The Relevance of this Post : Why am I writing This?
A few days ago, I was invited, with two fellow Kolkata Bloggers, to give a talk about the importance of blogging and how it is rapidly becoming a major marketing tool. As my focus area is food, I was asked about the reason for my food blogging in Kolkata. Frankly speaking, looking at the time I begun, I was frustrated after reading a number of blogs, and I felt that what they had written about food was not really relevant and were inadequate, and I had way more ideas than they did about food. Of course, I was ignorant, and over the years have discovered plenty of blogs which have truckloads of information and helpful tips. However, at that time, I decided I could contribute to improving the knowledge about food of people who would be searching for something particular, and as I am myself an impatient person, with no time to waste, my key focus was to help those who were pressed for time, as I was.
After starting it informally, I slowly involved myself in the areas of my interest. Although I have always been interested in cooking, I generally do not post a recipe which I have learned from another blog or website, until and unless I feel that it is exceptional and I must post it. Same for the restaurant reviews on my blog – the ones I independently pay for, unless I find the experience to be exceptional, I do not add it to the blog. Anyway, while talking to a few fellow Kolkata food bloggers, I realized that food blogging nowadays is almost a fashion, and there are plenty of food bloggers mushrooming into the field, with many different reasons for blogging, who would want to be a part of this world. However, I have something to say to them.
Words are significant. They mean something. Do not use them without thought.
How is food blogging relevant? Well, the truth is, it depends on what kind you do. In my time, I have come across different types of food blog posts – and some blogs exclusively cater to one or two of these categories, or have some of each, and there is a niche area for every sector.
The different kinds of food blogs are as follows:
1. Recipes – where recipes are the key focus.
2. Food product/utensil review – a particular product is reviewed and analyzed.
3. Restaurant/hotel review – a hotel or restaurant is reviewed and analyzed.
4. Event coverage – an ongoing event is covered, highlighting the different aspects of it.
5. Cooking technique or science behind cooking – where people talk about the scientific aspect of cooking. Innovative techniques are often discussed.
6. Food around the world – where food from different parts of the world is highlighted, their history, etc. is analyzed. Food eaten during travel can also be included here, as well as the indigenous food and ingredient of a region.
7. Promotional posts about food – where a particular food or event is promoted.
8. Food diary – people who are writing their food experiences in a diary format, where they write about what they ate. This is especially important for those who are into specialized diets.
9. Food related video blogs – where the blogger essentially uploads a video rather than writing.
10. Food photography and styling – many people love taking photos of food, and like displaying their photography and share styling tips.
Of course, I might miss out on many other types, but this is what I can think of right now, to be fair. I would not go into the inferiority or superiority of one kind of blog over another. I would rather talk about the fact that there are thousands of blogs about food which might choose to have posts belonging to one or more of the categories mentioned above. Here, I would like to say, the significance of food blogging lie in a few factors. Both new food bloggers and experienced bloggers should keep these simple things in mind while blogging. Of course, these ideas can also be used by bloggers in general, and you can apply them to blogging in general and see how it goes.
Here is what you can do as a Food Blogger:
1. Contribute something of value. The most important factor when we look at food blogging is in its contribution. Ask yourself, what am I adding? This should be your first thought while writing a post. I rarely post about a popular dish until and unless I know I can add something significantly different to it, or I know something others don’t, or my way is perhaps more efficient or different. Build strength in the uniqueness of your posts, not in their similarity.
2. Read up other blogs and writers about food. See what they are thinking about. When you are writing about food, either you can call yourself a novice and learn, or you can call yourself an expert and teach. Do not sit in the fence – either learn it all, or be willing to learn. The more you learn, the more you know, and the better you are at something.
3. Make it a point to have your own voice. Do not quote others, do not try to copy writing styles. You can always read up, but don’t be too influenced. Develop your own voice. Think about how YOU would like to explain a dish to a friend, or talk about how a dish tasted or felt. Don’t think about others.
4. Learn about global food, and do not narrow down your vision. While talking about food, the most important factor is to open up your palate. Be open to everything you eat, and if you are not comfortable eating something, politely refuse it, but do not make a face after eating it. It is considered VERY RUDE. Also, before making comparisons, think about what you will say. A few days ago, someone wrote, “the chicken enchilada reminded me of a chicken roll stuffed with rice instead of onions.” Although a person from your city might understand what you say, but the blog is not about you or your friends – it’s open around the world and most people will not really get it. Also, keeping an open mind is a must – you might not like a particular food, but that does not give you the right to criticize a perfectly cooked delicacy by someone else. Keep your mind open, and try new things.
