Screen savours: Food bloggers are bringing their virtual fare into the real world

Ginger biscuits dipped in chocolate. Fig, walnut and black pepper bread. Honey and lavender loaf. Brownies... Most of the time, Chris Dreyfus – writer of the food blog More Tea, Vicar (more-tea-vicar.co.uk) – gets to type these mouth-watering words without, as it were, putting his money where his mouth is. But today, the blogger has emerged from his laptop-lit abode to man a stall stacked high with his own produce at Covent Garden's Real Food Market in central London. And he's finding it pretty tough going.

"When I first did the market stall a fortnight ago, I got about two-and-a-half hours' sleep the night before," says Dreyfus, who has taken a day off from his "real" job to be here. "I was trying to bake enough in a domestic oven so I wouldn't run out in the first 10 minutes of business. I don't think I'd do it regularly. It's too hard!"

Dreyfus, 31, is a member of the UK Food Bloggers Association, which, until 6 August, has persuaded one blogger a week to turn their virtual recipes into physical fare and flog them to a demanding lunchtime crowd in Covent Garden. Julia Parsons, writer of the popular home-cooking blog Slice of Cherry Pie (asliceofcherrypie.blogspot.com), is the founder of the Association.

"I started my blog in 2006," says Parsons, 34, an IT project manager by day. "It was a lonely business to begin with, as there was only a handful of us doing it in the UK. I set up a discussion forum as I thought it would be nice to give British food bloggers somewhere to talk to each other."

The Association now has 356 members, and the idea for the stall, she explains, was conceived virtually. "Covent Garden and I talked about having suppliers that our bloggers were passionate about to man the stall. But the bloggers themselves were really keen to get involved and sell their own produce."

Blogging may seem a solitary task, an online pursuit hardly suited to the social and physical pleasures of food and its consumption. But if there's one thing we ought to be able to agree on by now, it's that the internet is for sharing, just like the dinner table. "Food is social," agrees Dreyfus. "So it's great to have it out in the real world and meet the people I've been chatting to online."

Dreyfus, whose father is a professional caterer, says, "I never wanted to be a chef when I was growing up. I just loved eating! I started the website in 2004 because I had a crazy idea to write a book about British food. That idea fell by the wayside but the site stayed. It's my ramblings, some recipes and so on. I began writing about tea and cakes and went from there."

Britain's food bloggers may not have closed any restaurants with their reviews yet, nor caused a rush on sun-dried tomatoes at Sainsbury's, but their influence is growing. One of the UK's most popular food blogs is Dos Hermanos (doshermanos.co.uk), by the half-Bengali, half-Welsh Majumdar brothers. One of the pair, Simon, this year published his first book, Eat My Globe; in 2008 the London Evening Standard named him as one of the 1,000 most influential people in London.

"A lot of people search our restaurant reviews now, which is flattering," says Majumdar, "and quite a lot of good restaurants reproduce our reviews on their websites alongside those by, the major press critics, so they obviously value our opinion. I remember at first being excited by getting 30 hits a day on the blog. Now it's disappointing when we only get a few thousand each day."

Food bloggers who specialise in writing about restaurants review meals that they, unlike most mainstream critics, have paid for themselves. And those who specialise in home cooking often come up with recipes as appetising as anything in the latest weighty tome from Jamie or Nigella – and are considerably kinder on the wallet.

Blogging, argues Majumdar, may not always be as polished as its professional equivalent, "but we're quite nimble, so often our restaurant reviews are out before the newspapers. You get an interaction with readers that you don't get as much with traditional food writing. And some traditional food writing is very po-faced, very proper and polite. What you get from a blog is the democracy of opinions; although, of course, for every worthwhile opinion, you get 15 from people with no knowledge."

Food blogging became successful elsewhere before the bug hit Britain. Parsons was inspired to start A Slice of Cherry Pie after paying a visit to Chocolate and Zucchini (chocolateandzucchini.com), a multilingual repository of recipes and ruminations by Parisian foodie Clotilde Dusoulier, who has now published two books of what she calls her "edible adventures".

American Molly Wizenberg, who began her blog Orangette (orangette.blogspot.com) in 2004, now has a column in Bon Appetit magazine, and a book based on her online writings, A Homemade Life: Stories and Recipes from My Kitchen Table. She even met her husband via the site, and she's currently on leave from Orangette while the couple open a pizza restaurant in Seattle.

