Savill is Co-Editor of the The Sydney Morning Herald’s Good Food Guideand has actually had dinner with a food blogger. Fancy that! But what does she mean by “a food blogger”? I transcribed the relevant bit of the interview, starting after Alan Saunders asks her if she takes notes at the table: she reacts strongly, saying no despite the fact that “half the world is a food blogger these days and people seem to be all around me taking notes and photographing and doing everything else with their meal. I think that discretion is the better part of valour“.
(Where valour comes into the role description of a restaurant reviewer is not exactly clear, but I’m snarking now.) Savill says that if she’s desperate to remember something precisely she’ll send herself a text or sit hunched in the loo scribbling into her moleskine. The conversation continues:
Alan Saunders – Yeah, well, I know people who do that [take notes at the table]. I take the view that if you and I are having dinner and I take out a notebook, well this could be a business meeting, I could be keeping notes not to do with the food.
Joanna Savill – Look, absolutely. But I can tell you I once went to dinner with a food blogger, you know people who, who, go out to restaurants and photograph it and then write all about it online, put it online, and there’s a huge community of people doing that these days, and he proceeded to photograph everything that moved in the restaurant and to take notes at the table and we had the whole restaurant galvanised. (Alan exhales!) And I was just – I wanted to hide under the table, actually, you really don’t want to stand out, that’s the bottom line.
More than occasionally I wonder what is food blogging and how can it continue to differ (and differentiate itself) from other media.
It’s going to be pretty hard for that differentiation to occur in the minds of food mass media professionals, it seems. It seems that they only see two kinds of food blogs – the cheese sandwich variety or sites that review restaurants but don’t need to observe the same kind of strictures that professional journalists do (other than legal ones, of course).
To me the issue is clearly one of differentiation – if it hasn’t happened already, there’s a whole taxonomy of food blogs that will make a nice thesis for someone one day. I wouldn’t mind it being me, but I can’t come up with the $27,500 that the University of Adelaide and Le Cordon Bleu charge for their Masters degree in Gastronomy. Yes, $27,500.
I do read some review-type blogs, and some recipe-type blogs, some cook-the-book blogs, some food-history blogs, some just-because-they’re-local and some smart-people-obsessed-with-food blogs. And about eighty others, from time to time. What keeps me coming back is snappy writing and a clearly considered point of view. There’s not a lot of that about in the broadsheet lifestyle inserts.
As for reviews – I almost never do them here because with two small kids I don’t eat out much. However I can offer some advice from Saturday night’s dinner at Sammy’s Kitchen in Canberra – Do Not Order the Ma Po Tofu. It’s shocking.
You can download or stream the By Design program here. Skip forward to about 43 minutes for this segment (then go back and hear about designing Orang Utan enclosures).