Last Monday, Saveur announced the finalists for Saveur’s Best Food Blog Awards, and it seemed like the food blogging world exploded. There was the usual joy from the selected, the exchanged congratulations, but there was something new in the air too. Whispers that some finalists this year were undeserving, that the categories were bunk, and that Saveur was devaluing the hard work of blogging with certain selections. And of course, there was retaliation against those who were brave enough to say such things publicly: they in turn were met with accusations that the non-finalists were just jealous, bitter losers who were serving up sour grapes.
First of all, a HUGE congratulations to everybody who is a finalist this year. I’m excited to see some of my blog friends up there, and to find out more about the blogs I don’t know. I think Kati put it best — even if some of the finalists come as a surprise, it’s important to remember that everybody has a different voice, style, and passions. And maybe the surprises are emblematic and a symptom of the world of blogging today. Because with everybody trying to emulate the successful blogs and finalists from previous years, it seems like we’re all converging towards each other and becoming the same thing. Oh, you know what I’m talking about: the avocado toast on marble tabletops, the dark and moody chiaroscuro lighting of flowers, disembodied hands holding a dish of rustic food… all the variations of the aesthetic that we know does well and that people like. So maybe these blogs got their nomination because they are daring to do something different, and standing out from the rest of us.
Conversely, I know that it’s easy to blame the feelings of ill-will being expressed about the finalists as simple jealousy and sour grapes, but I think it’s much more complicated than that. As a finalist in the years prior, I recognize that some of the selections do feel like a blow to those who pioneered the style that is so popular today, and even to those who have worked hard to emulate it. Because some (not all, but certainly some) of Saveur’s choices seem to have been made humorously and/or ironically, which greatly undervalues the hard work of ALL blogs, serious or otherwise.
Which brings me to this: one of the things that I dislike most about blogging is how we’re all at the mercy of these larger entities that can seemingly “make or break” us. Instagram rolled out an algorithm that directly ties content visibility to engagement, forcing us all to post what we think will be popular in order to remain seen on people’s feeds. Saveur decided to switch up the awards’ criteria from the past years, ending up with new categories and selections that left a lot of people hurt and confused. It’s all arbitrary, and none of it actually directly says anything about the quality of our work in general. We cannot be too reliant on these institutions—especially ones who care about nothing more than bringing in revenue, pageviews, and clicks—to determine our worth and give us cause to publicly tear each other apart.
Because while it’s always a huge honor to get a nomination, or to hit 100k followers on Instagram, please know that your work isn’t any less deserving because you haven’t hit any of these milestones. If you’re still getting enjoyment and joy from cooking, from writing, from practicing and learning more about photography — that in itself will ALWAYS be more valuable and worthwhile than a random badge on your site.