Last year, food blogger Kate Hudson of the Accidental Hedonist had initiated the aptly named first Food Blog Awards to recognize the "wealth of food reporting and writing" taking place on blogs. She created 16 categories ranging from best recipes to best photography, solicited nominations from her fellow bloggers and tallied the votes. Winners were announced in early January (www.accidentalhedonist.com/index.php?cat=250).
Because blogs often take the form of journal entries -- ranging from the inane to the relatively profound, from stream of consciousness to carefully worded prose -- the biggest draw for repeat visitors to a particular Web site is something intangible: a sense of resonance, if not a shared vision of the world -- even if that means knowing where to get the best cream puff in Paris.
(Dave Jonason For The Washington Post)
Whether bloggers aspire to be the next Jeffrey Steingarten, the sharp-tongued food writer for Vogue, or M.F.K. Fisher, one of the country's early food writers, they provide readers with their own personal food section, updated weekly and, in some instances, daily. The authors of these sites cover what mainstream media overlook or ignore, but in a casual, interactive manner. And, while most newspapers and magazines require payment for online access to articles published in the not-so-distant past, blogging archives are free.
Taking home four of the Food Blog Awards was Chocolate & Zucchini (chocolateandzucchini.com), a Paris-based Web site written by Clotilde Dusoulier. Her blog gracefully conveys her food experiences, such as her introduction to kohlrabi and her daydream of the ideal brunch.
Her site, named for two of her favorite ingredients, includes more than recipes and receives some 7,000 visitors a day, Dusoulier said. "Basically, the idea at first was to find a way to share," said Dusoulier, who writes in English. "I was very much into cooking and very eager to talk about it to my friends and family. And after a little while, I sort of felt like I needed a wider audience to interact with." On most blogs, interaction comes in the form of reader responses to anything that piques their interest.
Unlike political bloggers, who often express opinions and attempt to convince, food bloggers find great things and tell others about them so they continue to exist, said Hillel Cooperman of Tasting Menu (www.tastingmenu.com). Last year, Cooperman, who works for Microsoft in Washington, became the first food blogger nominated for a prestigious James Beard Foundation journalism award.
"What people lack in experience or formal training, they make up for with the fact that they love what they're doing," said Cooperman. "There are some days I don't feel like posting, but I feel an obligation to all those people visiting my blog every day."
According to Google's Stone, the increase in popularity of blogs is partly due to "blog children" -- people, such as Dusoulier, who stumble across a blog and become inspired to start their own. Many, also like Dusoulier, are parlaying their blog experience into more lucrative ventures. Dusoulier is now being approached by newspapers and magazines to write articles.
New Yorker Julie Powell, who cooked and blogged her way through Julia Child's "Mastering the Art of French Cooking" one recipe at a time, landed a book deal with Little, Brown and Co. "Julie and Julia: 365 Days, 524 Recipes, One Tiny Apartment Kitchen?" is due out this fall.
Another blogger-turned-author is Heidi Swanson, the San Francisco-based photographer and cookbook writer behind 101 Cookbooks (www.101cookbooks.com). An avid collector, Swanson had begun a private recipe journal for her Web site. After people repeatedly Googled their way into the file, she decided to start a food blog. Her site combines prose, food photos and recipes.
Last fall Swanson published her first book, "Cook 1.0: A Fresh Approach to the Vegetarian Kitchen" (Stewart, Tabori and Chang, 2004).
Total visitor traffic to her site has nearly tripled in the past six months.
Paige Hren, a regular visitor to 101 Cookbooks from Malibu, said that reading Swanson's posts is like having your own prep cook in the kitchen: "She's found the loopholes and what the pluses and minuses are for the recipes."
"My traffic really seems to spike when I post sweets -- anything chocolate or anything cute," said Swanson.
Though some food blogs have begun to seek advertising revenue, most food bloggers "don't get into this to make money," Hudson said, but to make food a little less ordinary for at least one other person.
"How many high-quality food blogs does the world need?" asked Cooperman. "It turns out, a lot."