JANET K. KEELER
Grazing online for food-related journals, we find charming and disturbing personalities to suit every taste.
On the Internet, it seems everyone is blogging on about food.
There's Robyn Anderson, who shares her weight-loss journey via alter ego One Fat Bitchypoo (www.robynanderson.com/ofb) She's lost more than 100 pounds, and woe to the reader who criticizes her technique.
"I am sure you can imagine how important your opinion is to me," she snaps back in response to a less than charitable comment. Her alter ego appears aptly named.
Then there's Julie Powell of New York, who is nearing the end of a yearlong project to prepare the 500-plus recipes in Julia Child's 1961 Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Since July 11, the Julie/Julia Project (http://blogs.salon.com/0001399/) has had more than 350,000 hits.
It seems lots of people want to read about "Tartapalooza," the tale of an entire weekend spent preparing Tarte aux Peches and Tarte aux Pommes, plus ridiculously difficult pastry that most mortals from the Frozen Food Age wouldn't bother with.
Blog is Internet-speak for Web log, an online journal that's updated regularly. Blogs can read like stream-of-consciousness ramblings or, more rarely, like well-written books. Often the writer is unnamed or goes by a first name. In the typical Wild West world of the Internet, estimates for online journals on all topics range from 500,000 to 10-million.
The Julie/Julia Project represents the high of Internet food chatter and One Fat Bitchypoo, well, if not the lowest, is at least the most common. Powell is profane and witty, with an eye for the absurd. (She describes sprawling on her belly in the street to coax a cat from a drain.) Anderson provides a modicum of inspiration for dieters, but nothing that can't be obtained from a dozen other sources. (Drink lots of water and exercise.)
Google-searching food blogs is like navigating a rabbit's warren. One landing leads to another and another. Then, deep into the labyrinth, you hit a site whose name can't be printed in a family newspaper, but whose content is so entertaining and thought-provoking it should be. More on that later.
For writers, or bloggers, the Internet is the publishing house or magazine they wouldn't be able to penetrate in the brick-and-mortar world. Bloggers eliminate the middle man so their "books" and articles go directly to readers.
"Web logs are basically a way for people to have their voices heard," says Cameron Barrett, a New York Web consultant who had a blog even before the word was coined about four years ago.
Prior to Web logs, folks with something to say started newsletters, or zines, intended to rival mainstream publications. However, those publications required money for printing and distribution, Barrett says. Now, anyone with a computer and Internet access can build a blog for nearly nothing, thanks to free online software.
For the majority of blogs, editors are as scarce as spellcheck. Grammar and content run the gamut. An entire Web site could be devoted to tallying how many times the contraction "it's" is spelled without an apostrophe, turning it into the unintended possessive, its.
"Nine out of 10 aren't that great," Barrett says. "But that's typical with any medium. I think Web logs are going to continue to grow because the tools being built are going to make it easier and easier."
Still, food blogs allow a glimpse into the mind of the obsessed. A list of food blogs for thought:
--The Julie/Julia Project is the best of the bunch. "365 days. 536 recipes. One girl and a crappy outer-borough kitchen," Powell writes in the introduction. Aug. 25 will be the end of the yearlong project, but don't be surprised to see Powell's experiences become a book. Or a movie, perhaps with Kate Winslet as our intrepid and slightly corked cook and Matt Damon as the earnest and hungry husband, Eric.
If you have time for nothing else, read Powell's account of killing a lobster a la Julia (http://blogs.salon.com/0001399/2002/12/17.html) :". . . I placed the tip of my knife between its eyes and, again following Julia's suggestion for humane means of lobster murder, muttering "I'm sorry I'm sorry I'm sorry,' I plunged it all at once down. Oh God. Oh God."
--For a year, Carl Hill-Popper and Nadia Sawicki kept their food diary at www.whatweate.com The blog, they say, is mostly for them to remember things they cooked and great restaurant meals they ate. Hill-Popper's failure at making chili powder and Sawicki's rant about farm-raised salmon might mirror some of your own feelings and experiences. The site is on hiatus for a while, but old entries can be accessed.
--Knowledge is Power . . . No Matter How Trivial is the full name of www.kiplog.com where a link connects the curious to culinary news from in and around Chicago, plus lots of links to other food-crazed sites. Blogger Paul McCann shares lots of cooking tips, including grub for campouts and the joy of sheep's cheese omelets and Hungarian bacon. He's serious about food and so is the site.
--Bruce Cole, who lives in San Francisco but would rather be in Patagonia or even Montana, writes the Saute Wednesday blog (www.sautewednesday.com) He links to lots of food writers, newspapers and magazines.
--The musings of Luke and Sandy at www.santheo.com/restaurant are almost as entertaining as NBC's reality show The Restaurant. The blog is 2 years old and chronicles the guys' research into starting their own restaurant. They've given themselves about 10 years to study the scene and to save money. For their Academy Awards party, they served hors d'oeuvres with a heavy dose of thyme in honor of The Hours.
At www.foodgoat.blogspot.com Ladygoat tells you what she eats every day. Sometimes she cooks, sometimes she eats out. It's a full life. A 32-year-old aspiring chef writes about her return to culinary school at www.gojoanna.com/chefblog/ And at www.chowhound.com you'll find a guy on a digital soapbox about his love affair with food.
Now, about that coarsely named blog. Do a search on www.google.com or www.yahoo.com for "corporate groceries" and you'll find it. It's not pornographic but some might be offended by the name of the site, which contains the F-word.
Once you get past the in-your-face title, you'll be amused, or possibly irritated, about Jesica Davis' efforts to shop only in mom-and-pop grocery stores in her Chicago neighborhood. It's her way to support the little guy and try to get more for her buck.
Like many bloggers, she's experiencing technical difficulties since switching to a new service and only some of her archives can be accessed for now. You'll get the flavor, though.
If the current menu of food blogs doesn't make you hungry for more, they'll make you hungry for something.
Maybe just a pastrami on rye; hold the observations.
Some food blogs
One Fat Bitchypoo
The Julie/Julia Project
Carl Hill-Popper and Nadia Sawicki food diary
Knowledge is Power . . . No Matter How Trivial
Saute Wednesday blog
Luke and Sandy's restaurant research
Ladygoat's daily menu
A return to culinary school
A love affair with food