Julie & Julia & me

Tonight, after we had done all the cooking we could do the night before, my wife and I went to see a movie. Actually, to be more accurate, my wife had done all the cooking at our house, except for a special-recipe cake I made for myself (no wheat, no dairy, no eggs), since I can’t eat the other desserts we’ll be having.

We went to the dollar-movie house to see “Julie & Julia.” Actually, it used to be the dollar-movie house. Now it’s $2.

Anyway, we went to see the movie, and it was cute and all that, but a bit frustrating for a blogger such as myself.

It’s about a woman who does a blog with a gimmick — she’s going to cook all the recipes in Julia Child’s famous book in a year — and the blog becomes wildly popular, and she gets a book deal, and it’s made into, you guessed it, a movie.

And the thing is, that’s not going to happen to me, which made me a little sad. I don’t have a gimmick. And I don’t have an obsession that thousands of people will resonate to — at least, I’m not aware of one. I’m not even particularly interested in such things. I know the kinds of things that are engaging and commercial, and I’m not that into them.

The obsession that the blog of the woman in the movie was about was food. This is a very chick thing. Excuse me, ladies, but women get excited about food as though it were sex or something. Some men do, too, but I am definitely not one of those men. My diet is limited by my allergies, of course, and that’s part of it, but I’m just not a foodie at heart anyway. I will fully enjoy my Thanksgiving dinner tomorrow, but then I’ll take a nap and not think about it any more. I’ve tried waxing enthusiastic about Dixie Lee field peas and candy pumpkins, but I definitely could not imagine blogging exclusively about such a limited subject. (Foodies don’t think food is a limited subject, but there it is…)

Women are always starting wildly successful blogs, read by other women, about food and shopping and their kids and such, but I’m just not that kind of blogger. For that matter, I’m not into the kinds of things guys usually obsess about, either. Sports, for instance. Sports has the potential for a guy to be the kind of blog money-maker that food and shopping are for women. But I’m not, by American standards, into sports.

So what do I have? Well, I’m really, really into those Aubrey-Maturin novels, and I think it would really be cool to spend a year sailing the world in a square-rigged ship, living on dried peas and salt pork, attacking and sinking the king’s enemies, and blogging about it. But I don’t think it’s really feasible. The obstacles are pretty significant.

I’m really into my grandchildren. But cute pictures I take of them would probably wear thin with my readers.

Then, there’s the fact that I am an actual unemployed guy, the epitome of this economic situation. And the truth is, I have not really tapped into that subject. I don’t tell y’all most of what I’m thinking and experiencing because, well, it’s personal. If I went into perfectly frank detail about what this experience is like, it could be interesting. But it could also chase away every job prospect I have. And I can’t imagine it being commercial. Who pays for depressing? I sure wouldn’t. I mean, I’m living it, and I’ve frankly had enough of it.

So anyway — it would be great if I could come up with a gimmick that would make this blog pay off in a big way. Suggestions, anyone?

20 thoughts on “Julie & Julia & me

  1. Kathryn Fenner

    I guess you have to actually want to be popular first. Your problem, and it is mine, too, is that you don’t want to be in the middle of any bell-shaped curve of taste; you want to be avant-garde. Add to that, in your case, as soupcon of disdain for the avant garde, and where does that leave you, indeed? You are too cool for school and yet disdainful of cool as well. Nick Hornby has figured out how to make that pay. Maybe if you analyze how he does it.

    Now, many men LOVE food, so you’re quite wrong about that one. In your experience, perhaps, there are many women who have screwed up their attitude food to the extent that it has acquired a lot of taboos and guilt of the intensity associated with sex, certainly among (real) Catholics ;), but I bet the consumers of food porn like the Food Network and the like, as opposed to the grunt-work of providing daily meals are far more male than you might think.

  2. Brad Warthen

    Kathryn, you missed it when I said, “Some men do, too, but I am definitely not one of those men.”

    But it’s still mainly a chick thing. Burl hit it on the head with that thing about pictures of your lunch.

    Something I noticed to my mystification early in my career, in my first days working in an office, was that the women’s nonwork-related conversation consisted largely of where to go to lunch, what they had for lunch yesterday, the dinner they had last night, and on and on. And I say that as a guy whose close friends, particularly at that point in life, were mostly women. (And today, most of my loved ones are women, since between daughters, granddaughters and nieces we’ve had 8 girls in a row in my family.) I enjoyed their company enormously, but the difference was very pronounced, and the food thing was one of its manifestations.

  3. Kathryn Fenner

    The women you worked with were probably famished from dieting or had spent a lot of time cooking last night’s dinner. I stand by what I said.

    I don’t know how to find out what the breakdown is of the viewers of the Food Network or whatever food magazines are still up and running–Cooks Illustrated is sure a “guy” kind of approach….

    You could post photos of your yummy Seawell’s lunches Mondays! That’ll get folks salivating to join Rotary–yeah! Some Cap City breakfasts…

    We love your blog.

  4. Kathryn Fenner

    and my experience is that neither me nor my girlfriends talk about food at all. I eat whatever I want and scratch cook simple food at home for the most part. Some of my friends do likewise, some eat out a lot. The Shop Tart *does* do a lot of food talk and photographing, but that’s her beat, isn’t it? Mark Bittman, of the NY Times does, too.

