What should food bloggers write about? - Skillful Cook
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What should food bloggers write about?

Styling food on a wooden surface.

This post is for food bloggers and food blog readers alike! My hope here is just to bring up a little think/talk/virtual coffee date sesh about what food bloggers should write about. Food bloggers, let's think about what you like to write about, and food blog readers, let's think about what you like to read about, because that's sort of the end goal here. A matchy match on both sides of the story.

Every once in a while, I sit down at the computer to write a post and my brain is literally empty. Zero words. No thoughts. BLEH. And by every once in a while I mean all the time lately. Usually I am overflowing with words and thoughts and ideas and random stories that I feel an urgent need to share on a food blog (?), but somehow that just *poof* disappears when I try to write at times like 11pm or 5am, which has kind of been the norm as of lately.

And now, see, I'm already off track. This is why I need a conversation about what food bloggers should write about.

List of behaviors.

{Great quote, great book.}

How Do You Know What To Write About?

To start honestly, at this point in my “food blog journey” and yes I did just use that phrase, I just take it as it comes. I've found after yeeears of doing this (coming up on 4 years to be exact, so I'm basically a blog grandma) that I can write with the most authentic voice if I'm just true to whatever I feel like writing about. It sounds most natural, it's easy to write, it comes across as authentic. Because it is.

The problem comes when I don't feel like writing about anything, and in that case, I hole up in bed with a jar of Nutella.

Juuust kidding. {eyes dart up and to the left}

When I'm stuck at the keyboard with nothing in my mind but chocolate oblivion, I try to go one of two ways.

1. The Food Talk

Chocolate Cake Bars.

If life has been kinda ho-hum or I've just dry for anything interesting to talk about, then it probably makes the most sense to get started by just writing about the recipe. Whiiich is kind of a “duh” moment because we are talking about food blogs. But even though it's so simple, it can be surprisingly hard. It's like I sit down, get the recipe in there, have the pictures in place. Now, uh, what do I have to say? Yum. The End.

Here are some ideas of food related writing material that I use for inspo when I'm stuck. I'm not the only one, right?

2. The Telling Of a Story

Young boy with a missing tooth.

As I have started to develop more of a relationship with my readers (I'm lookin' at you, xo), I’ve started sharing more beyond-the-food stories. Like dumb little stories about going to the movies. Or more experiential stories about living the Philippines. Or pictures of my house. Did I really just put those on the worldwide webby? What in the world. Or even serious, sad, and deep in my heart stories about Bjork's young aunt passing away after a battle with early onset Alzheimer's. If it's on my heart, I try to authentically share it in a way that is compatible with the recipe that I'm posting.

This is powerful because a) it's authentic! three cheers! and b) because people love love love stories. Myself included. I remember once I read a post by Joy the Baker and I can still remember the hilarious story she shared about a misplaced bee and a taken-off shirt in the middle of downtown (major paraphrase there - apologies, Joy). But guess what? I have no recollection whatsoever of what the recipe was in that post. Yet I vividly remember reading that post because of the story, and I remember it again whenever I think of her blog. That's sticky and it's good.

Here are some great examples of powerful, moving, and engaging stories that I've seen:

  • a story that describes why the food was made and brings you into the experience, like this post from way back when
  • a food and life story about what the food is inspired from and what it signifies
  • a story about the person who gave you the recipe - this was one of the first posts I ever read by Jessica of How Sweet Eats and even though it's old, IMO it's a perfect blend of food talk with story
  • a story that's random and funny, like the Joy Bee Story that I just found! awesome
  • reflections and authentic sharing of what's on your heart, like this lovely New Year's recipe post by Sara of Sprouted Kitchen

To my food bloggers, remember that we want to not only provide useful content (a rockin' recipe) but that we also want to connect and share with a group of people who want to read our blogs. And that connection is built not just because of the recipes, but because of who YOU are as a person and how well your reader can feel like they know you. And the goal is that you can very authentically communicate who you with your readers through your stories and your voice.

In the last two years, I have changed my approach from just cranking out recipe after recipe to seeing my blog as a documenting of my story. Our year-long adventure in the Philippines sort of opened that door for me. The face of the blog is food, but I hope it always also tells the story of our lives and the people around us.

3. Always, Always, Always

Chocolate chunks in a white bowl and on a red cutting board.

One last thing that I always consider a non-negotiable no matter what I'm talking about that day: describe the food. I sometimes forget because I get wrapped up in the gab fest, but it's really important to me that I communicate to you, my food friends, what the FOOD is like and even more importantly, why I love it.

