If You Blog It, Will They Eat? Philosophy of CMH Gourmand
Posted by cmh gourmand on February 14, 2011
De gustibus non disputandum est: “there is no disputing about tastes.”
The implication is that opinions about matters of taste are not objectively right or wrong, and hence that disagreements about matters of taste cannot be objectively resolved.
Over the last year comments about the scope of my blog and other blogs as well as the viability of the Columbus Food scene have filtered in. There are many different expectations of what a blog should or should not cover. To each their own. However, it seems like a good time to do a Citizen Kane style statement to detail what I am all about.
I did freelance writing for years. When I started out I did some restaurtant profiles and a big ice cream article for Ohio Magazine. People started calling me a restaurant critic. That made me cringe. I have never taken to that term. I always preferred food writer. I was never interested in dissecting a restaurant. I was interested in finding something that was good, or even better, something great and trying to find what made it that way. What makes a place great? The answer was always the people serving the food and the regular customers that fed the desire of the owners to keep cooking.
I later had a freelance gig for CitySearch Columbus which started out great. But when editorship moved from Columbus, to Chicago, to LA and then somewhere else, I found that they wanted me to essentially write advertising for mediocre places. At the beginning I could pick places I wanted to write about. At the end, I was given a list of not so great places to push. That did not write right so I walked.
Since then, I have chosen what I wanted to write about in my own voice which makes writing a good experience instead of a chore. I still consider myself a food writer (although I have written about non food related topics) not a critic. I write about the places I like. When I have a bad meal my silence speaks the words I choose not to share. In my experience, readers do not need help finding a bad place. I have made several friends in the restaurant trade and I choose to not to write about their places because I can’t be objective (I reserve some of that bias for Twitter). I am a writer with a blog trying to keep writing not a blogger trying to figure out how to write.
Writing a review that trashes a place is pretty easy but also unfulfilling after a few sniper attacks. Writing a critical review that is objective and offers suggestions for improvement is more appealing but not something that I choose to do very often or in public. I have sent some suggestions in private to restaurants and this feedback has been well received. I am a supporter of our food community that is growing in Columbus and would rather guide my readers to what is good, or new, or at least has the potential to be good. I am interested in growing what is good instead of beating up on what is bad.
I am not a food snob or snoot. I know a little bit about wine and beer and just a tad of cocktail history. I know what I like but I don’t expect you to think the same. A $100 bottle of wine would have to be at least 5X better than a $20 bottle of wine for me to rave about it. My palate is not that refined, my disposable income lacks that depth and I don’t care to debate taste so my picks tend be based on value over the dollar sign and comfort over pedigree. Over time, you may come to trust my opinions and tastes. I am a food enthusiast and in a few cases an evangelist – if the product or place is worthy.
There are several great food blogs and writers in town. I think we work (unconsciously) collaboratively and collectively to tell people about our underappreciated treasures. There is not much competition in our cadre and for the most part we don’t promote or push our “brands” to the level we could or maybe should. My blog reads the same with 5 followers or 500.
I sometimes have opportunities to write about a new place or event for cash or perks. If I don’t like an offer or event, I decline. If I feel that the unwritten agreement is that I write something positive, then I decline as well. If I am paid or reimbursed for my writing then I disclose this in the post and/or write something that is informational (i.e. announcement) instead of something that may look like or read as a review. If a restaurant is newly opened, as a general rule, I will not write a review until they have had several weeks or months to work out the kinks. If I do a true restaurant review, then I aim to visit three times with a group of people so I can fully taste and evaluate the food, service and ambiance.
Our city has so many good places to shout out about. We have much that is still undiscovered. While our food community is not fully defined, it is good and sometimes very good. There are amazing people in our community growing something great so this deserves our support and attention. So just eat it and go back if your meal is good. If it is good, tell your friends. If it could be better make a suggestion and see what the response is before you pass a judgement. Let’s nurture and grow what is good instead of picking apart the weeds before they die.