Outside the cushion of the dining halls lurks what is for some the biggest downside of apartment freedom — cooking. On top of piles of homework, a spectacular social life and a dwindling bank account, food has to find its way from the fridge to the stomach in an edible, possibly even tasty form.
Frozen entrées aside, when an inspiration to cook hits, a good cookbook is usually out of a poor college student’s reach. And when everyone’s go-to, Google, is faced with the task of presenting a recipe containing on-hand ingredients, it will most likely lead to a food blog, authored not by five-star chefs but by real people and maybe a Le Cordon Bleu dropout or two.
Blogging is fun in general, but the reason food blogging is so contagious is its mass appeal. Many blogs detail day-to-day life (LiveJournal, anyone?). But who really cares about the often depressing song lyrics bloggers post to summarize their feelings? Food blogs are about food, and everyone eats. And as they capture the interest of so many readers, these blogs can widen people’s horizons to the daily diets of people around the world and introduce ideas like the power of organic produce or the raw food movement.
Food blogs can take a reader from spicy Indian curry to home-baked sweet potato fries to tips on seasonal produce, all on a single site. Don’t sell these blogs short. People do read them, and they can grow more powerful than our wildest imaginations. And I’m not talking about the power to help a student whip up a pretty good risotto in under 30 minutes (take that, Rachael Ray). The power behind the blog that extends beyond the reaches of the individual kitchen is being noticed, and of course, Hollywood was the first to capitalize.
“Julie & Julia,” starring Meryl Streep and Amy Adams, is based on one woman’s food blog journey: cooking 524 of Julia Child’s recipes in 365 days. What began as a real food blog from an anonymous amateur cook in New York City became a book and eventually a box-office hit. Food blogs, and blogs in general, have more influence than we may think.
The culinary topics of blogs are countless. There are specific blogging communities out there that pride themselves on good food porn and are always looking for the best food-gasm. Food blogs are so popular there’s even a dedicated to helping you comb through them all to get to what you want. FoodBuzz is a food blog website doubling as a search engine for the hunt of any conceivable food topic. Aspiring bloggers must apply to be a part of the website, and they receive a small compensation for the small ad they must place on the sidebar of their pages.
These blogs are uniting food lovers all over the world. As they write, cook, take pictures and comment on other blogs, the cooks behind the blogs get to know each other. While this has some obvious perks, there are also some worrisome perils.
What starts as a fun hobby has the potential to be as unhealthy as deep-fried Twinkies. Many food blog authors admit to having control issues with their diets, and at times, posts are monotonous and neurotic — there’s no need to post pictures of a piece of bread or apple as a snack. Some bloggers post Calories, and many measure or weigh everything they devour. These restrictions can be masked under the broad label of “health-conscious” but are often not full-blown disorders. Of course, many non-bloggers have control issues with food, but in the glow of the Internet, food blogs are scrutinized and picky eaters are exposed.
On top of being a place to project and possibly worsen personal issues with food, the blogs are taking precedence over published cookbooks. Betty Crocker used to be the go-to gal for dinner, but now, bloggers post recipes from popular cookbooks and request ones they’d like. There isn’t a need to buy the latest recipe book because, chances are, the instructions are featured somewhere on the blogosphere, most likely with some food porn. While this isn’t fair for cookbook authors, popular, widely read bloggers understand this and will often post pictures from food made from the latest cookbooks, but not the recipe itself.
And before you go blog-happy in your kitchen, be warned: A dish can look amazing with the right plating, lighting and angle, without tasting like anything more than a cardboard box. Food bloggers don’t always know the taste of each other’s dishes, and will hail the aesthetically beautiful efforts of another home cook. Trust me, I’ve made some very pretty dishes that were just impossible to swallow.
Food blogs can amplify control issues, but also record diet transformations and help out with what to make for dinner. I would encourage people to scour food blogs not only for their recipes but for inspiration. There are quick, easy meals out there begging to be cooked, and once personal qualms are overlooked, the blogs are a round-trip ticket to dinner tables around the world. When lengthy lists of weird ingredients in cookbooks without pictures stifle the desire to become the next Julia Child, the blogs are the place to go.