Thursday, March 18, 2010

When Blogs Shift (It's the Whey of Things)

-You may see and hear a lot more about the above. Photo by Elise Bauer, because I left my camera at a friend's house goddammit.-

I love milk. I really love it.

As a child I never drank soda and I still don't. I drank enough water to stay alive, and juice was never my thing. However, I loved milk. Loved it. I went through gallons of it like I would win a prize. Much to my parents dismay they had to buy three gallons a week just so that they would have some for their breakfast since I drank so much of it.

When it came to cheese it was even worse. I would take down whole blocks of cheddar the way packs of starving wolves devour snow rabbits in the middle of winter. Brie, a slower cheese, the lagger in the herd, was always easy prey. Crackers were my weapon of choice but I was more than happy to use my bare hands in what always became a savory unsavory scene.

Now that I'm older the obsession had grown. Have you noticed? The cheese profiles are becoming more prolific here, like moldy veins in a wedge of Stilton. I've been gathering information and breaking it down like lactose into lactic acid during the acidification process in cheesemaking.

Want to know how I made that comparison? I've been reading about cheese like a crazy person. "Culture" magazine, The Cheese Chronicles, Cheesemonger, not to mention everything by Janet Fletcher and Max McCalman. I've been devouring the information, not to mention a lot of cheese.

As such, you may notice a small shift in focus at Vanilla Garlic. Not a radical shift, but a shift nonetheless. But then again, that's the normal progrssion of blogs as I see it. This blog started as a restaurant review blog, then it was a cupcake blog, then a story blog, and now? Well, now it's all of those and more, with a bit of extra focus on cheese and everything that concerns cheese.

Is this a smart move? I don't know, but it's a move I need it to be. I love that people come to my blog to be informed and entertained, but before I can write for any of you I have to write for myself. The blog wouldn't be interesting if my own passion and interest wasn't invested in it.

Shifts in blog focuses are normal, but often don't happen enough or when they should. We're always afraid of losing our readers or losing comments. And it's true. You do. You will. I will. But after so long doing the same old thing can get tiring. However, the people who like your style and voice will follow you. At least, that's what I hope. I may lose some readers, but the way I see it I'll also gain new ones.

Furthermore, isn't the chance of exploration, education, entertainment, and enlightenment worth the risk? I think so.

You'll still find the occasional cupcake, a crazy story or two (I'm still an utter gravity well for crazy people), and the random self-reflective post like this one right here. It will just be intersperesed with bits and pieces about cheese as I so discover them.

Anyways, I hope that you don't mind and I hope you enjoy.

I'd love to hear you comments, ideas, and concerns. Not just on the cheese thing, but about the idea of changing the focus of your blog too. What do you think the motivations and consequences are? I think it's a topic not discussed a lot within the blogging community, especially food blogging where we feel we really have to lock ourselves into a niche in order to stand out. What can change do to a blog?


  1. Maybe people come to your blog for the writing, the humor and the information about food. In that case, they will be fine with cheese.

    Re the shift, I'm big on gradual change. The trick is to incorporate a new audience without losing the original one. As long as the content still speaks to the original group, it will be okay..

    My sense is that you will be just fine, Garrett. And please also check out Laura Werlin's books.

  2. You go, Garrett - it's your blog and that makes you the boss for it's content.


    You've not lost me as a reader, and while this might be my first comment, I'd like you to know I can't wait to hear about your cheese-y endeavors. Good luck!!

  3. I've been a reader since Maple Bacon cupcakes. Although I first came here because of the content, I stayed because I became a fan of your style and voice. I'm also a big ole cheese glutton, so your cheesy posts have been way fun to read. So keep it up, G, as long as you find as much joy writing it as we do reading it. Just one request though: keep writing about Eat Beast. He rocks.

  4. I forgot to include a second request: Don't ever stop swearing, goddammit.

  5. I'll stick around even though cheese interests me zilch (I just don't get it). But your voice is interesting enough.

    I look forward to the next shift (as long as it's not to wine) :)

  6. Rina - Thanks, I appreciate it. =)

    Dianne - I plan o keep it gradual. Technically, it's already occurred. It won't be a total change, just more emphasis on cheese I think.

