Write What You Know

You heard it here first. Oh, wait. You’ve seen this pearl of wisdom somewhere before, haven’t you? That’s right. Everyone, everywhere, who has ever taken an English class has heard this advice ad nauseam. It’s writing 101. It’s freshman year. It’s the learning annex. Write what you know. Mine your experiences and use it all. But, you know, it’s a truth I often forget when food blogging.

Here’s what happens: I see a dish I want to make. I bookmark it to my Pinboard or tuck it in my Moleskin recipe notebook. I rush out to buy all the ingredients and get chopping. It’s fantastic; we photograph it first and devour it second, then I sit down at my desk. And I realize I don’t have anything to say. There isn’t a narrative I can spin that is germane to the recipe. It’s a tasty tidbit and I want to share it. But we’re in the business of telling stories. Without a story, your post is dead in the water.

As I wrote in my last piece, there are countless resources for recipes, both online and in the cookbooks lining our bookshelves. Filling the pages of glossy magazines that sit on our coffee table unread because the baby beckons all day and later, television’s mesmerizing glow calls, and in bed a page or two of a book so that my brain doesn’t completely come unraveled. Everyone’s got recipes. You want to stand apart. Why should the selective, savvy public choose your site above all others?

Write what you know. Obviously, you can share family secrets, since Grandma can’t her dial-up running and your dad is consumed with Facebook and Words with Friends and never reads your blog anymore. There’s a deep well from which to draw special recipes and accompanying anecdotes. That time Rubenesque Aunt Linda fell through the back deck holding a bowl of her famous ambrosia. The day after Christmas when you and your sisters made leftovers into a Frankenfeast of epic proportion. Discovering that mom’s chocolate chip cookies come from the back of the morsel package. Family is funny, relatable, and a perfect place to start.

Last time we talked about writing where you live. But you can also relate stories from your travels. If you’ve been to the South of France recently, fantastic – you have gorgeous photos, tons of inspiration, and please, can I come with you next time? But South Jersey works (almost) as well. Write about the quirky roadside fruit stand where you stopped and discovered wild clover honey, the surly diner waitress who served the greatest piece of pie you ever had; talk about the journey, the similarities and differences between there and your home.

A story is a way for our readers to dive into the recipe and the recipe is a way into your life. Once again, we’re back to the idea of you. You are the commodity. Your recipes. Your thoughts. Your insight. Your life. You get to choose what to disclose. Don’t overshare. The internet has enough of that. Be careful, because if you haven’t already learned, everyone is watching. Especially when you think no one is. That’s when you find out your boss or first boyfriend is a big fan. So, do be selective. Discerning. Tasteful.

The same rules that govern the rest of this brave new world of instant and enduring communication apply to your food blog. We like immediate, personal, warm, honest, sincere, hilarious and authentic. Be yourself and tell your stories. Write from the heart and people will want to cook your food and come back to your little corner of the net again and again.

[Photo: burlives]

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