Revelations can come at the most unexpected times. Last night, a friend of mine had been on a panel with a noted local chef who specializes in offal, and a few of them were going to head over to his restaurant afterwards for dinner. I initially declined an invitation, in fact, I had already paid my muni fare and was waiting on the platform when I realized, this could be a really awesome dinner. An in with the chef, the last seating, a large table full of adventurous, enthusiastic food people. I imagined us tasting our way through tastes and bites of the nasty bits, passing plates of tripe and savoring all the unsavory parts a whole host of animals. So I summoned up some spontaneity, resurfaced on Market street and went to join the group.
And to cut to it, the evening didn’t unfold the way I’d hoped. While the table was populated by all kinds of food people, it was half serious industry and half Food Bloggers, with me somewhere in the middle. Now, while I write about food sometimes, I’ve never really accepted the Food Blogger moniker, and until last night, I didn’t really understand why.
On the way over, one of the bloggers asked, admittedly awkwardly, if the meal was going to be comped. No, why would it be? It struck me as odd that she would even ask, but then it got even more worrisome. There was a lot of picture-taking at the table, tweeting and status updating. And I was really surprised by what people ate, and even more by what they didn’t eat. They weren’t eating the offal. I’d ordered a couple plates of ‘hoof and mouth terrine’ for the table, and hardly anyone took a bite. By and large, the blogger half ordered on the conservative side of the menu, and even when they did order something with an organ or two in it, they languished on the plate. I actually offered to finish the bits off for the woman sitting next to me- she herself admitted feeling embarrassed that she’d be sending back the exact bits this particular chef was is so passionate about.
And it left a strange taste in my mouth (the behavior, not the sweetbreads, hearts and livers I ate). Why show up to a place known for something you’re not into? And why would you spend that time documenting and note-taking instead of rolling up your sleeves and trying that could be an outstanding experience. So you can say you were there? So you can share the pictures of food and use words like “unctuous” and “yummy” to describe the “flavor profile”? To get it for free?
Yes, I write about food sometimes, but I’ve never asked for anything, never sought anything free. I also don’t expect anyone to care about anything I write. I tend to write about experiences, about those moments where food makes a memory, where it intersects with life in a beautiful, inextricable way, for better, for worse or for the simple pleasure of one wonderful bite. I write about time, I write about people. I write for me, and maybe for the handful or people who might read these words. When I have a meal or a moment that hits me, makes me feel something, I’m compelled to spend some time the next day thinking through why it made me feel that way. Like last night, even though the food wasn’t astoundingly noteworthy, the meal still was. It kept me up that night thinking, wondering, why had it bothered me (and the industry people I befriended) quite so much. And through writing and thought I have the benefit of a conclusion. Yes, I have a blog. Yes I write about food. But this doesn’t make me a food blogger. I think I can call myself a food writer, even if the only place my words end up are right here, on this blog.