January 9, 2012

Ten Things I've Learned by Food Blogging

Huevos Rancheros
Dear Me,
You've been blogging about food, wine, life and love for two years now. You've shared and overshared. At times, you've worked some things out in a self-psychoanalytic catharsis, at times you've been a goofball; at times you've tapped some great hidden memories of people you have loved; you've celebrated, grieved, and been racy, and sometimes you've taken the role of teacher on these pages. You've had a ball, but you've also learned a couple things. Why don't you share some of that with your readers?
Okay, Dear Readers, and especially other food blogging Dear Readers! In two years as a food and wine blogger a few things have come to my attention. I've learned that:
Delicious But Ugly Blood Orange Cake
  1. People blog for different reasons. Be clear what your particular reasons are. Don't judge the reasons of others.
  2. An inspired but infrequently-posted blog is worth following, but not insipid daily drivel. Sometimes I just need to get out and live in order to have something compelling to post about, and I make no apologies for my irregular posting schedule. Likewise, I invite you to expand me with your posts. Make me miss you and wonder what fun you're cooking up without me while you're out there living it up. 
  3. If you wouldn't serve it to guests, don't post it. For example, this green cake (above.) While the green cake was time consuming and delicious, it was supposed to be the lovely shade of blood-orange pink. Green cake doesn't sell unless it's St. Patrick's Day. If the cake was supposed to be pink but turned out green, don't post it. Instead, research why the cake turned green (in this case a chemical reaction caused by the imbalance of baking soda and chopped citrus) and learn to fix that mistake so that in the future you can share that info with your readers, if you are so inspired, because... 
  4. Photos are everything. No one reads your words if the photos aren't captivating. I've written some really nice pieces that didn't get noticed because my photos were uninspiring. Or worse than uninspiring.
  5. Attribution is an important subject. Be fair. Give credit where it is due. Link. Name your inspirational sources. Don't say "adapted from..." if the only thing you did was up the salt 1/2 teaspoon. Just because we self-publish doesn't mean we shouldn't follow the most basic of journalistic standards. By raising all ships, we sail at a higher level ourselves. I was very guilty of breaking this guideline in my earlier blogging career, but have committed to giving proper attribution after coming to understand how important it is to the bona fide recipe authors and publishers.  And, it's the law, even if there aren't interweb coppers to enforce it.
  6. This experience teaches me that I do not want to be a cookbook author. Writing out and testing an original and proper recipe is tedious work. What I want is to be an inn keeper and have some detail-oriented person follow me around with a notepad for a month as I create wonderful dishes for my guests, catching each ingredient I intuitively plop into the pot in order to quantify it, codify it, test it, question it, and make sure it is properly organized for our little inn cookbook which visitors can purchase to take home with them. That's what I want.
    • In addition, our inn would be open only during Oregon high season, would serve breakfast Thursday through Sunday, would pack wine-tasting picnics (at a small additional charge) complete with winery recommendations and maps on request for our guest's day excursions. We would serve Saturday night dinner for inn guests and locals with reservations. At these dinners, we'd pair local wines and foods, highlight local artists and musicians. We would be closed December through March, when My Baby and I would travel, rest, prune the orchard and garner inspiration.
      • If I can't be an inn owner, I'd like to be an astronautess.  An astronautess is someone who doesn't possess the usual aeroscience competencies, but who could do special assignment outer-space research like testing to see if Pinot Noir tastes the same in orbit, if the freshness of a baguette is extended in zero-gravity, and if toenail polish lasts longer wearing moon-boots rather than high heels.
  7. It would sure be nice to have an editor smarter and more intuitive than spell-check.
  8. If you want to boost your readership, post a dessert. We just can't resist photos of gorgeous sweet treats. 
  9. Had I gone the ad/featured publisher route I would have made somewhere in the neighborhood of  $97.62 over the last two years. Woo. Even with zippy visitor traffic, that's not even enough to pay for my Site Meter and Feed Blitz subscriptions. My most favorite sites of all time haven't succumbed to distracting ads or featured publisher buttons and retain a clean visual aesthetic and voice. If they make more than parking meter change, it's because their site has launched them into some ancillary money-making venture, not from the site itself. (The exceptions are the trail blazing niche-makers, who created their market share early on and have deservedly parlayed it into big cash, including that generated by ads.) After nearly two years, SSF remains intentionally ad-free.
  10. Two years is ancient for the average food blog. Dog years; 7:1. Blog years; 40:1.
        Thanks, Readers, for your time and attention these past two years. Look forward to some exciting changes from Sticks Forks Fingers in 2012 !
        A special dedication to my dear, sweet husband and forever boyfriend, who lured me out into the country and gave me something to write about. He shall remain "My Baby" forever on these pages and in my heart. He does have a respectable real name, but prefers to have his innocence and professional online demeanor protected with this cute little alias. He is the source of just about anything humorous on these pages, and exhibits his support and long suffering by eating far too many cold meals after waiting for the perfect photo to be snapped of his dinner.
        Thank you, Baby.

          13 comments:

          1. COngratulations! 2 years *is* ancient and admirable. I do second almost everything you said in this post, and I hope to live up to these standards.
            Great post. And I am oddly intrigued by the green cake.

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          2. 2 years is great! Go you! Your post is really great, thanks for sharing your lessons learned!

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          3. Some great advice there. Congrats on the two year mark.

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          4. Great to read your insights. Way to go with that two-year blogging anniversary! I've been blogging almost three years...early on I wrote a post featuring a green jelly-roll-like cake - California Sushi Roll Cake - but it was supposed to be green as it was loaded with pistachios. However, it wasn't the best looking cake. I guess green and cake somehow just don't go together.

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          5. I like number 7. My husband is mine but only after the fact...which I learned is quite annoying.

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          6. Really nice post I can see exactly where you are coming from after just completing my first year blogging, so well done keep it up when you get that inspiration. So many blogs are full of heartless meaningless drivel.

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          7. I would add be genuine with your comments or don't comment at all to your list! Happy 2nd year anniversary!

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          8. Very good tips & advice!!! Will remember these tips on my journey! Thank you!

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          9. Great words and thoughts. I'm completely on board with posting meaningful posts. And living your life, and not posting every silly little thing. And as for the green cake? I might have posted that, if only to make fun of myself. Sometimes my kitchen failures can at least be translated into entertainment. Happy 2 years of blogging to you. I always enjoy your blog. It's really lovely.

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          10. Congratulations turning 2! Time flies when you're having fun - doesn't it? My blog will be two in March and it sure doesn't seem possible. Love reading your perspective on blogging.

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          11. Congrats on 2 years! Just found your blog and happy to have done so. I agree with your list so very much!

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          12. I adore this post. Congrats on two years!

            I'm ready to hop in the car and head down to your future inn. :)

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          13. Another example of the constant stream of reasons I have to be as intensely proud of you as I am.

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