Wednesday, February 22, 2006

In the Mail: On Design and Blogging. And Food.

This past Saturday marked my favorite mail day of the month: the day the postman brings my Food & Wine. This month, as it turns out, is extra special, as the March issue of the magazine is dedicated to the intersection of food and design, aka Kit’s Wheelhouse.

I’ve written about it before, many times: appreciation for great food is much the same as for great design, and strong aesthetics add, exponentially, to my enjoyment of a good meal. I’ve always known I wasn’t alone, but that doesn’t mean I’m not gratified to see the relationship between food and design get so much attention from a national magazine.

Food lovers and art and architecture lovers should read this issue cover to cover. From a profile of a high-end Santa Monica chefs’ toy shop that very nearly made me weep with jealousy, to a meal with the renegade “caterers” Itinerant Gastronomy (whose dinner parties are as much like happenings as anything else I’ve seen), the issue is like a textbook for frustrated art history majors who now indulge their creative sides in the kitchen. Not that I’m one of those. No, not at all. I only minored in art history.

Plus, there’s an article on blogs.

Pete Wells devotes his monthly column to exploration of the food blog world. Like many of us in search of something new to read, he starts his search with Food Porn Watch and clicks around until he finds something he likes. Which takes a while. Then he offers future food bloggers a bit of advice regarding what types of blogs are most interesting.

It’s not a bad article, and Wells’ advice is fairly solid. Finding a niche, then blogging about it is great. But.

Wells is obviously not a blogger himself. He assumes that all people who start blogs do so because they want to be famous. This might be true to some degree, but speaking from my own experience, I don’t hold my breath after every post, hoping to be discovered. Just the opposite: I exhale after every post because the mere act of clicking the “publish” button has allowed me to express myself. That someone might read what I wrote is just gravy.

On top of his false assumption that all bloggers want to fill roles similar to those of traditional journalists, Wells makes another mistake: he doesn’t understand the nature of the food blogosphere.

Thanks to aggregators like Food Porn Watch and sites like Is My Blog Burning, the food blogging community is absolutely thriving. Between regular cooking activities and roundups and the ability to easily contact other like-minded (or not-so-like-minded) food bloggers, I feel as though I’m a part of something larger than myself. Critics might say that the food blogging world is insular and self-congratulatory. I say it’s like a big welcoming club. Wells says nothing on the subject – his exploration of Food Porn Watch obviously didn’t point him in the direction of IMBB, and that’s a shame. I’d have been interested to hear what he thought of the community that’s grown up around food bloggers and their regular readers.

Again, Wells’ article isn’t bad. Unfortunately, for my money, it stops short of being good. The blogs he highlights are good ones…but he doesn’t go far enough. Call me hypersensitive, but it’s my food blogging community he’s criticizing. I guess I’ll cry if I want to.

All whining aside, though, it is a great issue. Some of the most interesting stuff I’ve read in a long time. Highly recommended.

Update: The cheese sandwich controversy certainly has taken food blogs by storm - not that I'm surprised. I'm happy to see the bloggers' voices being heard even in the mainstream media - CBS News has a short but sweet discussion of the controversy, including a quote from this very post.

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