Monday, March 23, 2009

The Anti-Food Blogger

You are probably thinking, "What's up with the fugly food pictures in this post?"

Yes, they are less than attractive and yes, they are old (from September 2008). For a while, I was debating whether to delete them forever, but a recent sequence of events involving two trips to Southern California in the last week, encouraged me to post them.

These pictures are from a wedding I attended in Los Angeles. My friend's wedding was set on the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) campus and she held her rehearsal dinner in Westwood, at Palomino on Wilshire Boulevard. It was a sweet and intimate wedding, complete with swing dancing, a breathtaking view of the sun setting on the architecturally stunning red brick buildings on the UCLA campus, and fun guests. But, I hesitated on posting these pictures in part because of my interaction with a certain type of person during the wedding events...

The anti-food blogger.

Allow me to explain the entire story. I don't usually try to publicize my blog in public circles, but if I meet someone who is really into food, I will often casually say, "Hey, it seems like you love fine dining/cooking/eating in general. I do too! I even have a food blog!"

Well, at the rehearsal for the wedding, that's exactly what happened and exactly what I did. But instead of the usual response of, "Wow, you do? What's the address? I will check it out" response, I was greeted with his, "I hate food bloggers" line.

After hearing his response, I was taken aback. After I asked him "why," he explained to me in a Mario Batali-type way, that food bloggers generally don't fact-check their sources or research their recipes, and often pontificate their unsubstantiated assertions to those who regard them as credible sources who espouse reliable facts. I responded to him that while the web is flooded with bad information and spam garbage, the internet as a whole, has increased the availability of good information, valuable opinions, and entertaining multimedia (images, video, and sound recordings) to the public and food blogs have done that as well. Also, internet users and blog readers are cognizant that not all information on the web is 100% accurate, and most people know that information on Wikipedia is not gospel or like the contents of a university textbook.

I don't think he was convinced by my answer, and I wasn't really swayed by his opinion either. But we continued our conversation about food blogs, and eventually, we simply agreed to disagree. Thankfully, by the end of the night, we both realized that we were both opinionated people, who actually did share quite a lot in common.

Nevertheless, I was a little riled up, and thus, neglected to really pay attention to what was on the special menu that
Palomino has given to our wedding rehearsal party. But here are the pictures and the menu descriptions of what I "think" the dishes were, and some food pictures from the wedding itself.

In clockwise order, these pictures are from Palomino: (1) braised beef short rib with mascarpone polenta, white beans cooked with rapini and pancetta, and gremolata; (2) capellini pomodoro, dressed with extra virgin olive oil and chiffonaded basil, and cooked with chicken, plum tomatoes, garlic, and Parmesan; and (3) prawn scampi cooked in a citrus-herb butter with capers and white wine, and served with garlic crostini and herb capellini.


And here is what I had at the rehearsal dinner and at the wedding, in clockwise order from the top: (1) ravioli made from fresh saffron pasta filled with lobster, bay scallops, and tarragon with herb mascarpone, from Palomino; (2) coconut shrimp and a selection of tea sandwiches, breads, and tapenades; (3) ahi tuna teriyaki encrusted with two types of sesame seeds; and (4) tapenades and breads.


After my discussion with this anti-food blogger friend, I gave a lot of thought to the purpose of my food blogging. Admittedly, I don't have a culinary school degree, but I love eating, and that is why I blog. What do you think about food blogging? I would love to hear your thoughts!

20 comments:

  1. Interesting he was so vehement about it. :) Bloggers aren't experts. Most of us are not trained chefs, culinary students, etc. Many of us are foodies. To that end, are we supposed to present our 'findings' in factual manners? For those who do write in that vein, I've noticed that they link to other sources, quote from knowledgeable people or merely state their opinions. That seems like all a blogger has to do, but hey...we're newbies!

