You might have noticed that I’ve been very quiet for the last month and a half. Or maybe you didn’t notice. Which is exactly my point. The number of food writers, food bloggers, food websites, food magazines, food TV shows, and cookbooks has grown exponentially. The gluten-free version of all these categories, though smaller, seems to have grown even more. There is an amazing amount of food content everywhere we look and very few curators. We can’t even count on publishers, because many of them have taken to simply repackaging blog posts into books.
I started to think that maybe there was too much information to sort through and consume, especially for those of us who live and breathe food. It was becoming hard to know where what I thought started and where what others thought stopped– there was just too much commotion. There was also this:
I noticed that I kept seeing the same recipes over and over with only minor tweaks of ingredients- on different websites and blogs.
I noticed that journalists and cookbook writers recycled the same columns and recipes over all of the many media they felt compelled to write or tweet for. I think many are spread too thin and that it prevents them from producing anything really significant.
I noticed that publishers judged the value of potential cookbooks on how many people followed or liked the author on social media instead of the quality of the recipes.
I noticed that I was spending less time with some of the same food magazines I used to pore over before the Internet took hold. I was already getting so much other content that they didn’t seem all that exciting. Then one day this past December, when I pushed myself to sit down, relax and really try to read through one, I found a very strange thing: it was no longer really there. It looked like a bulletin board page of pictures and small paragraphs of words and links to on-line content. As far as printed food magazines go, it was a very unsatisfying read, like the magazine equivalent of coitus interruptus. This magazine, which I had subscribed to for decades, was trying to be in two places at once, and as a result, it was not really well represented anywhere. I cancelled my subscription.
The good thing about the democratization of food content is that everyone gets a chance to be heard. The bad thing about the democratization of food content is that everyone gets a chance to be heard. And now, the huge throngs of people who create that content have to shout really loudly to be heard above the din. It makes for tiresome, repetitive and mediocre content. It also made me just want to shut up and take a break.
So I’ve spent some time off the grid. I’ve been on a kind of social network sabbatical, except for a peak here and there. I spent time looking at what’s going on in the food world that isn’t on the Internet. I spent time actually talking to people in the industry to see what they think. I spent time reading non-Internet based articles and books, ones in which the authors had the time to really think about what they wanted to say. I spent time developing new recipes, trying new products and surveying food trends in food stores and restaurants in different parts of the country. I spent a lot of time looking at the ingredients on processed food packages and noticed the growing number of companies making highly processed gluten-free food with ingredients that are difficult to pronounce. I looked at food advertising and took notice of food oriented public relation efforts. But mostly, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking and being quiet; it’s been incredibly liberating and refreshing.
Do I feel more informed? I do actually. I feel like I’ve had the time to carefully fill my brain with a lot of thoughtful information and then I had the time to sort it out. I particularly enjoyed being able to talk to chefs, restaurant owners, grocers, farmers and organizers of farm markets and ask questions that they didn’t have to answer in a sound bite or tweet.
One other delicious result is that I found a couple of new products I’d like to tell you about it. I’ll be back soon.
(©)2013 by Annalise Roberts