Meal blog vs. food blog. Do names matter?

A bit of history, and a confession. History: I started this blog in 2010. Confession: I started it out of spite for food blogs. I hated them. There were too many of them. Most people who wrote them seemed careless about food itself–bent on earning free drinks or Foursquare badges. What’s more, I was certain that the primary function of food blogs was to objectify–reducing vibrant matter to snap judgments and poorly shot iPhone photos. I disliked both the detachment of foodstuffs from the socio-sensory experience of the meal and the idea that the web should be clogged up with more and more data just because it was possible. Armed with a healthy dose of snobbery, I created a handy binary between the “sacred”, living space of the meal and the vacuous, “appropriative” space of the Internet.

But as the years went by, two things happened.

One, I relaxed. Call it one tablespoon of humility, and one cup of selling out. I ended up with a good camera. I started documenting my own gastro-money-dropping. As if anyone cared.

Two, I realized there were a lot of really good food blogs. And a lot of really good discussion going on across the Twitterverse, etc. So I jumped in, and I have to say I haven’t regretted it (and that I was a bit of a snob before).

That said, I’ve realized it’s time to get back to the roots. I always intended this to be a meal blog, not a food blog, and it’s time to honour that. It’s like calling yourself a media critic and spending most of your time writing about what you watched on TV last night. There’s a lot more going on outside the sexy stainless steel surface of my frying pan (though DAMN is it photogenic), or the new dumpling place I happened to walk by and try out.

Despite what I’ve said, I don’t blame myself for losing sight of the object. The meal – like serving – is a messy endeavour. It’s messy across ideologies, morals and disciplines. It does not have the same photogenic boundaries as my frying pan. (I’d love to say “it’s more alive” than food, but on biological terms, that’s impossible). What’s more, the food cycle suggests that food is performed by us and food performs us. Whether food is a piece of the meal or the meal a piece of is up for argument.

Food and the meal are both difficult to translate into words–it’s true. I have thought about this for some time now. I think–bear with me–that the difference lies somewhere in food’s potential for immediate emphatic experience. On the one hand this seems an arbitrary difference–or an unremarkable one. In general, yes. But it becomes substantial in light of our “media lives,” once a fun theory, now an irrefutable facet of the quotidient. We all agree to certain exchanges. One is some notion that food can be held captive–if even for a moment.

We don’t believe that a photo of a carrot is a carrot, but we do agree that it is a relatively accurate trace. Food can have a trace: we agree. We actually agree to the extent that we have codified their forms. Can a meal…really? Or rather, have we decided to agree upon the forms of its bounty or capture? Have you ever seen a good meal recipe? (Templates for performance art installations not included… ie it’s cheating to cite Judy Chicago, the Futurists, etc) But seriously, if you know of good meal recipes…let me know. My point is, we don’t even really try to make a meal into a discrete thing (here I go again: but have you ever actually seen a good photo of a meal you experienced?) and that’s why I called this blog the Mealscape–because meals are spaces–spaces of exchange.

It’s time for me to remember that. So thanks for being patient.

And I hope you’ll stick around to talk about the mealscape.

How could we not have fun? The meal is hazy, slippery, ephemeral, different, orgiastic (hence difficult), and above all–I have noticed after many years of trying–it seems to resists theorizing.

On that last note, stay tuned for my next post, about the notion of serving: its potential and its danger.

In the meantime, go cook your mom something nice. submit to reddit

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