Will Julie & Julia Mean More Food Bloggers?

Aug 192009
 

I finally saw Julie & Julia on Sunday with two friends,  Suzan Bateson, Executive Director of the Alameda County Community Food Bank; and Faith Kramer of Blog Appetit.  Faith suggested in her blog that the movie theater collect food for the food bank, and the theater obliged by giving free movie posters to anyone who donated.

The movie was was fast-paced, funny, sexy, and the food shots were gorgeous. Merryl Streep was totally believable as Child, and Faith said it was much more fun than reading Julie Powell’s blog. (I didn’t read it, and I don’t think it’s available online now.) I had such a good time that I found myself thinking, “What was all that about, where traditional food writers were jealous of Julie Powell? Can’t we all just get along?”

Connections to a few of the people involved increased my enjoyment. I met the movie’s food stylist Susan Spungen at an International Association of Culinary Professionals (IACP) conference years ago, when she was the food editor of Martha Stewart Living. We had a hilarious conversation about people who had informational meetings with her to ask how to get her job.  I enjoyed Amanda Hesser’s cameo, particularly because I interviewed her while writing Will Write for Food, and met her for breakfast at Balthazar in New York, where we inhaled a specialty,  chocolate bread. I also interviewed Child’s book editor, Judith Jones.

images-1My agent  suggested in an email that EVERYONE (her caps) will want to be a food blogger now. Wow, I thought. Do they not understand how much work it is, that Powell was already a writer of sorts, and that they’re not going to get the same kind of attention and six-figure advance? Julie Powell started her blog six years ago, had a great hook, and the tie-in to Julia Child was essential to her success. Plus, a food blog was a rare thing then. I read somewhere there are some 45,000 food blogs now.

Will Julie & Julia send foodies dashing to WordPress? Can  a newbie food blog garner the same success as Powell’s, or  Clotilde Dusoulier (Chocolate and Zucchini) or Molly Wizenberg (Orangette)? Is the public still hungry for new blogs on cooking and food? Has fatigue set in for the blog-fueled memoir?

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  7 Responses to “Will Julie & Julia Mean More Food Bloggers?”

  1. It’s not “Will It”. It’s “Already Did”.

  2. The original Julie/Julia project is available here:

    http://blogs.salon.com/0001399/2002/08/25.html

    At the time, the immediacy, the drama and the over-the-top nature of the whole thing was really compelling for me – both because I related to feeling down and out at one’s job, and because it made food interesting, thrilling, comical and just plain – real. I found it completely inspirational, and in fact Julie/Julia led directly to me starting my own blog. Which led to a book.

    The thing is, even if everyone tries to become a food blogger, the reality of blogging – the dailiness, the need to be fun, interesting and compelling – wears quickly on most people. The passion & the underlying drive are the things that make good writing, be it on a blog or anywhere else. Blogs are just a medium.

    I’ve generally found myself frustrated w/ the provincial nature of most discussion around Julie/Julia. Ultimately – so what if everyone starts a food blog? Food is universal. The discussion should not be limited, ever.

  3. In the last couple weeks, I’ve finally started a food blog – not because of Julie/Julia but because the writing class I’m taking had a blog project assignment. I didn’t want to use my four year old personal survivorship blog, and decided instead to split out two categories from the survivorship blog into their own niches. These baby-steps at food blogging will push my photography and web writing skills with a solid base on my kitchen skills. But it’s too soon to know whether my timing could have been better or I can make use of the increased publicity food blogging will get from the movie.

    There are easily as many cancer blogs as food blogs. Most are nowhere near famous (Except maybe Leroy Sievers’ ‘My Cancer’ blog for NPR, or Kairol Rosenthal’s ‘Everything Changes.’ I’m not sure any source can even count them effectively since many of us ‘blog’ informally on sites like CaringBridge or support sites which include a blog as part of the personal page. My own ‘cancer’ blog begun about nine months after diagnosis morphed into a survivorship blog somewhere along the way. And then I realized I had regular readers–and link backs. I was just asked for permission to link my blog on http://www.beingcancer.net‘s blogroll -certainly not something I ever expected when I started a little online journal. Heck, I wasn’t supposed to be alive this long, much less still writing!

