This post originally appeared on FoodRiot.com on Aug. 26, 2013.
I started my first food blog in 2008, when I was getting ready to begin culinary school. I knew almost nothing about food, including how to make it taste good. I posted hideous, overexposed photos like this one of shrimp overcooking in orange tomato sauce with a dirty wall backdrop.
I was stiff and often overly descriptive to make up for the fact that I didn’t know what the eff I was doing. Worst of all, I used no capital letters, except in reference to my chef-instructors.
As bad as my early blogging was, I am really grateful to have documentation of my entire year of culinary school. (I still get nasty, albeit hilarious, comments every so often on the laminated dough entry from people who are flabbergasted at my terrible technique.) And there are some wonderful little nuggets in there that I’m sure I’ll cherish 50 years on, like the first time my mom made German rot kraut without her mother, the afternoon I spent learning to make pie with my future mother-in-law, and the time I visited chef Sarah Stegner (owner of Prairie Grass Café in Northbrook, Ill.) at her home to help her plant an edible garden with her daughter.
Call blogging dated if you want, but it is a wonderful place for an inexperienced writer to gain confidence, or for an experienced one to find release (I’ve used it in both capacities). As a recipe writer, I learned how important it is to list ingredients in the order of use and to be very specific and clear when explaining cooking techniques and steps. As a writer, I’ve learned to trust my own voice and my unique expertise instead of just copying the style that had already been perfected by the Ree Drummonds, Molly Wizenbergs and Heidi Swansons of the world. As a food blogger, I’ve learned–above all–the value of natural light in amateur food photography.
I still have my hang-ups, like my tendency to be longwinded (see above), my penchant for extreme close-up food shots and my severe lack of chicken recipes–because I think chicken is kind of boring. Sometimes I wish I were a little funnier and a little less sentimental. And all the time I wish I had Will Self’s vocabulary and Deb Perelman’s camera.
But doesn’t relentless self-deprecation often make for good writing? Sure, unless all your readers want is a few decent chicken recipes.