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(article, Liz Crain)
[%pageBreakSettings maxWords=700] After two months of Blog Feed profiles, it’s time to take off the bib, step away from the table, and digest. We started this column with two intentions: to highlight notable blogs, which we’ve done, and broadcast food-blog news and culture, which we haven’t done so much of — until today, that is. [%image laptop float=left size=medium caption="There's a food blog for every taste. This illustration was created by Ximena Maier of the well-loved blog Lobstersquad."] With more than 200,000 food blogs to sample (that's veteran food writer Dianne Jacob’s informal count), this is a culture well worth tracking. h3. Blog games Call me crazy, but until recently I’d never heard of blog tag, also known in the blogosphere as a "meme" or "memetag." It's a quick online questionnaire with a particular theme that bloggers reply to on their blogs and then, in turn, forward to fellow bloggers. I read that Richard Morris, of The Free Radical Report, was tagged in late December. Morris wrote: bq(blue).For the uninitiated, I’m playing Blog-Tag, a suddenly very popular Internet game where the tagged blogger reveals five things about him or herself, then tags up to five more bloggers, who have to do the same. Childish? Of course it is and fun too! Recently I’ve come across all kinds of bloggers who’ve been tagged: “You’re it!” Technology blogger Jeff Pulver, of The Jeff Pulver Blog, launched a version of blog tag on December 10, 2006 — the "Five Things About Me" meme — that has touched, or perhaps slapped, thousands of bloggers. [[block(sidebar). h1. Food memes Meg Hourihan of Megnut memes on cookbooks. Clotilde Dusoulier of Chocolate and Zucchini memes about growing up to cook. Melissa Kronenthal of Traveler's Lunchbox memes on "Five Things About Me." ]] According to Pulver, “It was different than earlier strains of blog tag that could be found on Myspace.com, and was the first to reach out into the blogosphere, as far as I can tell.” Well, I’m just happy to have learned through the game that Richard Morris knows how to milk a cow — which is probably better exercise for a food blogger than blog tag. h3. Do’s and don’ts Food bloggers for the most part learn the ways of the Web by doing. But every once in a while, a generous blogger decides to broadcast some sage word of advice to would-be bloggers. Munich food bloggers Nicky and Oliver of delicious:days recently posted a hefty — nearly 4,000 words — entry titled “Foodblogging — Do’s and Don’ts.” Advice is divvied into 15 sections covering everything from the advantages and disadvantages of RSS feeds and the proper blogroll pruning techniques to handling reader comments. Another hot spot for food-blog education is Food Blog S’cool. Sam Breach, of the beloved Bay Area food blog Becks and Posh, started this forum two years ago in the hopes that would-be as well as experienced food bloggers would visit regularly to share tools of the trade. I asked Breach about her project. She responded: bq(blue).Copyright issues, content stealing, and dealing with PR solicitations are subjects that have been high-profile recently. But there is much more to it than that. She added: bq(blue). Blogging should be fun, not a chore, and if people are blogging because they feel they have to instead of because they want to, that will show through in the blog posts, and readers will lose interest. Passion and enthusiasm for the subject of food is a must. With so much dialogue about blogging, it’s a wonder bloggers have time to actually blog. But it’s a good thing for us that they do. h3. Restaurant reviews Food blogs that cover restaurants have been racking up lots of press in recent weeks. A February article in the New York Times takes on food bloggers’ power of the post. It’s no secret that bloggy food reviewers have the upper hand when it comes to quick coverage, since copy desks, meticulous fact checking, and endless editorial meetings are practically non-existent in the food-blog realm. The article points out that food bloggers, such as Augie of Augieland, can do things like eat at a restaurant 10 nights in a row and post a review the next day that trumps the timeliness, detail, and sheer word count of most print media. Beyond the article’s scope, there’s the plain reality that print-media folks are generally much more difficult for readers to parley with than food bloggers. The Food Dude (who prefers to remain anonymous) of Portland Food and Drink, a Portland, Oregon, website known for its timely and thorough resto reviews, had a few thoughts on the matter: bq(blue). The public enjoys the online forum, because they can give immediate feedback on reviews. If they disagree, an immediate response can be made that allows them a forum to tell everyone their contrasting opinion (or that they agree). He added: bq(blue). I think reviewers in the print media are a bit nervous, because we have quite a few advantages. Websites have no constraints on space. For the most part, bandwidth is free; my main worry is holding the reader's attention to the end. I don't have to worry about fallout from advertisers over negative reviews, as there is no advertising on my site (other than press releases). In some ways, this less-formal style is more — more personal and more endearing to loyal readers. As for me, I often consult local food forums and food blogs when dining in my fair city and while traveling. I like the up-to-the-minute info that these outlets offer, particularly comments about current menus and chefs, and I also think that the heated volley of opinions posted by readers are often just as entertaining as they are informative. h3. Cookbooks vs. online recipes The food blog Simply Recipes won best overall blog in the Well Fed Network’s annual Food Blog Awards earlier this year. Because it is a recipes-only blog, some of its fans have questioned the future of cookbooks, including the author of a recent Boston Globe article. [[block(sidebar). h1. The early days Anyone interested in food-blog culture might also want to read Kate Hopkins’ piece on Culinate about the start of it all. ]] Elise Bauer, of Simply Recipes, is optimistic about both electronic recipes and cookbooks. She spoke on the subject in a recent interview: bq(blue). I've got probably 30 or 40 cookbooks, and I'm referring to them all the time. Websites are very convenient for searching for recipes, for finding them, for bookmarking your favorite recipes, and cookbooks have their own appeal. I love to open a cookbook and to read what the author is writing about these recipes. Electronic books, all the rage several years ago, never truly threatened bound books as many media outlets anticipated. And in my opinion, online recipes will never replace cookbooks! Pitting cookbooks against online recipes is more a tool to spin story than anything else. (See, for example, this piece on Salon.) Online recipes have a toothsome place in the culinary realm, and they're gaining ground every day. But they'll never conquer sauce-smattered cookbooks; cleaning ragu from a keyboard is just too ridiculous. h3. Blog awards Plenty of online awards dole out kudos for weblogs. Award outfits run the gamut from the Canadian Blog Awards to the Catholic Blog Awards, which for some reason never nominates Water into Wino — a real head-scratcher. One of the oldest blog awards is the Weblog Awards, aka the Bloggies, started by Nikolai Nolan in 2001. This year's Bloggies winners were announced on March 12 at the South by Southwest Interactive Festival in Austin and, of course, online. The winner in the food category was Help! I Have A Fire In My Kitchen. Other nominees included 101 Cookbooks, Startcooking.com, Mattbites, and the soon-to-be-featured-on-these-pages Smitten Kitchen. p(bio). Liz Crain* is a writer based in Portland, Oregon.