Ten years of food blogging and a bowl full of introspection

A screen grab of the first post from ten years back. This was not the layout then though

Good Morning Kalyan. Here's wishing Finely Chopped a Happy 10th 🎂 .... Congratulations Kalyan on completing these 10 beautiful years. Am sure the road wasn't smooth, there were moments when you would've even thought if you were on the right road and even thought of backing off but your determination, persistence and of course tremendous support for Kainaz helped you walk the road and am sure it's a long journey ahead so Good Luck for the road ahead and I look forward to keep wishing you at every milestone you achieve 👍🏻

It is thanks to Kashi, a former market research colleague of mine, that I realised a few years back that the birthday of my blog falls in October. 

This year is special. This is the year of the tenth birthday of the blog after all. Yet, had it not been for the above message from Kashi, which I saw the moment I woke up this morning, today might have come and gone without my having realised that Finely Chopped is now ten years old!

We’ve shifted houses recently and I’ve been a bit caught up with setting up home and hadn’t noted the date to be honest.

Perhaps it was no coincidence that I ended up cooking a meal for the first time in our new kitchen last night. An apt way to bring in the anniversary you could say.

The pre-anniversary dinner

So what did I make? An heirloom recipe? Something celebratory? Something innovative or trendy? Artisanal, organic, vegan, healthy? An intricate slow cooked labour of love?

None of the above actually. I made us a quick to rustle up pasta last night. A dish which my wife loves and which I’ve learnt to love too. A dish I like to cook for its simplicity and for the flavours one can pack in. Possibly also because it reminds me of the food I grew up on as a child.

I had planned to make a boiled egg pasta last evening but found only one egg in the fridge. 

K said, ‘can’t we have some meat instead. Some cold cuts ?’ 

‘As long as it’s pork and not any of the chicken stuff,’ I replied.

‘Bacon,’ she said emphatically and bacon is what we did call for from Jude Cold Storage. Our cook, Banu, boiled the pasta for me in the evening to prep. At night I fumbled my way through the new kitchen, trying to find where things were and then got down to cooking the dish. 

I decided to add some tomatoes too mid way through and then a liberal dash of the last of the Parmesan our friends Manoj and Annu had got us from Italy and Arrabiata sauce herbs too before I finished off the dish with some extra virgin olive oil. 

Cooking done, I took a few photographs of the food at the section of the kitchen that the interior designer had created for this purpose basis the brief K had given. I am still getting to used to the lighting there. Pictures taken, K and I sat to eat. 

K says she’s forgotten the taste of hot food thanks to my food blogging and this will tell you why.

Does a blog need a strategy? 

If you’ve been a reader of Finely Chopped for a while, then you might have recognised what I wrote  here about the pasta as being typical of what you could expect to see in the blog. Stories from my life. Personal narratives.

This is not why I had first started the blog though. The blog was meant to be a place for me to broadcast critical accounts of my experiences in the world of food then. Hence the name, Finely Chopped, which was given by my wife. The picture of the first post tells you what I had in mind then. 

With time I rediscovered my childhood love for writing
through rhe blog. Something which had got submerged under my life as a marker researcher.  I took to blogging like a fish takes to water and became addicted to blogging over the years. The blog soon became a virtual diary of my life and continues to be so today. 

From being an angry young blog, Finely Chopped became my little corner of happiness and joy.

Would the blog have been more successful if I had a strategy behind it is a question I have no answer to. For example, should I have titled this post, ‘ten things I’ve learnt from ten years of blogging’, to have got more views? Should I have not mentioned bacon and played safe instead by talking of something vegetarian or organic? Should the post have featured a traditional Indian festive dish and not a pasta given it’s an anniversary post? Should it have given you some information you could have used such as the recipe of the pasta to start with? 

To be honest, these are not things that I stress about too much while writing. 

Finally blogging comes down to what gives me joy and hence you will see so many Candies breakfast stories here. This picture is from this morning itself and was taken at home when my cousin dropped in

I don’t track SEOs, trends and other metrics while blogging. I can’t tell you for sure what I have lost out on by not doing so. I will definitely not tell you to do so. You have to figure out what works for you.

