Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Find your unique food blogging voice , Let's write about food

Welcome to the second blog post on “let’s write about food”

What makes a food blogger successful?

Important characteristics of a food blogger
A passion for their defined niche
A unique voice in text and visuals
An ability to inspire through words and photos
A presence in social media
An active community on their blogs

Now we will be discussing defined niche a little later in the month, but first let’s talk about developing a unique voice . Whether you are a fashion blogger, or a food blogger, or even a video blogger (vlogger) almost every article EVER written on writing , says that you need to find your own unique voice.

So what is a unique voice and how does one find it?
Guess what, you already have a unique voice, it is the voice, or the way you speak to your friends and family.

Now imagine this, you had a fantastic meal in a restaurant, and came home and called your mom and started to describe the meal. You want her to experience it in every way possible, you use memories from the past (remember that time we went to the mithai shop in Jaipur), you try and describe what you felt on looking at the dish ( it looked like a lego tower, I was honestly scared to break it), you went on to describe how you felt .
So what did you just do ?

You involved the listener. You got them interested in your experience. You shared a part of your day , and it made the person in front feel special and involved, rather than just force your views on them. And you used your own unique words/phrases to make it interesting for your mom.

That’s your voice.
Think of writing your blog as if speaking to a close friend or family member. You will rarely tell them,” I went to a restaurant and the food was delicious, so yum. “ Your best friend will turn around and say ,” yeah, so what? You eat great food every day.” When we talk to our friends we make funny jokes, or link the experience with something in the past, and then the food experience is no more yours but a shared experience.
Here are a few tips for you :

Recipe writers :

1.       Begin by sharing why the recipe is special to you. Maybe your mother used to pack it in your tiffin. It may have a connect to working moms who are struggling to find simple, nutritious but fun tiffin ideas.

2.       Be honest: Tell them how you tried making the dish and failed five times. Tell them about the tiffin your mom used to pack and how you threw it out the bus window every day. And how much you hated it! But decided it need a revamp.

3.       Go beyond the food: link it to something universal, like keeping traditions alive (old family recipes), or willing to try something new (cooking a new cuisine is like an adventure in itself), or persevering to achieving something in life ( a failed recipe finally nailed).

For restaurant reviews :

1.       Triggered memories: More often than not, the dish you most liked at a place, has some unique connection from your childhood. The peas dish, which reminds you of sitting on your kitchen floor and removing peas from a pod, and eating half of them while peeling. Visit to the vegetable market, family holiday travels, eating the dish for the first time with your girlfriend.

Kalyan Karmarkar talks about food memories on his blog www.thefinelychopped.com . The blog post was an indepth insightful article on the origins of Mughlai paratha, but it began with a food memory about rolls.
I grew up on egg rolls from the parar roller dokan (street corner roll shop) in Kolkata’s suburb of Bansdroni. My mother used to give me Rs 1.50 everyday which went up to Rs 2.50 and then Rs 3 in my high school years. I am talking of the late 1980s and early 1990s. Every evening I would come back from school and then go to the roll shop clutching the change my mother had given me for my evening snack while she would still be at work at the college she taught in in faraway Howrah.

The story though has no bearing on the body of the article which is about a whole different food altogether, but it acts as a hook, a term used by writers which literally meanssomething used to ‘hook the reader.  Everyone at some point has received pocket money to spend on our favourite food snacks, either at the school canteen or the occasional street fare. Older readers especially working mothers may identify with leaving children to fend for their post school meal while they work. These food memories help readers connect with the author even though he maybe talking about a food that they have never tasted , seen or heard of.

2.       Be honest : What’s the difference between a food blogger and the food expert? While the food expert has indepth knowledge of a cuisine or a cooking, as a blogger you have a unique perspective. While an expert will list out the qualities of a good Negroni , a blogger will be honest to say they are having it for the first time and their initial reactions to the cocktail. People read you, because they want your perspective , your outlook. They don’t just want to know how the food was, but how You found it. (when I was first starting out blogging and I read this tip in the Dianne Jacob book, it was like a huge paradigm shift for me)
But here are lines from Kalyan's blog he talks about the changing food writing scene in “From restaurant critics to social media influencers; the changing world of restaurant reviewing in India.”
What the democratisation of media has done, however, is that it has created new influencers and it reflects the fact that not every reader is the same. That it is fine to have an opinion on food and share it. That there are no experts when it comes to food. There is no right way and no wrong way. That it is the love for food and passion for it that matters at the end, and having a distinctive and consistent voice. This has helped celebrate the world of food and has helped everyone grow in the process. 


3.       Write about something you hated: Let’s be honest, when we like a dish we are less verbal about it, “achcha tha, mazaa aya.” but when it was abad meal, we verbalise much more ,” it was so spicy it was as if my tongue was walking on hot coals , smoke was coming out of my ears… “some of India’s most famous food writers started out by writing tirades, rather than praises. Kalyan Karmarkar even named his blog “ The finely chopped “ may be to ‘cut to size’ below average food. His first post was about airlines food. This week write about the worst meal you have had , don’t name names if you don’t want to hurt sentiments, or getting black listed from food tastings, but as a unique food writing exercise.
Use the above tips on some of your food writings this week, and post the links of your posts in the comments section below.
Share this post, or your own blog posts with the hashtag #indianfoodwriting for others to read and learn.
This series of “let’s write about food” is part of my #blogchatterprojects .

Next post on the importance of food writing in todays world of pictures and instagrams. 

Read previous post on why I started this project HERE
Read about writing with a universal appeal HERE