One needs to have the stomach for food blogging

The past few days haven't been too good. It started with nausea. Then I slowly got my tummy under control. Frozen prawns cooked at home. And then the runs. And more nausea.

So no restaurants visited which I can write about. More curd rice and idli than I care for at work. I tried cooking at home. Banu was off cooking duties for a few days and K was swamped with work. The doctor said "have home food". But there is only that much that is practical when you have to do it yourself and can't stand the sight of food.

Doctor said "have food without chillies". That's easy. I wonder if we really exploit Indian spices such as whole garam masala, turmeric, coriander or cumin powders to their hilt. Or condiments such as saffron or rose water? Cooking bases such as onion paste or curd? You can make such well flavoured Indian dished without chillies. I posted about my chicken curry and chicken rezala earlier. And my pasta in tomato pesto sauce. And then I got ahead of myself. Prawns from the fridge...tossed in packaged sambal sauce. Back to the dumps. Sentenced to more curd rice, idlis, really 'clear' clear soup and Banu's weak attempts to make rezala.

We are planning to go to Goa this weekend for my birthday. The land of red meat and red chillies. Need to get back into shape. And how.

Which made me wonder whether I have the stomach for food writing. But then food writing is not just about eating is it? Like Arindam says, "you can't make films just because you love to watch cinema." The same applies to food writing. Think of most international food celebs or hosts. Specially the men. Bourdain. Majumdar. Bobby Chi. They are fairly trim and lanky. Not like our rotund Indian food show guys.

But that's because food shows, writing, blogging aren't just about eating. Food isn't just about food. It is about the love for food. For its taste of course. But also for its origins. Its culture. For the history and story around food. The making of it. The personal memories. The social bonding around food. Food is one of the most basic needs of humans. We all obsess about it. At some level or the other. But some of us celebrate it. Live it. And like to eat too.

This comes with its risks. From the petulant tummy to the angry heart. The sour liver to the weighty flab. But then which passion comes without its baggage?

And there's more to it. I got an SMS from a friend asking for advice on what to order at Hangla (mutton rolls and biriyani) when I hurled the first time. Then I got an update on what another friend was experimenting with in mushrooms when I had the runs. And then when I was nauseous again I was giving restaurant suggestions to a reader who had a month left in Mumbai.

These I like.



Food blogging can cover vast areas. Food photographs. Recipes. Communities and cultures, Cities. Restaurant directories. The basic rules of marketing, the much vaunted words, USP or 'unique selling promise', 'single minded promise', work in food blogging too. I have noticed that recipe sites, sites to do with communities - Bengali cooking for example - or cities - Bombay restaurants - are likely to have more visitors or followers. They come up more often on Google searches. They also say that short posts are better for driving traffic. Just as long copy in advertising is only revered by a fast diminishing tribe.

Finely Chopped doesn't follow any of the rules. The posts are long. And you have an example here. You have recipes. You have restaurant reviews. You have notes on people from my life who are not really celebrities. You have a bit of Mumbai. A bit of Calcutta. And a sprinkling of the Far East and a dash of Europe. It doesn't have facts - addresses, prices, authentic recipes or even restaurant ratings.

A medley or buffet if there was one. And who likes buffets? Not me for one.

Finely Chopped is not the sort of site that would stick out in search engines. Or have high circulation numbers. But then is that what one blogs for?

For me the most endearing part of blogging, after unburdening myself, are the conversations that follow. The comments. And now the e-mails. Each comment I get is a much much bigger high than the increase in stats number. A post without a single comment is a miserable one in my book. A waste of passion.

Conversations are personal. Numbers? Nah, I never really related to those. And the good thing about food blogging, or at least about being an amateur writer, is that one hardly gets nasty comments. I can just think of just three over two years. And one doesn't count because it was not about something I wrote on the blog.

