It seems that when it comes to reviewing, the food blogging community is more interested in promotion rather than in a balanced critique. I can’t tell you how many bloggers have said, in comments on this blog, they only do positive reviews because “the reader’s time is short” or “I’m only going to write about it if I love it.”
Why? Rave reviews are boring. Totally negative reviews are rare and difficult to do well. How about going for middle ground, where the review is mostly positive, but acknowledges the cons?
Finally, I can point to a few examples from people who do this form of food writing well:
1. David Lebovitz’s review of the Actifry. Not only does he lay out why he wanted to review it and how he got the machine, he lists the pros and cons. Classy job.
2. The book reviews on Food 52. The idea was to have 16 cookbooks vie for the title as if it was the Super Bowl, playing two books at a time off each other. Sometimes the pairings are a little odd, but there is honest-to-goodness criticism here, perhaps because the judges are forced to compare. In the culmination review, Ephron has issues with the Canal House book, but she’s polite about it, and she tempers her criticisms with humor.
Here’s a concluding paragraph from David Kamp, another esteemed judge, of the specific reasons why he chose Seven Fires over Momofoku: “But because I’d rather pay for Chang’s food than try to recreate it, and because Mallmann’s book abounds with appealing recipes that I know I can handle, and because I can take only so much cussing in a cookbook, for fuck’s sake, and because I’m a sucker for any food preparation that makes my home smell like a smithy’s shop, I’m going with Seven Fires.”
See? He has a good time, doesn’t take himself too seriously, but knows how to make his call.
I don’t think the readers of David’s review or of Food 52 wasted their time by reading balanced reviews. Why is criticism so difficult for most bloggers?