Wednesday, May 10, 2006

On a Month and a Half of Food Blogging

-Wow, blogging takes up a lot of time. I'd estimate it takes me an hour to an hour and a half to write a pretty basic post/recipe. I used to read in my free time! Now I'm writing up my dinner.

-My photos are rubbish and that probably won't change anytime soon. I use a cheapie digital camera that my dad got as a thank-you present at a work conference. But I know that the fault really lies with me, not the camera. I have almost no understanding of basic photography, including stuff like lighting, and I don't feel like learning. Like that Harold guy on Bravo's Top Chef, I'm, you know, a cook, man, not some photographer!

-When reading high-end food blogs, I sometimes wonder why I bother. The stunning photography, the 10-course dinner parties, the Michelin-starred restaurants... I remind myself that I aspire to be a good home cook, a good housewife cook, as some snooty French chef put it on Top Chef.

-Do I post about my failures? I like it when bloggers write their kitchen blunders and recipes that just don't turn out. Still, when I failed spectacularly in making tuiles last week, I tossed out the cookie scraps and put away my camera. I regret this now; it would have made an amusing post. I should have started with a pic of the ruined tuiles and the title "This Is Not a Tuile." But too many mistakes and blah recipes are overkill. I like to pick up tricks and hints and promising recipes from the blogs I read.

-"A blog needs a sense of purpose. The author can't just curl up on the sofa like an overfed retriever and recollect his last bowl of kibble; he should strain forward like a terrier who's late for an appointment with a ham bone."

Some wag wrote the above back in March and ruffled a few feathers in the food blogging world. But I think he's right. My purpose, I suppose, is to write about Russian home cooking. Problem is, I don't cook Russian food every day, or even every week. In the past few days, I made perfectly good and even kind of photogenic food, including an Asian-type stir fry with noodles and swordfish with sauteed potatoes (tonight's dinner).

But I didn't blog about these meals because they don't fit my theme. Plenty of other bloggers can cook and write about this kind of food better than I can. Here's what I do want to write about in the future: Kvas (rye bread beer), plov (Uzbek lamb and rice stew), eggplant and red pepper salad, Uzbek food in general (my boyfriend's family is from Uzbekistan), more good things to do with beets and tvorog.

-I started a blog and the world failed to notice. What's wrong with you, world?! Leave one freakin' comment or something!


Anonymous said...

Yulinka--Your post made me laugh so hard; you remind me of myself, but funnier. If you look back at my blog entries you will see lots of blurry photos. I wanted a new camera but my husband put his foot down and said I needed to learn to use the one we had. I had 2 people giving me tips via email that helped more than hours scrutinizing the incomprehensible manual. One was to turn the flash off and try to use natural or at least just bright light. The other was to look for this little flower--that indicates the setting for close-up shots. Also, make sure you push the button half-way down; that focuses it, then depress completely.

As far as the blog itself having a theme, that's the first I have heard of it but I suppose it makes sense. My son and I don't really have one, though. So our blog is all over the place. I do know what you mean about feeling intimidated by all the beautiful and professional blogs out there; there are so many of them. And I don't know which to wish for, with our amateur efforts, more readers, or fewer! As it is, we get about 400 unique hits a day, which amazes me. How in the world did you happen upon us, for instance? One thing I did was register our blog on Food Porn Watch and that got us a lot of readers. Another was I just picked a couple of blogs I read regularly and comment on and I think that gives us visibility.
And I had to laugh when you wrote about how time-consuming you are finding it to be. Me, too!!! I don't know how these bloggers do it who write long screeds every day, cook these gourmet feasts, presumably shop all over for organic ingredients, have impressive resumes, have demanding jobs, some have families and real lives, etc. For instance, right now I'm sitting in bed still in my nightgown and I haven't even brushed my teeth yet! And a lot of bloggers keep up with other blogs and comment regularly, too. Like you, I used to read and have a life and now I'm consumed with anxiety over my blog. I was dreaming about it last night. And I share responsibility for mine with my son in New York. Unfortunately he's going on vacation today so I'm on my own for 10 days--eek!!

Mrs. M. said...

Hi, Rebecca.

Thanks for your thoughtful comments and photo tips! Yes, this little blog is consuming me with anxiety too. I have a relatively low-stress 9-5 job, no kids, no pets, no huge responsibilities, so I don't know how bloggers with busy lives find the time.

And the technical stuff is just a mystery to me. For example, I just started thinking about syndication and RSS feeds. I can't even explain how that stuff works or how to set it up.

(Still, like many bloggers, I'm starting to plan my cooking around my blog.)

I registed my blog with Food Porn Watch, too, but I don't think I got many readers that way. As for finding you blog, I'm pretty sure another site I read linked to it--I can't remember which one right now. That's how I make most of my blog discoveries.

