So, how the hell are you? I know, I’ve been MIA for a couple of years. Less so if you follow me on social media, but still. Lately a few people have reached out to say they’d like it if I started writing again, so I figure I’ll explain why I haven’t been doing it for so long and then go from there. I’ve got some
reasons excuses, and I really would like to know your thoughts, so feel free to share them. You can comment below, use the contact form, or reach out to me via any of the social media buttons in the upper right of my homepage or by hitting the menu button above (depending on what you’re using to read this). And away we go…
A couple of years ago, I got really tired of my old site. The host, the layout, the name, the whole damn thing. So, I signed up with a new (paid) provider, did some super lame graphic design, edited a layout I was more or less happy with, came up with a new site name that I didn’t (and still don’t) love but which I much prefer to the old one, and then I tried to change the name of my associated Facebook page. Tried is the operative word in that sentence. For no reason I’ve ever understood, especially considering some of the bullshit they let people get away with on their service, my request was refused. It took weeks to even get an appeal reviewed, and that was rejected as well. So I said fuck it, and I started a new Facebook page to go with my new site. My old page had over 800 followers, and despite paying Facebook to run several ads explaining the situation and even after two years’ time, my new page has less than half of the followers I used to have. Not that most of them can see anything I post due to the moronic algorithms. With less than half the followers and even less than that actually seeing what I post, I have to admit it’s a little difficult to get enthused sometimes.
Are you familiar with Zomato? How about Urbanspoon? Damn, I loved Urbanspoon. They were a food blogger’s best friend. User friendly, free with the exposure, and I was verified with them which gave me even more control over things. Then Zomato took them over and turned the whole site into a massive waste of time. I went from having a reliable source of traffic from a site I loved to having a series of headaches and many less visitors.
I Lost My Best Friend
Calm down. She’s not dead, and I know where she is. However, she did get married and subsequently have a baby, so her free time pretty much dried up. She was the one who encouraged me to go through with the idea for the blog in the first place, the person who read all my posts first, my biggest fan, and my constant dining companion. I’m either socially anxious or antisocial, or maybe a bit of both, I haven’t ever really been able to figure out which, but I’ve always preferred to have one or two really good friends rather than a large social circle. I have a handful of relatives and acquaintances that I can drag along from time to time, but at this point I don’t have any really good, close friends who are as willing to blow their disposable income succumbing to my whims to try every odd ethnic cafe that pops up, or come along when I get a sudden urge to hit up every place serving a cubano sandwich in the area within a week or two so I can compare them. Hitting up a taco truck alone or sitting at the counter at a sushi joint alone is one thing, but there are a lot of eateries it just plain isn’t fun to go to solo. What can I say? It sucks.
Where Everybody Knows Your Name
I’ve always valued my anonymity. I know that’s out of fashion in a time where there are people documenting all their travels on YouTube, and where 10% of the pics on Instagram foodie accounts are selfies, but that’s not what I want to do here. The fact that I hate pictures of myself aside (I don’t even want to think about video), that’s not what I was going for with this thing. I wanted honest experiences. When I go to a place for the first time, I want to have the same experience that anyone else would have. Nothing special, no freebies, no fuss. Despite my best efforts, people started to figure out who I was. I would go to visit a counter in a food court, and someone from the next stall over would bring me an entree to try, or show up at an event and spot vendors chatting and pointing me out. It’s not a deal breaker, but it is a little disappointing. How can you know if you’re getting an honest experience if someone has made you and is hoping for a favorable review? And that’s what they usually got, because…
Boise Weekly Was Right
Once upon a time, I had a extremely unpleasant and short-lived freelancing gig with Boise Weekly. Someone whose name I honestly don’t remember contacted me and said they wanted to talk to me about doing some writing for them. Anonymity or not, I was jazzed by the prospect. Then came the meeting, over coffee at Flying M in downtown Boise, and the first thing the lady stressed to me is that they didn’t want me as a food critic. The reason? I wasn’t critical enough. She asked me for pitches, and I thought it would be fun to do little biography/personality pieces on some of the chefs and restaurateurs around town. I guess the first red flag should have been that they decided to title the series “In the Kitchen With (insert name of person and eatery)”. I mean it sounds like a cooking segment, doesn’t it? I don’t think I actually went into a single kitchen, and not all of the people I talked to were actually cooks. It was all very simple, a little personal history, a few inane questions for them to answer, and then I’d photograph and try a dish. I always insisted on paying for it, and even when they refused I’d usually leave a tip equal to the cost of the meal. I did end up with a little exposure and a little pocket money from the experience, but I wasn’t fond of the editorial side of things. The Weekly was at that time, and I don’t know if this is still true because I haven’t really read it since all this, seemingly focused on making it feel like the entire paper was written by one person. Not any specific person, just one specific “voice”. Anything in my writing which showed any flash of my personality was scrubbed. And then came the day that one of the captions they added to a photo I took really pissed me off. I dropped out of contact with them for a while, and when I got back in touch I pointed out that the freelancer’s agreement which I had signed granted me approval of such changes prior to publication, and that I would like to exercise that right in the future. I was told my services would no longer be needed, and that was the end of my not-so-glorious foray into print journalism. Thinking back on it still irritates me, but there is one thing I can finally agree with them on: I wasn’t critical enough.