The fun of reading food blogs is seeing people passionately in love with their food and oh my gosh, I just wrote that. Passionately in love with their food. Wow. But it's so exciting to read about someone talking about something they love, and turning that individual love into a collective experience with a group of virtual friends is just a really cool thing.

Blogger Words Of Wisdom

I most definitely did hunt down my favorite food blog writers and harass them until they gave me their responses to the question, “What should food bloggers write about?”

Bev Cooks smiling.

Bev says: What should food bloggers write about? Any ol' dang thing you please. Just make sure it sounds like you. Of course this is coming from someone whose voice is resemblant of an armpit fart, but what are ya gonna do? I'm not one to wax poetically on the juiciness of spring strawberries, or the soul warming effects of freshly baked bread, or the velvet nature of melting chocola - AND now I'm starving. But if that's who you are, that's who you are! Don't be afraid to talk about toenails (don't listen to me), ingrown hairs (again, ignore every word) or dirty diapers (seriously, just run away). Write what makes your heart do a little skip dee do, and call it a day. And then go melt some chocolate.

Girl Versus Dough woman.

Stephanie says: Tell stories. Write about what feels authentic to you. Maybe you made this muffin recipe because it reminded you of baking with your mom when you were knee-high to a grasshopper; maybe you made it because you found out your neighbor is sick and you wanted to bring over comfort in carbs; maybe you made it because you needed a little downtime in the kitchen, and this recipe provided that. The story doesn't have to be epic or necessarily unique, but it has to be true. People want to be connected to you, to know more about who you are, why you decided to make muffins today and why those muffins are just oh-so-tasty to you.

Woman looking at produce.

Liz says: I don’t think that there’s one right answer to the question of what you should write about on your food blog. You really have to play to your own strengths. If writing is not your forte, let your beautiful images or delicious recipes do most of the talking.

But if writing is something that you enjoy, then by all means, make writing a central feature of your blog. Like the blogs that I enjoy reading, most of my posts include a story about what’s going on in my life or a notable event from my past, which is at least loosely related to the featured recipe. To be true to Carpé Season’s concept that life is seasonal, I will occasionally write about heavier, less-humorous topics, but for the most part, I try to keep my writing light and funny because I think that most people use food blogs as a quick source of entertainment as well as for recipe inspiration. Plus, I want to be everybody’s funniest friend.

If you are going to invest in your writing, my biggest recommendation is to let your personality come through. Some of my most responded-to posts have included major fails like times that I’ve totally stuck my foot in my mouth. People seem to respond to vulnerability, even if it’s cloaked in six layers of self-deprecating sarcasm.

When it comes to describing the recipe itself, I suggest keeping that portion somewhat brief and letting people read the recipe itself. I usually try to describe any interesting components of the recipe and highlight something that makes it stand out - a particular flavor or texture, or how easy it was to make. I try to keep it classy and avoid using the word amazeballs, but sometimes there’s just no getting around it.

Bottom line: Creating blog posts should be enjoyable, or you won’t stick with it. Figure out what your strengths are and what you want your blog to convey, and write - a lot or a little - along those lines. Find a writing style that helps you get in a rhythm and doesn’t stress you out.

Woman smiling at camera.

Jessica says: I personally think that bloggers should write about what comes naturally to them. And they should write about what they themselves would like to read. It may sound crazy, but I’m not interested in paragraphs upon paragraphs of the recipe itself. I’d rather read something relatable, maybe even something that has little to do with the recipe but can be tied in at the end. Finish up with a line or two on why the dish is fab… and boom. I’m happy.

Hey guys? Just one thing you should never do as a food blogger: write posts this long. Ohmygosh. If you are not drowning in the many words of this post, I SO SO SO welcome your thoughts on this topic.

Also welcome: thoughts on desserts. Mwah.

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  1. Skillful Cook Logo

    Wow! What a wonderful post! I will truly keep this post for many years to come! So much wonderful advice from one of the bloggers I look up to most, and have learned so much from! This was SUCH a great read, and I LOVE that you also got opinions from other great bloggers!!

    I feel that each person in the blogging world has their own contribution to what they can bring to the table…if that is the right phrase to use. I know I am able to provide my readers with an inside track to see what life is like for a elite runner. I try to share my stories, and what I do to be the best I can be. I feel like that is mostly what i should write about to stick with what is unique about me.

    I wish I had more time to spend on researching more for posts, as I believe the hard evidence you have to back up your posts makes them so much more reliable. I will be looking for a job soon, and I know I could use my blog as part of my application if I can make my posts more scholarly.

    Thanks so much for this post, I loved the advice, and I love your blog!