    Trina - Will motherfucking be sure to.

    1trilliongrams - I'll take that as a challenge. ;)

  7. Interesting thought you pose - my first blog was strictly a dinner journal, because people wanted "the chef" to confess when she ate just chips and champagne for dinner. I changed my blog to more of a recipes and tips blog - may have lost some old readers, but certainly gained new ones. I read your blog because you are entertaining - you just have a great voice. It doesn't much matter to me if you're writing about cheese, a house fire, or cupcakes!

  8. I think that the blogger is more important than the content. I came across your blog, there were recipes or whatever that were appealing at the time. I was interested in your take on things. But the individual voice, attitude, personality, is what makes me keep reading some blogs. Not the type of food. Enjoy your cheese!

  9. I like the idea of a food blog being a reflection of the blogger's current interests and eats.

    Also, I love love love cheese but am not very informed on the topic, so I look forward to your continued writing on the subject!

  10. You could write about cat poop and I'd still read because I love the way you weave your piece. It is natural for your blog to evolve, and as a biologist, I'm all about the evolution (and the food porn wink wink). Vive le fromage!

  11. I love your style of writing! I check your blog daily to read about your new adventures. I have posted your blog on my facebook and my friends loved it. I read some of your cat/squirrel stories to my kids (editing the curse words, of course, lol!). It doesn't matter what you write about, I will always be entertained.

    P.S. I'm looking forward to the wine challenge ;)

  12. As long as Eatbeast still approves, I will be reading! It's not just about the cupcakes; I enjoy your writing style, and frankly, you life can be quite entertaining!

  13. I've thought many times about switching away from cupcakes, but I'm not done with them quite yet. I still have lots of ideas that excite me. When I'm through (and I'm sure I will be at some point), you are a nice example of how I could switch format and still keep readers.

  14. Although I may not comment on your blog regularly, I really like your writing style and how you capture your readers. So for me, whatever your hearts desire because every post is well-written and it's worth reading it.

  15. I'm an occasional reader who clicks over every now and again from Twitter. Now that I know you'll be writing more about cheese, I'll probably visit more, as it's been something I've been reading more about lately as well. I went to a goat farm and took a cheesemaking class in October which was really cool- I recommend it if you have a chance!

  16. Where you lead, I will follow...

  17. Funny, "blog" is a shortened term for "web log," and a "log" is really just a personal journal of sorts. If other bloggers are anything like me, we start our blogs for ourselves... as a creative outlet, a way to explore new [fillintheblank], etc. The fact that we may pick up some readers along the way is just a bonus. All this is to say, I think you are on the right track. Your writing will only be pure if it's from your gut, and that purity of expression is what makes your writing so appealing to so many.

  18. Garrett, I love that you're tackling the topic of change. I'm sort of in that state in mind regarding my blog, so it's nice to see someone actually speak about it.

    I love your recipes, and what you do with such interesting ingredients that I still haven't taken the time to explore (buckwheat, lemongrass, kumquats). I hope that some of these recipes continue to make appearances.

    As for cheese? Well, let's just say that I've eaten my way through one of those larger logs of chevre just this week. I'm a huge cheese eater, always have been, so I'll still be reading. I implore you to make some homemade "ricotta" and goat cheese, both of which are so easy and incredibly delicious.

  19. Emily - You can bet that is on my to-do list. ;)

    Also, thanks to everyone who has been so supportive. I really appreciate it. =D

  20. I read your blog because it is interesting and you write well. Lately I have really enjoyed the cheese posts because I have been going to monthly cheese tastings at Star Provisions here in Atlanta. Tasted some of the same cheeses you wrote about! I am game for learning all sorts of things so if you shift again I will keep reading!

  21. When I read this post my first two thoughts were:

    1.) You could blog about the phone book and I would still read it because you would surely find a way to make it funny and charming

    2.) I hope the Eat Beast likes cheese as much as he likes buckwheat pancakes.

    After reading the other comments I see that I am not alone! :) Vive le fromage!