Using My Words
I have put in a lot of effort, usually in the way of spending hours of time re-writing and editing, pretty much everything I’ve ever posted. Not trying to sound professional per se, but my first drafts were often much more honest and profane. I was encouraged by those close to me to make things more or less family friendly, especially at the beginning when I was trying to engender support from the community and grow a reader base. And even then I would get comments from other people that whey would have liked to collaborate or do some mutual promotion with me, but that they found my style a little South of non-offensive. Beyond that, I have done a fair amount of softballing. I’ve glossed over less than perfect experiences, omitted small things, and occasionally done some literary gymnastics to avoid offending readers or even the people and places that I wrote about. It made me popular with a lot of the latter, and I won’t deny it’s a kick to go into a place and see my review hanging on the wall when they have no idea that the person who wrote it is standing right in front of them, but it’s not fair. It’s not fair to them to avoid being frank about issues I come across, and it certainly isn’t fair to the people reading when I’m less than honest about my experiences. I mean it doesn’t exactly foster trust, does it? And honesty does make being nice more difficult, because…
This Is Idaho
Let’s just put this one right out there: Idaho isn’t exactly on the culinary forefront, especially in the kinds of food that I tend to enjoy. I wasn’t as aware of that when I started doing this, and there are quite a few places I honestly loved and raved about, especially when trying new dishes and cuisines. But then I started traveling more, trying the same things in other eateries in bigger cities, and found that the version I had at home was often lacking in comparison. There are exceptions, of course. There are restaurants here in which I’m confident that if someone were to wave a magic wand and transport them to another city, they would do just fine. On the other hand, I’ve lost track of the number of times where I’ve had to emphasize and clarify when making recommendations to people from out of town, and more than once I’ve had to add the caveat that when I say a certain place is good, I mean that it’s good for Boise.
I guess what I’m saying when all is said and done is that if I continue doing this, you should expect a lot more honesty, and probably a fair amount more profanity. After all, it was reading Bourdain’s Medium Raw that was the catalyst for this whole comedy of errors, and the thing I love about him is that we have similar morbid senses of humor and affinity for sailor talk. And yes, I said if I continue doing this. Given all the shit I’ve just poured out, I have to admit I’m less than enthusiastic about it. Over the years I’ve become a lot harder to impress, and I’m not sure everone will be able to handle me going from gushing over almost every place I go to nitpicking things and giving honest critiques. I’m sure the eateries won’t appreciate it as much, either. Not that anywhere near as many people see what I write anymore, and I’m sure I’d lose even more due to the new plain talk policy. And it might not matter anyway, because…
Is This Even a Thing Anymore?
Granted, I’ve never read a lot of other blogs. I didn’t want to be influenced by what they wrote, and I didn’t want to overcriticize my own writing if I thought theirs might be better. What I do know is that pretty much none of the local people who were blogging when I started, or who popped up in the years that followed, are still doing it now. What I do see is a lot of YouTube channels and Instagram accounts. Is there even a place for what I’ve done, or is it just antiquated now? I spend a lot of time scrolling through Instagram myself, enjoying the inspiration and envy, taking note of dishes I want to try, restaurants I want to visit, cities I want to explore. But honestly, the quick paragraph and a bunch of hashtags thing often feels a bit lacking to me. I wish there were more anecdotes, explanations, detailed descriptions. But I’m not exactly a Spring chicken, and I don’t know if enough other people want those things for me to bother continuing to do them.
On the Other Hand…
I recently got socked with a huge expense that will pretty much ground my travel aspirations for the next year or two. I suppose that I could try to see a silver lining in that, an opportunity to explore my own city and the surrounding areas again. Try new things. Meet new people. See if I can find anything new to love, and to inspire me. I do have a bit of a backlog, a few places I’ve eaten at that I actually would like to write up after all this time, and some of them are even local (which would please the people who bitch that all I ever write about are places I’ve visited on my travels).
Hell, I don’t know. What do you think?