Feb 11, 2006
Dine & Dis. Food & Wine's Pete Wells Applauds Deep End Dining but Declares War on the Food Blogosphere.
The March 2006 edition of Food & Wine magazine.
Food writer Pete Wells’ column in the March 2006 issue of Food & Wine magazine critiques food blogs and their masters. Only a handful of food blogs gets his approval and kudos. This short list includes Noodlepie, Deep End Dining, Food Porn Watch, Slice, Gastropoda, Saute Wednesday, The Food Section, and The Bruni Digest.
For the remainder of the food blogosphere, Pete Wells essentially did the food writer equivalent of drawing and publishing caricatures of Islam's Prophet Muhammad by calling most food blogs boring. He writes,“…I can't help wondering why so many other food blogs turn into tiny empires of boredom.” The “empires” are striking back. The reaction from the food blogosphere has been many and predictably irate. The feelings have snowballed from personally hurt to talk of gastronomic jihad. This ever increasing in numbers lunch mob of offended food bloggers and food blog readers have in the planning “cheese sandwich protests” and a “Cheese Sandwich Day” via a meme. All the mentions of "cheese sandwiches" refer to the derogatory description of the type of blogs that have very little to say i.e. a blog that talks about the cheese sandwich eaten for lunch. Mr. Wells insinuates that the majority of food blogs are of the cheese sandwich variety. Now those affronted have embraced the cheese sandwich as a badge of honor and are turning the tables on Mr. Wells by super scrutinizing his past essays looking for any allusion to this embattled cheese sandwich.
The magazine hasn't even hit newsstands yet. (March 2006 issue)
This controversy also has agitated debate on the adverse effects food blogs may have on the food publishing establishment and how Pete Wells’ column may be a manifestation of the establishment’s fear and loathing of this sort of grass roots publishing and its chipping away at the mainstream’s readership and revenue.
This is the second write-up Deep End Dining has been embroiled where more than a few food bloggers were upset by the author’s commentary regarding food blogs. The first was Avital Binshtock’s piece in the Los Angeles Times’ Food Section. A common complaint from angry food bloggers about Ms. Binshtock the reporter was that she wasn’t even qualified, based on her experience, to write about food let alone criticize food bloggers. The same complaint can not be issued to Pete Wells. He is a James Beard Award winning food writer and has appeared several times through the years in the Best Food Writing anthology. Sure, you can disagree with him, but he has undeniably strong credentials in the world of food writing. Coincidentally, his criticism and analysis of food blogs happen to be uncannily similar to Ms. Binshtock’s.
Obviously I am very happy with the kind of reception I am getting from the mainstream media. Although I wish this didn’t have to be a sort of zero-sum game where someone is deemed the good blog while the other one sucks. But in reality bloggers and food bloggers have been doing just that for a few years now with their various awards. It is widely known, although not admitted, that bloggers, regardless of genre, are very cliquey like in a virtual high school. The food blog world is definitely no exception. The food blogs that find themselves winning their category year after year may or may not be winning on merit but rather by popularity. Clearly many people don’t even bother to peruse the other nominees in a given category. That’s how the system is set up for now. So when outsiders, in this case, mainstream journalists, muscle into the food blogosphere and decide (without the consultation of food blogdom’s overlords and ladies) who is worth reading and who isn’t, most food bloggers could not be happy about the intrusion. But, ironically, it is acceptable in food blogdom to crown one another as being the best and most worthy while leaving the majority of its subjects by default as merely mediocre. The only difference between Pete Wells’ column and the various food blog awards is who is doing the choosing.
In the end if you are doing your best work and are happy with your contribution to this funny, fractured and crazy food blog world, keep on truckin’. Pretend you are actually in that virtual high school. Be the rebellious teenager once again. Flip off the powers that be. Who cares what they think. I got your back.