On Food Blogging

One of the questions asked of me at the BlogsMonroe blogger’s picnic a couple weeks ago was where I get enough material to blog on an almost daily basis. I’m not sure what my answer was, only that, whatever it was, it was very non-committal.

[… and that fulfills one of the goals for the day, “use the word ‘non-committal‘ in a sentence while actually spelling it correctly” …]

I’ll tell you what, food blogging is fun. It’s a blast! It’s a reason to use the sentence, “Honey, it’s for the blog” on a regular basis and actually get away with saying that. It’s fattening, that’s for darn sure, but hey, I’m big-boned anyway, knowwhatImean?

Food blogging may look easy. I’ve been told I make it look easy. It’s not. It’s a serious struggle on a daily basis to come up with something new, something that will make Dan Shaw hungry, something that will make people want to come back and read more, later today, tomorrow, or even next week.

It’s a struggle every single day to write something that will maybe, hopefully, possibly, cause someone, somewhere, to want to leave a comment.

Food blogging, writing up interesting items, formatting and drafting recipes, taking photos … all of this is difficult enough that renowned food blogger Matt of Matt Bites will be teaching a class on the subject at the Whole Foods Market Bowery in NYC on July 15th. Matt’s food photos are legendary on their own.

But finding material to write about? You would think there’s enough going on in the world of food that this would be easy. It’s not. Yes, there’s a lot going on. No, not all of it’s interesting.

I have a blog entry buried in the database here within BlogsMonroe.com that may never see the light of day. I’m just not sure if it’s interesting enough for you, my readers. It’s about U.S. laws regarding alcohol, but looking at it from outside the U.S. There’s also an email in my mvps.org inbox with a link to an artcle where, apparently, a chef in Ireland is trying to convince other chefs to “stop smothering natural foods with sauces”. That’s another one I’m not sure will be interesting to talk about here.

Yesterday, the “Question of the Day” over on Serious Eats was one of mine: What are your favorite “simple” foods? As I explained in the description area:

Yesterday [Monday], in 90 degree heat and 100% humidity, I was dumbfounded by a mouthful of chilled strawberry jello with drained canned fruit cocktail in it. I could have eaten a pound of the stuff … One of my favorite simple foods is a properly slow-roasted pig. Just reach in under a skin flap, grab a handful and pop it into the mouth … What’s yours?

There have been 36 comments to my question so far (37 if you count a comment by moi), with some amazing replies. “Frozen grapes.” “A real nice bread with some butter.” “A nice, crisp granny Smith apple.” “A nice crisp and garlicky dill pickle.” And one of my favorite replies, “Cottage cheese. Plain. From the container.”

Some are surprising. I spotted the one that says, “Shake & Bake pork chops, Mac & Chz in the box….has a sense of nostalgia for me.” Knowing what the writer, tyronebcookin, does for a living, this was a real surprise. But moments later, it dawned on me that what I already knew, that even chefs love when others cook for them, was now further cemented by tyronebcookin’s simple comment … that these professional folks are obviously not as high-falutin’ as society has always made them out to be.

Recently, Chef Mario Batali, one of my favorite chefs out there, dissed food bloggers completely. One of the gang over at Serious Eats went on the offensive. Both viewpoints are linked from here. From Chef Mario’s rant:

Many of the anonymous authors who vent on blogs rant their snarky vituperatives from behind the smoky curtain of the web. This allows them a peculiar and nasty vocabulary that seems to be taken as truth by virtue of the fact that it has been printed somewhere. Unfortunately, this also allows untruths, lies and malicious and personally driven dreck to be quoted as fact. Even a savvy blog like the one you are reading now has strangely superseded truly responsible journalism … the blog is now a new partner, and this bit of shoddy journalism will be picked up and promulgated by the rest of the gray zone and march its merry way toward the center of the road. Eventually these blog posts become factual information lost in the sauce … But, in the end, I do not hate the blogger. I just expect, and want, more from many of them.

“Vituperatives” … gotta look that one up … 

I’m far from anonymous, to the point where I’ve been recognized on the street as “LunaPierCook”. Untruths? Lies? “Malicious and personally-driven dreck”? I try not to do that, and if I screw up in that direction, I’m sure either Dan Shaw or someone else will give me a virtual smack on the noggin.

