What is a food blog and why is there a cat in yours?

Finely Chopped is about stories of everyday food and this is the lovely dal, bhaat, alu lunch that K made for me today. (I made the rice)


"Have you considered opening a separate blog for your cat? There might be some people who are just interested in food. They might not come here if there is a cat. Just a thought."

I was speaking to my chhotomashi or youngest maternal aunt on phone the other night. She lives in Canada now. She would often counsel me on varied topics while I was growing up as she was the 'youngest' family elder for me and therefore the most relatable/ trustworthy one. Which made her my confidant in the family too. We are very close and have our fights. As I once quipped in college, she is the aunt Dahlia to my Bertie Wooster.

We have rarely lived in the same city or country. I would write letters to her religiously ever since I could and that is where my love for writing started.

Baby Loaf is an integral part of my life and this Insta story is from earlier
this evening

My aunt was not the first to express this view on Baby Loaf's presence in my blog and and on my updates on him in my social media channel. A couple of other well-wishers have done so too. They genuinely felt that food writing should be about just that. Food. That Baby Loaf deserved his own blog.

Then there is the odd anonymous nasty troll. Sour pusses who say they hate cats, but I suspect that it is humanity that they have a problem with! I usually ignore them. At times I share their messages on my Instagram stories if I am feeling cranky and my readers react with umbrage. Thok dalo, with apologies to Mr Bachchan, is what comes to mind if someone says something mean about Baby Loaf as these trolls do.

I have occasionally discussed this aspect with K and she pointed out that it is these facets from their lives is that give content creators their own distinct voice. She gave the example of Ricky Gervais, the British actor known for his acerbic wit.  His twitter feed used to be filled with updates on his cat K told me, till the cat unfortunately passed away .

Interestingly, I woke to the following message on my Instagram DM the morning after my chat with my aunt. A message from the universe you could say!

Baby Loaf fan club


Which is when I thought that it is time that I write about why I write about my cat despite being a food writer/ blogger.  

I felt that I owed this piece this to those who want to take up food writing/ blogging/ podcasting/ vlogging or content creating. So here goes...

The market researcher side of my life is probably the only punlic one that I had kept away from my blog as the work we did for clients was considered to be sensitive.

I started my food writing journey through this very blog. Way back in October 2007.

Blogs then were meant to be online journals where you shared stories of everyday life. Dictionaries still define blogs as that.

In my case, food became the anchor of this online diary. I chose to write about my eating out adventures with office colleagues, though I never made a reference to my life as a market researcher. Work had to be separate from play.

I wrote about K and of our restaurant visits in Mumbai. Our trips to Kolkata and our interactions with my family there and the food. The places we travelled to and the food adventures that we had. About the dishes I cooked at home back in Mumbai.

I wrote about the friends I made through the blog. I wrote about my love for street food and unsung family run places; and that for luxury hotel rooms. Both of which developed as I got deeper into the world of blogging.

My love for street food and local food grew as I began to blog

I wrote at a furious pace back then. Almost every day.

I was more than a decade younger. Had more energy. The blog was my escape rom fmy life in a cubicle. Sitting with it every night added a much needed burst of freshness to my life.

With time, my readers got introduced to various characters in my life. My wife, referred to first as as 'the wife' (as Busy Bee would) and now 'K'. Our respective mothers and grandmothers and other family members, including my niece. Our cook cum help of #BunkinBanu fame.

Banu came to work the day before and went on leave again to quickly move back to her #BunkinBanu avatar


Writing about food began to take a deeper meaning for me as I shifted to freelance writing from my life as a market researcher. I wrote about my encounter with Nicherin Buddhism through the SGI (which my aunt had introduced me to) and the role it played in helping me find my purpose in life.

I wrote about how Candies, our neighbourhood cafe, became my work space in the new phase of my cubicle-free life.

I wrote about my quest to eat more sensibly as I grew older, and how it led to the birth of what I called #LittleJackHornerMeals.' The love I developed for pretty crockery in the process, which led to the birth of #PlatesOfFinelyChopped.

