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January 17, 2008

Food blogs and birthdays: nothing to fear

Tiffin

When I tell people I'm a food writer, they generally respond in a couple of ways.

Ooooh, that's exciting!

Fun, yes. Lots of fun. But exciting like Andrew Zimmern "put anything in your mouth even when you have to hold your nose" exciting? No.

Ooooh, you must get lots of free food!

I don't, of course.

Ooooh, you must know the best restaurants in town!

Again, no. I'm one of those food writers who doesn't review restaurants. It's not that I'm not opinionated, but I'd rather write about farms and markets, cooking classes and food producers, and food-related experiences I think my readers will enjoy. Also, I live out in the woods, almost twenty miles from the nearest fine-dining restaurants.

Ooooh, where can I see your writing?

Well, in magazines. And I write a food blog.

Food blog? Ummmm.... errrr.....

Uh-oh. That's the conversation stopper.

If I had a nickel for everyone I know who swears that he or she never ever reads blogs (said with the same disdain reserved for standing barefoot in an alligator swamp, or going to the dump on a crowded Sunday, or voting for certain political candidates), I could treat myself to a large coffee at Dunkin Donuts.

It's not that my friends don't read blogs. They love my site, they tell me. They love the recipes. They love learning about new ingredients. They're not talking about my web site, of course. They're talking about The Perfect Pantry. A blog.

I understand. Early on, blogs had a reputation as online brain spill written by self-absorbed people with deeply uneventful and overexamined lives. I steered clear, too, for the longest time.

Like me (I think), blogging has improved with age. Some food bloggers have published, quietly and free to all readers, the equivalent of several cookbooks, teaching basic recipes and techniques, and broadening our collective knowledge of ethnic cuisines and healthy eating.

Through blogs, we explore new places, new ingredients, and new ways of thinking about food. Professional chefs, bakers and talented home cooks share ideas, advice, adventures, beautiful photography, and some darned good recipes.

There's a lot of bad writing out there (my pet peeve, as many of you know), but there is also beautiful, informative, amusing and simply wonderful storytelling.

I hope you find some of those things here, from time to time. Even if you never ever read blogs.

Tiffinfortunes

So. On the theme of improving with age: yesterday was my birthday. My friend Kathy calls this my "speed limit" birthday, though, honestly, it's been years since anyone has driven that slowly, at least here in Rhode Island.

I celebrated with my first post on a wonderful group blog called The Daily Tiffin.

What's a tiffin?

It's a lunch box, really several stacked lunch boxes, for moving food from place to place. Each box, or compartment, contains a different part of the meal -- one for rice, one for vegetables, one for bread, and so on. The stack clips together to make a whole meal, just as the sixteen writers at The Daily Tiffin bring together their expertise and viewpoints on a fun and healthy family lifestyle. Mostly women, and one dad, they hail from Germany, England, Malaysia, and the US.

Once a month, I'll be sharing a slightly different spin on some ingredients and cooking tools in The Perfect Pantry, sometimes with recipes. Please take a look.

Ted gave me the beautiful antique tiffin box pictured above a couple of birthdays ago. I love the symbolism of the tiffin -- parts locking together to form a whole -- especially for my birthday, as I often think of my life, and my work life, in those terms.

Yesterday, I filled the compartments with fortune cookies.

Fifty-five fortunes. Fifty-five chances to find happiness, friendship, wealth, wisdom, and a winning lottery number.

It's going to be a good year. I like the odds.

Comments

Hi Lydia, what a lovely post! You totally nailed it about food blogs, such great examples all around. Congrats on the Daily Tiffin gig; I've never really looked at that blog until now, but love what I see. Interesting and great quality writing. Happy Birthday m'dear, hope you have a great one!

Dear Lydia, palju õnne sünnipäevaks! I enjoy reading your blog a lot, and I'm always flattered when you pop by and comment :)

Lydia, Happy Birthday! This is a lovely post - spot on about so many blogs you have mentioned. I am extremely glad that you too belong to our tiffin ;-) It's great to have you there!

