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The lovingly prepared meal that is your blog

January 31, 2011

FoodBlogSouth 2011, by Melissa Crane

I’m still telling people about the incredible FoodBlogSouth conference earlier this month. It was that good.

And I’m still contemplating the lessons learned during my time there. Perhaps the best one shows a real connection between food and blogging.

During the past few years, I’ve completely changed my shopping and eating routine. All processed foods, gone. More cooking, more local. I am very picky about what I eat on a regular basis.

Let me tell you about the guidelines I’ve made for myself, and how they apply to both food and blogging …

1. Shop local. People care more about the source of their goods these days. Whether it’s toxic toys made in China or snapper from the Gulf of Mexico, origins matter. With groceries and dining, shopping locally diminished the gigantic carbon footprint from American industrialized food. With blogs, it means you know who wrote it and his authority/credibility.

What’s my authority level? Where’s my credibility from? It’s all up to you. I have to earn it with each word, and I can lose it in an instant. The better I do, the more you read, the more my authority goes up in your eyes. And the better you know the source of these blog posts.

2. Use only the best ingredients. You can’t half-ass it when it comes to cooking. I like to use fresh produce in season when possible. I can substitute ingredients — either for experimentation or as a necessity — but it all depends on how well I know my stuff. But no margarine, only butter. No frozen, only fresh.

When you mix up your blog posts, are you using your best material? Or are you just half-assing it? Use high-quality information, heaping cups of kindness, a dash of reason and a sprinkle of humor. Bake. Serve hot.

3. You can’t eat atmosphere. As a restaurant critic for our hometown newspaper, I reviewed more than a hundred eateries. Not to mention, I dine out regularly. In every place I’ve been around the world, I’ve had some wonderful meals. Sometimes, in posh settings, but often in very ordinary surroundings. More often than not, the company matter more than the decor.

The color of the wallpaper doesn’t make the steak taste better or worse, at least, not for me. And while I’ve debated many, many times online and off about blog design vs. content, I say content matters more to readers and to search engines. That isn’t to say you can’t have both, but many beginners focus too much on design, which can be outsourced, rather than good content, which rarely can be outsourced.

4. A recipe is just a starting point. I have all kinds of secrets to blogging: how often to post, how long to write, what keywords to use, how to test headlines and so forth. You would be underwhelmed at the actual tips. They’re pretty straightforward and easy to follow.

And, it’s only one way to do it.

I can give you a great recipe for potstickers, but if you know your way around a kitchen, you could probably make 10 times better. A new twist, a version with less salt, an easier way to make them. It’s just a list of ingredients and steps waiting for your creativity to enhance it.

Your blog can be done any number of ways. It’s just a starting point. But make it something really tasty and interesting.

5. Food is love. Either you get this or you don’t. We cook for people we care about. We share a meal with friends, family and loved ones. Our best moments often happen around a table filled with lovingly prepared dishes and a sense of instant camaraderie.

Your blog is love, or it should be. Do you make it with love? Do you love the ones you serve it up to? If not, consider why you’re doing it at all. It is not a place to be stingy or careless. You share, you tend to your guests, and you invite them to come back anytime for more.

Food for thought, right? Pull up a chair, because this is only the appetizer …

More love to give: The speakers issued a challenge to each other: Ask readers to match the $3,000 raised by FoodBlogSouth for two very worthy causes. That’s quite an accomplishment for a first-time conference, and a huge amount to match.

Desert Island Supply CompanyThe first recipient is Birmingham-based Desert Island Supply Company, shown at right, a program to teach kids to love writing. The second is the Alabama Gulf Coast Environmental Recovery Fund, created by Montgomery’s Legacy environmental group to fund education and research initiatives to help the area after the BP oil spill of 2010.

Making a donation is simple:

  • For the Alabama Gulf Coast Environmental Recovery Fund, donate $5 to $500 online.
  • For the Desert Island Supply Company, mail a check made out to Main Street Birmingham to DISCO, c/o Main Street Birmingham, Box 320637, Birmingham, AL 35232.

If you care about food, about the environment or education, please step up and give today.

A few more morsels from my fellow bloggers who attended FoodBlogSouth …

  • The Food Diva: “Attending Foodblogsouth was a delight. I came away with a fresh perspective as to how I do what I do, and more importantly, why I do what I do.”
  • Eat. Drink. Smile.: A sampling of the foods throughout the conference.
  • The Givens Chronicles: “There was a great panel on Southern Seafood After the Gulf Oil Disaster; yes, it is safe to eat seafood from the Gulf!”
  • Urban Conversations: “Remember that your content is what people are coming to see. It’s important to make it easy for them to find it and to search for more information if needed.”
  • Who Ate My Blog?: Stephen’s photos from the event
  • Southern Plate: “If you put your heart into your blog, you may not get rich but I assure you that at the end of the day, the rewards will be priceless.”
  • Dash of East: “Wade Kwon did a great session about Blogging for Your Business.”
  • Eatin’ on the Cheap: “The seminars were really great. Many of them had just the information I was looking for and gave me lots of ideas to think about.”
  • Vulcan’s Table: “Think about how you are helping others with your blog to make the best decisions with this valuable time.”
  • Food Revival: “If you are passionate about food and you want to share it with the world, find a way to do that without compromising who you are. There’s room for us all, and there are plenty of recipes to go around.”

If you posted about FoodBlogSouth and want to be included in this list, leave a comment.

Video: Taylor Takes a Taste showed off his first video in his FoodBlogSouth post.

Photo: Melissa Crane, Dash of East

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