Preserving Cultures, Finding Friends and Discovering New Skills: Aparna Balasubramanian Will Make you Want To Start a Food Blog Now!!
There is a tendency to assume that anyone who is blogging is doing it with the intention to make it into the big league and become another story of ‘how I quit my day job and became a blogger’! Meet Aparna Balasubramanian of My Diverse Kitchen, who has no such ideas and is a food blogger who blogs for the sheer joy of blogging, and is unapologetic at that! Of course, she doesn’t mind that she gets to make some money through her efforts and thinks it’s great that people are able to build a career around it, but for now, she is happy in the space she is in. Which is blogging for fun.
I never started my blog with the intention of making it a money spinner and while I’m alright if it provides an income of sorts or I’m paid for the effort I put into it, I do not blog with the sole intention of earning from it.
She is candid about the fact that if she were thinking of monetizing and making this a full-time livelihood option, she would have to put in a lot of work. At the moment, she can’t concentrate on just her blog and has other commitments to take care of as well.
But she is not in a way repentant about that, she is, in fact, glad that she followed her daughter's request and started her food blog specializing in Palakkad Iyer Cuisine ( A specialty cuisine from South India). Of course, now she has gone beyond that and does a variety of cuisines, justifying the name, ‘My Diverse Kitchen’. She also conducts photography classes.
I believe the kitchen, and the dining table (by extension) is really the heart of the home and this blog is my way of sharing some of our food experiences and a bit of our lives with you all.
This is what Aparna talks about in her ‘About’ section of the blog and she truly believes in this. Here are a few excerpts from my conversation with the fascinatingly unaffected lady.
The Blogging Journey: How, what, where etc.
I started blogging in late 2007 (around October/ November) and started to do so mainly because I wanted to document and share recipes from our traditional Palakkad Iyer cuisine. It was in fact, my daughter who was keen that I do this, and even came up with the name ‘My Diverse Kitchen’.
Here are some of her recipes.
In over 7 years of food blogging, I have discovered what a wonderful and supportive community food bloggers are, whether in India or the rest of the world. Food blogging has brought some much-treasured friendships that are beyond just food.
It has been instrumental in my organizing the hugely popular first ever Food Bloggers Meet in Bangalore last year, along with three other food bloggers friends.
On a more personal level, it helped me discover food photography and photography in general which has become a serious passion. In fact, I have used it as an opportunity to connect with other bloggers. I conduct food photography workshops aimed mainly at beginners and bloggers, in more friendly and an informal environment. They have been quite a learning experience for me as well.
And yes, I have a few ads on the blog, but the blog doesn’t generate anything near what I would need for making it my livelihood.
Feelings on Monetization
While it’s true that I didn’t start to blog with the thought of making it a career or making money from it, and that the creative side of food blogging is more important to me than monetizing my blog, it doesn’t mean that I am against monetizing my blog. Just that it would be an offshoot of my blogging and not the main purpose.
There’s definitely a lot of money in food blogging if you are willing to put in the time and effort. I think it’s only fair to be paid if someone wants me to write about/ review/ promote or sponsor a product that fits my blog and my food lifestyle but it has to also be on my terms. I will not use my blog to endorse something I don’t use or believe in.
I write my blog mainly as a creative and social exercise and at my convenience. Totally monetizing my blog would mean giving up that freedom and it would also mean allocating more time to blogging which I wouldn’t like to take away from my family and myself.
Actually, a lot of people who started blogging when I did started blogging as a creative/ documentation effort, and though many of them have gone on to make money as a result of their blogging, it was more the result of something that happened along the way rather than actively turning their blogging into a career.
On Traffic, Engagement and Social Media
When I started blogging, there were fewer bloggers and there was more personalized engagement which was not necessarily driven by social media and bloggers had not really started crunching numbers or playing a numbers game.
Today blogging is more about numbers and traffic and because of the sheer numbers of bloggers and the way social media platforms work, engagement and driving traffic has become difficult and more of a professional thing.
Of course, good content will always drive traffic, but it is becoming more difficult in today’s scenario to maintain a presence on the net and be seen and heard.
Now it’s not enough that one blogs good content but one needs to be very savvy about marketing one’s blog and oneself to reach others and stand out. Which once again brings me back to why my blog is not a career option for me because I do not have that kind of time to invest in it.
Food Blogging and Culture
Food blogging is definitely one way of preserving culture to an extent because it’s out on the internet and freely available information. However, how much culture is preserved depends upon the person/ persons behind a food blog.
If a person is rooted in their own culture (or even deeply interested in it to go do some research about it) and actually cooks such food and documents/ shares it, then yes, it helps.
While all food blogs do not necessarily reflect preservation of food culture, there are a lot of bloggers out there who are doing a good job of documenting regional recipes and also sharing information about their food and culture.
These become an excellent source of information. It is unfortunate that we have already lost recipes because they have not been documented.
If individual families find a way to document their family recipes it would go a long way in preserving them.
In today’s world, with more of nuclear families and both spouses working, a lot of families don’t have the time to cook the traditional way. A lot of urban families have started adopting convenience foods in their cooking so, young children now prefer “modern” food and tastes to the traditional ones.
With Indians being exposed to world cuisine, many of us are adapting other cuisines into our food habits. While this is a good thing, there is a very real danger of older and traditional recipes and food traditions getting lost.
Even within a community there are variations in the way different families cook a certain dish. If these recipes are not handed down through generations, they get lost. So if individual families can collect whatever recipes they can from the elders in the family and document them, then they’re preserved for posterity.
One way I’m do this is by cooking the traditional food from my community in my kitchen. Almost 70% of the time, that’s the food that we eat at home. I have also tried to collect a lot of such recipes from elders in my near and extended family. Another is by sharing a lot of those recipes on my blog. My aunt and mother’s cousin discovered that my maternal grandfather had apparently collected and written down a lot of recipes in two volumes which he gave each of his three daughters (one was my grandmother). I’m in the process of trying to translate one volume of that into English and we’re going to share it with everyone in our immediate family who wants a copy.
What does the scene look like for new bloggers
Food blogging today is a very different beast from what it was when I started out so it has become that much more difficult.
It would take at least about a year, to become a blogger who has a regular traffic of around 10000 visitors per month, I should think.
Building an audience depends on many things and sometimes it’s also about being in the right place at the right time. Some important things that lead to building a good audience would include a user friendly blog that loads quickly, posting good (also a niche) content in terms of subject and images, establishing a a strong presence on social media and learning to market the blog well, interacting with fellow bloggers and the readers without spamming them or appearing aggressive.
But there is a lot of opportunity for food bloggers too in that sense.
Aparna is one of those people who are blogging for the joy of blogging. Cooking, feeding and sharing to her, is much more than money. It is about building relationships, preserving cultures and contributing to society. She is a food blogger, and happy at being just that.
Kudos to the lady known by her pomegranate avatar for discovering her happy space and giving the world her gorgeous recipes.
As an amateur food blogger, I was feeling the pressure to be the next big thing, making millions of dollars within no time.
It was gratifying to see this blogger who knew that food blogging went beyond just the money. It was an emotional relationship for her, which bought her some money on the side.
And she is very sure that she would have continued to blog even if it did not bring her any money, because writing about food and culture transcends such material things. That she does make some money is just a happy extension.
This realisation has spurred me on. I shall persist in enjoying my food blog and not be bogged down by the pressure to be the next David Lebovitz!
Start a food blog now, and enjoy this feeling!