    The down sides of blogging – the nitty-gritty not-glam parts – aren’t so different from the nitty-gritty, not-glam parts of the tech writing I do for a living. But the differences in subject material do help me stay energized (success with one subject area tends to fuel or perk up the other.) So I welcome the challenge of another subject that will get more attention in its own blog. It took some time, but I did find a small niche in food blogging that isn’t jammed full that so far feels like a good fit – not so small that it’s confining, and flexible enough to expand if I choose to do that.

    For me, the hardest part was deciding to start a separate blog — it’s much easier to just write everything in one place. I’ve got four months’ of material outlined (three posts/week.) I agree with T. Parr — the topic is universal, so finding an intriguing new angle has been the fun part! Now, fingers crossed, I can bring my photography and web writing skills up a notch to handle the demands of moving the focus off me and into my pantry.

  4. Who knows-but I guess it’s worth trying if you think you have it in you. I agree, that blogs (especially if you are writing recipes and photographing) are a lot of work, and Julie had a particular angle that made her blog appealing. I figure that was a feat in itself while holding down a full time job.

    Others that are evidently super successful seem to be written by a younger generation, and similarly, widely read by that generation. It still floors me that people care to know about how to make an egg salad sandwich, for example, as if that isn’t easy enough to figure out, but there are plenty of blogs that do just that (I actually think I posted one too).

    It also seems that a big part of these blogs success is the “personal” story behind it-it’s not so much about the roast chicken, as the fact that the husband didn’t like it, or it failed, or …. In other words-it’s the story!

    Wasn’t that what was just discussed more recently in regards to books-that recipes weren’t enough anymore, but they have to have a good story behind them too?

    Another angle-are the food blogs that are offering more than a recipe giving you information about the food world, linking to food news, and stories; industry notes, how to’s, etc.?

    I actually love reading the Gourmet blog about agriculture and farming issues, so I guess you can say that’s a food blog but with a different bent.

  5. I’m sure there will be a whole infusion of new food blogs. So? It’s not like the Internet puts a cap on things like this.

    Perhaps we will find a fresh new voice? But I suspect the majority of new food bloggers will drop off quickly when they realize it takes time to cook and write about a dish; that you can’t just take a grainy, flash-washed photo and have it go viral; you spend as much time marketing and networking as cooking and writing; decadent dessert posts do best, which means you can kiss your skinny jeans good-bye…

  6. Food blogging is hard work and you really do need to be passionate about it, but I don’t think it’s fair to assume that every new blogger is hoping for a book deal or expecting to make millions. I see my blogging as part of (and a step towards) the career that I want. This is why I approach it like a job. This means networking, branding, constantly reading & researching, editing, improving my photography skills, etc. I plan to turn this into something and I’m confident that I will because I’m actively going after it.

    There are, however, plenty of food bloggers out there who do it just for fun. They update sporadically, the pictures are casual snapshots, and the recipes tend to be fairly average. This doesn’t mean they don’t get traffic or aren’t popular–I’ve seen blogs like this with 60 and 70 comments per post–but they’re probably not going to be getting book or movie deals anytime soon.

    Julie Powell’s idea was definitely innovative and captured the attention and imagination of many. It’s impossible to say whether or not her blog would have been equally successful in today’s saturated market, but that goes for a lot of things.

    I think there will always be room for new and creative food blogs. But the days of getting “discovered” are–for the most part–over. (Although the occasional good or gimmicky idea does strike–Think “Stuff White People Like” or “LOLCats.”) People who are expecting to turn their blogs into something more than a hobby or a popular stop within a certain niche, really do need to realize that they have to work at it just as they would any other part of their career.

  7. Can there be too many food blogs? I don’t think so – the attrition rate for those not motivated enough is self limiting enough I think. I love finding new ones and checking out what drives and inspires them. For me – I am almost compelled to do it at this point and anything that comes from it is gravy. A nice velvety gravy with luscuous bits of … oh never mind :)

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