The flip side to non anonymous blogging is that you are putting chunks of your life out there for everyone to see and judge. So even with something as innocuous as food blogging you could get snide remarks on the 'amount you eat', or your 'obsession with food', or being 'moneyed' to enjoy the good life, or having the 'time to goof'. Then there are the sophists and heretics who will pick holes in your writing.

Well that's a choice one makes while blogging. There are many who eat more, spend more, obsess more. But they don't write about it.

Though sometimes with the tummy troubles one feels that there is merit in following Indian superstitions and hanging a chilly and lemon or sticking kajal (kohl) on the blog to ward of the evil eye or nazar as they say here. Maybe I'll put a picture of these on the site.

Which brings me to again the fact that I have not eaten anywhere interesting of late. Nor have I cooked anything new. So this is what I write when I having nothing to write about!

If you have reached up to here then thank you for your patience. My ego appreciates it. Don't go without saying something though.

Comments

uma said…
Hi Kalyan,
Hope you get well soon and ur Dr. says FOOD WITH CHILLIES..
You really seem passionate about food and blogging
Enjoy your birthday and Have a great weekend.

Happy Blogging!
The Cloudcutter said…
I made it to the end, I always do :-)
Piggy Little said…
i liked this post :) its so touches a chord...lovely one! keep them coming. :)
maybe it's time you explore the merits of vegetarian cooking or cooking for the convalescent. maybe food that use barley and oatmeal and ginger. :-)
speedy recovery for your trip to goa!
Samil said…
Dear Kalyan,

I empathise with perils of being a food blogger.I enjoy reading your stuff.Really appreciate the regularity.

Warmest,
Samil
www.samilm.blogspot.com
The knife said…
Hi Uma, thanks. Glad you liked the post. It was the resultant of some strident post midnight keyboard pounding. I hope that my doc can give me a thumbs up soon too.

CC: :) Like the police?

Piggy Little...thanks. I know where you are coming from :)

Chinacat...I could write tomes on oil free cooking or cooking without chillies. Barley? Now that's a challenge :)

Hey thanks Samil
The Cloudcutter said…
Ouch! If you're referring to the police in the Hindi films of the 80s!

But yeah, I'm always here. I thought you knew that :-)
The knife said…
C, of course I did. Especially when I have a bone to pick :)
mentalie said…
get well soon, knife. i like the way you write abt food even when you don't ;)
Kirti said…
Truly, you are one of the pioneers who thinks of food even as you shudder from the throes of a Delhi Belly.

An interesting thought - if you could step into a time machine and be transported 10000 years back into the past what would you eat?

Would you experiment with garlic? Would you venture into the jungles and eat the beating heart of a king cobra (like Anthony Bourdain)? Would you chew into a bright red pimento or would you tuck into mushrooms?

In a way, your blog (and other food blogs) embodies the spirit of men (and women) with indomitable appetites who hungered for culinary pleasures. Who dared to flirt with food poisoning and even death so that future generations could revel in exotic dishes - safely.
The knife said…
Thanks Kirti and you right up there in my list as one of those greats who have dedicated their lives to the world of food :)

What would I have eaten thousand years back? I would have probably introduced onions into Bengali cooking and got people off their fish obsession
Blabber Guy said…
Your is the best food blog i have come across. Keep on writing and get well soon.
The knife said…
Hey thanks Blabber Guy the latest post is dedicated to you :0
Warlock said…
Love your blog.....maybe because of the simplicity and mainly the effort you take to update it ...Kudos....
How i found your blog about a year back was when i was doing a Google search on prawn baffat and voila it lead me to your blog.... Cheers
Miri said…
Its true - when you are passionate about food, nothing can stop you. Not even a rare, congenital intestinal condition which almost killed you when you were 25 and still just barely works!

The comments are definitely what motivates me - but I also know that there are a lot of people who read but don't comment. So thats ok - I love sharing and thats a huge part of blogging.
Sahil Verma said…
Thoroughly enjoyed reading it.