If you’re anything like me (aka the type of person who starts looking for gift and party food ideas weeks in advance), you’ve been paying close attention to all the Thanksgiving and Christmas recipes popping up all over the internet lately. Food blogs are my not-so-secret trick up my sleeve when I want to try something new in the kitchen or try out a new technique. But they aren’t just for helping you cook better (although they definitely do). If you’re a writer trying to do some world building, or an artist trying to set up a still life or create atmosphere for an illustration, or a photographer looking for new styling ideas – food blogs can help you out with that, even if you don’t cook. So you can get inspiration for that dessert you’re bringing to the holiday party and your creative projects at the same time. (So you’re basically cheating, but in the best way.)
Now, in the interest of full disclosure, I’m currently following 18 food blogs through my Feedly account (and those are only the blogs that are exclusively food-related, but that’s beside the point), and my friends tease me for following “too many” food blogs. But even if you don’t have a list of favorite food blogs, they can still be good resources. And here’s why:
Besides the obvious variety of photography and styling techniques that can help out the artists out there, it can also help out any writers with any researching questions they have. You can learn about a culture’s traditions, religious beliefs, cultural norms, economy, holidays, important historical events, etc. — all through food. This is really helpful if you’re trying to learn about a specific historical era or a culture you’re not familiar with. And even if you’re writing sci-fi or fantasy, there are plenty “unusual” (to you) recipes (plus modern cooking techniques) that can give you ideas even if your setting is in a galaxy far, far away.
So, here are my 10 favorite food blogs for inspiration:
- Smitten Kitchen: Deb Perelman’s blog is the first place I go when I’m looking for a specific recipe. She’s been blogging for 8 years, so there’s a broad spectrum of recipes, covering everything from Italian pizza, the best Gingerbread cookies, traditional Hannukah desserts, and Moroccan stew. Her recipes are somehow detailed without being finicky, so you get maximum deliciousness with as few unnecessary steps and dirty dishes as possible. Plus she’s funny and the writing is great. I’d honestly be surprised if you hadn’t heard of her, but she definitely deserves this spot.
- Manger: I adore Mimi Thorisson’s blog. Her writing about life in the rural Médoc region of France is wonderful, and her husband Oddur’s photography is just gorgeous. I love that she writes about a part of France that isn’t Paris or Provence (I’m sure both are wonderful, but it’s nice to get a different perspective of France). The story I’m working on is set in Alsace, and Manger has been a huge source of inspiration and information about French traditions and cooking. I can’t recommend it enough. Her book A Kitchen in France just came out, and I’m definitely adding it to my Christmas list!
- Yummy Books: Cara Nicoletti cooks up recipe pairings for a wide variety of books- she cooked her way through The Goldfinch, cured her own ham for Emma, and even baked some walnut brownies for Stacey’s Emergency from the Babysitter’s Club series. She’s well-read and knowledgeable about food, especially meat, since she grew up in a family of butchers and works at The Meat Hook. She takes a really creative approach to her food and book pairings (see her Brooklyn Restaurant & Book Pairings for a great example), and I love her writing. Her book Voracious is coming out next year, and I’m so excited!
- Food History Jottings: Ivan Day is a British food historian. He has written books, taught classes, and worked on movies and TV shows. He is a stickler for historical accuracy, so if you’re trying to learn more about European food, he’s a great place to start. He’s particularly helpful if you’re hoping for a reliable historical source for a research paper (like my bachelor’s thesis on food in Jane Austen’s novels) or historical fiction.
- Poires au Chocolat: Emma Gardner also pays careful attention to historical accuracy, but she’s less of a stickler than Ivan Day. Her recipes are very British, but not in a stodgy way. They’re great for learning more about British traditions (which can be helpful when reading British lit. or Harry Potter). She also has really interesting photography and videos to show you her processes, and she has a really helpful Foundations series to help you learn some basic techniques. (Also, her recipe for That Chocolate Cake is to die for. You should make that first.) Poires has been one of my favorite food blogs for a long time, so I was sad to read her retirement announcement. But she’s studying to be a doctor, so she understandably doesn’t have lots of free time. I’m really glad that she plans on turning her site into a digital cookbook of sorts, so we don’t have to worry about losing any of her wonderful recipes.
- Eat this Poem: Nicole Gulotta’s literary food blog focuses on poetry and food, and the way they remind us of each other. She also has a Literary City Guides series where locals give you tips for the best restaurants, cafes, book stores, libraries, and other attractions for various cities. She recently wrote one for Houston, and it made my day. I love her thoughtful writing, and it’s always a refreshing read.
- My Name is Yeh: Molly Yeh is wacky, adorable, and something of a mad scientist. Her recipes are heavily influenced by her Jewish and Chinese heritage, but she isn’t afraid to put her own twist on things– Halva Popsicles, Shawarma Nachos, and Funfetti Biscotti. She’s done the research so that we can all know which sprinkles will be the most festive in our baked goods, and that imitation vanilla is the secret to the birthday cake of our elementary school dreams. Her plan to have her own cake house is making me all kinds of jealous.
- Lady and Pups: Mandy writes “An Angry Food Blog- Homecooking with Extreme Prejudice,” and if that tagline doesn’t make you want to read her blog, I don’t know what will. After she moved to Beijing she started cooking up American classics she missed, as well as traditional Asian recipes (not just Chinese recipes- she has Thai, Japanese, Korean, you name it). But all come with her own “angry” twist, and they are so fun. The writing and photography are killer, and if you’re curious about Asian food, she’s a good place to go.
- Desserts for Breakfast: Stephanie Shih’s photography is AMAZING. Her recipes are inventive, and she also talks about her work as a linguist, which is a really interesting combination with the food blogging. Her Dessertation (or dessert party for all her professors and friends after she successfully defended her dissertation) was such an interesting idea, and now I want to throw a fancy dessert party. Who knew linguistics and desserts could go together so well?
- Food Loves Writing: and last but not least, Shanna and Tim Mallon’s blog is one of my favorites, but it’s on this list for a slightly different reason than the others. Shanna and Tim focus on whole foods, and while I’ve loved all their recipes I’ve tried (their cookbook
was also released recentlyOops, The Einkorn Cookbook is being released on December 1. My mistake!), the thing I love most is reading Shanna’s thoughts about creativity and writing and life. I read her post Kale and Eggs (Or Why You Should Start a Food Blog) whenever I’m feeling discouraged, and it is so, so good. Shanna is open, honest, and encouraging, and in a lot of ways, she’s exactly what I want to be as a writer.
This was such a fun post to write! I hope you’ve found some new food blogs to check out, whether it’s for photography ideas, world building, or recipe ideas. Honestly, I’m a little sad that some of my other favorite food blogs didn’t make it to this list- it seems unfair to ignore them because I “just” read them for the recipes. Someday I might have to remedy that situation, but today is not that day. I hope you have a relaxing weekend before the hubbub of the holidays begins.