    1. Skillful Cook Logo

      I agree. I have a list of blog posts and books I refer to for knowledge and inspiration. This post is the latest addition to the blog list (the latest addition to the book list is the inspirational How to Write about Food: How to Become a Published Restaurant Critic, Food Journalist, Cookbook Author, and Food Blogger by S.J. Sebellin-Ross). I find these resources a well spring of help. thanks!

  2. Skillful Cook Logo

    I actually had this exact dilemma the other day, there was just nothing going on writing wise.

    It’s definitely important to be authentic to who you are, and over the years, I’ve found that showing vulnerability has been something that people have really connected to. That said, it can be pretty difficult to show that side of yourself. On a blog, it’s pretty easy to push all of that under the rug, especially if you’re, 19-20 years old like me and don’t know who (friends, professors, bosses etc.) are reading your blog, it’s an interesting position to be in. Recently, I wrote about how even though I’m almost done university, I feel more lost than ever and people seemed to really connect to that.

    I think the great thing about blogging is that you are always cultivating your writing style and there always room to improve and room to make mistakes.

  3. Skillful Cook Logo

    Great post with great tips! I, frequently, sit down to write a post with tons if ideas floating around in my head and once I get ready to type every thought evacuates itself from my brain. I swore it was early onset Alzheimer’s so I’m glad I’m not alone here.
    Love that you received thought from some of my other favorite bloggers.
    Thanks again for the super long post that I didn’t even realize was super long until you pointed it out.

  4. Skillful Cook Logo

    This a great post. I feel that a blog is my way of shining a bit of happiness into someone life. Whether I am sharing my problems, rantings or even worries; i hope that someone take a bit away from what I write. Also coming from someone who had problems with linguistics, it is so rewarding to have people like what you write on the blog too.

    Be yourself is my main goal. if people do not like it, so what? there is another hundred who do.

  5. Skillful Cook Logo

    Yes! I love this post. It can be so hard to really find your own voice as a blogger, and I often find myself getting writers block when trying to fill in the blank post space around my photos. It’s good to hear I’m not the only one!

    Also… I totally clicked on the link to Joy the Baker’s bee story – and laughed out loud!

  6. Skillful Cook Logo

    LOVE this post, Lindsay! One time I actually couldn’t think of anything to write about so I wrote about not being able to think about anything to write about. But as I was writing, a few things came to me and it all worked out well!

    I’m one of those people who does my post the night before (and sometimes even the day of) it’s going to go live. Time isn’t always on my side but for some reason, the words usually come to me. 🙂

    Have a lovely day, Lindsay!

  7. Skillful Cook Logo

    This is good stuff! At times I feel confused as to what I should discuss. I honestly just start typing. If I have a song stuck in my head I will write about how I got this song stuck in my head and where it came from. Sometimes my blog posts have nothing to do with the actual food itself. I think the blog “Local Milk” has some good writing too.

  8. Skillful Cook Logo

    I heart this post so, so much!! I’ve spent a good portion of the beginning this year struggling on and off with feeling inspired (probably bc I get stuck in my own head so much). This definitely makes me think about writing from a different perspective. So helpful…thank you!!

  9. Skillful Cook Logo

    Hi Lindsey and Bjork,

    I guess I would have to say I am more of a food blog reader. I sometimes write about Appalachian cooking because it is ugly and plain and misunderstood, yet so delicious. I try to defend it and explain the simplicity and necessity. However, I read way more about cooking on food blogs than actually cooking.

    So why do I do that? I know the answer. Food bloggers are encouraging. I come and visit you because you are real and you are kind. Your marriage is real and I enjoy knowing that you both are using your giftings together to further something. Maybe cooking, but maybe something else.

    For my part, I don’t mind if there is s a recipe or not. To be honest, I have never used a single recipe of yours, yet I still visit. Please don’t be insulted, your food looks incredible and I have definitely gotten ideas from your recipes.

    My point? Write about anything. I will still come. I enjoy your writing and I enjoy your husband’s writing. You are encouraging. We know you probably bicker over the blog, but it is still a good work and a worthy one. Knowing you disagree over it sometimes makes it all the more authentic.

    My guess is sometimes people say mean things and maybe sometimes you feel bared and exposed to the whole world because we have seen your bathroom. But be encouraged. Most all of us think you are great. We would never dream of writing something mean and we can’t fathom that someone would try to log into your blog. Yikes.

    So tell us anything. Have a decorating your house blog post day if ya want. Just keep encouraging everyone to good work.

    You are changing the world.

    1. Skillful Cook Logo

      Everything that Heather says here is SPOT ON!

      As a food blogger I read a lot of food blogs, spent countless hours on various food photo sites looking at food porn and I read a lot of blog about blogs. I also have a health blog and freelance blog that is my oldest site. I find writing for any of them to have challenging days.