5. Take responsibility. When you write a blog, you are responsible for your words. So do not be offensive. Do not be crude, and please maintain both dignity and diplomacy. Yes, of course, if you feel that a restaurant is serving bad quality food, write about it, and be firm about it. But do not use abusive language. That is totally unacceptable. Write responsibly.
6. Do not be inexperienced in cooking. While posting about recipes, I try to cook a dish at least 10 times before I post about it. Yes, I may be a fanatic, but I believe, the more you cook, the better you understand the dish, the more you can tweak and see what you like, and the better you are at it while posting. Many people post recipes they have tried only once. This is something I consider to be wrong, as a dish can change flavors and textures drastically, even though the cooking procedure might be the same, depending on the ingredients and their quality. Making something over and over again ensures one’s mastery in it, and never be anything else but a master in what you do. It will help you understand what you are making in a much better manner.
7. Know your food and have a basic sense about both cooking and shopping for your food stuff. This will help you understand what tastes good, what is missing in a dish, and how it can be improved. Have an open mind about food, and know the basics of cooking and shopping, to discern between what is fresh and what is not, and what is acceptable and what is not. That way, your ideas about cooking and food will improve.
8. A basic knowledge of how restaurants work, and hospitality industry is crucial. This I believe is extremely important, and I follow it to the tee. I have seen plenty of people who have no clue about restaurants/hotels, how they work, how the hospitality industry work in general, talk about how they “hated the service”, or, “the food wasn’t up to the standards”. That is specifically how you should NEVER describe things in a review. Also, a basic knowledge is required to understand how hospitality segment works, and the sheer amount of work people put in behind a dish. So, in general, I try eating at a restaurant at least twice or thrice before reviewing it, sometimes more, if I find myself not happy with my analysis. Food is an experience, and each experience is different, so it is CRUCIAL that you take each experience as they come.
9. Please do not plagiarize. A few days ago, I was reading the blog of someone I knew, and I was quite ashamed to see the person not only copied a recipe from another blog, posted it under his/her name, took the writing style of the author to the tee, but also did not acknowledge the original owner at any point. This is a terrible thing to do. Imagine how hurt you will be if you see another person copying your recipe and the way you took photos, and then not acknowledging your contribution. It demotivates people to the core. Do not do that, therefore.
10. Maintain the fine line between review and promotions. While I accept event invites, products and services, and then write about them, I tend to write both the good and the bad. I do choose my words carefully, and ponder endlessly before writing, and I make it a point to ensure that my writing does not reflect negativity, but, the careful reader will know when I like the food and when I do not.
11. Maintain clarity and diplomacy. This is extremely important – keep an eye on your food blog posts, who can share your content, what you are writing, and maintain clarity and diplomacy, which will be your best friend. You should write and be clear about your opinions and thoughts. Understand that food is an experience and your experience is different from another, so try to respect other’s opinions while writing about your own experience.
12. Do your research. This is especially important for those who are writing about food history. Read up, and no, do not just rely on Wikipedia or something as inane as that. Read, ask questions, and learn. Then write about it, and if someone contradicts, talk to them and try to understand their point of view first, before blindly arguing. The key is to understand and learn as much as possible.
13. Try taking a Photo/Video of the food. I have seen terribly written blogs with fantastic photographs or videos getting thousands of views and likes, simply because the photos are mesmerizing, or the videos are interesting, and are enough to hold the attention of the readers. In fact, photographs and videos provide a visual aspect to your blog, and adding a few good quality photographs or videos will enhance your posts, I think. If you are really good at photography, submit them to foodgawker.com or foodporn website. If you have nice videos, upload them on YouTube and maintain your own channel. It gives your blog more views.
14. Interact and talk to your audience. If you blog, add social interaction space. Like photography? Make a few Pinterest boards and add your photos there. Love taking shots on your mobile camera? Engage readers through Instagram. Adore talking to people over Facebook? Have a page for your blog. These are simple, yet effective ways to maintain blog visitors, and it will help your food blogging considerably.
15. Blog about your love. The most important factor about blogging is love. Although I talk about food, in any field, love is what drives a person to achieve the unachievable. It carries a person through bad times and never demotivates him. Don’t blog to make people read what you write and force your opinion down their throat. Blog because you have something to say, and you want to express yourself. Blog because you are in love with food, and this is your epic love letter about it. Blog because you don’t want to think of yourself not blogging. That is the most important thing you should remember while writing your blog. Love.
This post is based on my personal thoughts, and I believe can help new and experienced food bloggers to write better and maintain their blogs better. I would be writing about a few food blogging etiquettes soon enough on the blog. Keep an eye out for that.