I’ve not had the best of weeks in the kitchen. On Monday, I attempted to make the Slow Cooker Black Bean Ragout from the Smitten Kitchen cookbook, but accidentally ended up overcooking them, meaning that I was left with a gigantic pot filled with tasty bullets of failure. Then, to add insult to injury, I spent an hour making a cake which involved boiling and pureeing oranges (and giving Mr. McMc a headache through intensive use of the food processor and KitchenAid), then – at a delicate stage in the baking process – took my masterpiece out of the oven to check if it was done and promptly proceeded to drop it on the kitchen floor. Not only was I left with a flat disc of orange scented gelatinous ooze, but I was also left with a mountain of washing up. Sometimes a girl just can’t get a break.
To be honest, I’ve had a lot of these days in the kitchen – times where the scant cooking skill I have decides to fail me and I can’t cook a thing without all hell breaking loose. But when you blog about food, you hide all of that. You’re always striving for perfection – that perfect cake, that perfect picture, the perfectly written recipe that will draw readers in and get those all important page clicks. No one really sees all the work that goes on behind the scenes – all the burnt fingers, soggy pastry and scrambled curd. I’ve lost count of the amount of things I’ve made which have descended into inedible messes, or the various ‘kitchen experiments’ I’ve dabbled in which have resulted in me nearly blowing my cooker up and streaking my freshly painted walls with daubs of hot grease. But then again, who wants to read a blog post which says “I made this, it was shit and I was left with third degree burns. Look, here’s a instagrammed photo of it where it looks like a vintage dog turd!” Instead, you shove the broken crockery and burnt bits into an overflowing bin bag, throw a pretty tablecloth over the stained kitchen counter and put your game face on (hoping that – when you finally post your masterpiece – no one notices the chipped tiles next to your sink.)
It feels as though there are a million and one rules about food blogging nowadays – how often you need to post, the kind of lighting you need to use, and even what blog platform you should use. Stick the phrase ‘how to start a food blog’ into Twitter, and you’ll find all sorts of armchair experts telling you how to turn your hastily cooked (and often hastily written) creations into a money spinning blogging empire. It’s as though we’ve all convinced ourselves that following these arbitrary rules leads to perfection, and perfection leads to success. which is daft. It just saps all the joy out of the process. Firing up WordPress to write a post goes from something which is all a bit of fun to something which is an immense chore. You’re too busy trying to show that your life is all sunshine and sparkles and perfectly iced cupcakes rather than a huge morass of messy mundanities.
One of my favourite food bloggers is Joy the Baker. The reason that her blog works so well is that it’s beautiful, filled with delicious recipes (and gorgeous cat pictures – always a winner) and because it’s real. Joy makes an effort to show us that she’s human, and prone to making mistakes. One of my all time favourite posts of hers is this ‘10 Real-Talk Blog Tips,’ where she encourages wannabe blog superstars to not sweat the small stuff. “Do what you do, and keep doing it better and better,” she advises which is great advice for life as well as blogging.
So, lets not be afraid to show off our ragged edges, our imperfections, our loaves of bread which emerge from the oven looking like burnt housebricks. Sometimes it’s those culinary disasters which make the best blog posts – even if they’re accompanied by the least Pinterest friendly pictures possible. After all, nobody’s perfect.