Yeah when I tell people I run a food blog they stand there blankly staring at me. A shame for them to miss out on the food bloggin world.
Happy Birthday.

Beautiful tiffin...nice photo on the porch with slanting light and shadow.
Fun post on Tiffin blog..elegant idea!
and a belated, "HIPY PAPY BTHUTHDTH THUTHDA BTHUTHDY."

Oh, I have so much to say about this post, so this might be a long comment :D
I almost never mention to anyone that I have a food blog, because I do get that "umm...errr" reaction and people actually say or imply something like, "it takes all kinds to make the world...a FOOD blog, you say?"
It is very very sweet of you to include my little blog in that array of incredible (and famous) blogs you have listed there!
And I find *all* of those things right here on this one blog. Happy Birthday, Lydia! You are the best.
Oh, and about the tiffin, I love those stacking tiffin boxes. I would dearly love to use one for lunch here in the US, except that our Indian ones are usually made of stainless steel can't go in the microwave and they tend to leak if liquidy foods are put in them.
By the way, the term "tiffin" in Southern India also refers to the tea-time meal. OK, off to DT to read your debut post :)

Happy Birthday, Lydia! Looking forward to The Daily Tiffin. I have fond memories of being on a train in SE Asia in the 70's, and a huge Sikh family came into our car with about 8 huge tiffin boxes and proceeded to open them all and have an enormous and delicious feast, which they insisted on generously sharing with my husband and me.

Happy Birthday Lydia!

I am overwhelmed by all the food blogs out there, really. However, I think they are a wonderful source of information, and try to keep up with a few on a daily basis.

I have started a (low traffic) blog about my personal chef service, that I just "opened" in October, 2007. I don't get to post as often as I like....
If anyone is interested in reading it, please email me at sharon@thyme-to-cook.com...

Again, Lydia, Happy Birthday.
I enjoy reading your blog every day.
Sharon

Happy Birthday, Lydia! You are a shining light among food blogs, and I can't wait to get my daily fix of the Perfect Pantry! Looking forward to more of your wonderful stories in the year ahead, and wishing you many tasty blessings!

Happy Birthday Lydia. I am new to your blog and somehow we are linked through Technorati. I am enjoying all your incredible research on so many of my favorite ingredients. I will be posting your site as a resource on my favorites immediately. RG

I hope your birthday will be just fabulous! Best wishes to you! What a lovely post. Thanks for including me with so many other really wonderful blogs. I do think the number of truly useful and interesting blogs is growing all the time, including your own, one of my own personal favorites from the day I found it. (Seems like a long time ago now.) Still, I do know just what you mean by that puzzled expression when you mention you have a blog.

Happy Birthday!! You call it a tiffin, we called it a lunch pail. There was one in our attic - blue speckled enamelware with 3 or 4 compartments that nested together to form one container with a handle. Not as pretty as yours but just as practical. I always look forward to your blog and often check on others that are mentioned. Thanks again for a great introduction to food blogs.

Happy Birthday , Lydia! I know what you mean about some friends thinking blogs are written by self-absorbed people over examining their lives. My blog helped me learn how to cook! Your blog has helped me discover and learn about new ingredients and for that I am forever greatful.

Only a great writer can make a birthday and food and tiffin boxes and blogs work together so brilliantly. You are the best.

Happy birthday, Lydia!

And thank you for many new blogs to explore! :)

Lydia, nice way to post links to other blogs; nicer than just a list by far, and with great examples of what you're saying!

Happy birthday, too... They still have areas where the speed limit is 35 around where I live. :)

Again, Happy, happy birthday Lydia. Hope you had a super day.

T.W.Barritt described you as a shining light among blogs and I thought that was spot on.
Love your Tiffin Box too, what a beautiful gift.

