I started food blogging because people’s ignorance about Indian food really irked me. The insouciance with which the historically rich and diverse cuisine of an entire nation was reduced to a store-bought jar of “curry powder” motivated the postcolonialist in me to attempt to decolonize the word “curry”. Needless to say, that mission has decidedly failed. But the process of writing about food, which involves hours of research, shopping, learning about ingredients, and new methods to cook, has made me a more aware and ethical cook. For example, before I started this blog, I thought that the whole “farm to table” movement was a big sham started by rich Californians.
I was wrong. Writing this blog exposed my own prejudices and ignorances surrounding the food industry. As I read more and became more aware of the serious implications of our food choices, I tried to be more deliberate and responsible about what I cooked and ate. And once I became a health and budget-conscious mother, and started paying attention to the effects of single-use plastic and household plastic pollution, and absorbed the parade of increasingly dire headlines about carbon emissions, food waste, and climate change, things just really started stressing me out and I stopped blogging altogether. Because I didn’t think I was blogging ethically or responsibly; and like most other food bloggers, I was doing more to hasten climate change and food shortages than deter it.
Food blogging is a frustrating business. The pressure to create interesting, drool-worthy recipes that resemble fancy restaurant meals is not just challenging but also a huge lie. If you browse through any food curating website or Instagram and search any category of food, say breakfast, you will find a ton of recipes that look so pretty that you immediately feel either too demoralized, or feel the immediate urge to run to the grocery store and get all the 10 items listed under ingredients to make this ONE breakfast item. And you are very unlikely to use any of the ingredients that you just bought ever again, and it is entirely possible that the dish you make won’t taste as good as it looks.
Conventional wisdom and blogging pundits tell us that we, food bloggers, must post at least 2 recipes/posts every week, create engaging original content, take professional pictures, and plate like celebrity chefs. Things that are unreal, unnecessary, and even unethical. Think about it. Lots of recipes will ask you to finish or garnish a dish with a drizzle of cream, or a sprinkle of toasted sesame, or mint, or microgreens, or green onions. Things that you will most definitely find no use for unless you already use them plenty.
Throwing food away isn’t just a waste of money—it’s also a driver of global warming. And I guarantee you that most food bloggers do not think about these things when they create recipes. In fact, they, too, don’t just cook with things that they have handy. They buy a long list of ingredients just to make sure that their dishes look pretty and recipes look complicated enough to inspire some respect and confidence, but most importantly, traffic! Pretty things get clicks and clicks are all we care about. It’s this narcissistic desire that drives most food blogs. No one really writes a food blog to influence change, to inspire, to really share good recipes. Unfortunately, I was no exception in this regard.
At a time when global temperatures are rising at an unprecedented rate, frequent and long droughts are plaguing nations, food, and income distribution are uneven, why are food bloggers focussed on putting pretty food on the table? And since when did this obsession with plating become a thing? Do you remember any food from your childhood that you liked because they were pretty? I bet not. We loved the messiest foods. Because real, flavorful, comfort foods are messy. Mac & cheese is never pretty, mashed potato is never pretty, neither are sloppy joes and hot dogs, or maggiis, or biriyanis, or shuktos, or pancakes or even ice creams. They are not supposed to be pretty. They are just blobs of good foods that appeal to our hearts and souls and prove that love is blind.
I knew that I had to be more responsible. And the biggest responsibility was to sensitize my LO to the needs of the moment. To prime him to make conscious, ethical, and responsible choices, choices that my generation failed to make. I started thinking about less drastic and less theatrical ways that could help us begin reducing our waste footprint. I became more mindful and tried to achieve a low waste, if not no waste, kitchen. After 6 months of successful effort, I think I am ready to share my experiences with you and encourage you to take the same path.
I want to change how I write. I want to create more environmentally conscious cooking that reduces food waste, uses less meat, dairy, fish, and poultry, and reduces costs. I hope you will join me on this journey of ethical but tasty eating.
📚 Emily N. Bartz 📚 (@Phusaza)
1. Before I started reading your blog I ordered like one thing every time I went to an Indian restaurant because I knew what it was and now I know how to make a variety of non-curry dishes at home and am more willing to try unfamiliar dishes at Indian restaurants.
2. I’m excited to see what recipes you come up with! The Mennonites have a great cookbook called the “More With Less” cookbook and it has a similar focus to what you’re interested it. It has crowdsourced recipes from people in their community over the years and picked the most economical. I have one from the 1970s and there’s usually a copy sitting in every library and thrift shop. The recipes tend to use fewer than ten ingredients, never any “garnishes,” and are not the most visually appealing but are very good and always filled me up. I particularly like their lentil-barley stew over rice and when I was very poor, I would make a big pot of that and eat it for three weeks. I would love to read your thoughts on it.
This is great. I am just going to recreate Bengali recipes. They already do all the things that we should all be doing. It’s just a matter of going back to the pre-colonial habits of eating.