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Food fanaticism

(article, Liz Crain)

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Over the past five years, Derrick Schneider has documented his obsessions with food and wine on his blog, An Obsession With Food (And Wine). Blog topics range from rendering lard to falling in love with wine. And thanks to Schneider’s wife, Melissa, the blog features a tasty array of her photographs.

[%image derrick float=right caption="Derrick Schneider" credit="Photo courtesy An Obsession With Food (And Wine)"]

p(blue). Blog: An Obsession With Food (And Wine)
Average posts per month: 18
Blogger: Derrick Schneider
Age: 36
Blog place of origin: Oakland, California

Lately Schneider has been obsessed with making ice cream: butternut-squash sorbet, olive-oil ice cream, etc. The obsession began when his mom gave him an ice-cream machine last year for his birthday. 

Another obsession is more obscure: Schneider collects and designs mechanical puzzles, many of which directly relate to food and wine. Check out the three-dimensional chocolate Popsicle puzzle. 

[[block(sidebar).

h1. Liz's favorite posts

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1. Rendering lard 2.0 
2. Advice for bloggers turned writers
3. Ten pounds of pork belly 
4. What I made for dinner last night

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Schneider’s plate is full these days. He maintains two blogs (the other is titled An Obsession With Everything Else), teaches a wine class at the University of California, Berkeley, writes freelance food and wine stories, and holds down a day job as a computer programmer. 

When did you start writing?
I used to write short stories to entertain my classmates in the eighth grade. Silly fantasy stuff, but they liked it. Does that count? 

Fifteen years ago, I wrote a number of computer articles and a couple of computer books that were considered must-have books by Macintosh power users. I still run into people who say, "You wrote Zen and the Art of Resource Editing?! I loved that book!" or, "I started programming because of The Tao of AppleScript." It's weird. 

[%image "ice cream" float=right width=200 caption="Ice cream and cookies, photographed by Melissa Schneider." credit="Photo courtesy An Obsession With Food (And Wine)"]

The blog started four-and-a-half years ago, the freelance food and wine writing started about four years ago.

What type of blog entry is most popular with your readership?
I wish I knew. My technique posts, where I share in-depth looks at my discoveries and experience, seem to generate the most comments. In a way, they're the core of my own cooking philosophy, which is that recipes are nice and all, but good cooking comes from a repertoire of techniques you can use without thinking. 

Plus, everyone likes to add their two cents. I've learned a lot by posting my version of a technique and then reading the comments about alternate strategies/traditions. 

Longtime readers often mention my dinner-party posts, but we've been off the entertaining wagon for a little while; I can't wait until we start again.

Which foods are you not obsessed with?
I don't spend a lot of time thinking about diet food or vegan dishes. I will probably never focus my obsessiveness on tofu, for instance.

How has your blog writing affected your freelance food writing?
An Obsession With Food_ gives me a chance to hammer out the rough spots in new-for-me writing styles before I try them on a client. For instance, narrative nonfiction is a weak point of mine, and every now and then I try to work in a post along those lines so that I can see what I need to improve. 

Also, my ever-inquisitive readers have taught me how to anticipate questions that a publication's readers might have. If I don't explain a topic well, my audience quickly lets me know. 

What new food blogs have impressed you lately?
As I write this, The Ethicurean is still less than a year old, so that's new, right? Any food blog less than two years old seems like a baby to me. 

The Ethicurean team covers food issues in a way I wish I could. But now I don't need to; I can just send people to them. That's the blog everyone should read. 

For similar reasons, I read the Edible Nation blog, but that may be a cheating answer because it's an outgrowth of Sauté Wednesday, which isn't new by anyone's definition. 

[%image popsicle float=left caption="The fabled chocolate-Popsicle puzzle." credit="Photo courtesy An Obsession With Food (And Wine)"]

What aggravates you about food blogs?
The same things that aggravate me about blogs in general. I don't expect every blogger to be a literary genius, but I'd be happy if authors read a post to themselves one more time before hitting "publish." I cringe when I read the amateurish writing on my older posts, but I don't find a dozen typos per post or gobbledygook sentences. 

Also, we tend to explode around a topic like startled birds. Any Michael Pollan or Harold McGee article will create a barrage of links that point without adding content. I'm guilty of this too, but I'll skip posting about an important topic once I've seen it on a dozen other food blogs. 

What's your forecast for the next decade in the food-blog world?
Blogging itself is only a decade old, and food blogs have only been around as a genre for half that time, so I'm sure any prediction I make will look silly years from now. But I think that video and video podcasts will become as commonplace as photos. 

Food blogs didn't have pretty pictures until the authors had high-quality cameras. As more of us wanted them, the prices came down. I think the same thing will happen with digital video. Plus, everyone likes to gripe about the Food Network; eventually someone will say, "I can do this better." And I think you'll see more food blog celebrities, even as some current stars lose their luster.

p(bio). Liz Crain is a writer in Portland, Oregon.


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