Tag Archives: blogging

goodbye hello… new site, new look!

Some of you may have noticed that, while I ostensibly have more time now for cooking and blogging what with getting rid of my desk job, my posts have been sporadic at best lately. But, there’s been lots going on behind the scenes! I’ve most definitely been cooking (see my instagram feed at right for evidence), and in between other jobs I’ve been working to get my content transferred over to this spanking new site (well, new to you guys- I’ve been staring at the back end of it it for months). Let me tell you- if I knew then what I know now, I would have made this switch a year into my blog when it would have been much less work to update!

Please bear with me, as I am still in the process of going through the archives and fixing links, reformatting some posts (photos and layout might look wonky on some older posts) and tweaking other odds and ends. But, I just couldn’t wait any longer to show you guys my cool new masthead, hand drawn by the talented Nicole Ray of Sloe Gin Fizz.

For those of you who subscribe via RSS or email, I’m working to get the feed transferred and (fingers crossed) that will all go smoothly, but if you’re a fellow wordpress.com user and subscribed that way, you’ll probably have to resubscribe here on the new site. I appreciate every subscriber and hope you’ll stick with me! (And, hint hint, if you haven’t yet, there’s no time like the present…)

HUGE thanks to my friend and all-around swell gal Kim over at wine blog Gang of Pour who helped with the site design and showed the utmost patience with getting all the details just right.

And last but not least, thanks to all of you reading this- I hope you enjoy the new site, and I’ll be back to our “regular programming” soon with lots of delicious posts about our upcoming trip to Andalusia (we leave in a week!!).

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les makrouds, les amies

A couple of years ago, shortly after starting this blog, I did an online search for other Michigan food bloggers, with the idea of doing a little networking. At the time, I found only one in Detroit proper, a vegan blogger to whom I reached out but was ignored (oh well). However, I did come across a few bloggers in the Ann Arbor area as well as a couple in the far Detroit suburbs. Several of them had been in contact with each other for a year or so and had formed a small (back then- now over 100 members!) Google group called the Michigan Lady Food Bloggers. This was used for support and networking, linking to each other’s pages, asking each other food-related questions, sharing articles, and occasionally hosting potluck gatherings. Not knowing any other food bloggers “IRL”, I was really excited to connect with these ladies, some of whom had already been blogging for two or three years. Cynthia (aka Mom), Shayne, Alex, Patti and Maggie were just a few of the members who participated regularly in the mailing list and who helped bolster my confidence and enthusiasm for blogging in that first year.

There was another person on the list whose blog drew me in instantly, with its evocative photography and memoir-like stories of her family and childhood in Algeria. We shared the small bond of speaking French, exchanging the occasional email or blog comment en français. And although her life as a married, Muslim mother and homemaker (not to mention recently arrived U.S. resident) was worlds apart from my own, we hit it off, and I came to think of her as a friend.

Although we still haven’t met in person, both of us missing MLFB gatherings the other was attending, we have kept in touch over email and Facebook. When a freelance writing opportunity came my way that I was unable to pursue, I immediately thought of Warda- not only was it for a publication in her neck of the woods, but I knew that her beautiful writing style would be an asset to any editor.

Imagine my delight when, a couple of weeks later, I came home from work to find a package with a carefully wrapped box inside and a postcard thank-you. Inside the box were eight makrouds, golden, buttery diamonds of semolina, each soaked with a honey syrup and filled with date paste (two were, irresistably,  enjoyed upon opening, which is why the photos show only six). The pastries  were lightly scented with orange flower water, which reminded Marvin of desserts his Iraqi grandmother used to make. Although I had no such taste memory to transport me back to childhood, I savored every crumb, nibbling slowly to draw out the sweet pleasure.

Over the next few days, every time I ate one of the makrouds, I thought how I was lucky to have encountered (even if only virtually) this talented woman, whose skills in the kitchen are apparently equal to her (trilingual!) skills with the written word.  One of these days we might meet for tea or a trip to a specialty market, and chat in franglais. But even if our busy schedules don’t permit that any time soon, I will still consider her une amie.  Do yourself a favor and check out her lovely words and photographs on her blog, the 64 Sq. Foot Kitchen.

an open letter to christopher kimball

Christopher Kimball is the publisher of Cook’s Illustrated magazine.  He recently wrote an op-ed piece in the New York Times which suggested that the demise of Gourmet magazine was related to the groundswell of (inferior) content on the internet.  He also just threw down a challenge on his blog that proposes pitting a recipe developed in the test kitchen to a recipe developed “Wiki-style”, with lots of contributors.  The following is my reaction and response to his comments and to the debate of what I’ll call “experience vs. access”.

