It’s not what’s on the end of our forks: the problem with food blogging

Will Self

Will Self

It’s always unsettling when you hear your worst fears about yourself read back to you by someone else: it usually means you can no longer bury your head in the sand and pretend they’re not true. That’s exactly how I felt when listening to Will Self’s Point of View on BBC Radio 4 yesterday – aptly titled The British Vomitorium

In a mere 10 minutes, Self brilliantly takes our obsession with food to pieces. He highlights the obscenity of our revelry in over-priced eateries, celebrity chefs and exotic new recipes, while organisations like the Trussell Trust are still distributing food aid to over 100,000 families per year in the UK.

He is wonderfully scathing about the growth of ‘food intolerances’, the problem of childhood obesity, and our infatuation with celebrity chefs doing odd things in their kitchens. The solution, according to Self is “a collective vomitorium” where we can and must “throw up our obsession with food.”

While I’m not sure I buy his thesis that “gastronomy has replaced social democracy” as the defining ideology of our time, there is definitely truth in the idea that “food has become the defining attribute of both class and culture in 21st-century Britain.” This is inescapably true, as even the most passing visit to supermarkets in higher and lower income neighbourhoods will show you.

For me, Self’s final oratorical flourish nails it. “We Radio 4 types could really do with paying a bit less attention to what’s on the end of our forks, and a bit more to what’s at the end of our roads.” This, in my opinion, is at the heart of the problem with the (potentially) self-absorbed and self-indulgent pursuit of food blogging, of which I must be as guilty as anyone. Don’t get me wrong, I know there are thousands of food blogs out there with the explicit intention of promoting healthier and more sustainable eating for the greater good – blogs which you definitely couldn’t  describe as self-absorbed or self-indulgent, and which I admire greatly. But Self’s point is essentially true: blogging about what you had for dinner is not going to change the world OR address the very real problems out there (and again, I say this with myself in mind).

So what does this moment of self-awareness mean for me and my blog? Well, at the very least, I know I need to think again about the point of my blog and the stuff I share on it – it’s inspired another Food Resolution for 2013. Is the logical conclusion that I should just stop blogging about food? I’m not sure, but I don’t think so. I started this blog because I believe food is a powerful thing that can change lives, communities and the world, and I still believe that. But, as I’ve always known, simply sharing recipes isn’t enough. I’ve got to do more. I don’t know what that more looks like yet, but you can be sure I’ll write about it here as soon as I do!

Check out the segment here: BBC Radio 4 – A Point of View, The British Vomitorium.