Of how I could not start my day without a cappuccino which led to the birth of #FirstCappuccinoOfTheDay. Replaced now by #EspressoLove thanks to the Nespresso machine at home.

The centrality of what I call #FinelyChoppedBreakfasts in my life became evident too and slowly more pieces in the jigsaw puzzle of my life fell into place for my readers.

I write about what makes me happy with the hope that it might bring you joy too

I found affirmation of the turn my writing had taken in the words of one of India's most celebrated and respected English novelists, Ruskin Bond. This was at the first Kolkata Times Lit fest edition. In the opening session, Mr Bond (that sounds funny I know), described himself and his style of writing as that of a 'diaryist.'

That is when the penny dropped. That is who I am. I too am a diary-ist.

I do come from an era where diary writing was prevalent. The very same aunt who sparked off this post had introduced me to 'The Dairy of Adrian Mole,' much to my mother's chagrin, when I was in school!

Realised this a few days back and it made me feel so loved. I was filled with gratitude and want to thank you for all your support and love

While I am a published author today and have written a number of columns over the years, the truth is that I am a blogger at heart and what is a blog but a diary? And a diary will cover different aspects of ones life. How can it just be about food?

Stories of my childhood in Kolkata and my present in Mumbai come together often on the blog

Food writing is serious business of course and there are many forms of food writing.  

In forms such as socio-cultural journalistic reportage, food history documentation, recipe writing or academic writing; the voice of the writer often recedes into the background. Unlike in blogging.

I guess that I am influenced by the work of some of my favourite food writers/ raconteurs such as Chitrita Banerjee, Pamella Timms, the late Behram Contractor, the late Anthony Bourdain, Simon Majumdar, Vir Sanghvi, Kunal Vijayakar, Dr Kurush Dalal and Vikram Doctor.

What distinguishes them is that they put in so much of themselves in what they write and make no mistake, they are all masters of their craft and are very, very erudite.

They are the sort of writers that I hope to grow up to be.

Was rather tickled read about 'Daily Murray' as I had used the phrase, 'our daily Loaf,' a few days before I first came across it. An influence of my going to Protestant run schools in Kolkata!

Look a bit beyond food writing and you will see Phil Rosenthal of 'Somebody Feed Phil' fame, whose online chats with his parents while travelling are integral to his show, post pictures of his dog on twitter these days. He calls this 'your daily Murray.'

Yes, I know that dogs are loved more than cats and I used to be that way till Baby Loaf came into my life, but that is not the point. The point is that this is how content creators become more real to their audience and that is what helps them develop their own voice.


Baby Loaf looked on while I finished this post. Don't get too mushy Daddy Loaf! 

So now you know why Baby Loaf features in my writing on food so often these days.

It is because I aspire to be a story teller. Not the Encyclopaedia Britannica!

Announcement:

I am thrilled to announce that after our successful work shop on 'how to start your home business,' I am now bringing to you a workshop on 'how to get your food blog started,' on bookworkshop.in. This is where you can register. Hope to see you there.


I am excited to share something else with you too. The video of my first TEDx talk. This was at the TEDx Serene Meadows just before the lockdown. The video has recently been uploaded and do give it a watch to understand the philosophy that is the base of my food writing. This trip had happened just after Baby Loaf had moved into our house and we had both missed each other during the two days I was out. Since then we have been locked down together!


Comments

Sanjay N Lulla said…
I had once recommended the same thing on facebook the reason being that I wanted to ONLY read about baby loaf 😝 but then I thought that it is your life and your blog and things that matter the most to you. That are integral to your life.
I don't think its necessary to clarify to anyone once you have firm conviction about what you are doing. You don't owe anyone any explanation.
Our love for Loaf chele is much much more than their hate. Relax.
Kalyan Karmakar said…
@sanjay thank you so much. One day I will write a post which is just about Baby Loaf and which is just for you :)