Right, let me back up a few … yes, I have to admit, I haven’t said many nice things about the food coverage at the Toledo Blade. That’s only because I see the whole “high-falutin'” thing happening there, while here I am, finding chefs to be some of the most down-to-earth people I’ve ever met. That “high-falutin’, high-society” thing doesn’t work for me in relation to food, cooking or chefs. I see Chef Anthony Bourdain on “No Reservations” going ga-ga over whole roast pig, and writing the only cookbook I’ve ever seen that’s laced with profanity. I see Chef Silverio Conté of the Bolles Harbor Café, taking chilled bottled water outside to the gardeners he’d hired to spiff up the place this spring. I see Chef Tad of the Frog Leg Inn using the popular and inexpensive Sweet Baby Ray’s BBQ sauce in one of his more-popular specials, and owning up to doing so right there on his menu. And I see Chef Jeremiah Kouhia of Manhattan’s in Toledo, grilling Italian sausage over charcoal in his backyard, and offering some to Mary and I without even knowing so much as our names at the time.

Pretentious? “High-falutin'”? Not the chefs I know and/or admire. Sure, there are chefs in the Toledo and Monroe areas with egos the size of their … hats. But my experience has been that these are few and far-between.

And yes, I’ve gotten into writing negative restaurant reviews. Why? Maybe it’ll be helpful. Frankly, if I cook something someone doesn’t like, I want to know about it. Yesterday evening, I grilled some pork chops. My opinion was that they were rather dry. Still, one neighborhood teen (… david-JAMES!) and my daughter each ate two of those chops. If anyone had mentioned how dry that pork was, I’d have admitted to cooking them too long over heat that was too low, and that, next time, they’ll get seared first, then slow-cooked (to preserve the juices), like I should have done last night. It’s certainly a matter of constructive criticism, which is how I like to write most negative blog entries anyway.

That is, except when I write about someone else writing about all that high-falutin’ nonsense …

Material? I get it wherever I can find it. It’s as simple as that. If I can’t find something, I’ll drag something out that’s been on my mind, such as that simple question of, “Where do you find enough material?” There’s a lot of food out there, a lot of places to get food, a lot of food writing to comment on. And in the summer, there’s a lot of food events and festivals to find, with there not being near enough time to get to all of them.

But I’ll only cover what I think is interesting to you. And that’s certainly not everything.

Most of all, I’m glad folks like (for the most part) what I write. As long as you keep reading, I’ll keep struggling with what to write. I think y’all are worth it.

I think my wife Mary is especially worth it, and I’ll tell you why. She put me on this path by telling me I do know a bit about cooking, I treasure her deeply for many reasons, including telling me that when I didn’t know it myself … including her tolerating my cooking mistakes as much as she does … and for not sighing too loudly when I say, “Honey, it’s for the blog!


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  1. Thanks Dave, can’t say I get a whole lot of note on the ‘blogosphere’ since my site kind of ranges the gamuck of my life…

    But along those lines (your article) I am dearly dissapointed at some of my wife’s friends and even mine for never wanting to invite me over for dinner or ‘snacks’ for fear I will be critiquing their food!

    Its as you say though, I love other people to cook for me (especially if its free and tastes good). I pick up new ‘tweaks’ and recipes from gra’ma at the church picnic/potluck (old family cookie or pie recipes), BBQ’s, appetizer ‘mistakes’ at someones house or function…MAN, its the enjoyment of the social aspect, occasion, and just downright being neighborly.

    I am TIRED of people being scared to invite me over to eat! Please, Please, rescue me from my own kitchen time and/or giving over big money to restaurants that have no better percentage rate of satisfying me than you do…chances are higher in your favor.

    ‘They’ never have a problem coming over for my invite…

  2. Being on the other end, Tyrone, I know how they feel! The first time we had Chef Tad and Catherine I was extremely nervous about cooking for them. But between them and Mary, I calmed down a bit (not all the way, mind you), and found I had nothing to be worried about. Folks only need invite you and Stephanie over once, and they’ll know there’s no problem.

    On the other hand, Mary won a silent auction at work last year, and her Assistant Superintendent is coming over to grill a pork loin for us. We’ll let him do this next week … and when dinnertime rolls around, and Chef Tad, another chef from Toledo, and possibly a popular TV news reporter show up … yeah, we’re doing this just to mess with the guy! 😉 Oh, and of course, we do want to have dinner with these particular folks anyway. They’re a fun bunch.

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