"Food blogs fall loosely into categories I call the six Rs: reviews, recipes, rants, raves, rumours and reflections." Paul Best - Sydney Morning Herald
"We like to call it the trifecta of a successful blog: excellent recipes, writing and imagery" Relish
I'm returning to my exercise of looking at successful blogs - and in the process of doing so I realised that part of the reason for doing this is to see what I can learn about my own and try to understand why this particular group of blogs appear in various Best Foodie Blogs lists. I hasten to say that I am not saying that mine should be there - it certainly should not. No I'm just intrigued by why one 'successful' blog has been picked over another. I have another list which I visit from time to time, but those are just randomly picked because their title appealed to me in some way - on that particular day I should say, because what appeals on one day might not on another. Otherwise we would be eating the same food every day wouldn't we? They mostly don't appear on those Best of lists, and often, are, in fact, more interesting.
So today's blog is the above - Nish Kitchen - which is named after its creator Rose, whose friends call her Nisha. She is from Adelaide and of Indian ancestry, and therefore a large number of recipes on her website are indeed Indian. And I am going to try this one - Beef pepper fry - sometime soon because it's one of our favourite dishes from our favourite Indian restaurant Haveli Heritage. It's designed for a pressure cooker, but I reckon I can convert it to an ordinary stovetop. There are a lot of recipes from elsewhere in the world though.
In her About section Rose says:
"My ultimate goal is to inspire you to create simple, delicious meals for your family and have an adventure right in your own kitchen."
Which, to be honest, is a bit vapid and certainly not original, but doubtless heartfelt. She trained as a physiotherapist but always wanted to do something more creative. I wonder if this was an example of immigrant families pushing their children to achieve respectable professional status in their new country. She doesn't really explain why she started blogging, but she does say:
"When I wrote the first blog post and zoomed in my lens to capture the best possible shot, I was literally pushing myself beyond my comfort zone and entering a new world of culinary adventure. Eventually, I started to love every minute of my career as a blogger, and this turned out to be an incredible platform to showcase some of the creative ideas overcrowding my brain."
So doing something creative was obviously an impetus, and one that I share with her. The photographs on her site are certainly eye-catching. And yes, I do think you need them, in spite of all the downsides of food porn:
“At the end of the day, sometimes people take pictures from the moment they get somewhere and the camera disengages them from the emotion of being in the environment and the moment, as opposed to taking in the atmosphere, smelling, seeing, hearing, touching, feeling, all of those senses ... some diners are too busy framing their shot for Instagram to realise what’s in front of them." Heston Blumenthal - Fine Food Australia
Well that's just one aspect of food porn I guess. If you are creating a hopefully commercial food blog though, you need quality photographs. I can't see how you can be a success without them. There is so much competition in that world. And so as you go along and learn to write, you also learn to take photographs and create videos too. Some food videos out there are truly awful. Her videos are pretty good, but to see the one of the recipe you are looking at you have to register. Neat way of getting more viewers. The photographs are great though. Here is her current featured recipe Chicken and Mushroom Stroganoff for example and another that caught my eye - Avocado Hollandaise, and the Lemon curd on the Home page shot at the top of the page is similarly lush.
Now I haven't tested out any of these recipes but I have no reason to question their quality, but there is not a lot else on the website. There are no personal stories, no history, no cookbooks to see and buy, so from those six R's deemed necessary by Paul Best there are only recipes, and from the trifecta of excellent writing, recipes and imagery, the writing is a bit lacking. But she is obviously successful as she did appear on at least one of those Best lists. Indeed so successful that her Chicken stroganoff recipe is able to be sponsored by Everten and Tefal - the recipe is quite a sales pitch for them. So maybe her recipes are indeed truly delicious and maybe I've got this blogging thing all wrong, and actually all people want of food blogs is recipes. Indeed I saw one long rant from someone about how annoyed he was by the amount of 'writing' on some sites, when all he wanted to do was get to the recipe.
It certainly seems to me that the really successful blogs, such as Recipe Tin Eats, and Almost Nigella are mostly about the recipe. Although those two often give at least a tiny bit of background. The main irritation for me about all of these successful blogs is not the text but the huge number of ads that interrupt the text and that flash away in the sidebar. I am also irritated by the fact that the vast majority of them sort of look the same - they have the same template it seems to me - even, perhaps particularly - down to the way the recipes themselves are written. Wordpress?
