If you follow us already, either here or on Facebook (or both), then you probably already know this.
And, if you just found us based on a very recent article you read in a well-known newspaper, you already know this as well.
For the rest of you, whomever that leaves, we were one of six different Jersey-based food blogs to be featured in an article in the New York Times about the food blogging scene in New Jersey. And as much as I could try to downplay it, let’s face it – it’s pretty friggin’ cool. Recent incidents over the last few years may have hurt its reputation, but it’s still the New York Times, it’s still The Paper of Record, and it’s still read by an awful lot of people. Have we seen an increase in traffic on our site due to the article? Oh yeah.
And what of the article itself? We’re pretty happy with it. It’s a positive look at the ‘vibrant culture’ of food blogging we have in Jersey, and it’s very true. There are a lot of food bloggers here, and whether they are recipe-based, restaurant-based, or a bit of both, you won’t run out of good things to read. Even just looking at the six blogs that were mentioned shows a nice variety: Alex and Brandon’s A Food Coma has lots of great recipes and fun reviews covering Philly and South Jersey – told from a young college kid’s POV (and at my age, I can say ‘young college kid’); Deb’s Jersey Bites blog is shaping up to be a wonderful state-wide showcase of restaurant reviews and recipes; F Scott and Zelda are lovers of fine food and great wines and are constantly giving you updates on wineries that are not in the mainstream; our kindred spirit Robin does her best to keep things local and green on her South Jersey Locavore blog; and, of course, there’s our little corner of the blogosphere.
For me, it was quite an honor to also be mentioned alongside Jason Perlow’s Off The Broiler blog. When we were kicking around the idea of starting a food blog, one of our friends told us to check out his blog to get an idea of how it works. Off The Broiler, for my money, is the gold standard of what a food blog should look and read like.
Now I purposely mentioned Jason’s blog last to segue into what I watched tonight on “No Reservations” about people with food obsessions – which, of course, had to include food bloggers. This was not as nice a view of bloggers as the Times article; in fact, it was a pretty terrible view of bloggers.
The blogger portion of the show focused on the men who founded eGullet, Jason and Steven Shaw, along with Steve Plotnicki, who was on the board of eGullet and now runs Opinionated About Dining. And what is clear from hearing these guys, as well as reading some articles online, is that there was (and still is) some bad blood between them. OK, fine – it sounded very real and legit. But do we need to brush all food bloggers with such a broad stroke?
Look – I know it’s television; they need to tell a story quickly and make it grab you right away, so portraying bloggers as an angry and feisty lot was probably seen as being more attractive than trying to present a more balanced view. Watching Steven Shaw respond to Tony Bourdain’s questions and comments, and every other comment seemed to be tainted with some angry overtones, made for good television (I guess). It also made me feel kind of bad for Steven. It seems like he has some real issues in his life, and I hope someday down the road he figures things out. In the meantime, though, he seems to be eating well, so I guess there’s that going for him.
I also felt bad for poor Jason in the episode. He has had to cut many things out of his diet for health reasons, and yet there they were, him and Tony, at White Manna in Hackensack. And to make matters worse, they give Jason a salad to eat while Tony chomps down on a burger. Nice, Tony…very nice.
So, in order for me to really succeed as a food blogger, does this mean that I need to a) be angry, b) be geeky, c) have this gaping hole in my life that needs to be filled, or d) all of the above?
OK, I am geeky to an extent. I can’t deny that. I mean – I’ve been doing fantasy baseball since 1986 for God’s sake, so there’s a geek side to me. Angry? Why? If you allow yourself to be angry over something, that ‘something’ is renting space in your head, space that could be used for better purposes. And as far as gaping holes in my life, I’m lucky to have a wonderful woman as a wife and two beautiful kids as children, not to mention friends and family that love and care about me. What gaping hole?
The one aspect in the piece that I did agree with Bourdain, to a certain extent, was the picture-taking of food at a restaurant. Clearly Tony is not a big fan of it, and it’s an issue with which I still wrestle. There are restaurants that we have gone to where we left the camera at home – on purpose. If we’re going to a really nice place to enjoy a quiet evening, the blogging portion comes after the meal, when we sit in the car and talk about things and take notes. During the meal, it’s not only about enjoying the food but enjoying each other’s company.
But again and again, the piece on bloggers came back to the angry in-fighting aspect. And while there seemed to be (and still is) a lot of that surrounding eGullet, it by no means represents the food blogging culture as a whole. Most of the bloggers I have met are really good people that enjoy food as much as I do and love to talk shop and trade stories of great meals in their lives.
So Tony, if you really think all of us food bloggers are angry geeks that are desperate to fill a vacuum in their lives, why not take a trip down the Turnpike to Tortilla Press Cantina on Tuesday night and we can chat during the SJ TweetUp. Maybe I can offer a different perspective.
PS: I can’t help adding my two cents on this, too, since we both blog here. As much as I love watching Tony Bourdain (I totally agree with his philosophy of food being as “close to a hug as you can get”), I think he missed an important blogging purpose: filling the hole that is frequently left by the mainstream media. We chose to write about South Jersey food because there is stuff going on down here not covered by the Philadelphia Inquirer or even the North Jersey-centric New Jersey Monthly; and we want people to know about it. I would even point out that when No Reservations did their “New Jersey” show, it was all about North Jersey, with a mere nod to Asbury Park (and no mention of the burgeoning food scene there); while the cast and crew were salivating over Hiram’s dogs in Fort Lee, there was no mention of its long-time rival next door, Callahan’s, or the history of Palasades Park (the reason these stands were there in the first place). There is always an alternative point of view, because we all have our own passions and agendas. To represent only the angry bloggers who are out to prove something and smash all opposition creates drama worthy of ratings but ignores the real reason most people read blogs : to follow their passion using another source not available anywhere else- for that moment, anyway.