I just finished my first semester of journalism school. It was a fast-paced tough kind of fun, but my extracurriculars took a beating: Ethics class called food-blogging unprofessional, slamming bloggers for accepting free food, guest-speakers labeled bloggers as “amateurs,” and professors rolled their eyes when they found out I was a food blogger.
The term blogger was automatically considered subordinate to journalist.
Sometime I feel embarrassed to be known as ‘the food writer’ in my class. It doesn’t feel good enough, like I’m not a real journalist if I’m not breaking the biggest news story or talking about environmental issues. Other times I impress my classmates with my twitter following or daily WordPress views.
All of a sudden, I keep asking myself, why do food blogs matter?
Am I fake? Am I a poser? Am I an imitation journalist?
It’s been hard. I am stuck in a journalist-blogger limbo struggling to decide what’s important.
But who decides what’s important? Don’t bloggers and journalists do the same thing? They do research, they talk to people, they tweet, they write, they tell stories. Sometimes journalists are bloggers, bloggers become journalists, they can be synonymous.
Food blogs matter because the people who write them matter. Bloggers devote hours creating recipes, sharing stories, taking beautiful photographs perpetuating culture that is as old and precious as humanity itself. Sharing food is the oldest tradition there is, so what’s wrong with writing about the most popular ‘food trend‘ of them all: breaking bread.
Grandparents have shared recipes with loved ones, passing down techniques to future generations on little stained notecards. Aren’t bloggers just passing on culture through computer screens instead of scribbled handwriting? Bloggers expand the cookie diaspora on a scale your nanny can’t even fathom. That’s why food blogs matter.
Despite how pervasive social media foodpics may have become, food is culture, and bloggers dissipate it. I love being able to google ‘northern Italian ragu’ and mill through hundreds of recipes that have been cherished and enjoyed for decades. It’s just so easy now, that’s why food blogs matter.
Food blogs inform, they entertain, they incite converasation.
I write because I want to write, I want to create, and I don’t always need a pay-check to do that (although, let’s be honest, getting paid to write is the dream scenario). Most bloggers do all the work that journalists do for free. I pay for all the meals I review because I love to do it. I love the people I have met through blogging, the conversational way in which I write, and of course all the food that I have eaten.
I love to write about food, to tell stories about taste, experience, and culture. To let people know about the hole-in-the-wall cantonese bakery or the giant bowl of cacio e pepe I ate in Rome.
So why isn’t this enough anymore? Why don’t I feel genuine writing blog posts? Why did I get too swept up in Instagram likes and breaking news stories? Why do I need to figure out if I am journalist or a blogger, or if the label even matters to me?
I am going to take an official break over the holidays- the first one I’ve taken in two years writing on The Food Girl in Town- and just let my writing be my writing. Telling stories about people, about place, about food is so important to me, and I need to figure the best way to do that: forcing myself to post every week when it’s not the best writing I can do just doesn’t cut it anymore. This Christmas I will enjoy my friends and family off the grid, eat my face off and not think about posting a picture of my plate on Instagram. And not panic about what I am going to write about next.
That’s what January is for.