Although I haven’t been in the “business” of food blogging for that long, the last 6 months have been an eye opener. Besides getting an insider’s look into the world of blogging – not as simple as it is made out to be – it has been the reaction of the public, the readers, that has proved to be a source of entertainment and a reason for introspection.
It was only when someone commented that food bloggers are “everywhere and don’t mean anything” that I went about trying to separate myself from the crowd. This included cutting all ties with the food app that was initially the reason I began reviewing restaurants – there were a couple of other reasons as well for this decision.
But, this isn’t a serious post. Instead this is my monthly humorous number – I’d be a standup comic if only I enjoyed standing and wasn’t conscious about everyone staring at the big mole on my lip while on stage. Thus, I make do with this, which could be a good thing for all the people who would have otherwise paid to see me live – unless moles were their thing. On the other hand, not only do you get this for free, but you can walk out whenever you like.
Telling non-bloggers, social media newbies, and all family and friends on Facebook that I’m writing a blog usually leads to a number of raised eyebrows. Most confuse it as a new business venture I’ve taken up, others make it a point of repeatedly ask how my “real” business is doing, and the remaining are too ashamed to ask anything and decide to act cool by staying quiet.
Normally this would be the end of it and we would live in a make belief kingdom where everyone reads what I write and goes to bed with a smile on their face. Alas! That is not the case; certainly not for the places I give bad reviews to. With time, specific questions and requests start to trickle in. Most are out of curiosity, some are not, and it’s only fair that I share some of these questions and statements with my readers, who in all likelihood are the ones to have asked and said these things in the first place;
“You must get free food all the time”
As it happens, NO! I could sell my soul a little and become someone who hops from one “tasting” to another but what’s the fun in that. I’ve had discounts – never asked for them – and only once been given free food – I accepted out of embarrassment. I’ve also been to a few tasting sessions but never passed them off as restaurant reviews. There’s a certain pleasure in paying for what you eat. It makes ranting about the food and the place a lot easier afterwards. And I’m not famous enough that people know me by face – even though I have a big mole on my upper lip – wink, wink, nudge, nudge – so I don’t get any special treatment either. As I slowly change the way I blog, I think we all would be in a better place it we made a conscious decision to pay for what we eat before we review it.
“Can you get me a discount?”
Honestly, NO! There are two very simple reasons for this; firstly I hardly know anyone in the industry and I avoid too much contact with restaurant owners – I also have an ego the size of my head which as many have noticed is quite big in itself. Again, not knowing owners of establishments makes writing about the places a lot easier. Secondly, if I’d get one person a discount, I’ll have to do it with everyone else and that’s just too much of a pain. As in life, a favour demands another favour, so let’s just stick with “I don’t know anyone” and therefore no discount for you, you, and especially you.
“Can you recommend a place to eat?”
I’m all for recommending places, but sometimes the requests are so specific I often wonder why I was asked in the first place. Now, I usually refer them to the “Recommended” section in my blog – helps me with blog hits as well, but sometimes when requests come up while having a face-to-face conservation I have to really think things through on the spot – something I don’t like doing. Recommending restaurants can also prove to be very tricky because if the place doesn’t live up to the expectations of the person, I never hear the end of it. However, if I don’t like you, and should you ask for a recommendation, you better stock up on some toilet paper.
“You must never be eating at home?”
You’re right, I’ve actually moved into my car and spend my time traveling from one restaurant to another and thus have no use of a house. Of course I eat at home. I eat at home all the time. And I’ll add to that, I eat normal everyday food like Daal Roti on a daily basis. Eating out isn’t all that it’s made out to be. It’s expensive for one thing (See the first question up top), requires an iron stomach, a lot of free time and in the long run isn’t sensible at all. Furthermore, cooking at home with ingredients of your choice has a certain pleasure of its own.
“You must be eating everything like brains and cockroaches?”
First tell me what or who has been eating your brain? I agree that being brave enough to eat anything and everything would make me a much better blogger, but that is not a prerequisite to writing about food. I’ve come across some vegan blogger, vegetarian bloggers can be found in huge numbers, and not all non-vegetarian food bloggers eat offal or creepy-crawlers. It’s not always about being able to eat everything. Now, the next person who asks me this question gets frog legs for dinner.
“You should start a food-truck or a restaurant?”
Of course, you plan on investing? Every blogger doesn’t dream about opening a restaurant. Nor is blogging a stepping stone to becoming a successful restaurateur. Restaurants are a business just like any other business and because I choose to write about it doesn’t mean I would like to be an integral part of it just like I don’t plan to make a movie because I review films or write a book because I review books – Wait! I did send a manuscript to some publishers onetime, so strike that.
“You write about food! Professionally or just like that?”
That’s a tough one. I’m no journalist and have no formal training that’s why I can’t call myself a critic. I write as professionally as I can although it’s a hobby so part of it is also for fun. Make whatever you want of that; professional, fun, time pass, I don’t know, it’s a nice bhurji of all of the above. And if you must “label” me, I’m a Professional Food Blogger – but wait, this isn’t an invitation to all the PR personnel for restaurants to send me emails.
“You must eat at so-and-so place because they have the best food ever”
Reverse recommendations are a plenty in my “business”. Most people will tell me where and what to eat and then expect that I share my thoughts with them in the hope that they match. I’m okay with that, but some people will almost force down a restaurant on me asking repeatedly over months if I’ve taken action on their recommendation. Here’s the thing; I eat when and where I feel like it. I’m open to recommendations but I’m in no hurry to act upon them. It’ll happen when it happens just so, and to quote Sinatra, I could say “I did it my way”.
“You don’t know about the new restaurant that opened in (insert location)?”
Might come as a surprise but I don’t know about every restaurant that opens everywhere. It’s hard enough trying to remember my wife’s birthday, keeping a track of restaurants is not a priority. I have a life, my own business which is responsible for the bread and butter that I eat – and if you go my belly, I eat a lot of both – and also I just don’t care. I get PR emails daily – almost all of which end in the junk folder (hopefully this will stop them from sending me emails) – and places open and close on a weekly basis. Knowledge is everything, but knowing what new place opened and which one closed is redundant. Instead, I’ll wait till I “hear” about a place and then make a decision about visiting – or not visiting – it.
“Can you guess the ingredients?”
I hate this. I hate this with all my heart. Private dinners are the worst when the host will quiz me if I can guess all the ingredients of the food they have prepared. God forbid if I get something wrong, they sit through the entire dinner with a smug smile on their face as if they’ve achieved the unattainable. My palate isn’t mature enough and on some days I too can make mistakes.
I have however come up with the best way to tackle this interrogation and it goes something like this;
Guest: Can you guess the ingredients in this curry?
Me: I don’t know about the rest but for sure there’s no salt in it.
Guest: Oh sorry, sorry, I’ll take it back and fix it.
Me: *sits back with an evil smirk on my face.
“Are you sure you can’t get me a discount?”
That’ll be a NO!!!!