ALTHOUGH food blogging has been on the rise throughout the past decade, the film Julie and Julia starring Meryl Streep and Amy Adams positively catapulted it into the spotlight.
Based on food blogger Julie Powell’s 2002 mission to cook all of the recipes in Julia Childs’ Mastering the Art of French Cooking, the film showed the sheer joy, the challenges and the fun to be had in sharing one’s cooking successes and failures with the online world.
Many bloggers use posts to review restaurants or analyse current food trends. Others simply share their thoughts, hints and tips, as well as their favourite recipes.
GT found a couple of local food bloggers to get their thoughts on this increasingly popular pastime.
SIOBHAN Curran of Adamstown is one of the lucky few who can actually make a living out of a hobby she loves.
About five years ago she started a blog called Far Out Brussel Sprout to help her keep tabs on different products and clothes she liked online.
‘‘But a lot of people were doing a similar kind of thing, so I didn’t really have much of a point of difference with that blog,’’ she told GT.
‘‘I started another blog called The Novocastrian Files when I moved to Newcastle at the beginning of last year.
‘‘That is a blog that includes q and a’s with clever and creative Novocastrians.
‘‘I just wanted to give them a platform to talk about their inspirations and their history, how they got into doing what they were doing, what their dream projects were, as well as their favourite places to eat, play and shop in Newcastle.
But then she got sidetracked by her popular food blog, Cooking From The Heart, where she writes about food trends, favourite recipes, seasonal ingredients and how to use them, as well as restaurants.
‘‘I did part of a chef’s apprenticeship when I left school – then I realised I wasn’t going to have much of a social life and I’d never meet a husband,’’ she laughed.
‘‘No, I actually got really bad dermatitis from being in the kitchen and I was told I was going to have to wear gloves for the rest of my career, and I didn’t want that.
‘‘So I left cheffing and studied nutrition, then I fell into publishing.
‘‘I worked at Donna Hay magazine, and I thought maybe I could get in and eventually she might want a section about healthy eating, but that never eventuated.
‘‘I like being challenged in the kitchen, but when I was working full-time, it was very difficult for me to be able to set aside time to tackle those tricky recipes or work with those ingredients that might take a bit of time to master.’’
When she moved to Newcastle she was doing some blogging on behalf of some magazines, and had some spare time to fill.
‘‘I kind of fell into doing this cooking blog, and then I was lucky enough to have KitchenAid come on board as a sponsor,’’ Curran said.
‘‘So that’s kind of my job now – to produce content for Cooking From The Heart.
‘‘I do about two posts a week.
‘‘There is money to be made in blogging, but it’s difficult. I think I’m one of the lucky few being able to do it.’’
Some bloggers relied on advertisements on their blog, while others just enjoyed some of the perks associated with profiling a restaurant or a hotel on their site.
But most just blog for the love of it.
‘‘There are two different schools of food blogging,’’ she said.
‘‘You’ve got people who are at home and do it for fun, and don’t have any advertising – they just cook their recipes and post their articles on food and all of the issues around food and sustainability, and they might do their own restaurant reviews and things like that.
‘‘Then you’ve got the people who are paid or sponsored to produce a blog for a company.
‘‘There is a bazillion food blogs – anyone can set one up – it’s just getting the following and being engaged with a lot of other food bloggers as well that’s important.
‘‘Promoting yourself via Twitter or Facebook is really useful too.’’
Her journey with food actually began when she was a teenager taking home economics classes.
‘‘For me, cooking was a necessity,’’ she said.
‘‘My mother wasn’t a great cook. She worked full time and we had the same meals five times a week – either steak and chips or spaghetti bolognaise – and that was about it,’’ she laughed.
‘‘So for me, as a teenager, I did home economics at school and a whole other world opened up.
‘‘I learned that you could even cook spaghetti bolognaise without using a jar of pasta sauce, which was a revelation to me.
‘‘So I started cooking at home out of pure self indulgence because I wanted to try something different, and mum loved it.’’
Curran loves that food blogging gives her the time and the opportunity to cook interesting food, as well as visit producers and growers.
