Thursday, June 3, 2010

A Matter of Opinion

The grand plan is, there is no grand plan.”  Dave Matthews

Dear readers, they have found me.  The people who sell stuff—they have found me.  By “me,” I mean this blog.  These people who sell stuff are offering me goodies of all sorts—pomegranate juice and peanut butter and free kitchen treats, in exchange for a few kind words and perhaps a link or two in this big white space.  And I said yes.

I like to think that over the years, I’ve stayed true to the spirit of this blog’s name.  I write about life, especially my life.  I talk about love—love of family, friends, nature, beauty, romance, and definitely food.  If my blog were a solar system, food would be the sun, the object around which everything else orbits.  There is nothing that connects us to the earth and each other more than food.  Without food, there is no life.  And to me, good food is essential for the good life.

Dinner with a Pinch of Dirt

When I started writing a food blog, I was blissfully unaware of the commercial potential of such an endeavor.  What I dreamed about, when I dared to dream, was a book deal.  Getting paid to write—it was my fantasy, something that would save me from the pain and agony of graduate training in research science.  I was not a happy graduate student, and I think in some ways that fantasy of doing something else gave me something pleasant to consider when my hope had faded to darkness.  Dreaming about being a food writer was a way of keeping the lights on.

Three years later, I have a PhD but no book deal.  I am fine with that.  Really, I am.  I am not a person who second-guesses herself very much after a decision has been put into action.  And in a way, because of this blog, I am a food writer.  I have recommended many, many recipes, books, and ingredients to you.  My life, just like this blog, revolves around food.

Perhaps it was just a matter of time before merchants started approaching me with offers.  I don’t know.  I definitely did not start this blog so I could get free stuff.  That thought never even crossed my mind.  The idea that people might actually read my blog also didn’t really cross my mind, but I hoped they would.  What I am certain about is that I wanted to be open to opportunities as they presented themselves to me.  I’m a curious person, and my curiosity is often enough to motivate me to say yes.  And truth be told, for a long time I’ve been conflicted about product reviews and advertising on blogs.  On the one hand, it is a classic example of selling out.  And nobody likes a sell-out…except other sell-outs!  On the other hand, I spend an enormous amount of time and money on food and cooking, and those efforts are distilled into what you find on this site.  The idea of getting tangible rewards for all that work is very appealing.

I can’t seem to bring myself to put ads on this site.  I’ve looked into it more than once, but it just feels like clutter to me.  I hate clutter.  And I love how I’ve been able to put images into the sidebar, over there on the right.  Those photos feel like they belong there, keeping things organized and beautiful.  I suppose my feelings about ads are really reflective of a need for control.  My blog is one of the few things in my life over which I maintain almost complete control.  And that’s why product reviews are much more enticing to me.  If I agree to try something, I get to decide when and how I review it.  I have complete control over what I say or don’t say about a product.  I even think it’s fair game not to mention a really awful product here because no press is better than bad press.  Plus I don’t have the heart to write about things I don’t like—it’s too depressing.

I have no grand plan to turn this blog into a product review website.  I will continue to write about what inspires me, challenges me, motivates me.  I’ll still be baking cakes and making salads, inventing recipes and discovering new pleasures in the kitchen.  This blog will still be a place we can both love.  But occasionally, I’ll tell you about something that came my way because I write a blog.  I won’t waste your time telling you about products that I absolutely would not purchase myself.  Consider my reviews as footnotes for the future.  That’s how I will be thinking about them.

I hope you’ll continue reading, friends, and not call me a sell-out or worse.  I prefer to think of myself as opportunistic, and it’s my hope that you and I will both benefit from new opportunities.  After all, remember this giveaway that I hosted months ago?  That was an opportunity that I directed your way out of appreciation for your support.  My friend Daine won that contest, and he picked out one sleek knife.  It’s an intriguing choice, like nothing I’ve ever seen before.  I think Daine even wrote the one review for this knife, which was generous of him.  I love reading reviews on Amazon and other sites, but I am terrible about writing them.  At any rate, I’m inclined to agree with him: the way a knife feels in your hand is a huge part of its appeal.  For this reason, I’ve got a tiny crush on Santoku knives and I’m flirting with the idea of buying one.  If this food blog makes it just a little easier for me to buy nice knives through the generosity of the kind folks at CSN stores and, then that’s a perk I’m willing to accept.

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