You don’t need to be an expert to know that two of the subjects I am most passionate about are food and travel; nor must you have letters after your name or be of a scholarly bent to deduce that Culinary World Tour is a website focussing squarely on those dual subjects. However, those precious few of you who scan the pages regularly, my loyal fans *cue tumbleweed, squeaky sign blowing in the wind, little old man sitting on a porch hocking in a spitoon* will have noticed that food has dominated, whereas travel has to date put in the odd cameo. For that dear readers I can but apologise and offer by way of explanation the fact that travel is more costly and time consuming, whereas food, for most of us in the developed world at any rate, is easily accessible and for every human being is an essential ingredient. Travel is a luxury, whereas food is a necessity.
Within the vast spectrums of food and travel there are many areas of interest or fields of endeavour if you will. Let’s say we can broadly divide food writing into two distinct categories: your own and other people’s. When writing about your own food it tends to take the form of a recipe, whereas writing about other people’s food is usually a form of review or critique. Either way, our job is to engage our senses and critical apparatus to create something that translates well to the page. Sounds easy? Try it some time.
When reviewing a restaurant or in fact any notable food space, there are numerous aspects to consider. Start with location, decor, atmosphere, service, menu, preparation, presentation and price. Within each of those are other points to consider, for example if a restaurant is quite expensive but the quality is high, then does that justify the mark up? When judging the food itself you must consider all the factors that the chef has hopefully considered when creating the dish: flavour, texture and temperature being the primary considerations. Originality is a funny one to judge. Trends come and go, and we bear witness to a lot of hype on the food scene, in press and in social media that makes it trickier to judge something based purely on it’s own merits. I’m a proponent of the notion that quality comes first, and of course I try to relay an experience accurately for the benefit of that old guy in the denim dungarees sat on the porch.
Don’t worry, this is going somewhere, really. Its about critical apparatus and the register. Register is a term used by ethnographers and anthropologists to describe a pre-determined set of rules of engagement that exist when a study of a group of people is being carried out. Further dialogue seeks to determine the methods by which the study is then transcribed. To my mind, food and travel writing is an area in which it is necessary to be acutely aware of the register you employ, that is the tactics employed to establish the foundations of quality and the tool by which to measure the subject’s performance. Yes it’s subjective up to a point, but without parameters the field is too wide open. As much as we love to dream of a life unlimited, we are essentially slavish to boundaries.
There is an argument that press trips can give a distorted view of an establishment or locale, as the writer’s opinion can be influenced or pressurised to remain positive on account of the invitation or perks. There is some truth in this, but it’s largely irrelevant when you stack it against the plain fact that no writer worth their salt would sing the praises of a sub-standard experience and risk damaging their reputation. Our job is to do the research and field work, then to relay the facts, sensations and observations in a way that will engage and inform the audience.
I mention this for two reasons: firstly as an avid (unpaid) blogger (writer) I have been dismayed of late to bear witness to more gripes and side swipes from journalists in the traditional press arena who seem to want to position what was once Fleet Street as being the top of the pile, whilst bloggers are somehow deemed as being third rate in terms of their integrity or the inherent value of their opinions. It’s understandable that heads of traditional press are concerned by declining circulation and readership – symptoms due largely to the seismic shift in the ways in which we now consume media since the advent, read onslaught of the internet. Whilst I’m sure nobody wants to think it, it’s just possible that certain editors have briefed press journos and staff writers to write disparaging articles about bloggers and new media guerilla influencers. However in the face of such criticism, my resolve, and doubtless that of many other new mediaphiles, can only harden.
Traditional media titles, long established and canonical, are effectively institutions and have (or claim to have) higher readership on the whole than the majority of blogs. Press titles have moved into the digital space and learned to manoeuvre with time, whereas bloggers start outside of the mainframe; for them, self-invention is and always has been the name of the game. A blogger must at various points become an entrepreneur, a writer, a critic, a social commentator, a journalist, a curator and a media owner. Does this dilute the end product? That is for the reader to decide, not for a powerhouse to bitch about. Openly criticising your competition only serves to make you look weak and desperate. In my opinion the world is a richer place for the even spread of accessible information and the way in which we are able to consume it at will, and free of charge, another fact that certain moguls seem to struggle to get their head around.
So is this some sort of war cry? A call to arms? A rebel yell? Are the peasants revolting? Not in the slightest. I believe the system works much better when we pull together, and fortunately the majority of journalists seem to accept and work within the blogosphere rather than arrogantly dismissing it as a passing trend. This was plainly and simply a blog advocacy, intended to balance out some of the negativity that has crept in of late. The next few posts will be a return to form, away from pedantry and sniping, back to the glorious matter of top nosh and even tip-topper travel larks, including such high spots as Stripbar and Steak at Malmaison, the newly polished Diciannove in Blackfriars, Bar Boulud at the Mandarin Oriental, Kew Gardens, Buddha Bar, and newly launched concept hotel QBic London; after which I will personally fly you to the epic and profoundly historic sprawl that is Mexico City, in another new launch: the Aeromexico’s Boeing 787-8, so buckle up and stay tuned.