Ramblings
comments 16

Are Food Bloggers “Faking It”?

Vive la revolution!

[h/t Dianne Jacob for sharing the original post.]

I told myself not to write this. There’s enough negativity on the internet. Besides, I’ve got my blog, my self published cookbook – what good would it do? Let it go.

I can’t let it go. This is a personal attack.

The test kitchen policy for my cookbook publishing company, Life of Reiley, is that the final recipe must be tested three times in the kitchen, then pass the test by a minimum of two home cooks (sometimes three depending on the recipe’s complexity) before it’s approved. If something doesn’t work out with just one of the home cooks, we go back to the start and totally retest. I know many of you test much more. I have a friend who, as an intern, once tested a cinnamon roll recipe 100 times before it was deemed fit for publication by America’s Test Kitchen. But whatever your testing policy, I know that we can all agree on the importance of ensuring that the experience of making a dish goes smoothly for a home cook.

…and…

The bloggers are, essentially, faking it. And then marketers are sharing these recipes with the public—and paying hobby cooks for the kind of skilled work most of us have spent a career developing. I also can’t help but question to what extent do the companies check to ensure the resulting recipes aren’t plagiarized from professional sources. The most important message I got from the seminar was that we, the professional journalists, researchers, home economists, recipe developers, food stylists, and photographers are getting aced out of much needed work in our chosen field by stay-at-home moms and accountants with a cooking hobby.

[Amy Reiley, Faking It, IACP.com]

Ms. Reiley,

Yes, I’m a computer programmer with a cooking hobby. Guilty as charged.

Articles like this make me doubt myself. Are you right? I agonize about this. Am I faking it? Where is the line between inspiration and plagiarism? If I think a recipe is my own, is it really original? Did I test it enough? Did I do enough proofreading?

You know what? I’m done apologizing. I write about cooking because I love it. I’m not a professional – cook, researcher, journalist, food stylist, or photographer. I’m self taught. I learned by reading everything about cooking I could lay my hands on, and trying it out in my kitchen. I learned photography the same way. That’s how I’m learning to write – by writing. I’m sorry if that’s not skilled enough for you.

With that background, I know what a home cook wants. That is what I try to write about. I follow my curiosity, keep reading, and keep learning more about food. I take pictures of what I cook, and try to explain what I learned to my readers. Then I see where I can improve – I read what I wrote, check my pictures, answer questions from my readers. I’m constantly working to get better.

I don’t have a test kitchen behind me, other than the one where I cook all the food and do all the dishes. (OK, my wife and kids help a lot with the dishes.) In the end, all my recipes work – in my kitchen, in my back yard. And they work for everyone who reads this blog, if they read the instructions, then add their own experience and intelligence.

As for “tested recipes”…no recipe is bulletproof, even if it is made one hundred times before publication. Sure, the extra testing increases the odds…but by how much? I’m an accomplished home cook, and I still have disasters when I follow published recipes exactly as they’re written.

Back to your real concern. Unwashed food bloggers like me. “Stay at home moms and accountants with a food hobby.” I am invading your turf, and there’s no one to check my bona fides, to make sure I didn’t sneak in. I’ll probably never get a show on Food TV, a book with a national publisher, or a column in a magazine or newspaper. I’m not sure any of that matters any more, and I think that’s what scares you.

I’m my own publisher, separate from your exclusive tribe of professionals. The only people who matter are my readers – if I write something worth reading, or give them a recipe that works, they come back. If that means I’m faking it, then guess what – it’s working.


Sorry about that, everyone. I know I shouldn’t feed the trolls. I’m done ranting now.

If that wasn’t enough for you, here’s a much better thought out response to that string of insults: Eggs à l’Oignon and a Defense of Food Bloggers

And here’s the post that caught my attention: Do newer recipe writers put the pros out of work?


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Filed under: Ramblings

by

Hi! I’m Mike Vrobel. I’m a dad and an enthusiastic home cook; an indie cookbook author and food blogger with a day job, a patient spouse, and three kids who would rather have hamburgers for dinner.

16 Comments

  1. jamie says

    Well, your blog is pretty much the only food one that I read, so let them rant, I like your style.

  2. TB says

    Well said.  I think the “pros” are not used to customers having other resources to turn to- we’re no longer handcuffed to printed sources.  Amusingly one place where blogs really do well is in adapting old recipes- for example, gluten-free, vegan, sugar free etc versions of classics.  I have a much easier time finding a recipe using exactly the sort of ingredients I want to use when searching the web than having to adapt printed recipes myself.

    On a related note- my pet peeve is when cookbook author pros fill a cookbook by reprinting others’ recipes found on blogs!  (this was the case with a canning book “we sure can” and I’ve seen it before)

    Thanks for a thought provoking post!

  3. Thank you! I’ve found that cooks illustrated helps me more with their general ideas (“here’s how to brine a chicken”) than the specific recipes – I pick and choose what they’ve figured out to see if it helps.

    Sorry, but the Nook version of the book is on the shelf until August 1st – I made the mistake of signing a 90 day Kindle exclusive contract. I won’t do it for the next book, I promise…

  4. Joan Savage says

    I agree about Cooks Illustrated, its interesting, but the recipes don’t always turn out or they are overly complicated.  I like your grill recipes especially, I have had success with the recipes and techniques. Maybe someday I will spring for one of those super duper Weber grills. Congrats on your book, is it at Barnes & Nobles for us Nook owners?

  5. Wow…better than CI? Thank you. I’m flattered. 

    And I agree that hubris will bring its own rewards. Food bloggers are also food lovers; I think there’s a high probability that she’s insulting potential customers. I’m certainly not buying any of her books after this…

  6. guitarzantx says

    I recently commented to my wife that you have become my first “go to” source for any technique or recipe BECAUSE YOUR RECIPES WORK BETTER FOR ME THAN “COOKS ILLUSTRATED”! Ahem. Carry on. We, your readers, love you and are grateful for your blog. Never heard of the other gal, but hubris brings its own rewards.

  7. Heidi Younggrasshopper says

    great response to that obnoxious attack <3

  8. Valerie says

    Kudos to you! Your post brought back memories of an article that I ran across early last year from a journalist who was lambasting bloggers for being, essentially, worthless. I took offense to her article. I write. I write regular articles for a woman’s lifestyle, but I also blog; and I have also penned three books. The one thing I don’t call myself is a journalist because, in all honesty, that’s not what I am. But that fact doesn’t sadden me. I absolutely LOVE what I do. I’m a writer. Heck, you are too! Keep creating those recipes, writing your cookbooks and putting your work out there! 

    My ranting diatribe from last year: http://www.vabonvivant.com/2011/03/blogger-is-not-four-letter-word.html&nbsp;

    Oh, it made my heart feel good to get that off my chest all those months ago . . . and the sentiment still applies.

    Cheers!

    BTW, with your permission, I would LOVE to feature your post on my website.

  9. Janice DeFluiter says

    I think those accusations against food bloggers are ridiculous.  A food blog is just that.  Someone with a hobby sharing their information with the world.  Food, a skill, just their writing, whatever.  Bloggers don’t try to compete with the “professionals”, we just want to have a good hobby to share.  And I agree with you that one thing I like about your blog is that all of your recipes are approachable.  They’re not full of strange ingredients or techniques.  Just super good food.  And my  expectation is that it’s recipes that you have made and tried.  The idea of an “original” recipe at this point in human history is pretty ridiculous.  We share and modify information from each other constantly. 

    So you’re justified in wanting to rant.  Anyone who has the money for a test kitchen and publishing company, etc, should probably stop whining about whether someone with a cooking hobby is also sharing recipes.  Seriously, the “I’m a victim!” mentality in our country is out of control.   Hey professional cook book people – enjoy your cushy life and leave people who do a great job of their blogs alone!    And frankly, if you feel threatened by bloggers, maybe you need to up your game! 

    Rant finished. 🙂 

    And I love seeing your recipes. 

  10. Hear, Hear! It’s worth noting, that if it weren’t for the rise of the industrialize-food-machine in the US, the rise of the “cooking-is-too-hard-for-the-average-person-how-to-cook-so-we’ll-teach-you” movement and it’s bevy of food-media-“professionals” wouldn’t have occurred. A century ago, people didn’t need “professionals” to tell them what food was an how to cook it. We learned from our parents and our friends and our neighbors. IMO, food bloggers like yourself (PS, I have a a long list of your recipes I want to try) are simply returning humanity to those roots (though, admittedly, it greatly broadens our definition of neighborhood).

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