Going back to the six R's - Reviews - well that's obviously a specialist kind of site and not one that I am much interested in and therefore have not much sought out - or even come across - and it probably includes the Raves, although I suppose that applies to Recipes too. Rumours - ditto. This sounds very social media like to me. The Rants and the Reflections are what would interest me - combined with the Recipes. For I am interested in the recipes and have fallen over and over again into the trap of just listing recipes that have caught my eye on my own blog. The truly great blogs for me, though are really professional in that they are linked to actual newspapers or magazines - like the Guardian posts - such as Rachel Roddy's Kitchen in Rome for the Guardian and her personal one - Rachel Eats. I don't know whether the posts for the Guardian count as foodie blogs though.
And the six Rs do not include travel (Rambling maybe?) which is another big thing that turns up in food blogs.
I don't really like those six Rs though. I don't think they truly reflect what blogging and food blogging in particular is all about. I think the distinction is between the personal - those that are sort of journals, or journeys of discovery for their writers, or educational in some way - and those that are fundamentally there to make money - which sounds harsh I guess. What I really mean is that the commercial blogs have been set up as a way of developing a career related to something the author loves. And why not? Well done them.
So why do people like me - not the ones looking for a money-making career - do it? I fear it's a vanity thing. We either think that we are wonderful cooks and feel we should share our brilliant recipes (not me), or we want to do something creative (me). Do we all have a yearning to do something creative I wonder? I suspect so, be it, gardening, writing, painting, arranging furniture, knitting jumpers - whatever. There are so many ways to be creative in this world, and in the modern world we like to share our creations. I'm too old to do it the social media way, but I'm just young enough to grasp how to use a computer and the internet, and so - my blog. I know I'm repeating myself somewhat, but for me, food is an interest, and it covers so many aspects of life - not just recipes. I think that's what pulls me in. It gives me something to do and makes me think about something new every day.
"the satisfaction of having a corner of the web that is all your own is unlike any other." Relish
Yes I think that's it - and it is tiny - I get excited if I get ten readers. Those successful blogs are around a million - well hundreds of thousands anyway. I think I would be appalled if I had lots of readers - somewhat embarrassed even.
Anyway from the 'why' and 'how to insights' that I found I give you a selection which appealed to me and helped explain why I do it.
"A blog is a personal journal and there is no real rule of writing a food blog" Wikipedia
"Blog to share your voice, make friends and cook fantastic food." Relish - I have yet to make new friends through this exercise, it's more confirming friendships one already has.
"Understand yourself through your writing. Start your food blog with general content, as many do. Eventually you’ll find what you really want to write about. It could be family stories, healthy eating, or your obsession with Chinese take-out. Writing regularly helps you answer questions about yourself, what interests you, and what matters to you." Dianne Jacob
I'm not sure I have really done that as yet - found what I really want to write about that is - and I'm not sure I ever will. I do know that I repeat myself though, for which I apologise.
"After all, you can only post about spaghetti and meat sauce so many times before both you and your audience will start craving something out-of-the-box. A commitment to regular posting can act as a motivator to push your limits in the kitchen." Relish - 'Out of the box' - not very often I'm afraid. But I try. And it does make me try to be more creative in the kitchen.
"The point is to get better. To learn as you go. To find your voice. Hold yourself accountable. Stay current. Challenge yourself. Figure out another way to say "salty" because you’ve already used that word and what if, maybe, you talked about the air by the ocean instead?" Emma Laperruque - Food 52
Which brings me back to all of those food blogs which really are just recipe sites - and today's chosen site. Yes they please the eye. Yes they are useful if you are looking for a recipe for a particular dish. Yes the food is good, even very good, but there is nothing more there. No insights into life the universe and everything, or even your own kitchen. Nish Kitchen is a prime example. Looks good, the food looks very tempting - and I will try that beef pepper fry sometime soon, but there are no quotable quotes, and I don't learn anything about the origins of Beef Kurumulakittathu (it's Indian name), and nothing personal about why the author has chosen to present this particular recipe, or anything about the author either - even if it is just fairly mindless stuff about cooking with the grandchildren.
And just to put me and all food bloggers in our place:
"They are extremely self-entitled and feel as though they deserve special treatment simply because they write about food. Any jerk with a laptop can do that." Scandinavian chef
To be fair I think he was talking about blogging 'influencers'. And I do mine on an iMac, not a laptop - well except when I'm away on holiday. Will that ever happen again?