It happened long before I realized it, but in hindsight the signs were clearly visible. I stopped browsing Tastespotting endlessly. The number of unread posts in my RSS feed began to pile up until Google would no longer spare the effort to calculate just how many there were other than telling me that there were over a thousand. I stopped scrolling mindlessly through blog posts, my eyes searching greedily for the recipe as if next week’s winning lottery numbers were to be found between the ingredient list and the instructions.
I began to fixate on particular blogs and to hunt for the author’s About page in order to gather a sense of who they were so that I could appreciate the way their personalities shined through their words. I stopped cooking from recipes and I almost altogether stopped reading them. I no longer hungered for the latest cookbook, and I found myself unsatisfied by those containing only recipes and photographs. I yearned to dematerialize into the worlds that I could build out of food memoirs, simply dreading the moment I would reach that final page when the lives of those who had become so familiar to me would be lost.
Slowly, I was beginning to understand. It was no longer about the food, but rather the stories—both those being shared deliberately, as well as all of the little tales and insights waiting to be plucked out from between the lines if you were patient and paid close enough attention. But what I didn’t quite yet realize was that I was struggling with my own writing here on piecurious. I was trying hard to be a good food blogger—to follow the rules that those who’ve been successful tell you to follow: keep your blog posts short (no more than 500 words), they say, and post frequently, preferably with a recipe. I didn’t stop to consider the type of success those rules were aimed at achieving and whether it was what I was personally aiming for.
Those who know also encourage you to attend blogger conferences. So when I heard TECHmunch was coming to Toronto and that it wouldn’t be necessary for me to sell one of my organs on the black market in order to cover the costs of attendance, I signed up. And I’m grateful that I did. Sitting there, eyes and ears straining expectantly in the darkened silence of the auditorium, I heard six words that not only changed my perspective, but also revealed the source of my own struggles: “long-form narrative is not dead.”
The words were spoken by Jodi Lewchuk, author of nostrovia.ca, where her posts, dedicated to showcasing recipes and food traditions drawn from her Eastern European heritage, fearlessly extend beyond the 500 word limit. Nonetheless, she was a finalist for the Saveur Best Food Blog Awards, and if you take a moment to read this post, you’ll quickly understand why. The pleasant sincerity of her words immediately eases you into what feels like a meaningful conversation between confidants, until you find yourself having finished a short well-researched essay on the practice of welcoming guests with a spoonful of rose preserves. A talented storyteller with an impeccable and personable style d’écriture, Jodi captures your interest so that rather than skimming through and moving on to the next blog in your RSS feed, you continue through until the end and eagerly through to her next post.
Long-form narrative is not dead and need not be limited only to print. Similarly, the genres and styles of food writing and food blogging are dynamic and diverse, drawing upon and thriving within the fields of history, art and science, in addition to the more stereotypical style of cookbookery. Both the advantage and joy of food blogging is that you have the freedom and flexibility to explore these varied approaches without the constraints imposed by an editor or publisher. I now see that all along I’ve been endeavouring to explore my creativity within a set of self-imposed constraints determined to lead to a kind of success that I was never intent upon achieving. I have little interest in writing the next 100 Best Quick and Easy Cookie Recipes for the Time-Strapped Home Baker, although I do want to write about food and to share recipes, too. But I would prefer to devote my time to writing stories and essays—some real, some fictional, some factual and well-researched and others personal and anecdotal. I want to share with you my recipe for dark chocolate sourdough not necessarily to teach you how to make it, but rather to share with you the story behind why I made it and why I want to write about it, which, in some cases, might be simply to offer you the opportunity to share in a taste experience I found divine.
Over 800 words later, what I’m trying to say is things might be changing around here, not that they ever really settled since the last time I tried to re-envision piecurious’ place amongst the myriad of other food blogs.
Until next time, here are some of the food blogs that have captivated and inspired me most recently: