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A blog smorgasbord
Special to The Seattle Times
What is doubling in size every 5 ½ months and is more than 60 times bigger than it was three years ago?
(Hint: It's not the national debt.) It's the blogosphere.
A blog is essentially an online journal that everyone in the world is invited to read.
A new Web log is created every second of every day, according to David L. Sifrey, the founder of Technorati, a Web site that tracks the blogosphere, keeping tabs on 36.5 million blogs.
Perhaps a thousand of those are devoted to food, with several popular sites based in the Seattle area. Writing under names like Accidental Hedonist, Cornichon, Gluten-free Girl, I Heart Bacon, Orangette, Phat Duck, Roots and Grubs, Seattle Bon Vivant and Tasting Menu, food bloggers tempt readers with culinary information of all sorts.
Where to find the food blogs
Food blogs range from the humorous to the serious:
www.accidentalhedonist.com: Comprehensive and wide-ranging essays on food, its history and politics, with recipes.
www.amateurgourmet.com: Food humor.
www.amuse-bouche.net: A mainstream media journalist obsesses about food and wine.
www.brunidigest.blogspot.com: Satirical pokes at New York Times restaurant critic Frank Bruni.
www.chezpim.typepad.com/blogs: Recipes, restaurant recommendations, food and travel stories.
www.chocolateandzucchini.com: A Parisian's food passions.
www.cookbook411.com: Recipes and ramblings about food and restaurants.
www.cornichon.org: International gourmet adventures in food and wine.
http://dinersjournal.blogs.nytimes.com: Random restaurant notes from the New York Times restaurant critic.
www.glutenfreegirl.blogspot.com: Personal notes from a food lover with celiac disease.
www.iheartbacon.com: Bacon, bacon and more bacon, with recipes.
www.orangette.blogspot.com: Personal essays with recipes.
www.phatduck.blogspot.com: Thoughtful essays by a Seattle pastry chef, with recipes.
www.rootsandgrubs.com: Musings on food and life.
www.seattlebonvivant.typepad.com: Culinary goings-on about town.
www.tastingmenu.com: Rants, raves and food adventures around the globe; also offers e-cookbooks and cool T-shirts.
www.thefoodsection.com: Informative essays on cooking and dining with extensive links.
www.wednesdaychef.typepad.com: A home cook tries out recipes from the N.Y. and L.A. Times food sections.
They share recipes, recount restaurant meals, take you shopping, into their kitchens or on the road — usually snapping photos along the way. Some claim 1,000 or 2,000 daily readers; well-established sites like Tasting Menu, founded by Hillel Cooperman, attract as many as 230,000 readers in one month.
A typical blogger spends an hour or more daily posting new entries, responding to comments, reading other blogs and tracking how many people are reading theirs. But these people also have day jobs: Cooperman works for Microsoft; Dana Bickford, who writes Phat Duck, is a pastry chef at the restaurant Eva; Gluten-free Girl Shauna James is a teacher. None make a living solely from nattering online, even if their blog carries advertising.
People read blogs not only for information but also for entertainment. Some blogs are a cyberspace variant of reality TV. The edgier bloggers are often anonymous.
"Being anonymous helps people let down their guard, allows them to write things that might be startling, or revealing or very personal," says Kate Hopkins of Accidental Hedonist. The feeling of peeping into the daily life or psyche of someone they hardly know adds to the vicarious thrill of the armchair adventurer.
Anyone can blog. It's easy and inexpensive to start one, which is one reason they are proliferating rapidly. But what makes a good blog?
"Focus, a sense of humor, frequency, a distinct voice or persona, expertise and, of course, good topics," says Ronald Holden, whose blog, Cornichon, recently appeared on About.com's list of the 10 best food blogs.
At 63, Holden is an elder statesman among bloggers. After a career that has included producing, writing, editing and restaurant reviewing for mainstream media, he finds blogging liberating. "Blogging lets you write more spirited, whimsical, youthful stuff."
"The most fun thing about my blog is that I can write about anything I want," says Matthew Amster-Burton, a freelance food writer. His four-month-old blog, Roots and Grubs, chronicles his food adventures with Iris, his 2-year-old daughter. If the results are uneven, that's part of the allure of this freewheeling medium.
"I think people understand this is an informal style of writing that gets the bare minimum of editing," he says.
People blog to share information; to connect with those who have similar passions; to provide a creative outlet; to further a pet cause or a career; even to make the world a better place. But everyone agrees: It's fun.
Hopkins, of the Accidental Hedonist, and Molly Wizenberg, of Orangette, both admit their lifelong love affairs with food led to blogging.
Hopkins' meticulous research and recipe testing for Accidental Hedonist has earned her two-year-old site a reputation as one of the most authoritative food blogs around: Roughly 2,000 people visit daily.
Wizenberg's plan to earn a Ph.D. in cultural anthropology was derailed by a research trip to Paris in summer 2004.
"After many days spent walking the city in search of the 'best' baguette, picnicking with friends and lots of champagne, writing long letters and soaking up the smells of the markets — all this instead of doing my research — I decided to leave graduate school with only my master's degree and to focus instead on food and writing."
Now she works as a publicist at the University of Washington Press when she's not writing Orangette, which attracts 1,500 people daily and was voted "Best Overall Food Blog" in the 2005 Food Blog Awards.
Some bloggers have agents who are shopping book deals. Once upon a time, aspiring food writers accumulated years of "clips," examples of their published work, to show prospective editors. Blogs can speed up that process and further careers, allowing a hitherto unknown to achieve a sort of celebrity.
Consider Julie Powell, who set the goal of cooking her way through Julia Child's book "Mastering the Art of French Cooking" and chronicled every flick of the whisk on her blog, The Julie/Julia Project. Mainstream media took the bait, and a book soon followed.
Recently, Frank Bruni of The New York Times, arguably the country's most powerful restaurant critic, started blogging — perhaps in self-defense because the Bruni Digest, a satirical blog that regularly eviscerates his restaurant reviews with the enthusiasm of a crow ripping into a Happy Meal, has become must reading for food scribes nationwide.
Most bloggers provide a list of links to other sites they like, so tap into one blog and you will soon be off on a virtual eating adventure.
Links — specifically, how many other sites direct people to yours — are a measure of a blog's popularity. They also foster a sense of community among people engaged in what can be a singularly solitary pursuit.
When bloggers come together, as they did in March for the second annual Taste Everything Independent Food Festival & Awards, the result is a virtual smorgasbord. Tasting Menu's Hillel Cooperman invited nearly 50 food bloggers to serve as jurors, asking them to single out one superlative food experience and bestow an award on it. (Check out the results at www.tastingmenu.com/awards).
The fact that the jurors spanned a sizable portion of the globe, and that the awards they gave recognized food experiences across Europe, North America and Asia is, in Cooperman's view, a testament to the power of the independent Internet food press.
"Blogs are a news source," Cooperman says. "They are timely, conversational and personal. They have a huge reach. The lack of economic restraints is a strength; it frees people."
Providence Cicero: email@example.com
Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company