It’s never just about the food. Soon enough, your partner or your kids start creeping into your food blog, because you’re writing about your life and they’re inseparable from you.
Suddenly a post about baking a red velvet cake includes how you made it for your husband, how your mother used to send you a whole cake on your birthday every year, and how your toddler smeared it on her new dress. It might be food writing, but as we know, it’s the storytelling around food that draws people in.
At some point, you decide how much to make the people in your life part of the story. And then, there are more questions. Do you give their real names? Do you link to his or her public persona elsewhere on the web? Do you make people in your life characters who appear regularly, like the Marlboro Man? (He even writes his own posts on his famous wife’s blog.) And finally, does your spouse comment on your blog posts, and is that okay with you?
There is no right answer, other than what makes you comfortable. You also have to decide how much information is just the right amount, and how much is TMI. Some food bloggers give family members starring roles, like Shauna James Ahern, who changed the name of her blog after she married, from Gluten-Free Girl to add “and The Chef,” and who now writes about her daughter. Lori Lange involves her son, even including him in a promotion. He finally started his own blog.
David Leite of Leite’sculinaria.com had been writing about his partner, The One, on his David Blahg. Recently he had The One write his own post, I thought it was time to discuss this issue, and talk with The One about it too. After all, for David, it wasn’t just about involving his partner in the blog, but getting more specific about life as a gay man:
Q. When did you first start mentioning The One on your blog?
A. In 2009. I started referring to him as the The One Who Brings Me Love, Joy and Happiness but I always kept the pronouns gender free.
I wasn’t sure how my readers would take it. Plus my mom and dad are deeply religious and I didn’t know if their friends would read it, and I did’t know if my readers were religious.
Q. Tell me more about this struggle.
A. As a writer, I write about my life, and he’s part of my life. I can’t not write about our life and our arguments and what we ate and where we went.
One person unsubscribed from my newsletter in an early post about us, but a lot of the food blogging gay and straight community jumped on and left some nice comments. Then I realized The One started getting a personality through me. One time I got a Christmas card addressed to David Leite and The One, which I liked very much.
I was really tortured about it, though. I wondered, “Who cares about two old fat homos? ” But what I realized is that our sexual identity has nothing to do with the formula. People see themselves in our relationship and the activities we do, how I present us.
Q. Why not say his name?
A. He said early on, “I don’t want my name out there because I don’t want a potential client looking me up my history and what we ate for dinner last night.” So that gave me some freedom.
Q. What was the first piece you wrote about The One?
A. It was in 2006 in an published article. I wouldn’t dare write about him on my site, but I felt comfortable writing about our life someplace else. There was the post about his trip to Kripala last year. I wrote about him on Valentines Day this year. I thought it wasn’t going to fly for people, but people are identifying with love, not sexual identity.
Q. Then he wrote his own piece, a memory about cooking with his grandmother.
A. Yes. One of the things that moved me was to see how affected he was by what people wrote. When you’re on social media all the time, you forget what an emotional impact your writing has on people.
With The One’s piece, he was so vulnerable in it, and it made people vulnerable with him in the comments. What I find fascinating is that people need to see real people. They need to know that we have problems, that I almost burned the damned house down last year. I screw up on a regular basis and almost everyone in the food business does. Blogging unmasks the writer and helps the writer stand outside those guarded gates of publications. I would feel straightjacketed by what a print publication would require me to do now.
Q. I’d like to speak with The One, hereafter called TO. TO, Why did you write your own blog post on David’s blog, about your grandmother’s spoon?
TO: David had seen me use this spoon for years and years, so he asked me to write it.
Q. How did you feel when the post came out?
TO. It was a soul-searching thing. I’ve never talked about my family so bluntly as I did in this piece. It helped me solidify it, in a way that helped me face the past.
Q. Did you feel funny writing on David’s blog?
TO. No. I found it fascinating that people would be interested, and for some of them, it really hit home. They were thinking of their own grandparents. It was touching and rewarding to see what they had to say.
Q. By then you had already been a commenter, right? And you wrote a comment on one of David’s blog posts, a special one about a dinner party David gave for you.
TO. I have left other comments on recipes and things like that. Not much. I’ve always been in the background. It was such a special dinner and the cookies were works of art, so I thought I had to say something.
Q. Now there’s a photo of you, so you’re getting more comfortable being part of the blog?
TO: The photo appears only when I comment. It’s always with the black thing across my face. I don’t need to have my face out there.
I’m so much a part of that blog and site anyway.
Please join David and me in a Google+ Hangout tonight at 9 p.m. EST, with Sara Kate Gillingham Ryan of The Kitchn and Holly Hughes of The Best Food Writing. The subject is How to Be a Better Food Blogger.