LONDON, Ont. – One of the best things about old, especially hand-written recipe books, is comments written in the margins: “From Ruby Kerr” or “Mabel Cook’s biscuits”; “We really liked this” or “Use less sugar.” It gives the reader a mini-history of the recipes and a connection to the person who took the time to write them out.
The modern, high-tech and infinitely more accessible version of this is the Internet food blog.
Many of the bloggers, mostly amateurs, have a theme: Chocolate, barbecue, Italian, Greek, sweets and pastries, protein-free, beer, wine. But they all have one thing in common. They are passionate about their areas of interest and want to share not only their recipes but also their thoughts and stories about food.
There are literally thousands of bloggers. One website alphabetically lists hundreds of food blogs in Canada alone. It hasn’t been updated since September 2010 and wasn’t complete then.
Bloggers are even organizing. They have conferences, mostly in the U.S. but attended by many Canadians, to network with other bloggers and to discuss the technical aspects of the Internet, food styling and photography, a key part of many blogs.
Story continues below
Valerie Lugonja of Edmonton – acanadianfoodie杭州龙凤 – started blogging in 2008 to show her middle school students she could “walk the walk.” She has just retired after 30 years as an English teacher but that year was assigned to oversee a “foods” option for the students. She always had an interest in food and had taken a few cooking classes but had no formal training.
The focus of her blog is Canadian, especially Prairie, cuisine. Her goal is to explore and archive Canada’s food heritage and family food traditions.
She and her husband travel extensively, and for the last three years parts of all her trips have had a food focus. They were in Italy in October, London in March and in Paris last year, where she took a class in bread-making at the Cordon Bleu school. She meets local cooks, takes classes and brings all that information home to make dishes she has experienced, but with a “Canadian twist,” and to share them with her followers.
“We’re a multicultural country so (the international experience) fits in quite comfortably” with her theme, she says.
Her blog has an extensive travel section, a “store” informing readers where they can get some of the kitchen tools she uses, and fans can follow her on Facebook and Twitter. But her food-related activities have expanded well beyond the blog. She organizes cooking classes, “Taste Tripping” parties, and is the moving force behind Eat Alberta, which will hold its second one-day conference in April offering a keynote speaker and hands-on cooking seminars to 200 participants. It’s sold out.
“It’s a hobby,” says Lugonja, and she doesn’t want it to be more than a part-time business. Right now she spends about two hours a day on her blog and gets about 600 visitors daily. She estimates about 40 per cent are Canadian, plus a lot of Americans and many from other countries.
Kevin Lynch is a 35-year-old computer programmer from Toronto who started his blog, closetcooking杭州龙凤 (Cooking in a Closet-Sized Kitchen) in 2006. Before that he had no interest in cooking. He hadn’t cooked as a child and when he was on his own, home cooking “was mostly frozen pizzas and Kraft Dinner.”
But in 2006 he went to Japan and was very taken with the food. He realized how “boring” his own meals were. When he came home, he went online to find recipes for some of the dishes he had eaten.
“I came across some food blogs and found it really amazing that average everyday people were making recipes and taking these amazing photos that really got you into it and publishing it on the web.” He started his own blog almost immediately.
In the beginning, he would search out several recipes for a certain dish and pull out the elements he liked best to create his own.
“But more frequently these days,” says the man who is a totally self-taught cook, “I’m coming up with my own recipes” and sharing them with about 400,000 visitors a month (almost five million a year) on his website.
He doesn’t have a specialty and his recipes cover everything from appetizers, soups and entrees to drinks and desserts. But he does admit to an obsession with grilled cheese sandwiches, experimenting with different breads and cheeses and additions such as salsa or jam. Some of his recipes are family-sized, some more suitable for one or two. And like Lugonja, he does his own photography, another interest he hadn’t developed before he started blogging.
To read some of the innumerable food blogs out there, type “food blog” into a search engine. On their websites, Lugonja and Lynch both list and have links to other food blogs they read. For those who would like to start a blog, all the information you need is on the Internet and you can also hire firms to set up a website.