A few days ago, I read a great column in Buzzfeed about food blogging become a victim of its own success.
As food blogs have become more popular and more competitive, the author writes, successful food blogging “doesn’t have much to do with cooking food that tastes good, or writing a recipe that works. Instead, it’s about cute plates, perfect lighting, photography, and social media networking. In other words, as they say on the internet: It’s about building a brand.”
That’s never going to be me.
Look, I get it. I really do. I don’t just accept or tolerate marketing, social media, or branding. I work in freaking market research for a public relations company. Part of my job is helping clients understand perceptions of their brand and how to improve them.
But let’s be real for a minute. I leave home between 7 and 8am and am pleased when I make it home before 8pm more nights than not — and that’s a slow week. I’m an amateur cook and a sub-amateur photographer. I own one set of dishes, plain white. My kitchen window is too small and faces the wrong direction to get the right natural lighting for food photography (d’oh! what was I thinking, buying this place?). I don’t own an SLR camera, and if I had an extra $700 sitting around, I certainly wouldn’t spend it on a food styling course.
(Sidebar: Seven HUNDRED dollars? Seriously?)
And even that is not the point. I love the fellowship of cooking and eating as much as the food itself. My dear friend Danielle and I, 800 miles apart, use Facebook to share everything from which Bon Appetit recipe we’re cooking first this month to what to a discussion about the best use for two extra stalks of rhubarb. My husband-wife friends Mike and Lisa not only are willing guinea pigs any time I’m looking to cook, I thought I might die from Mexi-Korean fusion food bliss at the Cinco de Mayo party I talked them into throwing. Then there’s the time my brother, around 23 at the time, called me and proudly declared that for the first time, he had eaten the piece of leaf lettuce on his cheeseburger. (When asked how it tasted, he replied, “Crunchy.” This was not a compliment.)
I started a blog because for me, food is about community — creating and sharing experiences together.
There aren’t enough hours in the day to do everything I’d like; I’m not going to go out of my way to make a pot roast at 6am so the lighting is just right, or find the perfect piece of parsley to garnish my plate. My pictures aren’t magazine-worthy. I don’t have hundreds of readers, let alone thousands. I’m okay with that.
I’m not digging on any food bloggers who do those things. To the contrary, I have a deep admiration for them — as artists, photographers, marketers, and especially as chefs, cooks and bakers. I draw as much inspiration from fellow bloggers as traditional food magazines and cookbooks.
And that’s also not to say I don’t hope to improve my skills. I’m just saying, that’s not my primary focus here. Yes, I want to share beautiful food accompanied by heartfelt and well-written prose. But choosing between getting a better picture of a cake or diving in and spending more time with the person I made it for? That’s not even a question.
Tonight, I’m not dwelling over an imperfect photograph. I’m capping off a near-perfect holiday weekend by savoring every last bite of a simple, delicious dessert: strawberries, whipped cream, and Ladyfingers. Pull up a bowl and join me.
From Bon Appetit
Yield: 6 Servings
2 cups chopped, hulled fresh strawberries (about 8 oz.) plus 6 whole berries for garnish
1 tablespoon sugar
2 cups chilled heavy whipping cream
Seeds scraped from 1/2 vanilla bean or 1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
3/4 cup homemade Strawberry Conserve (if using store-bought, use 1/2 cup, stirred to loosen)
3 crisp ladyfingers (savoiardi, Boudoirs, or Champagne biscuits), crushed (or substitute graham crackers)
Place chopped strawberries in a small bowl. Sprinkle sugar over; let sit, tossing occasionally, until juices are released and sugar is dissolved, about 20 minutes.
Beat cream and vanilla seeds in a large bowl until soft peaks form. Add conserve; fold to blend. Add berries with juices; fold almost to blend. Divide among bowls. Sprinkle crushed ladyfingers over. Garnish with whole berries.