I have a confession. I am addicted to food blogs. Every other day or so I start to itch, craving the updates from my blogger friends at Orangette, Chocolate and Zucchini, Obsession with Food, Gluten Free Girl, Smitten Kitchen, Baking and Books, etc…
Without fail, I check these sites to find out what amazing dishes the bloggers have made that week. I linger over their artistic food photos and print out recipes to use for Shabbat dinner or Sunday brunch. With the exception of Baking and Books’ blogger Ari (who is a friend and co-worker of mine and a contributor to The Jew and the Carrot), I don’t know any of these bloggers personally. Regardless, I’m absolutely hooked to their lives and their kitchens.
I have a sneaking suspicion that these blogs’ highly addictive quality comes from their formula, which is essentially the same across the board. Most often (though not always) this genre of food blogs is written by women in their 20s and 30s. Their writing style – quirky, whimsical, and familiar – draws readers in as if the conversation was going on over a rustic kitchen table instead of the internet. The content varies slightly from blog to blog, but usually mixes three elements: recipes, sexy food photos, and personal diary or, I perhaps more accurately, e-bragging.
Take the following excerpt from Orangette, as she describes the cakes she’s making for her own wedding:
“Our wedding cake is one that’s familiar to a lot of you. It’s a riff on this cake, the fudgiest, tastiest, most worthy one I know. Its formal name is gâteau au chocolat fondant, meaning a soft, rich, melty-centered cake, but my friend Kate prefers to call it the “winning hearts and minds” cake. She’s got the right idea. It’s powerful, persuasive stuff. It’s not something you’d want to serve to someone you feel so-so about. It’s what you serve when you want someone to stick around. Like, you know, your husband.
I’m making twenty of them. It’s not nearly as bad as it seems, I promise. It’s actually a breeze. I just stir, bake, wrap, and freeze; stir, bake, wrap, and freeze. Their texture and flavor actually improves with a week or two in the freezer, which makes them the easiest, most unfussy wedding cake I can imagine. The work-to-pleasure ratio is about 1:10, I’d say. They’re not beauty queens, of course, but I don’t care a wink. I never liked white frosting much, anyway.”
I do not know this woman, and would probably not recognize her on the street! But there’s something so oddly satisfying about getting a glimpse into another woman’s kitchen and life that keeps me coming back.
On the flipside, I think the addiction is somewhat unhealthy. There is an element of jealously as I read about these women’s Amelie-esqe lives, their loving partners, and perfect ginger muffins. I am fortunate enough to have my own kitchen, my own recipes, and my own wonderful relationship, (though admittedly I don’t have a great digital camera yet!) – but still, reading these blogs sometimes feels like I’m back in junior high and jealous that my friend held hands with the cute boy at the Bar Mitzvah and I didn’t.
These food blogs sites generate plenty of comments from readers – many of whom also don’t know the blogger – saying things along the lines of:
“It’s so exciting! Your cakes and pickles and cards are lovely. Is it strange to squeal because of a cross-country wedding of someone you’ve never met? Oh, well! Squeal!”
Stepping back, it seems slightly ridiculous for a blog post to garner 47 identical, gushing comments – I can’t help but wonder if the people leaving these comments are being entirely genuine. Don’t any of them want to write:
“Lady, get over yourself. Do you think anybody really cares about your freaking wedding cake?”
But that’s just it – through a mixture of curiosity, admiration, and envy, I do care.