‘‘I don’t see it as work at all. It’s a pleasure,’’ she said.
One of the other appealing things about writing a blog, as opposed to writing for a magazine, was the quick turnaround.
‘‘There’s no delay in being able to put up a blog post,’’ she said.
‘‘I could cook something today and have it up on the blog this afternoon, whereas magazines have a much longer lead time.
‘‘You can still plan for blogs like you do for magazines, but it just means you can be a bit more reactive to the topics floating around in the industry or the local community at that time.
‘‘The other thing about blogging is that you’re not paying for real estate.
‘‘You can blog for free. You can write as much as you want, include as many photos as you like, for free.
‘‘The only expense is your time.’’
For her, a good food blog had character behind it.
‘‘I think people like to read a story about food as well, with a bit of personality to it, rather than just a dry old how-to article,’’ she said.
HAMILTON mum Megann Evans began her blog – Megann’s Kitchen – in April, and has gradually built a steady following.
‘‘I’ve always loved baking and cooking, and it got to the point where everybody was saying, ‘Oh, I would love to have the recipe for this’, and my friends were calling me Donna Hay and Martha Stewart,’’ Evans laughed.
She began taking photos of her creations and typing out the recipes.
‘‘Then I realised I had the makings of a personal cookbook, and I thought, ‘I’ve got to do something with this.’
‘‘I was talking to my sister about it, and she said, ‘Why don’t you blog it?’
‘‘So I came home from a family holiday with her and blogged that weekend.
‘‘It turned out to be a great passion and something I have a bit of a knack for.’’
Now Evans has people from all over the world jumping online to read her posts on Megann’s Kitchen.
She has followers from the US, the UK, Indonesia and the Ukraine, as well as Australia, and gets about 1000 hits a month.
‘‘It’s quite surprising, because I just do it for myself and for my friends,’’ she said.
‘‘I’m very honoured.
‘‘I have a bit of an art background, so it has been a bit of a creative outlet.
‘‘So if other people are actually looking at it and reading it, that’s an added bonus.’’
About once a week Evans – who grew up in the gourmet food region of north eastern Victoria – publishes her recipes and the stories behind them on her blog, along with a series of photographs to illustrate the cooking process.
She tries to do most of this while her two-year-old son is taking a nap.
‘‘I did a photo styling and photography subject while studying a visual merchandising course at RMIT in Melbourne, which touched on a few basics, but we didn’t even use digital cameras back then,’’ she laughed.
‘‘So I’m having a bit of fun and learning things as I go.’’
As well as people like Martha Stewart and Donna Hay, Evans is inspired by her nearest and dearest.
It was her sister who introduced her to the joys of cooking when she first moved out of home.
Her mother is also a big inspiration.
‘‘Mum is from southern Kentucky, and so that’s where I get my love for southern food and pies and tarts,’’ Evans said.
‘‘I don’t worry about calories – when it comes to butter, it goes in.
‘‘But, especially when it comes to cooking for my family, I do try to make sure it’s as healthy as possible and as rounded as possible.’’
Evans told GT she was whipping up a batch of blueberry muffins most weeks, and began thinking of ways in which she could alter the recipe to make it that little bit healthier for her toddler.
To do this, she substituted half of the plain flour for wholemeal flour.
This gave the muffins a beautiful ‘‘country texture’’ without their becoming too crumbly.
Evans also replaced the butter with grapeseed oil because it is high in antioxidants.
Adding apple to the recipe also added sweetness and moisture.
‘‘They are the new favourite muffin in our household, and they are so simple to prepare,’’ she said.
Check out these food blogs:
❏Megann’s Kitchen – megannskitchen.blogspot.com
❏Cooking From The Heart – cookingfromtheheart.com.au
❏What Katie Ate – whatkatieate.blogspot.com
❏Island Menu – islandmenu.com.au/blog
❏Lamb Chops Inc – lambchopsinc.blogspot.com
❏Not Quite Nigella – notquitenigella.com
❏Morsels and Musings – morselsandmusings.blogspot.com
❏Jenius – jenius.com.au
❏Foodologist – foodologist.com
❏A Table For Two – atablefortwo.com.au