Byte into something tasty
Saturday, May 29, 2010 06:00 am
Food blogging doesn’t follow a specific recipe. Some sites are recipe corners, a place for home cooks and professional chefs alike to share and reflect on food, often with accompanying photographs that send the taste buds into a tizzy. They can highlight specific ingredients and the people who create them or serve as a virtual database of what’s happening in the local or regional restaurant scene. Or all of the above.
About the only rule in the food blogosphere is a passion for food. Fortunately, there’s a cornucopia to be had in the Capital region.
“It’s a people thing. Food helps me connect,” says Sharon Yeo, the woman behind Only Here for the Food (onlyhereforthefood.ca), a home for all things epicureous in Edmonton.
When Yeo started her blog in 2006 it wasn’t as a foodie with an eye for quality ingredients or restaurants. It was a typical 20-something blog with no specific focus as TV and theatre musings mixed with the occasional restaurant tale.
As her pocketbook and views about food evolved, so did Yeo’s postings about her culinary discoveries. Dining out became more frequent, as did trips to the farmers’ market. Today she visits her favourite farms like Greens Eggs and Ham just to learn about where food comes from.
“It’s about relationships. If you go to a farmers’ market and talk to the producers it changes the way you think about food,” she says. “You know the work that went into it and get to know the passion they have … we have really great producers in Alberta. We should never take them for granted.”
Only Here for the Food still contains the occasional theatre review, but it’s also an extensive chronicle that can introduce readers to restaurants, chefs, products and the newest blog on the scene. One of those newer arrivals is The Read Onion (thereadonion.blogspot.com), a site penned by St. Albert blogger Nikki Stoyko. She’s about a year into her blogging adventures, an often-scrumptious pastime.
“Everybody has their hobbies,” says the university student who aims for a teaching career after graduation. “Some people collect baseball cards. Some people build things out of wood. I absolutely love to cook. It’s one of my very few passions.”
Stoyko credits family for her interest in food, particularly her father Gary Gordey, a home cook with the heart of a Michelin-star chef. She remembers cooking with her dad even as a toddler, a passion that has taken off as an adult by scouring markets, blogs and cookbooks for inspiration for another meal.
“To the best of my ability I try to research the best quality ingredients before I get them,” she says.
Like many food bloggers, Stoyko’s online interests were sparked by reading other popular food blogs from around the globe that focus on regional food, produce and meats. Since most people eat with their eyes first, many food blogs, like cookbooks, include beautiful photographs of ingredients and dishes. This mouth-watering blend has even led to the term ‘food porn.’
“The blogs I revisit I revisit as much for the photography as I do the food,” says Stoyko, an avid photographer herself. “If the photography isn’t up there, top notch, I don’t tend to revisit.”
Photographs for her own site are carefully composed with an eye for finding the best lighting.
The food bloggers’ aim for excellence can be intimidating, especially for a newbie blogger, says Rhianna Morris, one half of Cream and Sugar (creamandsugar.ca), a foodie tag-team with pal Jill Davies-Shaw that profiles the culinary scene in Edmonton and Vancouver.
“What’s hard about food blogging and reading food blogs is there’s so much success out there,” Morris says. “You’re constantly reading about wonderful food and these wonderful cooks and it can be a little bit intimidating at times.”
Morris (she’s Cream by the way) is unapologetic about being an untrained amateur. Her culinary explorations reflect life as a single woman with postings about food she’s prepared for a dinner party or a new baking recipe. Sometimes posts are about what’s for dinner at home alone (Solo Suppers – Beyond Cereal are a running category). Those recipes tend to focus on simple, rustic flavours and not anything overly flashy.
“I like going to a fancy restaurant and trying something crazy, but myself I’m not overly inspired by what I’d say is fussy food,” she says. “What inspires me to try something at home is what people across the world might be making at home and have been making at home for a long time.”
Sometimes even simple flavours don’t work. In one recent example, Morris says she ruined a wonderful scrambled egg dish after carefully sourcing the recipe from acclaimed New York Times food journalist and blogger Mark Bittman. The eggs were supposed to be all-world, cooked over low heat for 20 minutes featuring goat cheese, fresh mint and peas.
“I had the television on while I was making the eggs and got caught up in a storyline,” Morris says guiltily. “I went back to the pan and it was overcooked.”
She took a picture of the mishap and is now thinking about using it in an upcoming post to illustrate that food porn isn’t always reality.
“We’re not all perfect every night. Sometimes you make something that isn’t that great and that’s just part of life.”
Grab your fork — and mouse
One of the appeals about food blogging is the content crosses continents and cultures. Davies-Shaw relies on food blogs to help scout out culinary treasures and products in far away places from New York to San Francisco, Asia and Italy. Travelling abroad is as much about the food as it is sightseeing, she says.
“When travelling to a big city it’s a good idea to have a plan because there are so many good places [to eat] and they tend to be tiny hole-in-the-wall places that everybody wants to go to,” she says. “I like to make sure I have a plan and a reservation so I can maximize my food experiences when I travel.”
Davies-Shaw’s ability to find out-of-the-way eats and then share that information with friends eventually led to ideas about having her own food blog with Morris. The two friends have grown close through their passion about food and have kept blogging even after Morris moved to Vancouver last summer.
Just as the blog drew them together they’ve come to know the local food blogging community that’s steadily growing and even gets together for occasional meet-ups. “The foodie community is pretty into communicating and sharing,” says Davies-Shaw. “It’s nice to hear back from readers that have tried things we’ve made and really enjoyed them.”
Yeo notes the number of food blogs has taken off in the last year. Some blogs don’t last while others don’t update as regularly as others, but the rising popularity reflects a desire for people to learn about their food and where it comes from, she says.
For Morris the appeal is simple. It’s not about making money, piling up web hits or fans. It’s all about enjoying food; after all, everybody likes to eat.
“It’s a basic need to survive, but it’s also a great way to take care of yourself well and to comfort yourself. If I’m putting a bit of extra effort, then I’m putting a little extra effort into myself and that’s not a bad thing.”