I caught sight of an article in the Huffington Post on Facebook yesterday about 10 things not to ask a food blogger. Of course, I was immediately attracted to reading it but then disappointed to find that the blogger in question was a nutritionist and dietician and the questions were nothing like anything someone might say to me – your average kind of food blogger – but instead were all health related. However, it got me thinking and I thought, just for fun, it would be good to think about some of the things people say when they know I’m a food blogger.
A lot of people don’t ‘get’ blogging – why one is happy to spend so much time, and sometimes money, on it for no apparent purpose. But sometimes a purpose isn’t tangible; sometimes a purpose is just the act of ‘doing’ or ‘being’. One of my favourite quotes ever is from Eleanor Roosevelt: ‘The purpose of life is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience’ and this is certainly something bloggers do, always reaching out to experience new things in the area they feel passionate about. Ralph Waldo Emerson on the other hand declared that the ‘purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honourable’ and thus he might well, if he were still alive, declare blogging to be a self-indulgent waste of time. Sure, it is self-indulgent but then hobbies are. It was never meant to be worthy but I know from comments I receive – sometimes from people I don’t know personally – that it often gives some pleasure to people other than myself, and that is a happy by-product. But in all honesty is was only ever meant to be fun. And certainly a lot of fun has been had!
So, what are the things people like to say to me? Sometimes people mean to be helpful; sometimes they want to show an interest; often they’re curious. And I certainly don’t want to put off anyone taking an interest in my blog and finding out more about it and what got me started and keeps me blogging on. So these are not really things that ‘shouldn’t’ be said … but more answers or responses to common remarks and all meant to be a bit of fun:
1. Do you make money from your blog? This of course touches on much said above but it is perhaps the most common question I receive about my blog. And the short answer is, No. A handful of bloggers do make money and have perhaps been commissioned to write books, newspaper or magazine columns, etc., but these really are the minority. I started the blog for fun and with a firm intention to bring some positive things into my life after quite a difficult period. I wanted to write and writing about something I knew quite a lot about and had a passion for seemed a good idea. But I never imagined it as a way of making money. Now, because the blog has in some small ways attracted a bit of attention (for example, the shortlisting in the DFDS awards – have you voted for me yet??!!), I allow myself a very little dream that one day I might be able to make money from it, which would be a happy alternative to the way I do make money (editing other people’s writing). But I’m always realistic and know that if I attached too much expectation or hope into making a living from the blog it would take something away from the huge pleasure I get from it. And then if I didn’t make money, I might see the blog as a failure. In general, I don’t think about money; I think about continuing to write the blog as long as I go on getting lots of happiness and fun from it and if I ever lose that joy, then I will stop.
2. Why don’t you get people to advertise on the blog? This is obviously a continuation of No.1. A lot of people seem very concerned that I should be making money! I’ve just paid WordPress to make the blog ‘professional’ so that they don’t put their occasional ads on my blog and it’s ad free. I guess I could make a little money (but not a living) from putting some ads on it but I don’t like the thought of how that would change it. I don’t want people to log on to the blog and find it looks like an offshoot of Amazon. The blog is more a journal of food and travel I share and I think the vital personal touch that the best blogs have could be lost amongst lots of ads.
3. Why don’t you start a supper club? Another moneymaking suggestion. This was first suggested to me by a restaurateur I know and to be honest I couldn’t help feeling a little flattered that he thought people would actually pay to eat my food. And I do know that it’s the way some bloggers have raised their profile and become very successful – in a money/recognition way – with their blogging. But the truth is that, apart from having a small kitchen not designed for cooking for a large number of people, I don’t want to cook for a living. I love cooking and I love cooking for family and friends, but I have a little experience of cooking professionally from my teenage years and early 20s, cooking in my parents’ pub for the restaurant and events like weddings, and so already know this isn’t what I want. I’m not thrown by cooking for large numbers but that doesn’t mean I actually want to do it. I write the blog because I love writing. For me writing is the thing. And I write about food and travel because these are passions and one should always write with passion.