In the overall scheme of things I don’t know how ‘successful’ the blog is. I don’t even know how to measure success when it comes to blogging.

What I do know, at the risk of repeating myself, is that writing the blog gives me a lot of joy. Putting out a post gives me a lot of joy. Getting reader feedback gives me a lot of joy and these are things that haven’t changed over ten years  of blogging while lots of other things have in my life and in the world of blogging.

When a dream becomes your life 

When I started blogging, I was a market research professional looking for some spark in one’s life. I would use the office laptop to type blog posts on and would post them when free at work or at home after work. Things changed a few years back. I got a book contract, thanks to the blog, and decided to give food writing as a career as a shot then. My wife’s support was the foundation that allowed me to do so. Then work in food media began to come my way and there were the food walks that I did too. My book, The Travelling Belly, came out eventually and soon I was fully immersed into the world of food writing.

Which explains why I am sitting on the sofa at our hall now with birds chirping away in the background and typing this post, munching on the chicken sandwich I’d called in from Candies and sipping on a cappuccino, while I write this post rather than doing so on a laptop at work during lunch hours as I used to once.

If you were to ask me about what’s worked for the blog, I’d reckon that it is my consistency in writing that has kept the blog going and that happens only when one enjoys what one does. 

What next?

The food blogging landscape has changed a lot since when I’d started out. The food bloggers that I knew from the early days were hobby bloggers from my age group who had other jobs and would blog about food out of a sheer love for the same. Very few of them still blog. Some have built successful ventures in the world of food since then and have written books too.

Countless folks have began food blogging  in recent years. They come from diverse age groups and professional backgrounds. They seem to be far more goal oriented than we were. 

New social media avenues have emerged and people don’t have to depend upon just blogs to talk  air their views on food. They can post pictures on Instagram and write long posts on Facebook food groups and document their lives on Snapchat or tweet snarkily about what bugs them and vent on aggregator sites such as Zomato.

Then the empire struck back in a manner of speaking. Mass media saw the potential in food media and began to take it more seriously than ever before. There were more dedicated columns on food. Columnists too. As print and TV media began to stagnate, you had folks from traditional media enter social media and they began to blog, share articles on social media, put shows on YouTube and then even set up online publications dedicated to food. The pundits had entered a world which was once the domain of amateurs and hobbyists.

It would be stupid of me to be an ostrich with one’s head buried under the ground and be oblivious to the changes around one.

For the past few months, I’ve asked myself a lot of questions on what I should do next. Should I write more concise informative pieces rather than rambling and introspective onea like this ? Should I write about new restaurants as that’s what people look for according to what I was told? Should I work out an SEO strategy or figure out what the damn thing is to start with? Should I try to pitch and get my byline out, even if at the cost of unsalted peanuts if at all, in external publications or websites. For some reason we seem to seek external gratification and a byline anywhere seems more exciting than building ones own blog and writing there. Or should I focus on places such as NDTV and TOI Blogs where I write already, apart from in my blog?

I did try a bit of all of this in the past few months to be honest but didn’t really find an answer that worked for me. 

Then I came across a line during my  Nicherin Buddhism studies which touched my heart. It said: ‘Faith should always be honest and unpretentious.' I immediately  connected with this and realised that this is what my writing has to be too.

There was another line in my studies that I related to. This was written by Dr Daisaku Ikeda, the hon president of the Soka Gakkai International and is based on the writings of the Japanese Buddhist monk, Nicherin Daishonin:

‘Just as cherry, plum, peach and damson blossoms all possess their own unique qualities, each person is unique. We cannot become someone else. The important thing is that we live true to ourselves and cause the great flower of our lives to blossom.’

Between these two lines I got my answers. 

So I hope to keep blogging about whatever touches my heart, stay true to myself, try to keep
improving, to continue to find joy in my blogging and hopefully bring some joy to the lives of others too in the process. 

That’s going to be my ‘strategy’ behind Finely Chopped.

Thank you for reading on till here and for a being part of the journey. I couldn’t have done it without your support and for this I am forever grateful.