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  2. Interesting,....I agree with the dou dishes. Most of us are not trained chefs,etc. We just cook & bake & create new foods, new combinations,etc.
    I think food blogging has to be fun, fun, fun,...!!!
    I think that each foodblogger must know & decide for them selfes what they want to do or say in their blog.

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  3. Yes, we are not trained chef, but it doesn^t mean that it has less value than what they do... We love food and what to share our passion with other, so what's wrong with that?

    Great looking food!

    cheers,

    Rosa

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  4. There must be something in the air--a food blogger backlash. I just had a nasty comment from a food journalist in Chicago. I don't put my full name or pic on my blog so he didn't know that I've worked as a professional journalist for more than 15 years. I do the blog just for fun. He said something like, "Oh, you food bloggers probably always eat for free and giving glowing reviews." He obviously had never read my blog (plenty of bad reviews) or our policy of recommending places on our "We Recommend" page only if we have dined anonymously on our own dimes. I have had other people attack me on my credentials when I've written a bad review. "Why are you an expert? Did you go to culinary school?" Well, no, but I'm a diner, and my opinion probably counts as much as any other diner's. Blogging is the democratization of the media, and some people don't like too much democracy.

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  5. As someone who came from "legit'' newspaper journalism to blogging, I can understand both sides of that argument. I agree with you that there are both very conscientious bloggers who take the time to make sure what they are writing is accurate, and those who post anything just for the sake of posting. For someone to make such a blanket statement as "I hate all food bloggers'' is just wrong. As I know first-hand, cyberspace IS the future, even for print publications, which are literally dying now. More and more real journalists are leaving the profession because they have no choice -- they've been laid-off or their publications closed. I'd like to ask that gentleman if he pays for subscriptions to a newspaper or to magazines, or whether he gets all his information online for free. If he does, he has no right to complain about the quality he's getting. Remember, in the long-run, we get what we pay for.

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  6. I am sure he would love us if he just knew how wonderful we are! lol

    I know I am a pleb home baker and don't try to pretend to be a chef.
    I think my opinion about how a recipe works at home or a new trendy food is just as valid as another persons. And my 12 other readers always agree with me!

    I love your spin on food and dining.

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  7. Odd reaction .. to group one whole group together.. and make such horrid assumptions. NOT all food bloggers are chefs, most aren't. That I know anyway. I do it for fun, to share recipes and get recipes from others with the same outlook. I enjoy pictures from other places and photos of different foods.. I am sooo not a chef, just do girl next door kinda cooking and thats all im loking for in return. I have yet to meet a blogger who thinks they know it all. Although wait till you read my new post coming out tonight.. Im posting a nasty email I received from someone.. People really need lives. Hope you had a great time at the wedding. The food looked terrific.

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  8. An odd reaction indeed, especially at an event like a rehearsal dinner. You'd think he would make an attempt at cordial conversation. The web nowadays is all about user-generated content (Web 2.0 as it's called, I believe). Simultaneously, we are increasing our level of scrutiny in regard to the legitimacy of information we may come across. We are food bloggers who are harmless and hungry, and have a passion for food. Silly anti-food bloggers. Silly silly.

    That story just strengthens my resolve even more to continue blogging!

    Anyway, the food looks like it was quite good! I think I really would have liked the short ribs and polenta... any braised meat gets a thumbs up in my book.

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  9. As someone who worked in print media (albeit a small local publication) and now blogs as a hobby, I can see where some of his frustration lies. There are some bloggers who don't fact check (or even spell check!). However, blogging is just as much about expression as it is education.

    It is frustrating to see him group everyone into one category. Your blog, along with many others, are so interesting and full of useful information. Not to mention the drool-worthy photography!

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  10. just wanted to tell you I really like reading your website, so I am giving you the Sisterhood Award. Check it out on my latest blog entry.
    www.donutstodelirium.com

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  11. Hmm, anti-food blogger sounds a little bitter. I think everyone knows how to double-check information when in doubt and that there are no guarantees that anything printed or online is 100% perfectly accurate. Clearly, he's just jealous of how much fun we have with our blogs.