      I’ve been blogging online since the late 90s, so sharing my words comes pretty natural. My struggle is with these same topics you mentioned – what to share and how much is too much?

      I think at the end of the day it all just becomes trial and error. What works for one website and their audience may not go over so well for another.

      What keeps me coming back is your endless amount of encouragement to your readers whether they are going to create your recipe or just visiting to get inspiration for their own website. You treat everyone the same. Kindness. Honest.

      The fact that you and Bjork give back, not just to your organizations, but to your readers as well. It’s what makes me come back. I just love your openness and willing to share. But most of all, its your ‘pay-it-forwards’ spirit that shines through.

  10. Skillful Cook Logo

    I struggle with this regularly. I love the recipe and want to share it, but you can really only say it’s AH-mazing so many times before people start to question your sanity.

    I have a hard time expressing stories because they don’t relate to the food and I almost always feel like they have to. Its something that I am conscientiously working on. This post was great. Thank you so much for sharing it.

  11. Skillful Cook Logo

    I found your blog while you were in the Philippines and I must say its why I stuck around. I haven’t actually made one of your recipes yet, but I do pin plenty of them! I love when bloggers incorporate a story. (and I promise to make a recipe of yours soon!)

    1. Skillful Cook Logo

      Also…are you familiar with the Healthy Living Summit? It will be in Madison this fall and might be a good match for you if you’re interested!

  12. Skillful Cook Logo

    I loved this! I often struggle coming up with things to write about. I write at nap time and sometimes I’m just too zapped for my brain to work. When I’m stuck I go to writing about the recipe, giving tips on how to make it and times to serve it. That at least gets things going and hopefully sparks something more creative!

  13. Skillful Cook Logo

    How much do I like this post? A LOT!! Thank you, Lindsay!! So many fabulous tips, but the advice I was happiest to read was this, which I think you said several times if I remember correctly: ‘BE YOURSELF!’ Who can argue with that? 🙂

  14. Skillful Cook Logo

    Lindsay, thanks so much for sharing this post. I often have writers block and no matter how much PB I eat by the spoonful or breaks that I take – I still can’t come up with inspiration to find my words. I loved reading what other talented bloggers had to say and what they enjoy about reading food blogs. Thank you so much for sharing! Gives me inspiration for when I feel lost.

  15. Skillful Cook Logo

    Lindsay, I love this post and will be going back to it many times. I often struggle with this and I wonder if people really want to know the details of my life but in reality, that’s what I enjoy when I read other blogs. Very inspirational, thank you for sharing.

  16. Skillful Cook Logo

    I’m glad I’m not the only one who has a total brain fart some days. I enjoy the writing aspect of blogging most of the time, but lately that’s been the slowest and most unnatural part of the process for me. I think these things go in seasons. Sometimes my photography feels effortless, some days it’s like pulling teeth. I would be interested to hear from more bloggers about how they feel about writing about more serious topics on their food blog. I’d love to get more into food politics, food justice, and food’s relationship to faith and community. But I think since my voice tends to be more on the funny/lighthearted side I find it hard to transition into these heavier topics. Thoughts?

    1. Skillful Cook Logo

      No way! I think people with that funny, lighthearted bend have a huge advantage in writing about heavier stuff. You can bring it up, you’ll have to just be true to yourself and push down the urge to be funny in every sentence to really get your point across, but lacing those posts with humor is so great for people to read because it makes the posts serious and thought provoking, but not overwhelmingly heavy. Does that make sense? Check out Jen Hatmaker’s blog – she writes about life, faith, adoption, etc, all serious things and with a deep passion for them, but almost always with her lighthearted writing personality coming through.

  17. Skillful Cook Logo

    This is such a timely post for me; thank you for your insight. You and Bjork inspired us, and we started our blog about a month ago. We’ve had amazing results already, thanks to your advice on photography (and Tasty Food Photography), and even had some photos accepted to FoodGawker, Tastespotting, etc.

    But, along the way, I think we kind of lost our way. Our original idea was to write about how we raise our boys to be adventurous eaters, but recently we’ve been talking more about the recipes than the adventure. My partner is getting overwhelmed with posting recipes and taking photographs to the point that she’s considering stopping, and I’ve found I’m looking more at view counts than content. When I think about our content, it’s really more about talking about the recipes themselves. That may be helpful to beginning cooks, but not really interesting to a lot of people. I was thinking this morning about how we can get back to our mission, so to speak, and this has helped me get some new direction.

  18. Skillful Cook Logo

    WOW! Did you read my mind? I love, love, love this post.
    Thank you {best friend in my mind} for helping me get out of my rut! You’re the best!