Your suggestion about finding a girlfriend who subscribes to a lot food blogs was a good one, but I ran an ad in the personals and didn’t get any responses. (Adventurous male looking to expand his horizons with female and her RSS reader.)
I thought about the food blogs I check—the aforementioned Smitten Kitchen, 101 Cookbooks, and Homesick Texan—and realized that they all have big, bright photos. If I’m honest about it, I basically judge a food blog by its photography. I don’t think the appeal is too hard to grasp: Great photos of food get us excited about cooking (even if I will never take the effort to plate a meal in any sort of presentable way). They remind us why we bother cooking when take-out is an easier, sometimes cheaper option. Photos inspire our culinary curiosity. They make us hungry.
But is a food blog’s emphasis on its photos “deceptive and shallow” in the way that fast food ads are? Well, when Arby’s misrepresents their sandwiches as edible food, I would say that’s pretty deceptive. But I can’t find much fault in advertising that attempts to show the appeal of its product. That sounds obvious, but look at how many car ads and smartphone ads use obnoxious gimmicks instead of, y’know, showing us why we should buy the product.
So I’m all for food blogs with nice photography. Sure, it’s a little backwards that skills with a DSLR are more important than actual cooking or writing ability if you want to author a popular food blog, but there are plenty of people out there who are skilled at both.
That leads me to another question, though. If clear instructions and bright photos are all we need to pay attention, how important is any writing or narrative that accompanies a recipe?