I love reading food blogs. I rarely cook the recipes; I just like to ogle the beautifully-lit photos, fancy serving dishes and lush descriptions. I admire their patience in measuring each ingredient into a tiny spoon or Pyrex bowl, photographing them from above, then doing the washing up afterwards.
But it used to get a little messy when I scrolled down to the comments. There was no need to read the comments. I had better things to do than read the comments. Yet I could not resist.
Specifically, my eyes sought out the most inane, passive-aggressive or just plain annoying ones…
– I HATE CILANTRO so I will not be making this.
– Why no cilantro in this recipe? How can you not like cilantro?
– How long would this take in my slow cooker?
– What happens if you’re not lucky enough to own a slow cooker?
– Well thanks. I’ve just been diagnosed with a dairy allergy so can’t even eat this.
– My cake sank in the middle. What went WRONG?
– Black eyed beans are NOT Paleo so what should I do?
– How many Points is this six-layer cake?
– This curry recipe was far too spicy.
– This curry recipe was far too bland.
– Nice photos, what camera do you use?
– This recipe is not authentic. My mother makes this dish so much better and now I shall paste her 2,000 word recipe right here…
I’d scroll and scroll and scroll, making little pffffffftttt noises of outrage as the Food Blog Comment Rage grew…
OH GOD. That is so rude.
Who are these people?
If you saw Jamie Oliver or Delia Smith in the street would you use that tone?
You didn’t even say please!
Can you substitute ground almonds? Why not TRY IT and SEE!
How would he know what’s wrong with your oven? Do you want him to come over to your house and look?
She has a TODDLER and a FULL TIME JOB and she is DOING HER BEST!
Snort. Grumble. Eye roll.
It was becoming somewhat of a weekday ritual so I decide to think about what was going on there.
On a shallow level, it’s kinda delicious and irresistible to see the wild array of thoughts that humans posses. Even Gareth who’s not much of an internet person is prone to getting lost “below the line” on the Guardian website, oft yelling, “Come and have a look at these fuckwits!”.
But digging deeper, the Food Blog Comment Rage said far more about me than the commenters.
I realised I was still holding on to a fear of criticism and trolls that began when Dietgirl was published. The lovely emails and reviews have far, far outweighed the nasty ones… but the nasty ones cast a shadow that I wasn’t always conscious of. Looking back, I was writing quite tentatively and nervously, with a low background voice whispering you are shite! Fretting over sentences; trying to pre-empt negative responses. Hiding away or pulling back, curled up like a hedgehog.
So when I’d read these blogs, bristling defensively on the authors’ behalf, I reckon part of it was vicariously licking old wounds.
And the compulsion to read these beautiful blogs was not only because they are beautiful blogs, but because their authors wrote boldly, consistently and from the guts. Over and over they put themselves out there, staying classy and true whatever the feedback. It was easier to envy/admire their courage (and get hoity toity about their comment sections) than risk doing anything myself.
At new year I decided it was high time to let go of that and get back to having fun. I made a vow that in 2014 I will write once a week, no matter what. So if seven days go by silently around here, feel free to leave a nagging comment. I promise not to get my knickers in a twist about it!