Thursday, May 8, 2008

Happy Birthday to Recent Eats

It is hard to believe that it's been a whole year since I decided to up and start a blog focused on food and drink in the LA area. Since then, I may have eaten my weight in doughnuts, pupusas, cheese and chocolate, all washed down with whiskey and mezcal...not a bad life if you can get it.

On this blog birthday (which coincidentally coincides roughly with my own), I thought I would take some time to reflect on some of the things learned in my year of blogging.

1. Blogging is harder than it looks

Sure, I thought, it'll be easy to do. I love food, what's the big deal if I occasionally write it up. Well, after a year of keeping to a pretty rigorous schedule of three posts per week, I have to say that it's pretty tough. Sometimes you get writer's block, or you just don't have time (we have jobs, you know) or you just want to eat somewhere you've been before ("I went to NBC Seafood again" doesn't make for great blogging). So if the posts occasionally lack finesse or originality, if you shrug and say "so what, everyone knows about that place," then you'll know, it's been a tough week, and hopefully those occasions will be the exception and not the rule.

I might add that one thing this project has done is increase my respect for real food critics. Before I review a place, I usually go one or maybe two times tops. My articles are short and I mostly give my opinion. Huge props to the Ruth Reichels, Irene Virbilas and Jonathan Golds of the world who do three, four...ten visits, engage in intensive research on each place and its cuisine and still manage to crank out one or two well-written, engaging columns per week. It's harder than it looks and probably less fun than it sounds.

2. Food blogging is Fattening

The New York Times recently covered this issue, but I can confirm it's true...I have the new pants to prove it.

3. Food blogging is expensive

If you work at a magazine or are a food critic, your employer generally pays for your meals, but if you are a food blogger, unless you are one of the few, really high profile ones, you pay your own way. Now, as a lower end food blogger who likes to review Thai, dim sum and hot dogs, this isn't such a big deal for me since, hey, I gotta' eat anyway. Where it gets me is the whiskey.

Like food critics, professional whiskey writers get free samples. For me, if I review a whiskey, it's very likely that I shelled out for the bottle. It's possible that I tasted it at a bar or from a friend, but given the dearth of good whiskey bars in LA, I most likely paid for it...and that adds up. It has also created somewhat of a backlog of mostly full bottles at my house, to the dismay of some family members who don't seem to care for finding whiskey bottles commingled with their shoes, clothes and other belongings. Someday, I'll open my own whiskey bar and won't have to buy any stock.

I'd like to say that I refuse to take free samples or comped meals because I think it would compromise my ability to do honest reviews, and I really do think there is some truth to that. It's hard to write something bad about someone who sends you free stuff. But the truth is, no one has offered to give me comped meals or send me whiskey samples. It's sort of like the tree falling in the forest when no one is there. If a blogger refuses to take free stuff when no one has offered can he still be self-righteous?

4. It's hard not to care who reads your blog

At first, I took the cavalier attitude that I would do this for me and I didn't really care who, if anyone, was reading the thing. After all, it's not like I'm trying to get a book deal or something. But then, on a whim, I installed Sitemeter, which tells me how many people visit. Then I began obsessively checking it, wondering how someone from Peru or Australia found my blog and looking at the various Google searches that led people to my site. Eventually, as the numbers grew, although they are still relatively small, I stopped checking obsessively because there were just too many, but I no longer kid myself. I do want people to read and enjoy...who wouldn't.

5. Thanks

I want to take this naval-gazing opportunity to give thanks to everyone who has read this blog, commented, emailed me or participated in my dining and drinking pursuits for the sake of blogdom. I want to give the big shout out to some of my fellow bloggers who I have met (in the virtual sense) through this endeavor: Bon Vivant at My Culinary Adventures who is leaving us to find her fortune in the wine country; Drammie winning whisky blogger Dr. Whiskey; Koreatown's own Raven at Kbloginla; the dean of LA food bloggers, Pat Saperstein at EatingLA who followed my Farmers Market quest; and spirit bloggers supreme Kevin Erskine of the Scotchblog and Chuck Cowdery who indulged me in the great debate of how to spell whisk(e)y (an issue about which I, and probably only I, still regularly fret).

6. Next up

I hope to continue on at the rate of three posts per week for the next year. We'll see if it happens. I also have ideas for a YouTube channel, among other projects. Stay tuned and find out.


Dr. Whisky said...

Yes, it is often a thankless task (especially when it becomes a significant personal expense!), but please don't stop. When I get to LA I am going to use this blog like a NFT guide and food tourism will never have been so good to me. Keep it all coming, Sku. May the whisky gods shine down upon you and little dumpling angels mind your every move.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the shout-out! You're so right, blogging is way harder than it looks, and it's impossible not to care who's reading. I admire you for your three posts a week. I'm lucky if I get in three a month.