Food fundis share their favourites

By Esther Lewis Time of article published Sep 12, 2013

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Cape Town - Goodbye boring bredies, simple salads and dull desserts. The rise of the food blogging phenomenon has tantalised the imaginations and broadened the palates of many.

And it’s not just professional chefs who have been fuelling the phenomenon. Many of the bloggers have day jobs unrelated to food. But what they have in common is simply their passion for all things culinary.

Justine Drake, food guru and judge for the Pick n Pay Freshly Blogged competition, describes food blogging as “the great leveller”.

Blogging goes a long way to demystifying food and cooking, which can only be a good thing, says Drake.

“The fact that real folk, as opposed to professionals, are the ones blogging makes the goal of cooking a delicious meal all the more attainable.”

Fellow judge and food editor Anke Roux agrees that food blogging has had a tremendous effect on the industry. “It has given ordinary folk a voice and a vehicle to promote and share their views, thoughts and creativity with the world and be heard. It has reinforced the belief that food is for everyone and that everyone truly can cook,” says Roux.

There are no figures available for how many bloggers there are in the country. But Roux says there are few who are noteworthy and influential.

So what makes a good blog?

This is entirely subjective and depends on what tone, style and cooking approach the follower prefers.

“Words are no longer enough; a good food blog should be well designed, have excellent photographs, and good and engaging food styling, too. After all, the first bit is with the eye; this is what draws your followers in,” says Roux.

Drake says she can’t pinpoint when the phenomenon started but it’s a natural progression from how past generations shared recipes and tips. Just as people have passed on recipes or written cookbooks, the digital arena offers an accessible, affordable way to have your say and share your talent.

The Freshly Blogged competition started on July 8, with 40 of the country’s top food bloggers competing in a series of weekly challenges. It will end on September 26 when the Top Blogger title is awarded.

The weekly challenges put the bloggers’ creative cooking skills to the test as contestants are required to conceptualise, cook, photograph and upload their dish for judging to qualify for the next round.

Among the contestants are Cape Town bloggers Zirkie Schroeder and Shafeeqa Effendi.

Schroeder’s love affair with food started when she was in high school. Her mother loved cooking and baking, and this, says Schroeder, is what sparked her own interest.

Schroeder, 50, did a few cooking courses, but mostly cooked at home for friends and family. In 2001 she took the plunge and left her career in IT to open a coffee shop. She baked all the confectionery for the shop.

But with baking, her first love, it is important to follow recipes to the letter. Cooking, on the other hand, allows Schroeder the freedom to experiment with ingredients.

“I find it boring to keep making the same dishes, so I’m constantly trying new things. Ingredients can be a source of inspiration. I will see a great piece of meat and start thinking of things I can do with it.”

It was in April 2009 that Schroeder started blogging on Food24. After a short while her blog became very popular.

“My family and friends were always asking for recipes, so I started to blog to share my recipes with them,” says Schroeder.

In May 2012, the mother of three started the PinkPolkaDotFood blog. She attributes its popularity to the fact that she posts about food she cooks for her family daily. Most of her recipes are fairly simple and suited to home cooking for families.

“I never expected people to start following my blog. It was something of a surprise. But a very good one! It’s quite satisfying to have built up a fan base,” says Schroeder.

She says the success of a good blog depends on the recipes posted. They have to be thoroughly tried and tested, and also original.

Consistency – blogging at least twice a week – is also an important part of running a good blog.

Schroeder believes the rise of food bloggers and the spike in the number of cooking shows has had an impact on the way people view cooking.

“Food is fashionable now. In the past only a few people would have admitted that they live to eat and now everyone loves food.”

Effendi, 31, started her blog Crushland a year ago. It is a culmination of all of the things she enjoys: photography, art and food.

Like Schroeder, her background is not in the food industry. She is a product developer in the shoe industry.

But she, too, had always experimented with unusual dishes and exotic flavour combinations. For Effendi, striking a balance between having fun with the blog and keeping it informative is important. “There has to be a balance, or it becomes a chore,” says Effendi.

She agrees with Schroeder that the food scene has changed dramatically. “People are becoming much more creative and are more willing to experiment and share what they do,” she says.

When she started blogging, it was a means to share her creations with her family and friends.

She didn’t expect the success and publicity that came along with it.

“For a long time, I didn’t think of myself as a blogger. I don’t take it that seriously.

“I see it as an expression of my creativity and all the things I’m passionate about.” - Cape Argus

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