In July of 2006, the Pew Internet & American Life Project published the results of a survey of US bloggers. According to the report, about 12 million American adults keep a blog. More than a year later, I am sure the number is higher, at least by one.
Before the idea of joining the food blogosphere came into my mind, I had met two food bloggers in person: Christine, who lives in Humboldt County and writes the fabulous Christine Cooks, www.christinecooks.blogspot.com, and Julia, who narrates captivating culinary academy adventures in Cooklady Goes to School, www.cooklady.com. When I entered the large worldwide community of food bloggers last May, I had a good sense of what the narrative of my blog would be, but I did not know what to expect in terms of readership.
Who writes food blogs? Passionate foodies, a group that includes food professionals (pastry chef David Lebovitz www.davidlebovitz.com for example) and people whose day job is in a realm far from a kitchen. The passion each blogger brings to his or her writing and photography is palpable and makes the stories come alive. Readers of food blogs are not only other food bloggers, but also people who enjoy the stories without feeling compelled to start their own narrative.
Writing on food blogs often revolves around recipes executed by the blogger. In some cases, the recipe is also developed by the blogger. In others, a cookbook, magazine or something from another blog provides the theme and the blogger offers his or her variations. Not infrequently, a recipe reflects a family tradition. Blogs are personal narratives by definition: A recipe is described in the context of a story that recounts the acquisition of ingredients, execution and evaluation of the end result. Possible variations of this outline are countless, and the story is usually enriched by photographs taken by the blogger.
Each blog has a definite style that reflects the author’s inventiveness with food, words, the camera and the interplay among them. Postings serve as an inexhaustible source of recipes and cooking ideas, and, beyond that, they provide information on wines, ingredients, traditional dishes, food sources and products for the kitchen. Restaurant and cookbook reviews are also typical subjects of blog entries. The blog format, which offers the possibility of leaving comments, facilitates an immediate dialog between blogger and readers.
Why does anybody start a blog? Each blogger has a different reason or foundational event, and it is difficult to enumerate categories. The desire to share one’s experience — be it in the kitchen, in restaurants, at the market or in the vegetable garden — certainly plays an important part. Blogs allow people to broadcast their creative output to a potentially large audience and receive immediate feedback. Since search engines index blog entries, web users looking for a recipe or for information on an ingredient or a restaurant may land on a blog via one of the links returned by the search engine.
Given the enormous (and ever-growing) number of food blogs, it is impossible to read them all. Bloggers generally have their circle of readers, many of whom are bloggers as well, and visit each other’s blogs and leave comments in a sort of asynchronous visiting round. This circle expands continuously in different ways. For example, the list of people leaving comments on a post may contain previously unknown bloggers. Also, blogs are designed to provide an easy way of displaying a list of links to favorite blogs, called a blogroll, which acts as a set of suggestions for visitors. By reading and leaving comments on each other’s blogs, the relationship between two bloggers develops into a cyberfriendship. Readers keep track of new content added to a blog that interests them by subscribing to RSS feeds and receive an alert when the blog is updated.
As I dove into the world of food blogs, I learned about dishes and ingredients previously unknown to me. I owe my rekindled interest in baking bread to a blog entry, and I have recently joined Daring Bakers, www.daringbakersblogroll.blogspot.com, a society of bloggers that each month explores a recipe that requires baking. My first challenge was making cinnamon buns, something I would have probably never attempted on my own.
It’s not hard to recognize themes in the part of the food blogosphere I frequent. People are writing about and discussing the use of local and seasonal ingredients, shopping at farmers’ markets, adopting healthy eating habits, growing herbs and vegetables in pots and gardens. As an example, Eat Local Challenge, www.eatlocalchallenge.com, is a blog written by a group of authors interested in the benefits of eating food grown and produced in their local foodshed.
There is an enormous number of bloggers I have not met (virtually or otherwise) and will never meet, because there is a finite amount of time I can devote to blog-related activities on any given day. Between writing on your blog and visiting other people’s blogs to read what they wrote and comment on it, the day can go by in a flash, so a balanced approach is necessary to prevent your blog from eating your life. Tea of Tea & Cookies, www.teaandcookies.blogspot.com, has written a post titled “Diary of a Mad Food Blogger,” a hilarious account of her first month of blogging life, which offers a glimpse into the food blogger’s dilemma of time allocation.
As a community of like-minded people, bloggers host and participate in virtual events. Some of them have become established, like the Weekend Herb Blogging weekly event started by Kalyn of Kalyn’s Kitchen, www.kalynskitchen.blogspot.com, which has recently celebrated its second anniversary. Or the monthly Heart of the Matter heart-healthy recipe event, www.heartyeating.blogspot.com, hosted alternatively by Ilva of Lucullian Delights, www.lucullian.blogspot.com and Joanna of Joanna’s Food, www.joannasfood.blogspot.com. Each event has a theme and bloggers contribute an entry that follows rules established by the organizers. The event concludes with a presentation of all the contributions — a true showcase of creativity, and an excellent venue for expanding one’s knowledge of food and food blogs.
If what I have written so far has tickled your curiosity, you may wonder where to start exploring food blog territory. Here are a couple of additional suggestions beyond the references given above: Sticky Date, www.stickydate.blogspot.com, and Is My Blog Burning?, www.ismyblogburning.com have a list of ongoing food blogging events. You can look at the roundup of an event shortly after the posted deadline. The 2006 Food Blog Awards, hosted by the Well Fed Network, www.wellfed.net, a food blog compilation site, list 18 categories that give a sense of the variety of food blogs.
Must bloggers also be programmers or know some secret web language? Not at all. Although some technical knowledge of how websites work is required to start and maintain a blog, no programming experience is necessary, since blog service providers offer templates and tools that make it easy for non-technical people to perform the tasks related to designing a blog and adding content (text, hyper-links, photos) to it. Blogger, www.blogger.com, TypePad, www.typepad.com, and WordPress, www.wordpress.com are the most popular, but there are others.
A web-wide search or a blog-focused search (using the Google blog search engine) will lead you to many food blogs, and you might even come across mine, briciole — www.briciole.typepad.com. Perhaps the reading will inspire you to start your own food blog. If that happens, let me know, so we can meet in the food blogosphere.