Fish Where There Are Fish: The State of Food Writing
Amanda Hesser wrote an article last week for FOOD52 that, in summation, stated that food writing is dead. This drew critiques, criticism, praise, and response articles all over the web. When posted by a mutual friend on Facebook, Babette Pepaj (of TechMUNCH and Bakespace) disagreed, "Fish where there are fish," she stated.
This isn’t the first time I’ve been on the fringes of an idustry in the midst of a tornado like change, all the "Old Schoolers" looking down with dismay as the ripples seems to be coming from a throng of new and unexperienced talent waiting to take a stab in a new and digital format.
When I moved to Los Angeles in the late 90’s as a teenager, my husband, then boyfriend, joined a year later with a band that had just signed a major record deal. He worked his way around the scene, taking jobs at major recording studios, tour managing bands, production, A&R scouting, drum coaching, all while the music industry was still the giant beast of the 1980’s, the A&R guys holding the keys to the kingdom with that illusive Record Contract dangling from their fingers. It wasn’t long before the beast started to crumble and the curtain was pulled from the Great And Mighty Oz.
It all seemed to start with Napster. A brilliant idea, even if illegal and poorly thought out, that brought the Music Industry Beast to its knees. First, largely ignored. Then a few lawsuits, then a few more, then Metallica chimed in. No one, save for a few smart people over at Apple, stopped to hear the cry from the public of, "This Is What We Want." I asked my husbands boss (he was working for a Recording Company headed by a well known music producer) why they didn’t pick up where Napster left off, "Why don’t you sell the songs on your own website? let people download them?" The response was lots of legal jargon, with a dash of, "artist want to sell records, not singles." iTunes disagreed and well know how that went.
Years later, sitting in a bar called The Short Stop, chatting with a small-band-trying-to-make-good in Silverlake, California I asked about that illusive record deal. "We don’t need one, " said the guitar player, "I can get my songs onto iTunes, I can book my own shows. I don’t need to give anyone 90% of my money." He was right. They went on to be the biggest band ever to come out of Silverlake, although I now only see them on Guitar Hero or the Grammys, they will always be the guys (and girl) I used to buy beers for and chat about literature & music with.
Fish where there are fish. Although the sad reality is that the music industry is a ghost town to us now, the mighty and wealthy clamoring to get jobs, moving out of town to find work or wallowing on unemployment, we have a few friends who are making money. For the most part, those are people who started businesses to help artist help themselves. À la carte services that help the musicians maintian control, while assisting them in doing things they don’t know how to do for themselves. PR people, managers, booking, pressing of collectable vinyl, merch, all overseen by the artist. Of course the days of multi-million dollar musicians are largely behind us, more people are making a decent, but modest living, fishing where there is fish.
How does this translate to food writing? We’ll see. Will the only people that make money those who assist blogger with tech help, running ads, photography tutorials and book deals? Amanda Hesser may be right about HER food writing world being dead, and those mighty giants have started to crumble, but what will rise up in its place? What will the dawning of the new food world look like? The truth is, people will always write about food. How and where the money will be made is a different issue.
I’m not going to pretend to link this to cookies, so here they are:
Strawberry Oatmeal Cookies For Two
(makes only 6, because the last thing I need is 48 cookies just sitting around my house)
1/4 cup butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla
3/4 cup oats
2/3 cup flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp cinnamon
3/4 cup chopped strawberries (feel free to use those un-pretty ones on their last legs)
In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream the butter and the sugar. Add the egg, and beat on high. Scrape the bottom of the bowl and add the vanilla and beat again. Add the oats, flour, baking powder, cinnamon and beat until combined. Stir in the strawberries.
Cover a baking sheet with parchment paper (or spray with cooking spray) and drop large spoonfuls of dough on to the sheet, leaving space between each cookie.
Preheat the oven to 350.
Place the baking sheet in the refrigerator to chill for 20 minutes.
Bake at 350 for 12-15 minutes or until the cookies turn a light golden brown and are cooked through. Slide the parchment paper off the baking sheet onto the counter and allow the cookies to cool.