Lydia - I love this post because it epitomizes everything I experience when I tell someone I write for a food blog. None of my friends quite understand it and there's no way for them to truly get it until they've visited fellow food blogs like yours and all the ones you've linked. Happy Birthday again!

Happy birthday, feliz cumpleaños, etc etc. It´s a beautiful number and I love the fortune cookie idea.
And as for people who don´t read blogs, or watch tv, or buy stuff at Zara, well, if they like to keep that fiction alive in their mind, who cares?

Happy Birthday Lydia may the year be everything you hope for, and then a little more!

55 seems like an auspicious number. Happy birthday, and congragulations on making the Daily Tiffin team.

BTW, I love your tiffin! Do you ever use it for picnicing?

Happy Birthday Lydia!

I know what you mean about the looks you get when telling someone new you write a food blog... some don't know what that means, others think it's only weirdos who write blogs.

I'm enjoying your blog. Blogs are like people - some superb, some ordinary, some bad - many with a bit of both. My daughter finally read my blog and - surprise, surprise - she liked it and has told her friends to read it.

I recommend you check out Gardengirltv.com. It's about a sustainable small farm located in Roxbury, MA. I plan to buy herbs, tomatoes and fresh eggs from her this summer. I also am going to try to start a small container garden in my small border (too small to be called a yard).

I am impressed with the look of your blog and I plan to try a few recipes as I cook about 4-6 meals-from-scratch per week.

Candelaria

Happy B-Day, Lydia! I may be a little late, but then I usually am ;)

I honestly wish i wrote half as well as you do, but perhaps that comes with time as well.. (or was that with thyme???)

No Matter. Enjoy!

This is such a great post and I love the speed limit birthday!
A Very Happy Birthday!
Tonight I will dream about finding a tiffin like you have pictured.
I've had to bite my tongue so many times when people have expressed their ideas about blogs because I'm crazy for them. Obviously my experience has been different from theirs.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY Lydia!

I confess I don't really know the difference between a website and a blog. I do not know the history of the term 'blog'. I just click and read. If I don't like what I read, I click again. The Perfect Pantry is my first and favourite morning click next to the school bus snow cancellation click. (Too much winter here in Ottawa!)

I think food bloggers should unite and come up with a new term/label that best defines how they really help so many people. Blog to me reminds me of a soupy swamp, which it may very well be -- good or bad, or when one expels things from within "BLOGHGG!!", which may also be an apt description. Flog perhaps? I am still deciding how I feel about the term "foodie"... But that's just me.

Regardless, please keep up with your perfect blog and perfect pantry Lydia. We all love you!

PS Thanks for Laurie Colwin. Also, tin tiffins should not be left in the rain and then packed away. Rust never sleeps.


Happy b'day -- you are a gift to us all.

Thank you, everyone, for your birthday wishes, and for such kind words about The Perfect Pantry. I'm so glad to know that I'm not the only blogger who gets the "huh?" when I tell people what I do.

Nupur, keep watching this space... I have more tiffin boxes waiting for their 15 minutes of stardom!

Fran, some day you will write a book about your travels around the world. I'll buy the first copy.

Rupert, you are not the least bit objective, but I love you for that.

Curt, I'm laughing! 35, eh?!

Lobstersquad, you are soooooo right.

Julie, we haven't used it for a picnic yet, but it would be perfect for that.

Arlo, I'm not sure about Flog, but I definitely know how I feel about foodie (don't like it). Maybe you'll come up with the perfect word to describe what we bloggers do! And thanks for the tiffin tip. I'm guessing there's a story behind it?

Just wanted to say happy birthday!

Happy Birthday! What a gorgeous gift. I can't stop looking at it! I hope you have an amazing year. :)

Happy birthday, my dear and sweet friend!
Your post is beautiful, as everything you do.

Happy, happy Birthday! I never heard of the 'speed limit' birthday...but, then, here that would be 90...or 130....

Happy, happy birthday, Lydia! May your year be beautiful and bright.