Dear Mr. Kimball,

As you may know, many food bloggers and other users of the internet are indignant about your recent article on the demise of Gourmet, because of remarks you made suggesting that the general public on the web (bloggers et al.) is unqualified to be acting as any kind of “authority” on cooking or recipe publication. 

Although I am an amateur food blogger, you may be surprised to hear that I agree with you up to a point.  Certain things are better than others because people have taken time or had training to get them right.  I personally do not often search randomly on the internet for a recipe; I prefer, if at all possible, to get my recipes from cookbooks or sources with whose authors I’m familiar, to ensure a degree of success.

I also take issue with bloggers who assume a position of “instructor” when it is not warranted.  I recently read an online article on how to be a better food writer.  When I looked at the author’s own blog, the writing was completely banal, with sentences such as “The [food items] were very good”.  (Incidentally, this person was one of the folks expressing their outrage about your article… oh, the irony!) This is certainly one of the drawbacks of the free-for-all that is the internet.  On the flip side of that coin, though, the internet gives access to others’ experience that can be extremely useful.  When I wanted to make chicken sausage this summer, for example, I did a web search and came across a blog called Saucisson Mac.  I found a recipe as well as a lot of helpful information, and got a great result.  The author is not a professional charcutier, just someone who’s made lots of sausage at home and knows the ropes.

Your remarks also fail to acknowledge that many food blogs, perhaps even the majority, are written for a different reason other than to give instruction.  The primary focus of my blog, like many food blogs I read, is meant to share and chronicle my personal experiences in the kitchen.  I do know a bit more than the average person, not through formal training but through lots of cooking and reading cookbooks and recipes, so I do include “tips” when applicable (some learned from the pages of Cook’s Illustrated!).  But I don’t claim to be an expert on cooking techniques, and my posts make it very clear (I hope!) that “this is the way I prefer to do it, but it’s not the only way”. 

Another problem with your focus on professional expertise is that it implies that a home cook can’t spontaneously (i.e. without a tested recipe) create something fantastic.  I think people with training/ experience like to think they will always create a superior result, because it validates the time and hard work they’ve put into something.  But I’ve made lots of wonderful dishes just riffing on a recipe, or with no recipe at all.  It’s elitist to suggest one needs specialized training (or to follow a recipe to the tee) to produce good food.

Even if one does choose to follow recipes from prominent chefs and experts, the results are far from guaranteed.  A great illustration of this point is a blog written by Luisa Weiss, aka The Wednesday Chef.  Luisa cooks recipes culled from the New York Times and the L.A. Times, and blogs about the results.   In a recent post, she describes a disastrous coconut barley dish that was all but inedible.  This was a recipe written by a “professional”, printed in a major newspaper!  And yet, that was no guarantee of success; far from it.  This is what I love about blogs: the interaction; the feedback.  Luisa’s kitchen is a test kitchen in the truest sense, and when readers leave comments about their own experiences with the same dish, it enhances the content even further.  Lastly, I defy you to read Luisa’s latest post (about Gourmet, coincidentally) and tell me the internet lacks its share of “thoughtful, considered editorial”.

Ultimately, I wish the curmudgeons and the upstarts could all just get along.  I feel that there’s room for everyone, and that people will ultimately seek out the type of content that is most useful or meaningful to them.  I’m tired of the sniping from both sides of the debate.  Can’t we just stop brandishing our rolling pins and get back to what we all love- making and eating good food?

Respectfully,

Noelle Lothamer

taking stock

orchids

I had written this somewhat lengthy post about “taking stock” of my writing, whether this blog is what I intended it to be when I started, etc, but after reading it through several times, I couldn’t bring myself to hit “Publish”.  Don’t get me wrong, it was a useful exercise for myself to write those ideas down, but at the end of the day it just felt uncomfortably navel-gazing.

grown in Detroit

 However, suffice it to say that I evaluated what I’ve been writing about, what I want to be writing about, and my desire to try some new things in this space.  So I hope you’ll stick around as I  (try to) expand the scope of this blog to accomodate some new ideas that have been kicking around my head.  Meanwhile, these are a few pics from my trip to Eastern Market with my friend Sarah last weekend.

Rainier cherries