When you are a writer, or a website owner, or whatever you like to call yourself, you have to be constantly reevaluating what you do and thinking of why you do it. Who is my audience? What is my ideal reader? When it comes to food, many bloggers seem to have very specific preconceived ideas about what a food blog should be.
Is a food blog a blog about recipes and some personal anecdotes about your experience with eating that particular food? To some, it is. Is a food blog about experimenting with cooking from a scientific standpoint Alton Brown style, and then writing about it? To some, it is.
Is a food blog about exploring food from a cultural, historical, or economic perspective? To some, for sure. Is it about just having a fascination with food from standpoints other than just preparing it, and sharing that? That is what I do here, for the most part, but not exclusively.
Food is personal and societal. We can explore it from many different viewpoints, and I was reminded of this by a recent New Yorker article.
The article shares some details of a talk by Professor George Solt, who has sent many years researching, of all things, ramen. His dissertation was entitled “Taking Ramen Seriously: Food, Labor, and Everyday Life in Modern Japan and he has a book more suitable for laypeople: The Untold History of Ramen: How Political Crisis in Japan Spawned a Global Food Craze. In it he traces how Chinese noodles came to Japan, Black Market Ramen, (go figure), and how Japan has lost it’s stigma after China took over the position of being the biggest economic threat to the U.S. so that Japan can now be the “cool flavor of the month.” I never knew Ramen was so complicated until I began reading this book.
But, it was the comment by Professor Solt recounted at the end of the article that really made me like the guy, and echoed my own attitude. Solt talked about how he’s moving past ramen and getting into the first “authentic Indian curry in Japan.” “Now, that’s a great story,” he says, “But, actually, I don’t want to keep doing food. After curry, I don’t know what else there is. Soba? There’s a limit to how long you can do this kind of stuff and take yourself seriously.”
Are you getting the meaning of this obviously tongue-in-cheek comment? No matter how excited and passionate we may be about a certain aspect of food and, perhaps, what it means to our culture and history, at the end of the day, Ramen is just slippery things in a bowl of liquid. Couple this with the opening sentence of his talk: “First off, I don’t know how to cook ramen or where to get the best ramen. I’m approaching this from a historical perspective.”
If this is not a message that some of the more snobbish ever more contentious members of the food critic or foodie world needs to hear, I don’t know what is.