Food blogs are born
The term “weblog”, was first coined in December 1997 when Jorn Barger used it in his “Robot Wisdom” web page as an abbreviation for logging websites. “Blog”, the son of Weblog, entered the vernacular soon thereafter. Technorati used to publish a blog directory until recently, which showed at last count 1,343,396 blogs, of which 20,995 are categorised as food blogs.
Saveur magazine tells us in an article dated May 2011 that food blogs predated blogs, beginning in July 1997 with Chowhound which is still in existence today. Interestingly, third on Saveur’s timeline is the blog by David Lebovitz which is also still going and is one of my favourites. This timeline only goes as far as 2010, but many of those included still thrive today.
A Famous Food Blog
Perhaps the most celebrated food blog ever was that of Julie Powell, started in 2002, in which she documented cooking her way through Julia Child’s “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” in a year. This venture led to a book and then a movie, “Julie and Julia“, starring Meryl Streep, as well as presumably lots of lucre for Julie. It also set the bar high in terms of food bloggers’ expectations, with many no doubt entering the fray in the hope of finding similar fame and fortune. Most have been disappointed, but there are a surprising number who have scored book deals, and I’ll talk about some of those in a future post.
The “cook through” blog, as such projects were defined, has since become a recognised genre, according to an article in the Wall Street Journal, with everything from splitting a pig’s skull to making turtle replica cookies covered.
Starting a food blog
Food blogs these days are hugely popular and every man and his blog have been rushing into print with advice about how to start one. (A quick Google search reveals around 1,350,000,000 results.) For a couple of excellent guides, see Dianne Jacob’s “Will Write For Food: the Complete Guide to Writing Cookbooks, Blogs, Reviews, Memoir and More” and “Food Blogging for Dummies” by Kelly Senyei.
Why do we love food blogs?
Understanding the appeal of food blogs isn’t hard. Most of the good ones team an easy to read conversational prose with truly drool provoking photographs. Then there’s the well documented Proustian effect, or the subconscious connect between food and the memory centre of the brain. As the blogger Ruth Tobias, alias Denveater so eloquently puts it in a 2009 article in World Literature Today, “just as [Proust’s] crumbs proved seed for reflection, so any bite or sip stimulates neurons as much as taste buds”. Visual stimulation, while lacking the olfactory and gustatory components, can be as evocative of times past as it is of delights to come.
Best of the Blogs
Food blogs in fact now rate their own version of the Grammys, with various publications regularly awarding accolades to those they consider outstanding examples of the brand. Saveur gives us a “best of 2013” list, as does Fox News and the Huffington Post. PBS also weighs in with advice about what blogs we should be reading. The Australian Writers Centre runs an annual “best Australian blogs” competition, in which food blogs are one of the most popular categories and you can find the results for 2013 here. It was in fact a food blog, Cook Republic, that topped this competition as overall “best blog” for 2013.
There are many more, but as the organisations above are ones with some clout, it’s reasonable to assume lots of people are reading the blogs featured on their lists. Then again, people might simply be stumbling across a few when they do a search for “what to do with broad beans”, as I did recently. However arrived at, many food blogs have the power to influence, persuade and change behaviour. And that could range from deciding what to cook for dinner to choosing a restaurant to host your next big business function. That of course opens up a whole new can of worms (you can Google the recipe), which I’ll be looking at next.
by Anne Green