Friday, October 12, 2012

Food Blog o' the Week: A Life Worth Eating




I have something to confess. I hate food blogs.

Oh, I don't hate all of them. This post isn't about self-loathing. I do, however, hate many food blogs.

In the days before Chowbacca I wasn't writing much of anything. My mind felt sedentary and flabby without a writing routine. I'd decided to do something about it but I wasn't sure what to do. I'd tried journaling but it had never lasted long because too much "memememe" and rehashing my day quickly got old.

So it was that I decided to write about a subject that was forever bound to my daily life but which didn't need to be about my daily life. Writing about food had the added bonus of being a broad enough topic that I wouldn't easily bore of it. The subject of food encompasses poetry, politics, history, science, art and more. To write of food is to write of the world in a most intimate way. It can also be as silly as a food fight. That is how Chowbacca was conceived.

Doc Gus will tell you that Chowbacca came from our mutual dislike of Yelp. This is a tiny bit true. By the time I had met with him over chicken, waffles and beers to discuss a collaborative mental workout rather than going it alone my favorite food-loving, frustrated non-chef sys admin long-time friend had certainly discussed at length with me his distain for Yelp. I admit to a tirade or two of my own.

Yelp was a part of the conversation, but it wasn't my impetus for food blogging. I don't really believe that it was Gus' motivation either. I think his love for food and cooking as well as the history and science associated with the subjects was what pulled his supernerd brain toward Chowbacca. Next came another long-time friend, 99% BitterSweet, and her love kitchen sorcery. At last I had my mental Exercycle and a workout crew. I also had the idea that each of us would be our own blogger, with the loosest editorial guidelines possible. I also wanted everyone to have fun.

With those decisions made it was almost time to feel the burn, but first I'd need a name and to decide what being my own food blogger meant.

At the time I was considering these questions food blogs were like an Internet plague. Anyone who could lift a fork was writing a food blog. Unfortunately, most of them weren't lifting dictionaries or style guides.

Now, I'm not saying that nothing has ever escaped my editing or proofreading eyes. I'm just saying that ESL students would probably produce something closer to the English language than what is demonstrated in the blogs of most English speakers. I'm not perfect, but I've made an effort.

The "anything goes" grammar and punctuation wasn't the only thing wrong with food blogs. Every recipe known to humankind was being done and redone to death. There were five thousand variations on the same old tired pasta dishes. Every crime committed by a desperate and idea-barren food industry was being copied by equally desperate-for-content food bloggers who couldn't just leave it at burgers and pizzas. Oh, no. They had to have pizza burgers and burger pizzas and lasagna in a cup.

To make matters worse the majority of food blogs seemed to be produced by preening, doe-eyed Martha Stewart and Paula Deen wannabees waiting breathlessly to be "discovered" by *gush* Food Network or Betty Crocker sponsorship! *SQUEE*! I saw them all and their cutesy-pukesy blog names as I Googled in search of a domain not taken.

The search seemed endless. If some eager blogger hadn't scooped up a name then a a corporation had trawled it for future use or resale. I'd run through ideas, lists of words and food quotes. I started smashing words together. Chow was taken, and so was bacca. Together they sounded okay to me.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             
My quest for a name did introduce me to some good food blogs, and one of the early posts I did on Chowbacca was the first Food Blog o' the Week. That first post was just a bit of silliness, but I'd needed some silliness after all of the Paula Dean clones. Trust me.

Later FBotW posts came about because I'd felt that the diamonds among the drek deserved some recognition even if that recognition was only from my own backwater blog. Food blogging had started for me as a form of mental exercise, but I'd come to take it seriously and had developed an appreciation for those who I felt were trying to do it right.

Past FBotW honorees have included: The Way We Ate, My Blog of Cheese, Khymos, Molecular Recipes, Fuck You YelperTalk Foodie to Me, and East Bay Cocktails. Even Dottore Gus got in on the act. You should give each of these blogs a look if you haven't already.

While doing research for part two of my silly Doctor Who-inspired food fantasy post Time Tables  I ran across software engineer Adam Goldberg's blog A Life Worth Eating. Consisting of knowledgeable, insightful reviews of restaurants he has visited throughout the world, Adam's blog is, typographical warts and all, a fine read.

Whether he's "eating with the terroir" at Noma in Copenhagen, having pastrami in Montreal, or weighing the quality of his meal at Tokyo's Aragawa, his appreciation of both the food and its presentation comes through cleanly and I felt that I was getting an honest evaluation of his experiences. Mr. Goldberg's eye for photo composition and blog layout are also noteworthy.

I'm glad that there are people like Adam Goldberg out there blogging about food. I'm glad that there are people like Adam Mansfield, Jay Crabb, Noah Fecks and Paul Wagtouicz  out there too.

Me? I'll keep on blogging to satisfy my selfish need for a daily writing fix. I will also continue to shower praise on the deserving blogs as they cross my path.