Good luck with blogging on your own! I'm looking forward to reading your posts.

Anonymous said...

Hi yulika-Thanks for visiting Toast. That's how I found you, though I stopped by once before when mzn of Haverchuk mentioned that he was delighted to see another food blogger in town.

I know just how you feel about the photography. I too have a cheapie camera, and was not very interested in learning how to take good food pictures. I feel like I have improved, though, and I actually enjoy taking them now.

Rebecca is quite right that one key is natural light, at least for amateurs like us. Food just looks lurid with a flash. I take my dinner on the porch. In addition to focus, a steady camera does wonders. you can approximate a tripod effect by steadying the camera on a pile of books.

Not that I think my photography is anything special- but I do think it has improved a lot, and that the pictures do a better job of showing what the food looks like than when I started.

Good luck-and I'll be back!

Anonymous said...

PS I too have a fulltime job, but am a widow with grown daughter and very few other responsibilities. (Cats, elderly parent lives nearby) I haven't given up reading, but sleep less than I used to. I now almost never watch tv, however!

Anonymous said...

Lindy's too modest, her photos have inspired me! But that's a good idea, putting the camera on a pile of (cook)books--I have been trying to steady the camera by just putting my elbows on the kitchen counter.

Hey, Yulinka, thanks for the link; when my son gets home from vacation I will get him to put a link to your blog on our page. I would do it but I don't know how. :)

I read the article you refer to about blogs having themes and now I feel like a foolish old jerk "writing about a grilled cheese sandwich".

Mrs. M. said...

Lindy--Thanks for stopping by. I think your pix look very nice, but I find that food bloggers are very hard on themselves when it comes to photos.

I haven't given up reading either, but I should really give up some sleep. It's almost farmer's market season but I know I'll have trouble getting up earlier on weekends to actually make it to any farmer's markets.

Rebecca--Don't feel foolish! I think Kalyn of Kalyn's Kitchen started a "Grilled Cheese Sandwich" day, when food bloggers were supposed blog about their favorite cheese sandwiches in defiance of this article. This was back in March, but I'm sure you could find it in her archives.

I thought the article was very tongue-in-cheek, but it did have some good pointers for food bloggers. I might write about a favorite cheese sandwich, keeping my blog's "sense of purpose" in mind, of course!

Anonymous said...

I noticed! ;)

Anonymous said...

Great site lots of usefull infomation here.

Betty Carlson said...

Interesting post, Yulinka. I like blogs with a theme -- otherwise you end up reading about somebody's cat. But you shouldn't be too strict about it. As long as your blog is basically about Russian cooking (interesting theme BTW) you should feel free to indulge in a few other subjects from time to time. Blogging is about freedom to write what you want, after all...

As far as "nobody noticing", it seems to me you have a lot of comments for a fairly new blog! So keep it up and keep visiting other people's blogs. Good luck!

neil said...

Well you got me from Food Porn Watch and I can say that it was the Russian food angle that caught my eye. Don't worry about the pictures too much, I hardly use any, though sometimes I think they can be useful. Here are two links that might have something for you and Good Luck!

Helen said...

Hi Yulinka,

What do you mean the world didn't notice? I noticed! It's so exciting to have a blog dedicated to Russian food. I know what you mean about all those sexy food blogs out there. It's hard to compete with all that food porn, but the writing on some of those popular blogs is not always great and most of them don't make me laugh out-loud like you do.

About the theme... Oh I hear ya sister! I am struggling with the same thing. My intended theme is fish and I do cook plenty of it, but still I am tempted to deviate from it when I cook something I really liked. With Russian food it must be even harder. I love it, but I find that I barely cook it in the warmer months. It's just hard to take advantage of our seafood and produce in the summer with Russian dishes. But I bet the cuisines of Uzbekistan, Armenia, and Georgia would be perfect in the summer. Too bad, I don't know much about them. So I am really looking forward to your posts.


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Irina said...

Greetings Yulinka,
I can't tell you how much I am enjoying your blog. I found it while looking for tvorog on Google. My mother used to make pascha at Easter and I was loooking for the right kind of cheese to use. I certainly intend to try your recipe but have you ever used the commercial Farmer's cheese from the grocery store? If so, how did it work out?

Mrs. M. said...

Irina--I've never tried commercial farmer's cheese. If you're curious, I'd go ahead and use it, though. I think some of the local Russian groceries sell homemade farmer's cheese and I've always wanted to try their versions.

Natalie said...

Yulya thanks,
I was Googling "tvorog" and found your site. It is a good idea to use butter milk, yogurt works as well, but it seems to take more time.
Please keep blogging, the information is very helpful.


Mrs. M. said...

Hi Natalie,
Glad the tvorog recipe is useful! I've never tried the yogurt method. Maybe one of these days. This seems to be the easier way to make tvorog, though.

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