  22. Garrett,
    Yours was the first food blog I ever read (didn't even know there was such a thing before then). I've enjoyed your voice so much that I've hung around through reviews, cupcakes, house fires, Eat Beasts and some truly disturbing stories about the stupidity of other people. In other words, I'm not going anywhere.
    I do second the hope that you'll keep us updated on the Eat Beast. As the owner of a 20 lb cat, I almost feel like I know him. ;)
    Good luck!

  23. Well, I just got here last week so if you hadn't told me I wouldn't have known. Now I have to go back and see what I've been missing, goddammit!

  24. I don't come here for the food as much as for the writing. Love the humor. I've got no plans to remove your from my reader anytime soon, be it a change to cheese or cabbage. There will always be something worth reading.

  25. Cheese is amazing! Definitely write for yourself first, and the readers will come on their own. Your entries are always interesting to read. As a future dental professional, I approve of the non-soda- and non-juice-drinking habits (though occasional consumption is fine)! And cheese can help keep bacteria in your mouth from producing acids, especially sharp cheeses (i.e. cheddar) (from lack of sugars). (Wow, nerd post---but I thought I'd share, lol.) Keep it up! :)

  26. i think your writing is fabulous, garrett & i understand the need for change in focus. i find that as i grow older my passions change. not that things that i was passionate about when i younger are any less worthwhile, i just changed. i think that's ok even good. :-} im not much of a cheese person but your recent cheese focus has certainly made me wanna branch out & try some new things. thanks!

  27. I would never leave you Garrett! Even if I didn't love cheese (which I do). I have learned so much about spices, baking, and food in general since discovering Vanilla Garlic. I love forward to reading whatever witty business you produce. Also may I suggest a cheese cupcake at some point in the future???

  28. I've been reading for a little less than a year at this point and I really appreciate your ability to weave a story out of life and food.

    I enjoy your cheese posts and I hope that as you continue into the world of cheese you'll give us some now and interesting ideas to do with cheeses.

    In any case, please continue giving us Eat Beast updates. Your kitty makes me laugh so hard.

  29. I enjoy cheese and cheesey stories, if that makes sense at all!

    it will be wonderful, i know it!

  30. Phooey. I seriously don't like cheese.

    But I love your writing! And I do have a healthy appreciation for cheese and I love to learn more about it because I do serve to my guests like it's my job.

    Carry on!

  31. You absolutely have to shift when your interests and passions shift as you said. I'm in the middle of shifting my own blog a bit, we'll see how it goes. Anyway, good luck. Besides, who doesn't love cheese?

  32. I started reading your blog because I love all things food. I continued reading because I like your style.

    Now, however, you have spoken to my soul. You could wrap shoe leather around a good Stilton and I would happily eat it. I have, I am ashamed to admit, cried when tasting a divine comte. I will eat it for breakfast, lunch, snack, and, of course, dessert. It is likely why my cholesterol is 319.

    THANK YOU for loving cheese!

  33. Blogs change because they reflect us and we aren't going to keep interested unless the blog evolves with us.

    That being said, if you blog about what you love, your enthusiasm will be there and people will be able to connect with that energy.

    I've always wanted to make cheese but I'm intimidated. If that is where you are going with this, a blogger friend started a group called forging fromage. They are making bresse from goats or sheeps milk this month. You should go look...

  34. It's your blog and you can say what you want to! Cheese is an amazing different from what I grew up with which would have been,umm, American and Swiss!

    There is an interesting specialty cheese shop here in Denver, American/vegetarian only (does not use beef rennet for production). Some really wonderful cheeses you might want to check out.

  35. I had noticed the cheese shift, and although I'm not much of a cheese person I've kept on reading because your writing is wonderful! :) Always entertaining, no matter the subject.

  36. Evolution is inevitable, and important. You can't please everyone all the time anyway. I enjoy your writing so much and will personally continue to follow your blog no matter what you write about.

    I guess this is the time for me to mention that I am a cheese WHORE so no problems with that shift for me! tee hee!

    Eat Beast tales are the best!

    Keep up the great blogging!

  37. I love cheese. I like that you love cheese too.


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