Lessons from a First Year Food Blogger

My daughter Anne and I started on the culinary journey called “food blogging” a year ago, with our site, Fab Frugal Food. The road has not been without a few bumps, twists and turns. We have found much to enjoy in the journey, though, and it has taught us, inspired us and made us grow as cooks.

We have learned some important – and some surprising - lessons, shared below.

Lesson One: Food Blogging is a lot of Hard Work.

Some of the amazing food bloggers I had followed had made it look so easy. I had visions of whipping up amazing dishes with ease and snapping an award-winning photo in five minutes.  Turns out, the hours are long in both food preparation and food photography. I have spent many a night fussing many hours over food, then eating cold food at 10 p.m. and falling into bed exhausted.

This is hard work. And a lot of it.

Lesson Two: Food Blogging is very rewarding.

There is nothing quite as rewarding to a home cook as when someone raves about a recipe that is your own personal creation.

One of my office co-workers told me that his wife religiously reads my blog and makes almost every dish. He came in one day laughing about how he had arrived at home to find his wife blanching vegetables in her dishwasher – something I had recommended on my blog. And once, a bed and breakfast business on the other side of the country commented that my Huevos Rancheros recipe was the best of dozens they had tried. It just made my whole day – my whole YEAR – when I got that comment!

Lesson Three: There is a Sense of Community among Food Bloggers.

I was kind of like Alice falling down the rabbit hole - I never dreamed this world existed! I was surprised to find that I could connect via blogging with other people like me - passionate about food and about cooking and creating recipes. To have had such wonderful and regular feedback from other food bloggers whom I respect is a cyberspace miracle that has made me a more creative and better cook.

I have heard Kayln of Kalyn’s Kitchen fame speak in favor of fostering a united community, expressing that if we support and help each other then we can hold our own against the corporate giants and allow our voices to be heard in the food world. Amen, Kalyn.

Lesson Four: Food Bloggers Make a Difference.

When I went to Blogher’s first Food Blog conference in San Francisco in October 2009, I gained a sense of the power of food blogging. There was a very warm, empowering feeling of being part of something greater than myself. We were hundreds of mostly women who, as a united force, can bring about change in the way the world uses food. At the conference, a speaker said that about 14 million visitors a day visit food blogs. Whoa! I came away feeling a sense of belonging to a cause that is worthwhile and powerful.

Lesson Five: One Great Photo is worth a Thousand Posts

We quickly learned that even the best recipes have very little reader pull without a good photo, and posts with a series of photos are even better. We are a very visual world, and food blogging is no exception. When I ask our blog readers how they decide which recipe of ours they want to make, they invariably tell me “by the photos.”

Food photography is, of course, a genre unto itself. Even my husband, my food photographer for the blog who has been a photographer all his life and in fact taught photography at a university, has experienced a learning curve. I was shocked to learn that almost as much effort is made on the photos as the recipes for every single post.

(Now we’re starting to wonder if he could have a whole new career as a food stylist!)

Lesson Six: Good Recipes AND Pictures Are Still Only the Beginning

This is possibly the biggest lesson of all: No matter how ingenious the recipe is, no matter how amazing the photo is, no matter how witty your words are, no matter that the recipe has a family story behind it, it still is not going to create readership all by itself. You gotta schmooze! You gotta network! You gotta reach out and touch someone!

This is, in many ways, the hardest part of food blogging. We women are socialized to downplay and never brag about our food, so it goes against the grain to be out promoting our own cooking.

What we have learned is that everyone has a unique voice, has something to contribute and that should not be marginalized. We who are not Bobby Flay or Mario Batali or Emeril Lagasse (or a Julia Child, Lidia Bastianich, or, dare I say, Rachael Ray) still have something of value to share with the food world.

Lesson Seven: Gratitude

We are grateful for the kindnesses we had been shown, which are not few in number. We are thrilled to contribute something positive, creative and meaningful to the world.

So of course, it's time to give back. To celebrate our first anniversary, we got so excited about this milestone in our lives that as of Friday, January 8th, we’re going to have our first giveaway going at our site (and it's a doozy).

Life (and food blogging) is good! And we are grateful for it.

-- Donna Kelly (and Anne Tegtmeier)

Fabulously frugal recipes - for foodies.

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