As I sit here writing this post I am contemplating the negative connotations of being a food blogger. Alex was just a guest at the Inn at Palmetto Bluffs at an amazing food event, Music to Your Mouth (more on that in another post) and on his last night in the south he headed to Charleston for dinner at McCrady's. He was sitting at a table with the Ulterior Epicure when a woman wandered over from another table and demanded to know which one of them was the "food blogger." Bonjwing happily pointed at Alex and skedaddled, after which Alex was subjected to a diatribe about how food bloggers and people from Yelp were ruining her restaurant. She explained, at length, why she believed all food bloggers were self entitled S.O.B.s with no respect for the hard work of people in the restaurant business and no respect for anyone at all. Alex sat through this relatively politely, probably because he was fighting off the death plague at the time and full of DayQuil, making it relatively easy for him to zone out and distance himself from the conversation. Because it wasn't about him, she was just looking for a captive punching bag, so to speak, and any food blogger would do. Never mind that he is also a chef, that we still work extensively with chefs, restaurants and food service professionals, and that he had never set foot in this woman's place of business. He was a food blogger and that was enough for her to tell him off on behalf of every annoying food blogger that ever walked into her restaurant.
Note that I said every annoying food blogger because guaranteed, for every blogger that pissed her off, at least four or five others went through her restaurant without her ever knowing they were there. Food blogging is by design a very personal thing. People write about food because they are passionate about it. For every person that writes any level of restaurant review there are countless others that write about grilled cheese sandwiches, creative culinary explorations, down home cooking, restaurant exploits, baking delicacies or disasters, the list is endless. And to be fair, you may not like them, but the people who care enough to hit every new and interesting restaurant or established great restaurant and write about them are a big part of why these places stay in business. They're not all jerks, the obnoxious ones are usually the ones who are in it for the perks instead of because they love food. People blog because they have something to say and they hope the right audience will find its way to their website. People who come into restaurants expecting free courses and kowtowing have personality issues that have nothing to do with the fact that they might write a blog. Likening every blogger to a few bad apples is akin to affecting the attitude of the few crass construction workers who pull the corners of their eyes or gyrate their hips and yell "ching chong china girl" as I walk past them on the street. It's prejudice pure and simple.
WIth that off my chest I'd like to move on to what's good about food blogging. I'm the first to admit that there are dozens, if not hundreds of blogs out there that we should be reading and haven't found yet. The very best ones have a distinct point of view, good writing and/or photography and are fun to read. They speak from a very personal point of view and the best ones tell stories that entertain and teach and reach inside us and make us feel good. Food writing used to be a tough nut to crack. Very few writers managed to get books published and make a name for themselves. One of my favorite food writers, who in my opinion, epitomizes what good blogging should be, is Laurie Colwin. She wrote a column for Gourmet magazine that was groundbreaking because it wasn't about travel to exotic places or glowing reviews of fancy restaurants. It was the thread that brought all of its far flung epicurean articles home and made the magazine accessible to everyone. It was opinionated, forthright and utterly enchanting. It talked about home cooking with equal parts respect and irreverence and was full of great recipes and stories that made you want to cook them. In many ways her writing is the gold standard for food writing today. It wasn't fancy but it always left you wanting more.
Since it is Tuesday and I love her books, we are giving away a set of Home Cooking and More Home Cooking by Laurie Colwin to one reader. We'll send the books anywhere Amazon is willing to mail them. To enter to win please leave a comment below tellng us about a favorite food writing blog or book. Please make sure there is an email address attached to your comment so we can contact you if you win. One entry per person please. Comments are moderated and will not appear immediately. Winner will be picked randomly at 9am EST on Friday, November 25, 2011. Giveaway is now closed. Melissa, our winner has been notified via email. Thanks for commenting, now we have lots of new things for us to check out.