Full disclosure – bloggers like to say this, it makes them feel righteous – I am a food blogger too. It’s best to take the cat out of the bag up front.
So, you can consider this as one of those “what would I tell my younger self” type letters that people write – although in my case, my younger food blogger self came into existence only last year.
Better yet, how about calling this an “Open Letter to All Food Blogger”? That got your attention didn’t it? I knew it. Everybody loves an Open Letter.
Here’s the thing though, it doesn’t take much to become a food blogger in this day and age. I should know. Unfortunately, for many it’s become a way to get a free meal. “Will write for food” if you may.
Now, we can’t just blame food bloggers here because let’s face it, the food and restaurant industry brought this, us, upon themselves with their email invites for free meals, tastings, and super duper discounts in exchange for a review – a “honest” review obviously, because what other kind is there? Wink! Wink!! Nudge! Nudge!!
What happened because of all this, including the online food review sites, is that everyone – even non-food bloggers, and yes, there are such people – entering any restaurant anywhere has a sense of importance. “I have the power of Grayskull” (from He-Man in case you are not as old as I am) became “I have the power to shut this establishment down with my one review”. It’s a fake sense of importance but it’s there.
On top of that, we now have people walking around feeling special because of their “follower count” on various social media. My reply to anyone boasting about their followers is a standard – “Followers ka Aachar Dalo Kya” (Will you Pickle Your Followers?). Surprisingly, it sounds equally fun in English.
Write a few carefully chosen words, get a few followers, and BANG! You are a certified, award winning – although what award I can never find out – famous food blogger. As a “celebrity” it’s just not about free invites for the family, but you can also demand invites for Pappu, Chotu, Chuunu, Munnu, Babli, Bunty and the likes (FYI, auto-correct makes it so hard to type in these Indian pet names).
As a result of everything that is going on in the food blogging world, you have two options; either become one of those bloggers that plagiarizes their reviews – because really who will find out – takes a few photos of a random McDonald’s and then uses those to “check-in” and review a 100 of their branches across the country, or if you are the honest kind then live in fear of having your photos copied and spend hours watermarking them.
OR, you can just be yourself and with a little introspection, make yourself stand out.
At this point, if you’re still reading, in case you were thinking this is a rant or worse a comic article – I call it an article to make it sound all fancy-smancy – then you couldn’t have been more WRONG! – Yeah! you don’t know me at all.
This is one of those self-help (yulk!) type lists that if you follow, you are more than likely to become a better food-blogger. At least that’s the aim. No refunds okay!
Here’s a list of some simple suggestions – 11 to be exact – that can help you achieve food blogger stardom, and if you already are famous, well then, Good for you, Showoff!
Read: Not just cook books but about food in general – here are some to start you off. Not just non-fiction but also fictional stories that revolve around food – The Diner by Herman Koch for example. Read about the people that have made a name in the business. Don’t just read about what they make, but what made them. It will help you understand the importance of food better.
Take Your Time: If you want to enjoy food, eat it slowly. If you want to savor the flavors, eat your food slowly. If you don’t want to die, Eat Your Food Slowly… and chew it too. Your food isn’t running away… unless it’s alive, and has legs; in which case, do eat your food quickly.
Understanding flavors and how they interact with your taste buds can only be done when you spend time – I was going to say “make love” instead, but that was just too creepy – with each bite that enters your mouth.
The same goes for writing. Take your time with your reviews. Don’t be in a hurry to post first. Gather your thoughts and think about what you ate, how it made you feel, and most importantly if after a few hours you didn’t up in the Loo or worse the hospital.
Don’t Be Afraid To Eat Alone: Conversations with friends are amazing to have, but don’t be scared to enjoy food alone. Make food your friend. Sometimes, let it talk to you – but don’t talk back, because that’s just plain weird and on second thought is probably why you are eating alone.
Cook: No, I don’t mean go and hire a cook. Learn to cook or cook to learn, it works both ways. You’ll understand the basics of food and it will only help you write about it.
Write: Write a lot. Don’t limit yourself to reviews. Think about food, about what you see around you, and write your thoughts. Don’t just write to get likes and shares on social media – that reminds me, remember to like and share this post – but to inform and spread your knowledge. Write because you enjoy writing. Food blogging is as much about food as it is about writing.
Explore the Unknown: Don’t just follow trends, or if you do, be brave enough to go out of your comfort zone. Talk about the underdog, the lesser known, the unwritten ones. The big restaurants can invite you for tastings and promotional parties, but the small establishments, that work equally hard to make ends meet are the ones that need you the most.
Don’t Romanticize: Write about food but don’t try to make it into Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. I’ve read so many reviews that start with love at first sight, the excitement, and then end in tragedy. It is fine to dramatize, but don’t overdo it. Keep it simple, easy to comprehend. Know your audience. You don’t need to use big words that most people will need a dictionary to understand.
Experiment with Food: Cooking on your own can hone your skills by following recipes but also sharpen your imagination by experimenting with the food and ingredients.
However, tell me when you experiment, so I can make an excuse for not eating dinner at your house. Basically, try the food on yourself first. If you survive, then call me.
Don’t Get Caught Up in Labels and Awards: Get people to respect you, make you advice matter, and don’t get fooled by the ranks and lists. Awards are great, but don’t let that get into your head. Be humble, not obnoxious.
And please don’t fool yourself with the “I scratch your back and you scratch mine” scene in the blogging world. You might think your blog numbers are going up, but you are only fooling yourself. Write for someone who will enjoy and use your words, not someone who just wants you to visit their blog in return.
Be Yourself: If you want to go and review 10 McDonald’s, just do it, but for the right reasons. Don’t get influenced by anyone and most importantly don’t influence anyone else. And remember, everyone loves a laugh, so bring some joy and humour in your writing.
Don’t Let Go of Your Morals and Ethics: Nothing in life is free, remember that, especially not lunch or dinner or breakfast too for that matter. Your credibility is your greatest weapon and the biggest medal you’ll ever receive is genuine appreciation, so don’t ever lose it. Be honest, be fair, and don’t write to simply please someone, and especially don’t write to get a free meal.
There you have it, gyan for the modern day food-blogger.
There are always a few “bad apples” in any profession, especially in this one as there’s a possibility of having bad oranges, bananas, pears too – because you know “food” bloggers. Then again, the good apples, oranges, bananas – you get the point – mostly outdo the bad ones.
What it boils down to in the end is a simple question; Are you a good Banana or a bad Orange? The choice to be either is in your hands.