10 Food Blog Trends That Should Stop
In food, as in fashion, trends come and go. As in fashion, some of those trends become so ubiquitous that we simply tire of them. And so, like peplums and ombre hair, here is a list of trends in food blogging that we'd like to be able to say in retrospect were so 2013.
Image: Courtesy of Sean Timberlake
You know the ones we mean: Those old-timey paper straws with the wide, colorful stripes. They are undeniably cute, and the surest way to add a kiss of whimsy to any beverage you photograph. However, they have been so grossly overused as to become a terrible cliché. Just because they are surefire Pinterest bait doesn't mean they should be used to doll up a prosecco cocktail (I mean, who drinks sparkling wine through a straw?), and if you start dropping the straws into a photograph that doesn't even feature a beverage, well, then you're just pandering.
Image: Courtesy of Sean Timberlake
Last year we called out the deplorable baker's twine as a shark-jumping trend, but the tyranny of tied-up food has continued unabated; worsened, even. Yes, we still see baker's twine used to tie up things that hold themselves together perfectly well, like ice cream sandwiches, and now we have jute twine-bound tacos, sandwiches held in place with raffia or, even more baroquely, wrapped in swathes of paisley fabric and braided ribbon. Loops of maritime rope batten down the hatches for an apparently storm-ready shake, and yet more twine attaches possibly flammable tags to what should be a screaming hot iron skillet. I've heard of food porn, but it's definitely taken a turn toward the kinky; call it 50 Shades of Gravy. New rule: If you wouldn't serve BDSM food to your family, don't serve it on the blog.
Mason Jar Abuse
Image: Andrea Goh via Flickr
I run a website that caters to the community of home food preservation enthusiasts, and I do quite a lot of canning myself. Mason jars are a really, really big part of my life. It would be no exaggeration to say that I have several hundred in the house at any given time, in various states of fullness or emptiness. Mason jars are great, and you know what they're most great for? Storing stuff. When they're not keeping my shelf-stable jams and pickles, they hold my spices and grains, and are my go-to container for making salad dressing (in the blender!). In 2013, Mason jars took over the world, becoming the go-to vessel for cakes, pies, parfaits, dips, and in a really big way salads. (So. Many. Mason jar. Salads.) And then there are the candleholders, sippy cups and thousands of other applications. All of these are very good things, indeed! But it's time to move on.
Pumpkin Spice Everything
Image: michelle.schrank via Flickr
Granted, this particular trend peaked and crested during the month of October, but 2013 felt like the year pumpkin spice ate the world. (I blame Starbucks.) Of course it found its way into the canon of baked goods: cookies, cupcakes, cheesecake and even the occasional pumpkin pie (you know, where it came from). But when it started creeping into party mix, chip dip, bagels, and of all things kombucha, I couldn't help but roll my eyes, just a little.
Red Velvet Everything
Image: weeklydig via Flickr
It seems like until quite recently, red velvet cake was a relative obscurity, a Southern delicacy. Its bold color is the main draw, but even James Beard, in his book American Cookery, called the cake bland and uninteresting. I have to agree. It mainly tastes of red food coloring. So when it cross-pollinates into non-cake things like coffee syrup and ice cream, I have to wonder what the point is. Trend forecast: This will make a roaring comeback in January and February 2014.
Healthifying the Unhealthful
Image: JL Johnson/AviationGeek.net via Flickr
You know what a Bloomin Onion is, right? It's an appetizer from Outback Steakhouse, a whole onion that has been sliced and spread open to look like a flower, then battered and deep-fried, and served with a creamy dressing. It is not health food. Not long ago I stumbled across a vein of blog posts of folks trying to health it up by baking instead of frying. Invariably the end result was a sad, droopy flower with scabby crust that flaked off. It's sure to help you lose weight, because there is no way any reasonable person would eat it. Similarly, there are folks claiming healthified cookies with whole-wheat flour, or cupcakes with protein. I have a different philosophy. Just eat the stupid Bloomin Onion once in a while. Have the occasional cupcake. Not everything has to be healthy, or pretend to be. Personally, I like my treats to be just that: a treat. (Also: "Healthifying" is not a word. Stop.)
Paleo Everything, Especially Desserts
Image: gabymorag via Flickr
I've followed a Paleo-adjacent diet in the past, and it worked. I lost weight, felt better and had more energy. So I understand why so many people are so into it. What I am not so hot on is the general fervor of OMG GRAINS ARE KILLING US ALL, which is obviously true since there are only slightly more than seven billion grain-eating humans on the planet. I am also not super on board with trying to Paleoize things that are obviously incompatible with the tenets of the diet -- I mean lifestyle. Something tells me that paleolithic man did not suffer huge cravings for take-out Americanized Chinese food, donuts with tiny marshmallows, pumpkin pie (remember, Thanksgiving wouldn't come for millions of years), banana cream pie (pictured), and apple pie smoothies. (I'm not even interested in the non-Paleo version of the last one.)
True story: I was vegetarian for many years. During that time I tried most of the fake meats out there. They were pretty much all gross. If you're vegetarian, it behooves you to love vegetables. If you go Paleo, you might want to focus your attentions on learning to love the stuff that fits the diet, and less on figuring out how to combine coconut oil, date paste and almond flour into a chiffon pie.
Image: Joanna Slowdownik via Flickr
Look, I know. They're delicious! They're healthy! They make you feel so good! I'm not refuting any of that. But the reality is that there are just only so many variations on the theme, only so many different combinations of stuff you can chuck into your Vitamix (cough*humblebrag*cough), and anyway it all comes out looking like a frothy cup of Linda Blair spew.
Image: Courtesy of Angelina Williamson
Nom. Nom nom. Nummy. Yummy. Yummy yums. Grown-ups actually use these words when writing about their food. One of the cardinal rules about writing is to know your audience. As a food blogger, presumably you are writing to other adults. I'm guessing you're not instructing five-year-olds to wield knives and heat skillets, so please address your readers like mature humans. Unless, of course, you actually are writing for kids, in which case, nom on, sister. (Hat tip to Dianne Jacob for spotting the image above.
Text Overlay on Photographs
Image: Courtesy of Sean Timberlake
This has Pinterest written all over it--literally. The trend of slapping some text on a food photograph serves the Pinterest community, making it far more apparent to see immediately what you're getting into before clicking through from the pin. Pinterest has become a huge traffic drivers for many bloggers, most especially food bloggers, so it's not hard to see why this bubbled up. However, if you're not a trained designer, the end result can do more harm than good. If the font is too spidery, or goofy, or chunky, or if your alignments are awkward, it can make your image very sad. I'm not saying don't do it; I'm just saying learn how to do it better. (Guilty! Yup, that's my lame text pin pic, right there, for my post on milk liqueur, a.k.a. Baby Jesus pee.)
Side note: Want to learn more about the power of Pinterest? Check out BlogHer's Master Class.