Thursday, 1 August 2013

On food. And foodblogging.

Now that I, little by little (after 6,5 months and 183 blog posts) have finally mustered the courage to actually introduce myself as a foodblogger, I have been greeted with mixed reactions. "Isn't that an awfully self-absorbed venture?" was the first comment I got. " I mean, half a world is starving to death out there." Yeah. Well. Unfortunately my blogging or not blogging has depressingly little impact on that.

After I came back home from Israel after the Lebanon II - war I myself had very mixed feelings. Things I used to derive so much pleasure from (shoes! Handbags! Earrings! French pedicures!) seemed so very small and (shamefully) shallow. Return to my normal life with its seemingly endless freedom and choices felt equally challenging after the hardships I witnessed during my stint in West Bank.  Eventually I had to come to terms with the fact that we all have responsibility to find and maintain the things that bring joy to our lives. With what ever resources we have at our disposal. It's all we can do, really. 

Of course it's very noble and recommendable we use those resources to take care of others too, be it our friends and family or a monthly donation to charity. But my sombre mood or self-imposed misery is not automatically going to make anyone else's life better (not in Helsinki, not in Andalusia and definitely not in Darfur) so we have to allow ourselves to enjoy what ever it is that makes us happy. And for me that is food.

Sure, food is fuel: a certain amount of carbohydrates, minerals, protein and vitamins that human body requires in order to function the way it was designed to. But it is also the source of tremendous pleasure - for all senses. It is also an exemplary metaphor to many big questions in life. It is a way to spread that happiness and show love by gathering friends and family around a dinner table to share a meal. It is also an essential tool for connecting with traditions and memories generation after generation. It is also one of the greatest ways to get to know other cultures and understand the turns history has taken. 

Food and cooking also crystallize many of life's greatest lessons: one has to keep an open mind with ingredients and combinations that at first seem odd, there has to be a balance between different components, no one ingredient can be allowed to overpower and overshadow others and sometimes instead of rushing one has to wait a little and give things time to cook as then even things we were initially wary of might just surprise with the outcome. 

But there probably are less compulsive ways to be...passionate about food. Clearly sceptical a colleague once asked if I ever do anything other than cook. Sure I do. Sometimes I eat. Occasionally I even do it out, eating food prepared by others. Other times I write about it. Then there are the photographs: shooting, editing, planning, staging... and scouring for the equipment. And of course there's reading about food, too; through blogs, magazines, cookery programs and books. So, one way or another my life is pretty much consumed by it. 

The only-marginally-obsessive-perfectionism of yours truly has started to dawn on other people too. The Gentleman in particular, who - amused as ever - has observed me and my overstuffed suitcase sail between our two countries. My suitcase used to be full of shoes and matching handbags. Now it's packed to the brim with tablecloths, curtains, plates, cutlery and pillowcases (!). You know, for staging the photos. The equipment gets recycled from original purposes, borrowed from work, sourced from flea markets and scouted from the abandoned corners of the equally abandoned relatives' houses. But his amusement is starting to wear thin. Now we have entire cupboards in Spain he's too terrified to open for the fear of discovering the exact degree of my manic nature.

So, I guess it is there, always on my mind. This is the bounty from my last "shopping spree". Nothing for me. But plenty for the blog.

Less enthusiasm just might be enough. And without a doubt I will start pacing myself ... eventually. Hopefully that won't translate to any less passion though. As that is the only incentive to keep all this going.

I have also come across suspicion about the incredible revenue that the blogs' advertising generate. Oh, and the amazing sponsorship deals. And all the unbelievable gifts bloggers are constantly showered with. And then there are the invites and VIP this and thats and and and... I truly doubt that the people harbouring this kind of envy-inspiring theories have ever actually picked up ladle, camera, note pad or Blogger. Looking after a blog takes just about as much time as a colicky three-month-old. With a chronic ear infection.

The blogosphere is positively heaving with outstanding food blogs for which the content is being produced over countless hours that don't warrant any overtime pay or holiday time. Only a lucky few will ever end up with a book deal, regular column or a TV show, so it really is labour of love. And the amount of labour is phenomenal. It's like starting your own magazine in which you are the editor, writer, HR specialist, photographer, production assistant, graphic designer, publisher AND the sales and marketing team. With no pay, union, job security or benefits. Who in their right minds would do that?

Sometimes it feels bloggers really don't enjoy any copyrights over their own work. I've heard of big companies that have either copied a layout a blogger designed and executed for her own purposed  or stolen photos from blogs for their own use (without asking permission, acknowledging the source or paying any compensation.) Occasionally the copyrights are even infringed by fellow bloggers.

So do take my word for it: for every tenner (for that's what kind of sums we're talking about with most bloggers) that a a blog might generate in income numerous hours of lonely work hunched over the keyboard has been put in. The food didn't buy, make, photograph or write about itself. 

Wallet is (the only thing) getting decidedly lighter  at this. But my life has been enriched by the moments of success, people I've met and friends I've made through blogging. The comments, feedback and cheers have warmed my heart and spurred me on at least as much as that dream about that million dollar deal. I don't even care if the dollars in question are the Zimbabwe kind. 

One thins not getting lighter is the number stubbornly staring at me on the scale, waving its cheeky finger at me. So far I'm still in double digits. But on the other hand it's hardly surprising, is it? Pregnant women and their eating for two is nothing - I eat for over 8000 readers each month!

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