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  12. PE, I think the food looks absolutely delicious, what a great rehearsal dinner! I suppose that all of us food enthusiasts need the dreadful weight of the haters to keep us anchored... I'm not a chef, but I certainly do my share to provide the means for their existence! I love eating delicious food and am compelled to documented each and every bite. I read food blogs because I love reading about what people are eating and cooking. I read your food blog because I like getting caught up in the stories you weave with your very insightful descriptions and beautiful photography.

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  13. I think the frustration comes down to food journalist who have been educated in the culinary and the average joe who wants to write a review of his experience. These reviews are just in 2 different types of tiers. I think the solution is to make transparent what kind of background the blogger is coming from.

    I love to blog about food, because it teaches me to enjoy the various flavors and makes me dissect what I'm experiencing. This in turn makes me be more thoughtful about the food I eat and allows me to appreciate the various kinds of food types, flavors and such.
    I also have friends with different taste palates (or narrow taste palates), so I want to give them at least a second-hand experience and maybe even encourage them to try some of these things.
    Lastly, I like to blog about the different places we eat (especially when I'm visiting a new place) so that I can look back and remember where I went. This makes finding the place that I liked very much easier the next time (especially if it is in a language I don't speak or read ;)

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  14. Wonder what was up his butt? No one said that food bloggers are experts in food, as long as you are passionate about what you write about, you have every right to have a blog. I started a blog because I love to eat, try new restaurants, share my food experiences, and introduce some relatively unknown delicacies from around the world. I can certainly emphathize with how you felt upon meeting such an angry fellow, I recently had a bad experience with an angry comment from a foodbuzz "friend" - made me not want to blog for a couple days!

    b/t/w Some Mcdonald locations may still have shamrock shakes, I think they sell them until they run out of the green mint syrup (or ask them to shake the machine to squeeze out the last of the shamrock juice). No McCentury Egg though, but maybe overseas? I have seen some strange international Mcdonald offerings in Asia!

    Well, I love your blog and your gorgeous food pics, so I've given you a sisterhood award! Here's the link:
    http://mehungry-phyllis.blogspot.com/2009/03/sisterhood-awards.html

    as always, looking forward to reading more...

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  15. PE, was his name "anonymous"??! LOL. ;-)

    You know how I feel about this, but I would like to add that there are a whole lot of food bloggers, and as an educated reader visiting the Web, you should take things you read with a grain of salt. As for most food bloggers (such as myself), our blogs are like a diary of our eating lives, the highs and lows, the good, bad and the ugly. And visitors to our blogs are sort of like going along for the ride, experiencing what we experience. So as we discover new food and "learn" about them, so do our readers. The expertise comes from a common discovery, not an absolute. I think if readers look at food blogging that way, they'll enjoy the pictures and words more because like art, food can be very personal and subjective. If food bloggers weren't human and didn't make mistakes, all the food blogs would read the same, churning out the same ole' facts. How boring would that be?

    BTW, I need to get invited more often to rehearsal dinners so I can get all that free food! Yum!

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  16. Don't you love hypocrisy? Someone who is pontificating about "unsubstantiated assertions to those who regard them as credible sources who espouse reliable facts." Really is just doing the same with regards to food bloggers, eh? Whatever....to me you are the "Uber Food Blogger!"

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  17. At some point, I have a difficult time not just writing responses like that off as someone having merely gotten stuck in their snobbery. We looooove to have opinions, even if they're largely irrelevent, in the end. People love food, a lot of them love to read about it, and it's not a big deal if you know how to navigate and find what appeals to you. I would never eat a lot of the things that I read about in the food blogs I follow, but it's still really fun to read about other people's experiences and look at pictures. My diet is borderline macrobiotic- it works for me, but I don't find it interesting to read about!

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  18. Thank you so much everyone, for your outpouring of support and your encouraging words! I will respond to your comments when I return to California. I do want to personally thank each and everyone of you for sharing your thoughts with me.

