Recently Pete Wells, a writer for Food and Wine magazine, wrote an article that described most food blogs as opportunities for “hundreds of pointless cheese-sandwich meanderings.” To illustrate what he considers a boring “cheese sandwich blog,” he pulled quotes out of context from several blogs and caused a big stir among food bloggers. As a protest, Cheese Sandwich Day was born.
Well, I never eat cheese, and I rarely eat sandwiches, so I don’t think what I write could properly be called a cheese sandwich blog. In fact, I’m sure that Wells, a guy who once wrote that “lard is the most elegant fat I’ve ever met,” would consider my blog something much worse than a cheese sandwich blog: a freakishly health-conscious, nutritional yeast-pushing, fat-fearing, tofu salad sandwich blog!
I guess I should have made a tofu salad sandwich to express my solidarity with other food bloggers. They probably would have understood: I don’t do cheese, and tofu is really soy cheese. But no. I had “a sense of purpose,” which Wells says a blog needs. I wanted to rise to the challenge and make something vegan, something cheesy, and most of all, something not boring.
So I threw myself into the task with zeal. First I made my own “cheese.” Then I made my own whole-grain/sweet potato flatbread (gluten-free, even, as though I don’t already operate under enough food restrictions.) And finally I grilled my vegetables, because everyone knows a vegan, whole-grain, gluten-free cheese sandwich must have grilled vegetables!
In the end, my kitchen looked like the Pillsbury Doughboy had spontaneously exploded. Pots were coated with sticky “cheese” sauce, hand blender and food processor were caked with starchy residue, pans and cutting boards and serving bowls took up every bit of counter space. My husband, AKA “the dishwasher,” was not amused. He would have preferred tofu salad. (Actually, he would have preferred bibimbab, which uses an equal number of pots and appliances to greater effect.)
So, was it worth it? How did it taste?
It wasn’t bad. Actually, the “cheese” sauce was great (though I’m sure Mr. W. would quite literally rather eat lard). The vegetables, my standard recipe using rosemary, garlic, and balsamic vinegar, were good. The bread could have been better. In fact, my three components, sauce, bread, and vegetables, didn’t really mesh well together. I think my sense of purpose may have led me astray this time.
Here’s the rundown on what I did:
Millet-Sweet Potato Flatbread
I cooked one medium sweet potato and mashed it. Added about 3/4 cup of millet flour, 3 tbsp. corn starch, and 1/2 tsp. salt. Tried to knead it in the food processor, tried to roll it into a flat bread and put it in a skillet, but it fell apart. Put it back into the food processor with 1/4 to 1/2 cup water and 1/2 tsp. baking soda. Spooned it into a hot skillet and cooked it on both sides until done. (Next time, I’ll add some cumin and serve this as an accompaniment to Indian foods. It wasn’t really large enough to use as a wrap.)
Eggplant, zucchini, red bell pepper, onion, portabella mushrooms grilled like this.
1 cup water
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
2 Tablespoons cornstarch
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1 tablespoon cashew butter
Blend all the ingredients with a hand blender until smooth. Pour the mixture into a small sauce pan, and stir over medium heat until it starts to thicken, then let it bubble for 30 seconds. Whisk vigorously. Whisk in 2 T soymilk (or water). Drizzle immediately over vegetables or other food. (If you let it sit too long, you’ll have to blend it again.) For vegan, almost fat-free cheeze, this was a real winner. I will be using this recipe in the future to make my daughter’s beloved Mac and Cheeze.
So… I agree that it’s important to try not to be boring. But a writer from a food magazine is not the final arbiter of what’s interesting in a food blog. When you write day after day about what you’re cooking or eating, chances are you’re going to bore someone sometime. What’s important is to love what you’re writing about, and enjoy writing it. People who appreciate your ideas and recipes will find you and stick with you through the boring parts.
That’s what Mr. Wells didn’t understand: you can’t evaluate a blog based on one line, one paragraph, or one entry. You have to look at its entirety–the body of knowledge it shares, the particular voice of its writer, and the responses of its readers. I just started this blog last month, so I’m still finding my voice. I just hope I’m around as long as some of the other blogs that fancy food writer found boring.
And now I must get back to cooking. I think I owe my husband some bibimbab!