, revisit the photos and notes, and share them with others. I still struggle with categories and will continue to develop the navigation. I have also managed some About Me posts and a Cookbook List.
Blog events push the boundaries of what I might cook. They challenge, inspire and encourage. Where once I might have asked E what to cook for dinner and he would inevitably suggest pasta and pesto, now I might look at a blog event for ideas. Whether it is a spicy soup, healthy party ideas or vintage food, the challenge will get me thinking outside the square. Not only do I get great ideas but it does feel like a community of cooks when a round-up of all the dishes cooked for an event appear.
(NB: For the uninitated, blog events are where a blogger requests people make dishes according to a chosen theme by a specified date and send them the link to the post on this dish - after this date, the blogger will post a 'round-up' or list of links to all the dishes made.)
My first comment by Cindy, winning No Croutons Required, kind awards and kudos (thanks Susan, Lucy, Jenn, Holler, Mrs W and Pixie), hosting A Neb at Nut Roast event, and so many enthusiastic, heartwarming, helpful exchanges of comments.
[Update August 2012: I have updated this list - for a more comprehensive and up to date list, go to Blogging Resources.]
When I started blogging I found it all a bit of a mystery and so I am sharing some of the resources I have found useful. Many thanks to all those who have helped me find my way. Any other suggestions will be welcome. (I try to update these occasionally)
- Food Blog S’cool – discussion about blogging issues (update - now inactive but this will link you to other similar resources)
- Foodie Blog Roll – listing of over 1000 other food blogs
- Kristen’s, Gena's and Sarah’s advice for new bloggers
- Is My Blog Burning and Sticky Date and Food Blog Diary for events listings (also see blog events listed on my blogroll)
- Technorati – the best place I have found to keep track to links to my blog by others - update - I don't use this anymore - I have used google alerts and trackbacks at the bottom of each post and Statcounter - none is perfect for me.
- Bloglines – the best place I have found to keep track of others' blogs - update - I now use Google Reader
- Food Blog Search and Veg Blog Search – the best places I have found for searching food blogs
- StatCounter – software for a bit of statistical analysis - I also now use Google Analytics and Bloggers has added a stat counter to the functions.
- Picnik – an excellent online photo editing software
- Vegan Yum Yum's advice on food photography, or Meeta and Mowie's 41 tips
- Blogger Tips and Tricks
- Delicious - a great site where you can keep and organise your bookmarks
- Advice on adding Anchors (which are links within a post)
- backgrounds - http://shabbyblogs.com/
- Some interesting reflections on blogging by Lysy, Ricki, Lisa, Neen
- Back up your blog - see Cindy's advice for Blogger back up
- Read about copyright outrages on this post and this one
Update 4/5/2008 - just saw a link by Pixie to advice on food blogging by Adam of the Amateur Gourmet. While I think there is some useful advice, some of it made me reflect on how different blogs appeal to different people. Adam tells his readers that they must have well-designed, well-written blogs and that lots of songs and vids are great. Personally I don't like downloading videos and songs - I am attracted by good writing and good recipes rather than great design. He also says you should display your photo and divulge lots of your personal life which again I think is not necessary to be entertaining and interesting (after all we conceal a lot about ourselves in every day life and should be even more wary about revealing it on the internet which is the most public domain you can find)!
So I want to leave with a note of thanks. Thank you to everyone who has read and commented on my posts, shared their recipes, tried my recipes. You have all inspired and supported me in so many ways. A wee thanks to my cat, Zinc, for keeping me company while I blog (she's been banned from the laptop but now sits on a chair beside me). And a special thanks to E for sharing our meals, trying new foods, choosing music to put on the stereo, tossing around ideas with me, and washing all those dishes.