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  19. Thank you for taking the time to weigh in everyone! As I said before, I am so grateful for your well-thought out input and careful words. It is clear that you all took a lot of time to respond to my open question, and I appreciate that tremendously.

    I agree The Duo Dishes, I think that it is apparent that the majority of food bloggers are just sharing their opinions. As many bloggers are, I don't think we are trying to introduce ourselves at the "source" of facts or an authority figure of food.

    Thank you Sophie for reminding me about the purpose of blogging, and that is to have fun and be ourselves!

    That is so true Rosa's Yummy Yums, being a trained chef doesn't make us better than anyone else. Through your blog, you have taught me a lot about what we food bloggers are both "passionate" about, food and food friends!

    I love how you refer to blogging as "the democratization of the media" because that is so true Grubtrotters. (Great blog name, by the way!) People have good and bad opinions about places, and the more opinions, the more information is out there for us all to benefit from. I am sure that food journalist from Chicago has gotten his share of free food, and the "free" comment is the least true comment I have ever heard. I (as well as the majority of bloggers) have never eaten for free because of our blog!

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts Carolyn Jung, I agree that people should be aware of the credibility of the news source. People should know that the information in an encyclopedia, dictionary, news magazine, or newspaper is different from the FREE information online.

    I agree Melinda, food bloggers are often self-effacing and not arrogant about know-how when it comes to food. But we are good looking and wonderful! I can say that based on us! ;)

    I am so sorry about that email that you received Donna-FFW. I second your point that our blogs are reflection of our personality, where we can let loose and share recipes that we have had success with and our love for cooking.

    The rehearsal dinner was definitely the last place that I would expect to be greeted with a comment like that Christina Kim. I love your thoughts about the legitimacy of user-generated information on the web. You bring up some very thought-provoking ideas.

    Tee hee, CG the Foodie, sometimes I have some problems with the spell checker and grammar checker, and I discover this later, after I "published" my post! Thanks for being forgiving though, and for your thoughts on "expression" and compliments about my blog!

    Thank you so much Heavenly Housewife, I love the gorgeous award and really appreciate your kindness for thinking of me!

    Thanks Tarika!

    Yes, I agree that the accuracy of online information is inherently a little questionable, and should always be taken with a grain of salt sometimes LisaIsCooking, and he is definitely jealous! ;)

    Thank you again Foodhoe, you are always such an inspiration and I love also reading about your mouthwatering food experiences. Food blogs are a creative outlet for people like us!

    I love your thoughts RLo! There is definitely a diversity of ideas and while I respect and seek out information from those culinary school educated experts, I also benefit from "the average joe" who provides input as to what he or she enjoyed and their experience of food. Thank you for your insightful comments.

    Thank you so much for your sweetness Phyllis and your kind award! And I love the feature on your blog about the "unknown delicacies from around the world" because I learn so much from you. Durian and century egg need to become mainstream foods in the U.S.! Don't worry about angry Foodbuzz people or other angry anonymous comments for that matter. You have so many more fans that benefit from and enjoy your blog, that the sole hater means nothing.

    Chef Ben, the reason why I decided to write this old post was precisely because your "Anonymous" person, but I didn't want to rehash that entire experience on my blog. I love how you describe the ups and the downs of our food lives and our subjective opinions. That is definitely what our food blogs our, a reflection of ourselves.

    I agree entirely Kirk K, why should I hold that guy's opinion as having any credibility? Does he have any "proof" of how a specific blog has bad information or how the web has been "corrupted" by the excessive presence of food bloggers?

    Thank you so much Anonymous for sharing your thoughts about "navigating" the web and choosing what content you read on the web. It is our choice whether to read or not, and if we don't like it, we don't have to read it!

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  20. Thanks for the compliment on my blog name. My Mom urged against it because she thinks of a worm when she sees "grub" and the foot of a goat or pig when she sees "trotters." I figured most people would get the "globetrotters" reference and would understand "grub" is food.

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