4. What a wonderful life you have, or even, I wish I had your life! Not questions but fairly frequent comments. People often think my blog is my life. I do, it is true, write it in a very personal way, introducing family and friends and giving quite an insight into my daily life and my holidays. But I don’t write about the things that go wrong in my life: personal problems; difficult challenges; life’s inevitable disappointments. The blog is the upbeat side of my life. It’s not meant to be untruthful but is instead about celebrating the good things I enjoy.
5. Everything you cook is wonderful. I wish!! Sometimes people are intimidated by cooking for me now but no one should be. The truth is that I make mistakes too. It’s just that I don’t put the things that don’t work out – the cooking disasters – on the blog.
6. I expect you don’t cook much when you’re on your own. Not surprisingly, since starting the blog, this is a rarer comment. I know a lot of people who are normally cooking for a family or even just another person, like to have just have beans on toast or scrambled eggs if they get a ‘night off’. But those have never been meals to me. I’m a food person. I was collecting (rather sadly!) photos of food in my teens when everyone else was collecting photos of pop or film stars! If you live on your own you don’t give up wanting to eat nice food, trying out new recipes, treating yourself to something special to eat sometimes. Of course, now it’s fun to cook for the blog, as I often do, but even when I don’t have blogging in mind, I get enormous pleasure from cooking: slowly stirring a risotto with some mellow music in the background after a day’s work; throwing together a pasta sauce from just a few tomatoes, shallots, maybe some spinach and toasted pine nuts with a mound of freshly grated Parmesan on top. Food bloggers love to cook and they love to eat – that’s why we write about it!
7. You’re not going to blog about this? I absolutely never blog about food friends cook me. If I did, no one would invite me anywhere! Having said ‘never’ there are some notable exceptions: when in Spain, my friend Linda is happy for me to sometimes blog about some of the food she cooks; when I was in Switzerland with Annie she showed me how to make a traditional Swiss fondue and let me blog about it. My son and daughter have often let me blog about things they cook. But if someone invited me to their home or even to a restaurant, I would never assume I could blog about it, especially if I’m a guest. When I go out to eat with people now, they know I might want to blog, or I might say, Do you mind if I blog? But I would never assume it’s OK in all circumstances and if in doubt, would check.
8. Is that the classic version of the recipe? Often a perfectly reasonable question and food is something it’s nice to talk about and share experiences and recipes. But people can get quite hung up about what’s ‘classic’. I’ve learnt to be more careful. If I’m cooking a ‘classic’ recipe, I do my research and make it clear what I’ve found and where I might be deviating from some accepted customs.
9. Let’s meet in Starbucks. Oh no no no!!! I’ve never forgiven Starbucks for their influence on ordering a cappuccino after their arrival in UK in 1998. It became impossible to get a proper, small cup-sized cappuccino anywhere. It was assumed we all wanted a pint of milky coffee. No no no. That was never a cappuccino. Thankfully, the arrival of artisan coffee shops has put cappuccinos and coffee generally back on track and now some wonderful coffee can be found in UK. (See my post: In Search of a Perfect Cappuccino.)
10. Would you like to try out our new restaurant? This is a personal one – but I never accept a free meal f0r a review. I do go to bloggers’ events and that might involve trying out food at a restaurant new to me, but I make that clear in my post. But when restaurants write that they’d ‘love’ me to come and try their food out, on them of course, then I always say no. It’s part of writing the blog for fun and my own pleasure. So, 1., I don’t want to eat in places that don’t appeal to me (and there have been offers of meals at restaurants I’d never want to eat at because they’re not my kind of food) and most importantly, 2., I don’t want to feel under pressure about what I write. I know I would find it very hard to write a very negative review if I’d eaten it for free. Once I’ve visited restaurants or cafés for the first time, sometimes I form a relationship with the owners and will then accept offers to go back for special events or to see some changes happening there. But by then, I know I like what they’re doing.
Well, I hope that gives a little insight into the world of blogging and really, it’s not so much about what people ‘shouldn’t’ say because part of the pleasure I’ve derived from the blog is the wonderful support and show of interest I’ve had from family and friends. But if anyone out there wonders why on earth we do it … maybe I’ve shown you a little of what we food bloggers get from all that blogging!