If Everyone Wants to Be a Food Writer, Why Do No Writers Want to Cook?
Food blogs have become as ubiquitous as McDonald’s restaurants. It seems every aspiring gourmand who can flip a grass fed burger without turning it into a heap of charcoal, or follow a fourth grade reading level recipe on the back of a box of pre-made cake mix, wants to write about it, share it, and prove their culinary chops with photographs that rival the airbrushed porn stills of lamb and loin found in Saveur and Bon Appetit.
The food blogging craze is part of the greater DIY culture, and in this type of culture quality is often sacrificed for quantity. This is more or less what plays out at chain restaurants like Olive Garden and Applebee’s, where you’ll find yourself sitting down to a three pound pile of Broccoli Alfredo and bread sticks, only to find the entree tastes like, well….you fill in the blank _______. Faced with that kind of dining experience, a blog writer for hire comes in handy.
Food blogging has reached a rolling boil because of the rise of celebrity chef culture. Julie Child may have Mastered the Art of French Cooking (in two-volumes) and introduced Beef Bourginon to scores of Americans, and then turned budding foodies into Francophiles with her TV show The French Chef in the 1960s, but she was the lone culinary wolf of her age. Today, you can’t turn on the TV without hearing Gordon Ramsay berating a culinary contestant on Hell’s Kitchen, or Anthony Bourdain doing his irreverent, Iggy Pop shtick on No Reservations and Parts Unknown. Andrew Zimmern eats cow vein stew and donkey skin on Bizarre Foods, and there is more drama amongst the contestants on Top Chef than there is on Days of Our Lives. If celebrity chefs are branded as rock stars, outlaws, adventurers, and world travelers, who wouldn’t want to be a food blogger?
There is an irony, however, to the food writing craze. Most writers, at least those who aren’t living off royalties or six figure advances, the ones that actually scratch out their daily bread by being ball and chained to a desk, don’t really want to take the time to cook much of anything, let alone labor over a Michelin Star worthy meal. These writers either have a list of quick and easy recipes they whip up, or they cook some sort of feast over the weekend, freeze it, and then Atom Bomb it throughout the week in the microwave. Some writers probably skip dinner altogether and get their sustenance from a pint of Ben and Jerry’s, a bag of chips, or a case of Budweiser.
In Haruki Murakami’s novel, The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, the main character Toro Okuda eats pasta every night. The cooking scenes are banal but so lovingly described that one can’t help but think that Okuda’s evening diet is really a stand-in for Murakami’s nightly pasta ritual.
It’s good to know we’re not alone.
Damon H is a freelance writer available on WriterAccess, a marketplace where clients and expert writers connect for assignments.