Monday, April 28, 2008

bon appetit to you, too, alan

I was reading Alan Richman's commentary in Bon Appetit, on the tribulations of the professional eating. And I was enjoying myself, nodding in agreement as only a fellow food traveler can, appreciating his point that getting paid to eat comes with its own penalties.

And then I came upon this section:

"The life of the restaurant critic isn't the same as that of food writers. You do not have to feel sorry for them.

"When they travel, hotels know they are coming, so they are upgraded to the Elvis Presley Suite. When they eat out, chefs who haven't been seen in their kitchens since the advent of the Food Network fly in, borrow a stained apron from their sous-chef and walk wearily through the dining room, complaining that they were up at dawn picking out organic produce at the farmers market.

"Food writers get to do the easy stories, the ones about prizewinnning pumpkins."

Excuse me? Does anybody have any idea what he's talking about? OK, Sarah Dickerson at Slate doesn't bother to actually do any research outside NYC before declaiming on newspaper food sections. But Richman? I thought the guy was smart. Smart-mouthed, but smart.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Would my kid be a son of a biscuit eater?

An e-mail I got today: "Kathleen, hello! I hope this email finds you well. I am working on a special project and was hoping you could lend your talent and expertise…it’s for Bojangles’ Restaurants – we are filming a commercial using “real people” to give their first hand perspectives on Bojangles’ biscuits – the concept is to basically give a review of the biscuit on camera. We will be shooting on May 1 – it would not require much of your time or travel. We can shoot outside of the Observer building or where ever is convenient for you. Let me know if you’d be interested."
Anybody have a story to top that one?

Kathleen Purvis, The Charlotte Observer.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

how do I keep up with you people?

AFJ has a blog? Seems to me I heard that somewhere. Most of missed it somewhere between Kessler's video class in Minneapolis and the latest round of belt-tightening here at the Observer, where we're now required to work a couple of GA reporting shifts for Metro every month.

But if I can find a way to keep up with Serious Eats, Egullet (that one's not hard -- once the shiny wore off, the boards slowed down), Chowhound, Bruni's blog, several North Carolina-centric pages, one e-magazine (Slate) and a handful of chef blogs (Bill Smith in Chapel Hill, Frank Stitt in Birmingham, John Malik in Greenville, S.C.) . . .

Well, surely I can make it a regular habit to see what AFJ people talk about when we're not hanging out by the coffee urn in the back of a hotel ballroom.

Keeping up with blogs has become one of those daily chores. It's like speed-reading through the seven or eight food magazines that cross your desk every month and flicking an eye over 700 or 800 cookbooks.

I'm a schedule freak, so I've made my web watch part of the routine. I keep the list posted under "favorites" and I run through them every morning. After the initial investment to get to know the sites and figure out which clicks are likely to yield something I need to know, it's a 10-minute check first thing in the morning, what I do while I'm waiting for the Home editor, my work husband, to make my second cup of coffee.

To remember to check AFJ's chat, I added it to the favorites list between Regina Schrambling's Gastropoda (it makes a good pop-culture quiz -- "let's see if you can identify who I'm thrashing today") and the LA Weekly food page, where I pause once a week to admire whatever Jonathan Gold is writing.

And what's the payoff? Well, partly, it's just the same curiousity that drove me into journalism. We scribes ought to like hearing what people think -- or think they think. We're naturally nosy. And since I read web sites that are heavily trafficked in other cities, it gives me a leg up on trends to watch for here, just the same as I do when I read food stories on the wire.

Here in Charlotte, I can get a bunch of eyes that help me peer around in a sprawling, fast-growing area. No, I don't get too many new column ideas (I've watched Serious Eats, egullet and chowhound all go through multiple rounds of "what's your favorite food movie/song/how many cookbooks do you have" -- a good reminder that trite is trite, no matter what the medium).

But you tell me: Which web sites do you read every day, and what do you get from it?

Kathleen Purvis/The Charlotte Observer