Reflections on 7 Years of The Bitten Word
A few days ago marked our Blogiversary: 7 full years of writing here at The Bitten Word, and the beginning of our 8th year of blogging our way through food magazines.
In honor of the occasion, we thought we'd tell you 7 stories we've never shared here before. These are stories that we tell friends who ask questions about the blog, or stories we've shared at dinner parties when people ask about wacky things that have happened because of The Bitten Word.
Here's a little peak behind the blogging curtain....
1. "Dear Bitten Word, The"
Thanks to blogging, we've ended up on a lot of public relations email lists. And that means we get offered a lot of stuff. Like a lot of stuff. Conservatively, we get at least 10 emails a day pitching us on some product or service or app. Though we rarely respond to these PR emails, we do actually read them (well, most of the time).
Most are easy enough to ignore: invites to events in cities where we don't live; pitches for products that we ourselves would never use; press releases (so many press releases!) about restaurant openings all over the world (if you haven't noticed, we don't really write about restaurants); and emails that begin with a very poorly executed mail merge (our favorite opening line: "Dear Bitten Word, The").
Sometimes, if we're intrigued by a pitch, we'll write back, or ask for more information. Over the years we've let people send us samples of books, cookware and some food items.
Which brings us to the heart of our story: the strangest offer we've ever received.
A few years ago, a PR company reached out to offer us a car.
That's right, a car.
And not just any car, a huge SUV. The pitch was that they would give us a car for a week, and we would drive it around and then write about it.
We passed, mostly because parking it in our neighborhood sounded like a nightmare. But still: a car.
2. "It makes us sad"
Here's one of the more cringeworthy moments of our blogging experience.
Once, we were able to meet some folks who worked in a test kitchen for one of the magazines we cover. It was all perfectly nice and we were very interested in every little detail of what they had to say.
But then one of the test-kitchen guys mentioned a recent post we'd written, in which we'd said some negative things about a recipe from this particular magazine. "When you don't like one of our recipes," this guy said, "it makes us sad."
3. From the Mouths of the Mags Themselves
This is sort of the flip side of the previous story. In the time we've been blogging, we've heard from every single one of the magazines we regularly cover. They are amazingly supportive! Sometimes they send tips (and at least once have rightly pointed out a mistake we made) when they see that we've made one of their dishes.
We're happy that the magazines have been supportive, because we see ourselves as championing what they do every day. We want magazines to thrive.
(Seriously: Get a subscription if you don't already have one.)
4. Cheese Lies
Here's another story of a PR fail.
Once, several years back, we got contacted by a PR group representing a certain group of cheesemakers. (We're not going to mention the specific company or group, even though we're not sure they deserve anonymity.)
The PR firm asked if we'd do an interview about cheese -- what recipes do we like, what's our preferred way to order a cheeseburger, and so on. We were happy to do it.
But then we saw the published interview. Throughout the multiple questions and answers, this firm had inserted entire quotes -- completely fabricated -- in which we specifically advocated cheese from this group of cheesemakers.
For example, we'd written something like, "Our favorite way to order a cheeseburger is medium rare, with barbecue sauce."
But here's what the published interview said: "Our favorite way to order a cheeseburger is medium rare, with barbecue sauce -- and we always insist on delicious cheese from [insert group of cheesemakers here]!"
It was ludicrous, and it went on like that for the entire 10-question interview.
The oddest part of this whole episode? They couldn't understand why we had a problem with it! We told them they either had to delete the fake quotes or take the whole interview down. And the PR rep said something along the lines of, "Well this is just how journalism works."
Um, A) no it's not. And B) Your little cheese promos are not journalism.
They eventually corrected the interview. And we absolutely loved the PR-ness of their final email to us, which read: "I severely apologize and hope that this does not affect your viewpoint of [our product]."
5. The Worst Thing You Can Say To Us
There's one thing that's easily our least favorite thing about writing a food blog. It's not the cooking, or the price of ingredients, or anything like that.
It's when people say: "Oh my gosh, I could never have you guys over for dinner -- I'd be so embarrassed to cook for you!"
Give. Us. A. Break.
We know those thoughts are well intentioned. They come from a positive place, and we're aware that they're intended as a compliment.
But come on. We're not Bobby Flay over here. We ain't the Barefoot Contessa. We're just two jerks who can read recipes and who write about what they cook. Yes, we are infinitely better cooks than the novices we were when we started this gig.
But please don't call us food snobs. You want to have us over for burgers? Great. Hamburger Helper? Fine! Invite us to dinner and serve us peanut butter sandwiches? We are there.
We love food -- cooking it, eating it, reading about it, writing about it. And we're definitely not picky.
6. "Your Lifestyle"
Other than talking about getting married, we've never really discussed being gay here on The Bitten Word.
But the truth is it has come up from time to time, mostly in the form of ugly comments that have been left on the blog over the years. (Our policy is to leave up pretty much all comments, good or bad. But those personal attack comments are among the very few that we do delete.)
But we do have a favorite of these comments, which tickled us endlessly: "I love your food but I hate your homosexual lifestyle."
7. Considering the End
We don't have an end game for this blog.
It's a hobby and one that we've immensely enjoyed over the last seven years. It's a good creative outlet, and a nice thing on which we can collaborate. We both have busy careers, and other things we want to write, other blogs we might enjoy starting. Though we're not there yet, there will inevitably come a time when we decide to no longer write here. We plan for that to be an actual decision; we don't want to be those bloggers who just peter out until they stop posting altogether.
Recently, when our blogging enthusiasm was at a low point, we received the following note from a reader:
"I started reading your blog about three years ago. I had just moved from New York to rural New Mexico, had a lot of time on my hands and had nothing to do all day but learn to cook. At the time, I was honestly sort of miserable, but I did make some awesome meals and slow cooked A LOT of meat! Your blog was actually a bright little spot in my life at the time. That was years ago, and I'm much happier now, still cooking, and thought I'd let you guys know how much I love The Bitten Word and that I'm still a faithful reader. I found most of my favorite recipes through you guys, so thanks."
This note made our day/week/month/2014.
Readers like you continue to motivate us to keep going. Your comments, notes and letters of your own food experiences inspire us and make us happy that we have The Bitten Word in our lives.
Thanks for being a part of this experience.
On to Year 8!
~ Zach and Clay