I thought you should know

I’ve changed.

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.

The best mutz in town. A group of friends and I shared these sandwiches crafted by a man purported to make the best mozzarella in New York.

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.

Bakery Choc'o'pain in Hoboken. Offering up beautiful sourdough, it is the only place to date I have found for sale a pet project of mine--banana sourdough!

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:

Edible Geography

Eat This Poem

The Makers Project

Food and Think

Poor Man’s Feast

Acquired Taste – The Feed

7 comments on this post. Leave your own...

  1. Ilke says:

    You are my kinda gal! Don’t listen to anyone. Go whatever feels right for you.
    They told me that I have to have more than 3 posts per week to be a good food blogger and many other things you mentioned above. Like the average person’s attention time is less than a minute and I have to squeeze everything in.
    Maybe that is the reason I only have a handful of followers that keep reading my posts and making recipes but you know what, I know that they are coming back.
    Just like I keep coming back to your posts, no matter how long or short they are or if there is any recipe or not.
    I just want to hear what you have to say.

    • Calantha says:

      I am grateful with every post that you do keep coming back, Ilke! Thanks for being such a dedicated reader and supporter. It’s part of what makes me keep writing! :)

  2. I don’t pay attention to any of the ‘rules’… I mean, my blog is my journal. Sometimes I post frequently, sometimes I don’t. Some posts are long, some posts are short. That is what I love most about my blog… it’s all mine.

    I get emails with offers and questions about stats that I have no idea exist. I don’t blog for numbers… I share the things I love. Your post is very timely for me, I think we all need to follow our inner voice and pay less attention to the so-called rules…

    • Calantha says:

      I am so happy to see that I am not alone with my sentiments! With more people pushing on in the opposite direction, it’s sometimes hard to avoid getting sucked in by the undertow of getting on top of that Google+ account and ensuring that all of your posts are crafted for SEO, marketability and brand recognition… and then you realize that its your content that suffers because your content isn’t the kind of content for that market. Re-affirmation is always motivational :)

  3. Jodi says:

    You are far too kind! Still, I’m honoured that you’ve written these lovely words about Nostrovia. More important, though, is that we long-form narrative enthusiasts connect and share our stories, reminding ourselves and others that there *is* time to slow down and savour in a world that often seems to speed by. There are some sites in your list I haven’t encountered yet ~ I’m off to explore them.

  4. I follow very few blogs, but I follow them closely. Yours is now amont them. They are all writers & photographers that share my passion for the conviviality & creativity of the kitchen and table. As for me, generally speaking, each piece I write for my site does include a recipe, but my heart is in the writing. The recipes, while also a form of creative expression, are in a sense the carrot on the end of the proverbial stick to lure people into engaging with my art. I’m verbose and a little lyrical, and I decided to ignore numbers and advice and how to’s and just write. People are always advising you to “solve a problem” (i.e. fast cookie recipes) but I think that people have as much a need for the nourishment of stories and poetry as they have need of ways to organize their pantry & clip coupons. I have faith in the audience, in the reader. Write and they will come. I too am an enthusiast of the long-form narrative, of poetry, of slow art & food. This made me so happy. Long live the narrative!

  5. Calantha this is a beautifully written post that comes at a timely moment for me. Being away from the “blogging fray” in Europe (you have no idea how freeing it is to be in a completely different timezone!) was very healthy for me this summer. I had become overwhelmed and overworked on things like trying to keep up with reading and commenting on blogs, keeping up with it all, not missing out. Having a little distance meant I was able to re-evaluate my priorities a little and spending a few days with Kate Hill and Tim Clinch at Camont solidified that I need to SLOW DOWN. On all counts. Reading and commenting on blogs included. I’ll always be a little obsessed with things like my stats but slowly I am weaning myself off of checking umpteen times a day. I am also a fan of Jodi’s blog and your post has reminded me that I need to comment there. On someone’s work that really speaks to me as well. I am guilty of reading, skimming blogs too and not making a comment where I really should. So here I go into a very busy academic year with a new goal. Slow. Down.

    PS: We at FBC also hope to see you in April and hope to inspire you as much as Jodi did.