Do you know that I made fun of blogs for years? So silly. Now I can't imagine my life without them!

And thanks, as always, for your kind words. The feeling is mutual!:-)

Wish you a Happy Birthday and a great year ahead Lydia:) and thanks for rooting for all of us food bloggers:)

I am so with you about how terrific so many blogs are. Yours definitely is one of my favorites. Have a very happy birthday and may your year ahead be full of many more wonderful adventures!

Happy birthday, Lydia - may it be a wonderful year! Thank you for the present you give us - this interesting, well-written, informative and personable blog.

Happy birthday my sweet Lydia! I don't remember the person who said: "bloggers are people who feel lonely and don't know what to do with their time". I think it's untrue!

Everyone, thank you so much for birthday greetings and good wishes. I love that blogs have brought us all together.

Katie, I'll aim for 90....

Warda, not true at all!

Lydia--Happy birthday! I haven't really run into any disdain for blogs, just a few people who haven't gotten around to exploring them. Mostly people think it's cool when I say I have a blog. And people and small businesses who have websites tend to look wistful when I tell them the kind of traffic I'm getting. I explain to them that most websites are fairly static. You go there once or twice to find some specific information, then there's no reason to return. Blogs are much more dynamic--there's new information posted all the time [or once a week in my case, but like clockwork]. So if you like what you found the first time, you're likely to come back for more.

A heartfelt Happy Birthday greetings from a fellow Jan. baby. I think double digit numbers are good luck in many Asian cultures. I also celebrated a double number b-day. ;) Tiffins are the best. I have very fond memories of childhood family picnics involving delicious food in tiffins. It was always a delightful surprise to remove different layers to see what mom made. She always made a beautiful presentation. I love your birthday sentiments and of course, your blog. I always learn something new each time I read it and that's very exciting for me.

Lydia, this post is so wonderful, and gives me encouragement in keeping on blogging!
Have a very happy birthday!
Btw, this tiffin is the coolest one I've seen :)

I have so many things to say in response to this beautiful post! 1) Happy Belated Birthday! 2) Thank you so much for mentioning me among all those other beautiful blogs, you are too kind, and 3) NOW I know what I tiffin is. I'd never realized it was an actual food carrying case before. Very cool. Thanks!

Terry, thanks for making a great case for blogs.

Stacey, Gattina, Ari: I love this tiffin. It's rather large and can hold more than fortune cookies!

A very happy birthday to you Lydia! What a lovely piece of writing, and thanks so much for the kinds words.

I hope your day was bright and full of fun

Lydia,

Happy birthday to you! I love the tiffin and I love the word "tiffin".

Bea, Catherine: thanks so much for birthday greetings.

Happy Birthday! In the Cool Synchronicity Dept., a dance friend recently celebrated her birthday at a dance by giving everyone a fortune cookie, to wish all of us good fortune!
Am I remembering correctly that there is/was a Cadbury's bar called Tiffin? Lucia

Happy Birthday! Lydia, all you've shared with us is wonderful. Your support, visiting us each day, the Drop In & Decorate, etc. has brought forth so much! You've sowed a beautiful seed and your harvest is vast. Buon Compleanno!

Lucia, I'd never heard of Cadbury's Tiffin bars, but when I looked it up, yes, you remember correctly -- they were sold in UK and Ireland.

Chris, mille grazie.

What a beautiful tiffin, I couldn't be without mine, they're super! Sadly they're a rare find here in New Zealand.
Happy belated birthday!

Bron, thank you! This one isn't terribly practical, but it's beautiful.

"Triggering the Grand Irrationality?"


Cowering in an obscure corner of the food pyramid

somewhere between the tofu and the unflavored yogurt

contemplating the juxtaposition of intangibles for all you are worth.....

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About The Perfect Pantry®

  • My name is Lydia Walshin. From my log house kitchen in rural northwest Rhode Island, I share recipes that use what we keep in our pantries, the usual and not-so-usual ingredients that spice up our lives.

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