Martha Stewart and the Case of the Not-So-Expert Food Blogger

Martha103994PR_027_4I recently stopped by a friend’s house for a cup of coffee. She’s a mom, like me, and a fantastic cook… not like me.

She always has stacks of magazines around like Real Simple and Martha Stewart Living, and she loves to try out new recipes that are delicious and her kids will actually eat.

The morning I stopped by, she offered me a little something to go with my coffee.

“What is it?” I asked.

“It’s a pumpkin bread pudding,” she replied. I scowled. I’m neither a big pumpkin fan nor a lover of bread pudding, but I didn’t want to be rude so I tried it.

“Wow!! This is amazing,” I exclaimed, practically licking my plate. “Did you get this recipe from one of those magazines?” I nodded to the pile of Martha Stewart mags.

“No,” she said. I got it from a cooking blog.”

She showed me the blog online. The author wasn’t anyone I’d ever heard of. She did not have a degree in culinary arts, did not have any history of employment at a restaurant, and did not have Puck, Batali or Ramsay for a last name. She was just a blogger, who loved to cook, and was damn good at it.

So why am I recounting this story? Not to pile on the “How Dare Martha Stewart Trash Talk Bloggers” bandwagon, but seriously, how dare Martha Stewart trash talk bloggers? In case you missed it, here’s what she said in a recent interview with Bloomberg TV:

“Who are these bloggers? They’re not trained editors and writers at Vogue magazine. I mean, there are bloggers writing recipes that aren’t tested, that aren’t necessarily very good or are copies of everything that really good editors have created and done. Bloggers create kind of a popularity. But they are not the experts and we have to understand that.”

Forgetting the fact that in helping to promote the Martha Stewart empire, the blogger community has been an integral part of Martha Stewart’s personal success, I believe the whole concept of what makes one an expert is the greater issue since Martha Stewart believes she is one and believes bloggers are not.

Martha learned how to cook and sew from her mother. She began college with the intention of majoring in Chemistry, switched to Art, and then European History, and finally Architectural History. After college, she started a catering business from her basement. You pretty much know what happened from there.

Many of my blogger friends learned how to cook and sew from their mothers. Many studied subjects other than cooking at college. Some have started their own small food-related businesses from home, but many merely cooked extensively for the love of it to share with their friends and family. Have any of them reached the star status of Martha Stewart. No. Have any of them gone to prison? No. (OK, I admit that was a cheap shot). But my point is, Martha and my blogger friends all come from the same humble beginnings and became experts at what they do not because they have been paid millions, gotten huge brand endorsements, or had a company go public on the New York Stock Exchange.

They became experts because they worked to perfect their craft and then shared it with other people who wanted to learn how to do the same thing.

joy-of-cooking-75thThere was a time when the only way to learn how to cook was from your mother, or a friend, or possibly from a pretty well-known book called, The Joy of Cooking, the premiere cooking tome for generations. The Joy of Cooking is not a gourmet cookbook. It is a collection of recipes that had been perfected in the kitchen of Irma S. Rombauer, a homemaker in Missouri, and illustrated by her daughter. Irma created some of the recipes herself. Others were shared with her by friends.  Some had been passed down to her through family.  None of the creators of the recipes were so-called experts. They were just real people who loved to cook and understood that cooking itself is a way of expressing love.

I don’t think all bloggers are experts and I don’t think all experts are published authors and TV personalities. But I do think my friend, is an amazing cook.

The proof is in the pudding.

©2013, Beckerman. All rights reserved.

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29 Comments

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29 responses to “Martha Stewart and the Case of the Not-So-Expert Food Blogger

  1. I want that today … all of it … and I deserve it, it looks pretty expert to me.

  2. janieemaus

    Perfectly said!

  3. Pumpkin Bread Pudding Sounds Delish~ Send some my way. BTW- Great Post!

  4. Tracy you make some great points. I would like to add one more, a lot of blogs, food and otherwise, are being done by people who are or were professionally trained.

