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the ultimate vanity project, this business of blogging

March 16, 2013
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I started my blog a little over a year ago as a creative outlet to fill the void of recently retiring from over a decade of fronting various indie-bands. I didn’t have a specific direction in mind for my new online adventure other than I didn’t want to be heavily burdened with expectations–that it be a project free of any sort of attachment to an outcome.

I’ve always had a knack for navigating the kitchen. Despite being mostly self-taught, (I cooked at Michael Stipe’s vegetarian restaurant in Athens, Georgia during college and had a brief one-week apprenticeship at a Danish Bakery in Denmark), I feel my chops behind the cutting board are at least slightly above average.

My culinary prowess served me well in my younger days as I dazzled my dates with béchamel and bolognese. I developed a fetish for entertaining early in adulthood and amongst friends and family have become notorious for my Thanksgiving exploits.

I simply love to cook, especially for friends and family. It’s a complete joy. So, it is no wonder that much of what has ended up on my blog is, ta-da… food related. A food blog. (Sigh.)

As of late I haven’t gone out of my way to not post food related content, but I have definitely been focusing more energy on posting other creative projects such as home renovations, short films and music. But now I am contemplating avoiding food content altogether.

The world does not need another fucking food blog.

I’ve posited (if only to myself and a handful of twitter followers), “Perhaps I should only post food content when I’ve created a dish that is exceptional, nay, ridiculous in execution.” But then again, shouldn’t anything I post be strictly amazing? Or am I violating my own self-imposed rule of no expectations?

I look at a lot of food blogs out there. Some of them, even the hyper-successful food blogs, are poorly designed, littered with hundreds of food-blogger-network links and thousands of ads including that stupid banner with the pixelated banana stock image that says, “avoid this one weird food to cut down on belly fat”. (Could it be… a banana?)

I’m not implying my blog is superior by any means. I am merely suggesting that… maybe it’s not imperative that I personally contribute more food photos to the internet’s already Instagrammed clogged arteries. I can’t help but think there is an eminent food blog backlash looming. (If it hasn’t already.)

It’s completely synonymous with all of these damn cooking shows. Do we need another one? For the life of me I can’t imagine anyone doing anything better than America’s Test Kitchen. When I see their program or online posts I think, “OK, wow, I have been doing this really wrong.”

So, despite my best intentions, my recipes could actually be a complete mother-fucking nightmare to anyone attempting them.

Here’s my advice: Buy Mark Bittman’s “How to Cook Everything”  and watch “America’s Test Kitchen”. If you absolutely have to see pretty food photographs visit La Tartine Gourmande. That’s it. That’s all you need.

My fellow food bloggers now hate me.

Blogs: the ultimate vanity project

Are blogs, in general, simply a manifestation of the ultimate American paradigm? That despite the Dairy Queen on Main Street, some guy down the block can shamelessly open a Dairy King? (Once in Grand Junction, Colorado I saw a “7-to-Eleven” convenience store, not to be confused with 7-Eleven.)

Or is it narcissism at it’s worst? That even the smallest voice with the smallest audience has the ability to act as celebrity through tweets, hashtags and search engine optimization.

The implication of owning a blog is that “what I have to say is important” or “worthy” or “useful” or “inspiring”. But, is it? Am I?

This is a true story: I was corresponding with my Danish host-sister via e-mail and I sent her a link to my blog. Her reply was perfectly apt for this argument. She was “curious as to the purpose of the blog”, but freely admitted she wasn’t familiar with such things. My first thought was, well… you know, people visit blogs for inspiration. That’s it. That’s all I could come up with.

Not to get all Kanye caps lock on you but BLOGS SERVE NO PURPOSE. Wikipedia serves a purpose (settling bets). WebMD serves a purpose (self-diagnosing yourself with terminal cancer). Amazon serves a purpose (reading fake product reviews). David the Tornado is really just some shit I made. NOW LOOK AT IT.

I sometimes can’t help but feel that in the end, yes, blogging is nothing more than a huge fucking vanity project. Look at me! Look what I can do! (Also, what a great band name… The Vanity Project.) Furthermore…  Join my Facebook page! Follow my insightful tweets! Follow my pinterest boards!

On my blog alone I have links to ten social profiles. Ten! Who needs that much of anyone?

Is it merely a facet of the artistic temperament to display oneself so blatantly? In the past this… this wont for the stage used to be arranged by organizing an art show or convincing my co-workers to come see me and my band perform in some dank shitty basement bar. Now it’s, “Hey! Check out my asparagus soup recipe! Click here!

To be honest, at this point, I think everyone would much prefer clicking on a link.

It bothers me that it bothers me.

I wish this was somehow about sour grapes–that I started a blog and it failed. Quite the contrary. In just over a year of blogging I have been blown away by both the overwhelming positive response to my posts and the sheer amount of visitors I’ve had to the site.

I am not sure why this illusion of purpose bothers me. Would I be just as happy making wonderful dinners without the world knowing about it? It’s easy to argue I did for most of my life.

I have a BFA in photography and possess volumes of negatives, contact sheets, photo albums–and in this millennium, a stack of hard drives. Up until 6-7 years ago it’s safe to say that my “media life” rested with mostly myself. Now I have a compendium of essays, recipes, photographs, videos, songs, design… all pinned up and available to the world. Why?

Therein lies the crux of the biscuit.

So tell me fellow bloggers… explain this all to me. If it’s not a vanity project, why publicly blog?

 

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3 Comments

  • Reply heidi March 17, 2013 at 12:26 am

    If writing about food makes you happy, you should do it.

  • Reply Dale Cruse March 17, 2013 at 1:46 am

    Yes. YES. David, you said so many things so much more eloquently than I did when I was in a similar spot. Well done, sir.

    The one thing I might disagree with is that your effort is somehow a failure. I don’t see it that way. You’ve had fun, you’ve expressed yourself, & you’ve created something valuable. It may not have ended up being exactly what you thought it would be, but I certainly don’t think of it as a failure.

    To me, the question now is what’s next. For me, when I retired my wine blog, I rededicated myself to my career & ended up writing an HTML5 book. What’s next for you, David?

    • Reply davidtornado March 18, 2013 at 11:13 pm

      It’s not that I see the site as a “failure” per se; that is, if the benchmark for success is unique visits per month. (Which, again blows me away.) The beauty of the struggle, for me, is purpose. The purpose of blogging.

      Maybe it’s like asking, “what is the purpose of art?” That’s a naive question yet somehow seems apt in this context.

      Perhaps it’s just the medium that’s changed. Or as Heidi pointed out, anyone can have a blog. Anyone can apply an Instagram filter and make instant art. The problem is that there’s an absence of process. Suddenly there’s no narrative. Or does it matter? To me, it seems the broader the artificial spectrum becomes so does the narrowing of intent.

      Or maybe I am over-thinking it?

      I am not insinuating that everyone needs to be holed up in their closet clumsily loading 120 film from their light-leaking Diana camera into a stainless steel canister.

      But, I would definitely take it more seriously.

      And, I’m using Instagram as a global metaphor. Don’t even get me started on autotune… aye. And, yes, for the record I have an Instagram account.

      The purpose. Purpose.

      Maybe I need to write a musical?

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