This is the first post in a two-part series on effectively reading food blogs.
by Sarah Morrow
These days, food blogs are everywhere. As gastronomy students, we have an urge to not only read all the food news and recipes we come across, but to participate in the myriad of online food communities. This urge, however, leads us to a very difficult question: How do we handle the wealth of information out there? This post looks at the general logistics of processing news and information from food sites and offers tips for synthesizing those particulars.
1. Organize from the start
Clutter is the ultimate evil. If you collect recipes, using a virtual journal (such as MacJournal) or online mediums (such as Pinterest or Evernote) to sort links, save directions, and tag entries can cut down on that clutter. By making definitive decisions from the start about how and where you will maintain data, you can effectively save yourself time later. Saving full recipes offline is useful because not only can you retain the direct link to the original recipe, but also because occasionally sites are discontinued, server crashes lose posts, or authors decidedly remove content. Saving recipes to your own files can help ensure information won’t disappear.
2. Find an RSS feed reader that works for you
RSS (Really Simple Syndication) feed readers direct new content from sites to your own personal hub. Different feed reader provide different features. Google Reader, one of the more popular readers online, can be used from any device, yet searchability for saved articles within the reader can be cumbersome and difficult. Articles that have been deleted are sometimes re-downloaded to the reader. Programs such as Vienna (which, full disclosure, I use) save articles to your computer rather than to an online cloud, but, in the reverse of Google Reader, provides more sophisticated tagging and marking features, as well as permanently deletes unnecessary articles. These might sound like trivial factors, but organization processes can affect both how we read and how efficiently we process and understand materials. RSS readers are particularly helpful when it comes to following high-content sites, such as The Kitchn, Serious Eats, and YumSugar. These sites often post anywhere between 3 to 10 (sometimes more!) articles a day. By using a feed reader, you not only ensure that you don’t miss any posts, but that relevant or interesting information is saved for later.
Just as we must pick and choose the amount of attention we give to various readings for class (It’s true!), it’s also important to remember that not every news piece or recipe requires your full attention. In many cases the title of a post can provide you with enough information to decide if the post is save-worthy or not. Sites such as The Huffington Post’s Food Section (which used to be Slashfood years ago) publish anywhere from 10 or more posts a day, yet many of these posts are merely blurbs, poorer versions of articles written on other sites, or reposted articles. Being able to quickly discern whether an article is a useful read or not is not only a major time saver, but it can also save you from utilizing less-than-worthy sources.
4. Don’t be afraid to remove sites from your reading roster
If you find a site isn’t providing the content you need, don’t hold onto it. Likewise, if a writer has stopped writing for several months let it go. Ironically, while sustainability is a hot food blogging topic, it does not always apply to the bloggers themselves. Many food bloggers start writing with the best of intentions — be it to share their personal experiences, develop kitchen skills, or to connect with other food enthusiasts — but an impressive number of these bloggers disappear after only a couple of months. Holding onto dead sites is holding onto clutter.
5. That said, archives can be sources
This is especially true when it comes to recipe collecting. Even if a site is essentially dormant, looking through past posts can provide a treasure trove of ideas and information.
While these are just starting suggestions, it can be important to decide how you are going to read before you decide what you are going to read. Online food blogs, news sites, and commentary are pervasive and ever-growing and there is no way any one person can tackle it all. By creating your own system, though, you can effectively process a good chunk of it.
Sarah Morrow is a BU Gastronomy student and the head writer at inthecactusgarden.com.