    I spent a year of my life being the content director of Bonbon Break, an online magazine that I cofounded to bring the best of the internet into the hands of women in an easy format. I could not get over the women we met and had on the magazine. Most of them were in a host of professions including, lawyers, teachers, doctors, artists, and editors. A lot of them turned to blogging after they had their children as a way to keep up their creativity and sense of self while they stayed home with their kids. These women are creating amazing content that publications like Huffington Post, Women’s Day, Parents, to name just a few, are using on their own sites. Some are also making money and finding new avenues to pursue as their kids grow up and they re-enter the paid workforce.

    When someone like Martha Stewart decries a whole “profession” it saddens me. Thank you for a great post!

    • Thank you for the clarification! Sadly, with professional experience or not, too many bloggers are still not paid for their contributions to other sites because too many people think like Martha does that bloggers are not “professionals” and therefore do not need to be compensated for their work. The way many in the the traditonal world view bloggers is as much of a problem as narrow-minded people like Martha Stewart.

  5. Lorrie

    Beautifully written, as always. Blogs are nothing more than conversation, so is Martha now against passing things on by conversation… Many people forget from which they came and are ungrateful for where they are now. Thanks for the intelligent and passionate conversation!

    • My very smart mother once told me that people will often decry that which threatens them. It certainly makes you wonder if Martha sees the writing on the wall and is realizing there is some really, really good competition out there in the blogging community for the niche she has commanded for a long time.

  6. The way I see it when it comes to cooking: There is no recipe out there that is exactly right no matter who wrote it. I tweak everything to fit my own taste. And when I come up with what I think is the best tasting dish, I blog about it. I hope that people who read it try my recipe and tweak it to be exactly what THEY want. Why in the world would I need to be a professional to do that? I love Martha and I love all the ideas that come from her conglomerate. But the fact that she makes money and I don’t doesn’t mean a hill of beans when it comes to good food.

    • Totally agree, Cindy. I am admittedly a very uninspired cook. But one day my sister-in-law made a quesadilla that I loved, and wanted to make myself. But it was far too spicy for my kids. I retooled the recipe a number of times until I got it just right and it became forever known in my house as “Mommy’s special veggie wrap.” My son now comes home from college and requests this dish every time. I’ve passed it on to a number of friends who swear they can’t get their kids to eat vegetables and then they eat this. The beautiful thing about cooking is the way it connects us to other people. I think that should be the focus of any discussion about food… not whether the person sharing the recipe is an expert.

  7. Sue

    Hi, loved this and had to tweet it.

  8. Beth

    How could she hate on bloggers like smitten kitchen, whose cooking comes form joy and are so friendly, helpful, and inclusive in tone? I think the blogger who writes Smitten Kitchen has even admitted failure on occasion. She cooks for love, because she is compelled to–I identify with her because I often cook, and especially bake, to relieve stress. (Some people think this is weird, but most don’t mind a taste of the results!)
    Poor Martha–it must be lonely to be so perfect.

    • I think you might have nailed it Beth! I agree that cooking satisfies so many incredible needs. I cooked up a storm for my son before he left for college as a way to show him how much I loved him. Cooking is love. It’s never about perfection!

  9. susanintheboonies

    That’s all I’m sayin’!!!
    Couldn’t agree more, Tracy.
    Sure, there are some not so great recipes out there on blogs.
    But I’ve tried some not so great recipes on Martha’s site, too.
    I found this comment of hers exceptionally lacking in balance, and in wisdom.

  10. Well done! (In a good way – not the way all my cooked meat turns out.)

  11. I wish my mom had been a blogger because then we most certainly would have captured my one and only cooking competition win in 2nd grade and posted it online for posterity. But sadly, there was no Internet back then and I’m not even sure if there is a polaroid of my grand prize winning cake. It was a mess – I’m not a cook – but I was determined to enter the contest to I jammed two wooden spoons in the 3 layer cake that was precariously threatening to fall over at any moment and then topped it with my copy of the “I Hate to Cook Book”. Daisies were lovingly placed around the bottom of this “cake” and I brought home the blue ribbon. Oh yeah… suck it Martha.

  12. Apparently a stint in prison didn’t knock Martha down enough pegs…

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