Earlybirds at LongHouse Revival build fires, chop veggies and heft a 200-pound heritage pig onto a spit. Or at least that’s what I did, with grass still dewy and before my first cuppa Joe. It was a wakeup call for the exhilarating, and devastating, conclusions of this anti-conference gathering: the digital space is dumbing down food writing, HTML5 isn’t the holy grail, and most food blogs will never make a single dime.
Bookended by wood-fired pizza for lunch and the Bacchanalian sundown roast, CookNScribble’s PopUp Food Magazine, learn-by-watching format logged oral histories of the Hudson Valley’s Mexican Diaspora, staged an NPR interview with pit master and baker Neftali Duran, and saw Zarela Martinez make nuevo guacamole, while explaining that Mexican cuisine uses all the parts of the vegetable in its life cycle (from squash tendril to blossom to fruit to seed), a nose-to-tail veggie variation we Northerners might learn. A barn full of super heroes of the NYC food media (from the The Gay Gourmet to Gluten-Free Girl), and an unexpected turnout from Edible magazine colleagues (including Orlando, Michiana, Austin, Hudson Valley, Boston and Nutmeg), scribbled and pecked and absorbed some other trends that are shaping food writing.
1. Recipes are the dominant currency of food-related web surfing. Increasingly, recipes with pictures are de rigeur.
3. In this brave new world, puny, literary word choices—especially for titles—are being supplanted by “clear is the new cute” writing for the benefit of SEO and future-minded taxonomy. (“Who will be the first to offer Pandora-like algorithms for food seekers?,” a colleague from the Food Network asked.)
4. HTML5 might make online publishing easier, cheaper, faster (a colleague from Zester Daily said it’s just the latest “silver bullet”), but content will still need to written and designed, increasingly on tight budgets, and with audio, video and other enriched, multi-platform bells and whistles. Even the big, high-traffic boys, like theKitchn, Food Network and Epicurious, are constantly tweaking UX to keep up with elusive monetization.
5. Good news. Despite the power and perils of crowd-sourcing (for recipes, for instance), when faced with limited resources, we might all consider skill-sourcing (asking our colleagues what they can do well or want to learn how to do well), sort of like how our deputy editor and photo editor put together the slideshow in the new digital edition of Edible Brooklyn).
6. And at least for now, keep printing magazines—LongHouse itself printed a 4-signature chronicle in honor of the gathering. Humans still prefer paper to their tablets, at least for snuggling up with on the sofa and in other “sacred spaces.” And what’s more sacred than food?