Last night, I had the honor to eat at Herons where a handful of local chefs put together a great meal to support a super cause. I was in attendance because I’m the chair-elect of the charity benefiting from the dinner, the Lucy Daniels Center. Before the dinner I was invited back into the kitchen to talk to the chefs, all of whom I knew pretty well except for one. As the dinner started, I was given the opportunity to talk about the Center to the guests, and then I sat down to enjoy the splendid food and wine. Over the course of the evening, two or three folks introduced themselves to me, saying that they read my blog. My initial reaction in those situations is typically, “Really? Why?” I’m always surprised to meet one of my readers, as I just don’t think about that side of the blogging equation. And when I’m asked, “Why do you blog?” my answer is almost always the same: “For me.”
To me, there is no creation of human beings greater than food (other than other human beings, of course). We must eat to survive, of course, but it’s far more complex than that. Societies and cultures are defined in great part by food, by the rituals surrounding the dining table. We celebrate with food and drink. The most intimate way to welcome guests from abroad is to cook for them. When I think of France or Italy or Morocco or India or Mexico, my first thoughts are about the food and cuisine of those nations.
I write about food because it is important to me and my family, and quite honestly, I want to keep a journal of my life with food. I want to help preserve the memories of my 9 year old daughter’s passion for baking, or the time when my older daughter wanted me to cook a multi-course dinner for her birthday party. I want to remember when my 10 year old son and I bellied up to the bar in DC or when my then 15 year old son went to Herons on a night I was working in the kitchen. I also want to remember what I cooked a couple of weeks ago, or when I first tried a livermush sandwich.
I like to write about my friends, and that’s why you’ll rarely see me writing negative things in this blog. Heck, any blog post here about restaurants is typically about a friend’s place, so why on earth would I ever write bad things about them. I’m not a journalist, I’m an advocate for the local food community.
I rarely write about events that I know nothing about. I get a handful of press releases each week about this event or the next. I sometimes even get a very nicely written email about a particular event, but if I don’t know anyone involved, I typically write back explaining that I have chosen not to write about such events. I do break from that rule now and then, but not very often.
I have also learned that writing about food does in fact give me some credibility in the food world and some access that I might not otherwise have. I got to work in the kitchen at Herons and the Globe because of this blog, in part. Some of my best friends are chefs and food writers, but I have learned that those friendships did not evolve because I blog. It’s because food is nearly as important to me as it is to them. Folks in the food industry love to “talk shop” more than any other industry I know. We health care lawyers really don’t want to what we do or health care reform. We want to talk about music or sports or, of course, food. When I’m with a group of chefs and food writers, the only thing they talk about is food. It’s not just their business, it’s their life. And because I share that similar passion, they’re happy to talk to me about it to.
I do not blog for economic gain, that’s for sure. You’ll note the lack of advertising here, as I’ve chosen not to commercialize VarmintBites, even though several offers came my way. First of all, there’s hardly any money in it, unless you become a huge entity with multiple writers and hundreds of thousands of daily visitors. Second, you have to write every day, several times a day, and you have to write well. I have a blog with hundreds of daily visitors and on a busy week, I might have 3 posts, each of which I wrote over a course of 10 minutes, with no re-writes or much proof-reading. And I can also go two weeks with only one post. It’s my party and I can write when I want to .
In the end, I write for my memories, for my passion, and yes, for my ego. I am flattered when someone does tell me they read the blog. I have my insecurities, too, wondering whether anyone really cares. It sort of reminds me of some of my chef friends, when I tell them how much I loved a particular dish, and they respond, “Really? You’re just not saying that?” It’s pretty funny, those folks who work to feed us. They’re not rock stars or ego-driven maniacs. They’re just plain folks, like you and me, who happen to love food and have made it their career. I don’t have the skills or the stamina to do what they do. But I’m glad I get to be in their world from time to time.