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- Published 12.10.08
|FOOD FOR THOUGHT: (From top) Food bloggers Sunita Bhuyan, Sheela, Angshuman Das and Supriya|
Sunita Bhuyan is busy in her lab. She whips a couple of ingredients and adds a few measured concoctions into it. Her experiment, if successful, will be shared with people around the world. No, Bhuyan is not a scientist. She is a foodie who works tirelessly in her food lab to invent a new dish to be posted on her blog Sunita’s World.
Move over recipe books and cookery shows. Celebrity food critics too can take a backseat. The virtual world has given birth to a whole new breed of enthusiastic foodies who are helping gourmets and gourmands figure out what to eat at the click of a button.
Food blogs are the new entrants in culinary paradise. A quick search on the Indian Blog directory India Counts reveals as many as 44 Indian food blogging sites — and all take pride in being different.
“Food blogging is an ideal route to share experimental and traditional recipes. It is a way to connect with people all over the world,” says Sheela (she uses only her first name) of the blogspot Delectable Victuals.
Most food bloggers are women who have settled in different parts of the world and want to connect with their roots through traditional recipes. Many are also wary of disclosing their identities or second names. “The blog started out on a whim. But now it is my hobby and I look forward to hearing from my fellow bloggers,” says PG of pg- kitchenstories.blogspot.com. Based in Germany, this Indian molecular biologist wishes to remain anonymous. If for some food blogging is about a nostalgic trip down memory lane, for others it is preserving their recipes for posterity.
Most food bloggers have identified their forte and stick to their USP to generate the maximum number of hits. So you have Sailus Kitchen that talks about Andhra cuisine, Zaika.net for Hyderabadi fare, Taste of Mysore for food from Karnataka, Iyengar’s Kitchen for Tam-Bram cooking, and Charche Chauke Ke for north Indian food, to name just a few.
So what makes a food blog tick? “Food blogs lend a personal touch. There is also a comfort level in realising that every food blogger is not an absolute expert but has failures in the kitchen,” says Aparna Balasubramanian of My Diverse Kitchen.
The interactivity between a blogger and readers through the “post a query” section are the other highlights of a blog. “A reader can request a recipe or suggest modifications in the existing recipe — the medium is constantly evolving,” says Supriya, a software engineer from the United States and blogger of RedChillies that gets as many as 4,500 to 10,000 hits a month.
Of course, you can’t talk about food without the right images. So most blogs rely heavily on visuals to get the salivary glands going. “Photographs tend to liven up any medium and blogs are no different. Great pictures make you drool and can definitely increase your readership,” says Arundhati Raghavan of chefatwork.blogspot.com. Her blog, titled Singing Chef, has a search engine supported by Google for quick reference.
While women dominate the food blogs, some blogs are run by men. Angshuman Das, a communications specialist from Mumbai, will tell his readers what it takes to make their payesh all creamy and soft. “Blogging about Bengali cuisine is an interesting, absorbing and engaging activity for me,” says Das. He started his blog Cooking in Calcutta in 2005 and has visitors writing to him from across the world.
A foodie at heart, not by profession but by passion, is how Gurgaon-based Ashish Chopra describes himself in his blog ashthefoodie.blogspot.com. Chopra gives you a sumptuous trip about his food travels to lesser known places in the country.
To make their venture interesting, food bloggers also run online contests, theme-based competitions and other contests. “We have a food photo contest on our blog called CLICK which is judged by a panel of food bloggers who are also considered good photographers,” say Jai and Bee, two Americans who are based in India and run Jugalbandi, a popular blogging site that receives as many as 1,500 hits a day.
Food bloggers also move out of their virtual world to satiate their taste buds. Hemanshu Kumar, an economist by training and food critic by passion, loves to discover the less-talked about culinary joints in Delhi. His blog Eating Out in Delhi (EOiD) has tips on “offbeat places that offer value for money.”
Food blogs are not about recipes alone; rather, they are musings about a culinary journey, where bloggers take great pleasure in writing about the origin of a recipe along with interesting anecdotes. Most food bloggers would like to tell you that a blog clicks not just on how accurate a recipe is, but how the story of the dish is told.
A minuscule part of food blogging also involves earning revenues — mostly from advertisements and sponsors. Popular food bloggers’ earnings depend on the traffic that their blog generates. “Our international counterparts earn anywhere between $500 and $3,000 a month. But in India, it’s still in its infancy and popular bloggers may roughly earn $50-500 a month,” says Sailaja from sailusfood.com. Nagalakshmi from Singapore, who runs Edible Garden that largely talks about South Indian cuisine, says she earns $100 a month, which is enough to cover the domain costs.
The boundary between virtual and real gets blurred when the bloggers are invited to popular platforms to showcase their skills. Padmaja Kochera of spicyandhra.org has won a cooking competition on a top UK channel and the show will be telecast soon.
Blogging can also open up endless opportunities. “Food photography, food writing, restaurant reviews, cookbooks — it’s all out there for you to bag,” says Priya of Akshayapaatram.
Bloggers are here not just to share recipes and garner fame. For many, food is a mission. Hemanshu of EOiD, for instance, put up an online petition last year when the Supreme Court proposed a ban on street food.
Srivalli of Cooking 4 All Seasons is currently running an online fund raiser to collect $15,000 for a coronary heart operation for a Chennai resident. Food bloggers have actively contributed to the fund, and Yumblog — maintained by Latha Narasimhan and Padma Sampath — has even set up a link for online donations.
For anyone who intends to start a food blog, there is a piece of advice from Sunita Bhuyan. “Concise recipes, observations made during cooking, combinations and substitutions, and the conclusion if something goes wrong are the keys for success,” says the expert from her food lab while dishing out a new mini walnut cake. She — and the other bloggers — will have their cake and eat it too.