A Meta Food Blog Discussion [by Katy]

If you are a mostly-idle grad student in the summer, the only other people around to talk to during the day are:

A. other mostly-idle graduate students

B. public school teachers on summer break.

Between these two groups of people and those poor troubled souls on Days of Our Lives, I get all the daytime social interaction I need, thank you very much.

My sister Maggie is in Group B. She is a high school teacher living all the way across the country in beautiful Santa Monica, California. But when she is on summer break, she calls, like, a million times a day. To tell me what celebrities she saw that day, or what the weather at the beach is like, or her opinions on the presidential election, or about the interesting new insurance policy she just bought.

Here she is:

maggie

MAGGIE: Hi, I’m Maggie! I LOVE Santa Monica.

My friend Matthew is in group A, although he is married to group B. He is pursuing a PhD in the same subject that I am.

This is Matthew (group A) and his wife Kari (group B). They’re cute, aren’t they? They’re from Minnesota.

meta_matthew_kari

MATTHEW & KARI: Hi, we’re Matthew and Kari! We’re from Minnesota!

So when Josh and I agreed to blogsit for the Amateur Gourmet, I broadly hinted to Matthew that he and Kari might make an appearance. Frankly, I thought he would be flattered to be discussed in such a flashy public forum. I mean, do they even HAVE the internet in Minnesota?

But Matthew was taken aback.

meta_matthewblahblah

MATTHEW (huffily): I didn’t give you permission to do that. I’m not public domain!

ME: Okay, okay, I won’t, I promise.

meta_matthewblahblah

MATTHEW: Good. Now go READ something, for god’s sake.

ME: Okay, sure, yes, I will.

I didn’t tell Matthew that: A. I have in fact already mentioned Kari in passing as the heroine of a pizza-stone-shattering adventure story; and B. I secretly suspected he didn’t want me to come across as looking like the winner of every argument we had, even though you all can probably imagine that this is the most accurate representation of reality.

But as I was watching Days, I realized he reminded me of my reaction to appearing in one of the Amateur Gourmet’s films a few weeks ago. I made a nectarine pie for Adam’s camera, and I was so uncomfortable with the exposure I almost told the AG to take it down. I guess it made me antsy to know that I had no control over how I was being discussed and presented to others.

(And I just KNEW somebody out there would be upset that I used vegetable shortening in my pie crust. Yes, yes, I know, vegetable shortening is bad for you! Bad, bad, bad! But listen, I use it in combination with butter to make a better-textured crust, okay? Besides, who eats pie for the health benefits?)

Now that I’m on the other side of the blog curtain, however, I realize that the pressure to exploit the people in your life for a cheap laugh is overwhelming. I mean, frankly, who can resist it?

For instance, many of you may not have realized that several paragraphs up, when I implied Minnesota was a backwater that didn’t have internet access, that THIS WAS A JOKE. Minnesota is a very progressive state, and those of you who don’t know that are just ignorant, and probably living in some overpriced coastal city. But I think we can all agree it was much, much funnier to score cheap shots off of Matthew by making fun of Minnesota. Actually he is originally from Iowa. But no one could ever say anything funny about Iowa.

So the thoughtful graduate student in me asks what responsibility we have to these real-life people we blog about.

It reminds me of an excellent chapter in David Sedaris’s new book, Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim. You all know David Sedaris, right? I’m sure you do. He writes hilariously about his family, who are in fact real people.

In this new book, his sister Lisa tells him a story that she finds painful and he finds hilarious. When she begs him not to write about it in his next book, he responds not with sympathy but with this:

“Oh come on,” I said. “The story’s really funny, and, I mean, it’s not like you’re going to do anything with it.”

Your life, your privacy, your occasional sorrow – it’s not like you’re going to do anything with it. Is this the brother I always was, or the brother I have become?

Sedaris really hits the nail on the head here. In this troubled and media-choked times, information is a particularly potent form of capital — and if you lose control of how you are represented, your personhood can be reduced to simply someone else’s information and entertainment. I think it gets down to our sense of what being a good human means, our most rudimentary moral anthropology ….

