For once, this post will not revolve around food… but around food bloggers.
When I started this blog a few months ago, I didn’t tell my friends and family right away: I wanted to get things rolling and have some content first (and, if possible, hone my photo skills a bit). But recently, I gave my father-in-law The Chocolate Bunny’s URL. Yes, the same father-in-law who helped me out on the last Daring Cooks’ challenge: it was only fair to show him what I’d been up to with the powders we’d made.
He had some very nice things to say about the blog itself, but one of his appreciations concerns you guys: having read most of your comments, he told me he was impressed by how nice and friendly everyone is.
This got me thinking. It’s true that I have never read a nasty comment on a food blog, or even on a food forum. I think we take it for granted, but think about it: have you ever read something along the lines of “Ewww, that soup looks gross!” or “i hate ur writing, ur blog is boooooring” on a food blog? I think I’d be shocked if I did.
And God knows there are plenty of nasty comments on other parts of the Internet. I have a private blog on LiveJournal, and there are loads of quarrels between members over there. And, as my father-in-law has shown me, even something as apparently innocent as an opera video on YouTube can lead to really horrible comments: not just disagreements, but downright offensive insults.
So what is it about the food blogosphere that makes people so gosh-darn nice? Why is this place such a haven? I can think of three hypotheses, some of which don't quite work:
Hypothesis 1: Food is not a controversial topic.
Most often, when I see people arguing (or hurling insults at each other) on the Web, it’s usually because of social, political, or otherwise intellectual reasons. I’m sure you can all think of touchy topics that generate aggressive comments: pro-choice vs pro-life, gay rights, political opinions, religious opinions, and even tastes in books and music (e.g., Wagner being associated with anti-Semitism, and so forth).
Compared to such topics, food seems like a pretty tame subject. Because it’s more sensual than intellectual (even though we all know a lot of concentration goes into some recipes), people are less likely to see it as a point of contention. You either like zucchini, or you don’t. And it would be pretty ridiculous to write something like: “Glargh! You made Russian stuffed cabbage! You must be a Communist!”
And yet… Is it really that much of a stretch to imagine someone getting upset about food for socio-political reasons? My above example was intentionally ridiculous, but what if someone posted a recipe featuring an ingredient that came from a country under a totalitarian regime? After all, food boycotts are not all that uncommon. Or what if someone made a dish featuring endangered ingredients or wildlife? Food choices do not exist in a vacuum, and they are closer to controversy than we might think.
But despite that, I have never seen vegans make aggressive comments about meat-based recipes on food blogs, for example. Despite the potential for controversy and disagreement, people just don’t seem to go there. Why?
Hypothesis 2: People who like to spend time in the kitchen are happier in general.
I don’t really believe in this one, but I thought I’d mention it anyway. Food bloggers cook, bake, and write about food because they enjoy it. By all logic, people who can indulge in something they enjoy would tend to be happy, and happy people don’t spit venom all over the Internet.
But then, where did the stereotype of the Temperamental Foodie come from? You’ve all seen representations of him/her in pop culture: I can think of the main character in the German movie Mostly Martha (remade in the US as No Reservations), or the food critic in Ratatouille, or even Conan O’Brien’s satirical portrayal of Martha Stewart as the Devil. That stereotype must have some grounding in reality. As much as we would like to imagine that cooks and bakers are all happy and nurturing, that’s probably not true: foodies can be nasty, just like any other group of people. (Not that I personally know any mean foodies, but there must be some out there.)
Hypothesis 3: People who care about food are more sensitive to decorum and etiquette.
Or, in other words, food bloggers are more civilized. Again, the Temperamental Foodie stereotype goes somewhat against this idea, but it still seems like the most plausible theory.
My reasoning goes: if food bloggers go to the trouble of making elaborate, tasty dishes, arranging them with care, photographing them from every angle, and then writing a long, entertaining post about it, it’s because they care about how it will come across to other people (their readers). They care about what people will think of them and of what they do. And this probably shows through when they comment on other foodies’ blogs (because only foodies look at food blogs): if you go around degrading others gratuitously, chances are people will not have a very positive image of you. It’s not hypocrisy – it’s manners. Foodies have manners.
Well, that’s my take on it, anyway. If anyone has other ideas or thoughts on this, I’d be more than happy to hear them.
So I’d just like to close by thanking each and every one of you for being so friendly and encouraging. I’m really having a blast with this blog, and it’s all thanks to you.
And to reward you for reading all the way through, here are pictures of the focaccia I made this weekend:
I used Marcy Goldman’s recipe for Summery Tomato, Zesty Olive and Onion Focaccia, topped with fresh basil.
It was really addictive, a crispy, stronger-tasting take on our usual, traditional caprese salad (oh, basil and tomatoes, how I love thee). Happy days!