    It’s the chronic dieters who obsess over food, imho. They were “good” or “bad” last night, say. My favorite quip to them is “It’s only a doughnut; it’s not genocide.”

  5. Doug Ross

    Start the South Carolina Internet Editorial Board… a website where you do the same job you did for The State but without killing trees. A daily editorial, op ed columns, letters to the editor, graphics, charts, videos, podcasts.

    One opportunity I think The State missed out on was making the entire candidate interviews your board would do available as full video clips.

    Your goal should be to help put The State out of business by doing what they do better than they do.

    It’s what you do best, so why not take advantage of it?

  6. Sherry @ EX Marks the Spot

    I know the feeling. I was maintaining three blogs for a while (plus one or two special interests but time-limited ones) but had to let some go due to having only 24 hours in the day. I don’t blog about food, movies or shopping, except for rare mentions, but I have posted a few pictures of my grandson. I tend to hit on politics, government & news occasionally in the “Lipstick Election” blog but certainly not on a regular basis.

    I have one other comment for you but I’ll share it in a private message via Facebook.

  7. Anne

    I feel your pain on the successful-blogger-gets-famous thing. When I started mine, people wanted to talk to me about Diablo Cody. First of all, I am not the writer she is. Second – and a big distant second, as she is a great writer – I am not a stripper. Nope, not at all. No one would want to see that and I get cold and usually like to wear a jacket and socks. Or at least bedroom slippers. besides, I have children. Stripper is obviously an excellent gimmick with which “local shopper and consumer of local agriculture” cannot compete.


  8. Anne

    PS I take pictures of my food for my blog and I am not overly obsessed with food. I do it so people will know what to expect when they go somewhere local. One reason I started the Shop Tart was I had a theory that some people avoided local places because they don’t like the unknown. All the big places have websites and menus and photos online. I wanted to give people an idea of what to expect from the local places.

    PPS And I don’t mind criticism or mocking. I can take it. I have lots of siblings. So if anyone was inclined to feel bad about mocking people who photograph their food, don’t. Not that you were. Am I being too meek and girly? ‘Cause I’m not.

  9. Anne

    PPPS Ooh! Kathryn Fenner said I had a “beat.” That makes me feel cool! For those of you who are into food, check out my post today about a book signing at Smoke in Blythewood by a James Beard nominated author. Should be a great party, even if you couldn’t care less about the food part.

  10. Kathryn Fenner

    Anne–he’s just jealous– you’re cuter, have more fun researching your blog and aren’t allergic to all the good stuff. You obviously have no problem with being cool, avant garde or popular.

    Brad–It occurred to me that back in the dark ages when you started working in an office (before there were desktop computers–I was there, too)–women’s jobs were often, usually, not as satisfying as men’s–watch Mad Men again…. Typists and receptionists are more likely to dream of lunch than cub reporters, and political reporters are less interested in food than reporters for the Women’s Section.

    Thank goodness for feminism–now women who want to photograph their lunch can (so they can have the kind of life with their families they want), and men can, too, and men who want to cook can do so openly, and women who want to be on NPR about our Governor can be….and men who want the whine that they aren’t famous enough as a blogger can, and people will still read their blog…..

  11. Elliott

    I’m obviously not the one to ask. This blog is my favorite. I can’t understand why it is not one of the country’s (at least South Carolina’s) most widely-read blogs. I want you to make a good living from this blog because I would miss it so if it went away. I didn’t enjoy the old comments sections, but I thoroughly enjoy the moderated comments. I don’t usually agree with you. It is just that your topics and discussions interest me.

    I’ve thought about your mother-in-law’s comment that there are people people and thing people, but your wife says that you are an idea person. That categorization was very interesting to me. I’ve decided that I am an idea person. What % of the population are idea people? How do you market to them? .

  12. Elliott

    I commented before reading the other comments.

    Doug, I agree 100% with your suggestion. I try to find a copy of the State (difficult where I live) to read just what you mentioned. Many days it is not worth searching for.

    Kathryn, I agree. Most of the women who talk constantly about food are on diets. I definitely think that semi-starvation makes you obsessively think about food, and then, you talk about it obsessively. For the rest of us, (you can see from my figure that I am not on a semi-starvation diet) the conversation is boring.

  13. Kathryn Fenner

    I am recovering from a tummy bug and a bad toilet-hugging migraine, and as my appetite returns, I find myself starting to obsess on what I’m going to eat–will it agree with me and so on. Normally, I think far enough ahead to have something to cook in the house and forget about it until it’s time to actually start cooking it.

    Brad–I heartily agree with Elliott–I sure would miss your blog if it went away. Why not try to make the Doug model–The State only better–like it used to be? You’d be awesome at it, as you were, and if you build it, they will come.

  14. jHammond

    I think you really smacked it with the Andre/Mark routine. Go there more. Who is the Stephen Maturin to Jake Knott’s Jack Aubrey?
    Keep running the local heavyweights through your filter. It could be a great way to distill them, and catch them off the bow.


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