AmateurGourmet

AMATEUR GOURMET:

Ahem.

ME:

What?

AmateurGourmet

AMATEUR GOURMET:

What does this have to do with food, exactly?

ME:

Doesn’t the title indicate this is a “meta-food-blog” discussion?

AmateurGourmet

AMATEUR GOURMET (snorting):

Don’t give me that grad student crap, toots!

I leave my blog in your hands, and this is how you repay me?

ME:

I’m sorry.

AmateurGourmet

AMATEUR GOURMET (stamping his little foot):

I will NOT accept apologies! I am a MAJOR online celebrity and I have a REPUTATION to uphold! Please!

ME:

(politely)

Um, Mr. Gourmet? You have some flour on your face, sir. And some toilet paper hanging off of your shoe. And you’re not wearing pants.

AmateurGourmet

AMATEUR GOURMET (turning purple):

SILENCE! I am the SULTAN and PRINCE of this food blog! You better get back to writing about food! And I don’t care WHO you have to make look stupid to do it!

So enough about the ethics of food blogging. Let’s turn to pasta next instead. — katy

9 comments

  1. Hi, I’m an on again/off again reader, sometimes too much to read to keep up…but enjoying every bit of it! It’s nice to have a female updating for once. I’ve noticed Adam never responds to my posts, pfftt on him. I’m a chef working/living in Seattle, and somewhat of an amateur food writer. Keep up the good work! many kudos to you and josh~

  2. So, my question to you is, where do you think Days is going with this whole Salem Island plot?

  3. That depends. Are you Tony DiMera? If so, you better ASK YOUR FATHER where the whole thing is going.

    Seriously, writing for a soap opera must be the most wonderful job. You can make up whatever ludicrous and glorious plot you want and just say: gosh, that really doesn’t make any sense — but whatever, we can figure that out later. Come to think of it, there are LOTS of jobs like that.

    Dear Leah, or “Responseless in Seattle”: Adam is such a jerk! I don’t know why he never responds to you. Josh and I, on the other hand, appreciate you very very much. (Well, okay, don’t take it personally. To give him his due, I know he loves the posts but can’t possibly respond to them all. You know, being a minor celebrity and all.)

  4. This is all too brilliant. I dare not say it (well, I guess I will, considering its coming up and all. I mean, those who say things like “I dare not say it…” and “I don’t mean to be rude, but…” really are daring and rude. Anyhow), but you both should post on here even after AG gets back. You know, to cover the all important bases of ethics discussions and Days of Our Lives.

  5. Hi Katy & Josh!

    If you need a spot on the web for all this talk of more blogging feel free to email me! I have more than I will ever need and I know how to set up movable type!

    As you can see, I concur with the opinion that you guys should keep writing! AG knew he left his blog in capable hands.

    Thanks!!

  6. I do too! :D (know how to set up movable type and have a few spare typapad accounts for free use!

    If you actually wanna keep it up, you’re more than welcome to have space on my account.

  7. Well, I’m not pointing any fingers, but might I remind you that the not-so-dead Kristen was sent to a TROPICAL ISLAND way back in ’98 and Peter (once infected with JUNGLE Madness himself) was supposed to be up for parole in a few years when he left around the same time as she did. I have a pree-mon-ee-shun dahling.

    All I want to know is, how many more times are Jack and Jennifer going to fall of a cliff?

  8. Agreed, Tony. I’d much rather have Jack and Jennifer give up cliff-falling for a while and face some OTHER absurd and arbitrary challenges in the jungle.

    Ah yes. Perhaps you’re right about the Blakes. That would be fun. It also would, like, explain everything perfectly! No. No, it wouldn’t. But what would, really?

  9. Thanks for watching the Food Network. Great service for me. Got cable again recently to watch the Tour de Lance, and Olympics. I’ve dipped into the Food Network programming in the past…but so much there but so little time to waste.

    Come visit The Food Museum online and check out our blog.

    I’ll be coming back to your site regularly.

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