Currently I have two short-term goals in life. Goal #1: Eat everything in sight, as well as some things that are not in sight. When not eating, think about eating until eating becomes an option again. Goal #2: Put off till tomorrow what I can do today. (Unless that thing is a problem set, in which case I really should get cracking now, because the only equation I really grasp is Eve + math = no solution.)
I’ve found that one extremely effective way to accomplish said Life Goals — particularly in the soul-sucking library between meals — is to troll around on Internet food blogs until my eyeballs turn to marshmallows. Mainstream blogs like SeriousEats and DeliciousDays offer hours of tastertainment, serving up hundreds of recipes, reviews and gourmet anecdotes. Tastespotting.com — an endless collage of very sexy food photos from blogs all over the Net — will simultaneously soothe your stress levels and boost your appetite. It’s like FreeCell for your taste buds. Only better, because FreeCell just shows you the same effing pixelated cards over and over again, and will never show you a hundred different kinds of grilled cheese.
What’s really remarkable is the recent explosion of procrastination-friendly food blogs written by Viewers Like You. (Well, sort of like you. You might be slightly less obsessed with, like, cilantro.) In the past few years, the average cook has taken over the blogosphere, using Web sites like Blogspot.com to crank out homemade recipes and kitchen solutions. Famous chefs all have their blogs, of course, which are probably written by their grungy PR interns; but professional expertise in the cybersphere is now balanced by the humbler visions of the housewife, or the hungry student, or the Parisian expat, or some random dude with a camera who just likes pizza. Thanks to The Power Of Technology, anyone can join the fray these days. All it takes is a computer, a stomach, a working knowledge of the alphabet and an intense narcissistic desire to tell everyone on earth what you ate for breakfast. (This is also all you really need to write a food column, but let’s not go there.)
Obviously the food universe is expanding pretty rapidly. And as with every other aspect of the Internet, this deluge of information can at times be a challenge. When you’ve got 400 amateur bloggers posting their versions of a chocolate chip cookie, and they’re all yelling that these are the best cookies they’ve ever had in their lives, and somehow they all seem to have read The Moron’s Guide to Professional Photography because their freaking cookies look like they were photographed in a spaceship by Annie Leibovitz, how in the name of Famous Amos are you going to tell who’s got the goods and who’s half-baked? There’s definitely an element of the food blog that requires more than simple fact-checking, particularly where recipes are concerned: If you want to test the strength of a recipe blogger, you’d better be prepared to test the recipe first.
The flip side of this, though, is that these homegrown food blogs are more than just time-killers. They’re extremely interactive, both with their readers and with other bloggers (other bloggers being readers with chutzpah and no math homework). Writers post ideas and readers give feedback; reviews and recipes bounce from site to site, picking up edits or responses along the way; and what emerges is a kind of self-sustaining nexus of tastiness, in which everyone sources everyone else and everyone inspires everyone else. The future of the food world may very well lie in that kind of interdependence, which is really unique to the Internet — not only is it giving us a better handle on flavors, trends and topics, it’s giving us a better means of defining what makes good food, and what makes food good.
It’s also giving us a better way to waste an entire afternoon. And a better sense of how totally starving we are, and how far away dinner is. And a whole slew of better things to eat than General Tso’s Tofu, which I’m guessing is probably on the menu for tonight. I’m thinking I should have a Life Goal #3: Find out — possibly via the wonderful world of food blogs — who the hell General Tso actually is.