Buenos Aires – In one of those rare moments of prescience in my life, I’ve apparently joined, a day in advance, with a food blogging political cause that is zipping around the blogosphere. I received my first notice of the impending wave when I got my weekly e-mail from The Strong Buzz, where Andrea Strong decried her blog being singled out, more or less, by Pete Wells at Food & Wine, as “heavy breathing” food blogging (though he never named her blog).
His article had many valid points about the quality of writing and the content of many food blogs out there. But, in my view, he completely misses the point of blogging. He seems to feel that while blogging allows anyone to jump in and share their life and viewpoint, that they shouldn’t really be allowed to. “Listen up, bloggers: Nobody cares what you had for lunch today!”. He’s just plain wrong. Hundreds, often thousands, of people do care, or at least have a passing interest. If they didn’t, they wouldn’t read the blog, they wouldn’t comment on it, they wouldn’t correspond with the blogger. Is it logical that someone cares what any one of us had for lunch on any particular day? Who knows? But they do. And, over time, blogging is both self-selective and peer-selective. Someone who is truly a bad writer will probably give up on their blog at some point – either because of a personal lack of interest in maintaining it, or because they get hammered enough times by commentors, and they get tired of it.
And even if they don’t, so what? If no one ever read a particular blog, but the writer gets personal satisfaction from writing it, why is it any worse than, say, keeping a diary in the night table? In fact, that’s really what most blogs are – just shared with the world, should the world care to partake. Now, Pete, too, has every right to have his personal likes and dislikes – but the difference is, he has an international, and paid, forum in which to express his view – and as such, he ought to be subject to the very same criteria he seeks to impose on bloggers – “communicate passion”, “consequences – something ought to be at stake”, “timely”, and “sense of purpose”. Bluntly, nothing in this particular column fits any one of those criteria, except perhaps “timely” – though even here, he is months behind writers from numerous newspapers who have decried the quality of writing and content in the blogosphere. Basically, he used his column for the purpose of trashing a few bloggers he didn’t like, and exalting a few that he did, and all based on his personal worldview. And that’s not his usual style of writing – he’s a well respected, well read, and normally considerate writer who seems to have just gotten a bee in his bonnet on this particular topic.
The reaction has been one of over-reaction. That’s not surprising, because most food bloggers blog because of their passion for food, and they take their writing very personally, regardless of their writing style or quality. Mr. Wells was careful not to actually name any of the blogs he trashed, and truthfully, unless you’re an avid reader of multiple food blogs, you’re unlikely to recognize which blogs he’s talking about. Yes, the authors did, and responded strongly, but did others notice until it was pointed out to them? Probably not. The upshot, however, has been the fun of the creation of Cheese Sandwich Day 2006, a food blogging “flash mob” event that took place yesterday (with postings over a three day period), and makes fun of his use of the outdated and outmoded phrase “cheese sandwich blog” that was first used in nothing related to food blogging, but in reference to boring blogs that consisted of nothing but “today I ate a cheese sandwich” type posts (coined by a group of folk in 2001 who set themselves up as the self-proclaimed arbiters of good and bad taste in the blogging world, who began “handing out” awards for each).
Which, after this long-winded posting, leads us back to my prescience – my day early, and purely coincidental, posting of two, count them two, photos of cheese sandwiches, and my scribblings about them. I doubt I’ve ever written about a cheese sandwich before in my life, it’s quite possible I never will again. But I’m happy, regardless, to join in on the protestational fun, because in the end, I’m just happy scribbling away.