Nearly four years ago when I tripped head over heels into food blogging, I had two names in mind: GoodFood and Thyme & a Hen. Though I loved the thought of a chicken with a sprig of thyme in its mouth waltzing across the top of my masthead each day, I demurred. Instead, I decided to go with GoodFood.com. Simple. Memorable.
But, drats! That name was taken by someone in England, so I added STL to signify my location in St. Louis. I paid the domain site, GoDaddy, $1.99 for the moniker and felt like a proud mom holding a new born infant. That’s how it all began.
Since someone asked me recently about how to get started in blogging, I decided to post this bit of beginners’ advice about
recipe mongering the craft of food blogging. For those who have no interest in such nonsense, maybe you’ll enjoy a peek under the blogger’s hood.
Making it Lively and Luscious
1. Create a blog that grabs readers by the taste buds Make the blog name, post titles and photos appeal to the senses, as does this Caprese Salad and juicy chicken in the two photos below. Blogs are a combo of color, words, imagination and, yes, even nostalgia, that brings us back for more. So keep those titles pithy and the photos imbued with food poetry.
The masthead on this blog displays an old brick wall much like you’d see in city neighborhoods. I’ve thought of changing it to something a bit more open and airy—as is currently in vogue. But, for now, I like the urban look; it reminds me of the row house in DC, where I grew up and ate many a fine meal. I also like the wall’s connection with the exposed masonry in so many city diners, delis, bakeries, and pubs. For me, it evokes food memories.
2. Let the you shine through and do it with gusto. Talk to your readers about something you know or have experienced. It adds authenticity and color to your musings. There’s a prolific blogger living in north Missouri, who gardens, cans food, raises bees and chickens, participates in local theater, all while living in a tiny house, off the grid, with her family of four. I’ve never met this remarkable woman, but her homesteading lifestyle makes for amazing reading.
At GoodFoodSTL, I invite readers to join in my culinary escapades, that range from weekends entertaining at the family farm, to cooking for one in my St. Louis condo, to table side reviews of one of the city’s many restaurants. But when I write about such things as the health benefits of garbanzo beans, no matter how many hours I put into the research, I get a big yawn. When I frame it as a post about making hummus or falafels, that’s a horse of a different color.
3. Design a zippy business card to let people know what you’re about. I order from Vista Print, because they’re fast, cheap and creative. It’s surprising how often my blog comes up in conversation. I’ve learned to drop a few cards into the pockets of all my coats, jackets and purses. I have dozens scattered throughout my wardrobe. Now when people inquire, I can find one within seconds—well, most of the time, at least.
4. Make table talk. Blogging is just digital conversation. But it brings people together over a common interest: food. I have a number of readers who feel like they know me. They ask my advice on a recipe or restaurant, or stop me in the grocery store to comment on a recent blog.
Before “serving up” a post, I like to let it “marinate” for at least several days. Then I re-read it out loud to myself, or whoever happens to be in my office. That’s when I can spot the awkward sentences, the ones that don’t flow quite right. Whatever the topic, I want readers to feel like we’re enjoying coffee around my kitchen table. (“Would you pass me another of those chocolate macarons, please?”)
5. Take time with your photos. Next to good writing, nothing is more compelling than a picture that tells a story or makes the viewer drool. I use my iPhone 10 (without flash) in restaurants. I’ve “trained” most of my family and friends to cooperate on a quick food set up. They know the drill, though some—especially family—still engage in a bit of grumbling about the food getting cold. Others happily photograph their own plates.
At home, I take pictures using foam boards as reflectors. At night, I use an inexpensive photography lamp. Weather permitting, I do food set ups on the deck of my condo, where I have the benefit of natural light. Lighting is key to any good photo. In restaurants, I prefer taking pictures at lunchtime, because the light is usually better, than the artificial lighting in the evening.
Experiment with various photography programs until you find the one you like best. I use a Windows 10 photo editor and Picasa (I know, Picasa is outdated, but a few of us still love it.) It’s great fun to crop and improve the balance, contrast and sharpness levels of photos until they sparkle with detail.
6. Write Something Everyday. I don’t mean post a blog everyday, though a predictable schedule is good for both blogger and readers. I’ve gotten in the habit of taking notes throughout the day. I look at moments and occurrences in my daily life and ask if they’re “blogworthy.” I try to keep most of my writing related to food, which means such happenings as root canals, parking tickets, and ingrown toenails don’t qualify as topics. Well, that’s unless I can find some gastronomique angle.
I post every other day, trying to break up my writing with recipes, kitchen hints and trends, restaurant reviews, family antics, and entertaining. If I’m busy, traveling, or lack inspiration, I draw on one of the dozen or more posts I’ve already drafted for just such occasions.
7. Be alert; inspiration abounds. Websites, restaurants, books, travel, recipes and friends—all can inspire you to cook, taste, explore and share. I’m always on the lookout for food related stories and events, recipes (new and old), kitchen gadgets, cooking techniques, and hole-in-the-wall diners.
Ina Garten’s recipes and cookbooks send me running to the kitchen; Ree Drummond at Pioneer Woman has me slinging flour hither and yon; Yotam Ottolenghi inspires me to try new spice and food combinations; David Lebovitz spirits me back to the street cafes along the Champs-Élysées; and Food52 makes me want to reboot my kitchen.
Take a look at the book, 1,000 Foods to Eat Before You Die. Author Mimi Sheraton writes beautifully about favorite dishes from around the world and references each to local restaurants and online recipes. Truly a handy and inspiring manual. (Amazon, $14.79)
When asked how much time I spend blogging, I respond that I’m always “blogging.” In the interest of “research,” I drop into a conversation questions like, “What foods do you miss most from your childhood (or the place you once lived)?” In no time at all, I have the makings of a new post.
Go forth and blog!