Like Wizenberg and Dreyfus, Dos Hermanos are keen to turn their virtual accquaintances into real-life diners. The Majumdar brothers organise regular restaurant meals for fellow bloggers – and, via their Facebook page, anyone else who wants to come along. "We just did one at Casa Brindisa [in South Kensington]," says Majumdar. "It's a big social occasion and it gives the restaurant a chance to show off their food. Breaking bread is such a social thing, and that's lost in the virtual world. So it's great to get these people together, even if they still refer to one another by their screen names. "

Back at Covent Garden, Dreyfus's baked goods are selling, aptly, like hot cakes. "I'm going to be very interested to see how the other bloggers cope," he says, as another satisfied customer wanders away with a bag of those magnificent ginger biscuits. "I presume the majority haven't done anything like this before, so I posted a 'Top 10 Tips' for them. Number one? Bring change."

The food bloggers stall is open for business every Thursday, noon to 7.30pm, at the Covent Garden Real Food Market, London WC2, until 6 August ( www.coventgarden londonuk.com)

Grub 2.0 Food blogs to devour

Gastrogeek

( gastrogeek.wordpress.com)

Great for: freshness

Rejina, a young Bengali-British writer and self-confessed "food geek", only started posting her Asian-infused recipes and delectable diary entries in March, but has been called "a future blogging star". She's taking over the food bloggers stall on 13 August.

The Boy Done Food

( theboydonefood.blogspot.com)

Great for: kitchen description

William Leigh is a terrific, if intermittent, writer and cook whose descriptions of life behind the hatch in professional kitchens are interspersed with his thoughts on ingredients (particularly south-east Asian ones) and links to his own recipes.

Eat Like a Girl

( eatlikeagirl.com)

Great for: home cooking

Niamh Shields, an Irish ex-pat in London, writes witty and personal recipes for everything from chorizo burgers to Israeli couscous with onion squash, haricot beans and pumpkin seeds. Even her photos of each dish are enough to make the mouth water.

London Review of Breakfasts

( londonreviewofbreakfasts.blog spot.com)

Great for: the most important meal of the day

These reviews are written by pseudonymous bloggers such as Dee Caff and Malcolm Eggs. And no, they're not just in London – recent reviews come from as far and wide as Sicily, Ohio and the Isle of Man.

VIDEO
News
Plans to decriminalise non-payment of television licence fees would cost the BBC £500m according to estimates drawn up within the Corporation
people
News
people
Life & Style
The new low cost smartphone of Motorola, 'Motorola Moto G', is displayed in Sao Paulo, Brazil on November 13, 2013. The smartphone, with dimensions 65.9mm W x 129.9mm H x 6.0 - 11.6mm D is equipped with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 with quad-core 1,2 GHz CPU, a 4.5-inch display and Android Operating System 4.3 and a suggested price of $ 179 USD.
techData assessing smartphones has revealed tens of millions of phones are at risk of being harvested
Arts & Entertainment
Jessica Pare as Megan Draper and Jon Hamm as the troubled, melancholy Don Draper
tvAnd six other questions we hope Mad Men series seven will answer
Arts & Entertainment
Cody and Paul Walker pictured in 2003.
film
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Food & Drink

    NGO and Community Development in Cambodia

    Unpaid: Kaya Responsible Travel: There are many small development projects in ...

    Sports coaching volunteer jobs

    Unpaid: Kaya Responsible Travel: Kaya Responsible Travel offer a variety of sp...

    Turtle Nesting and Coral Reef Conservation in Borneo

    Unpaid: Kaya Responsible Travel: Volunteer with Kaya in Borneo and work on a p...

    Elephant research project in Namibia

    Unpaid: Kaya Responsible Travel: If you have a passion for elephants and want ...

    Day In a Page

    Homelessness: Why is the supported lodgings lifeline under threat?

    Why is the supported lodgings lifeline under threat?

    Zubairi Sentongo swapped poverty in Uganda for homelessness in Britain. But a YMCA scheme connected him with a couple offering warmth and shelter
    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: When the world’s biggest shed took over Regent’s Park

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

    When the world’s biggest shed took over Regent’s Park
    The pain of IVF

    The pain of IVF

    As an Italian woman vows to keep the babies from someone else’s eggs, Julian Baggini ponders how the reality of childbirth is often messier than the natural ideal
    Supersize art

    Is big better? Britain's latest super-sized art

    The Kelpies are the latest addition to a growing army of giant sculptures. But naysayers are asking what a pair of gigantic horse heads tells us about Falkirk?
    James Dean: Back on the big screen

    James Dean: Back on the big screen

    As 'Rebel without a Cause' is re-released, Geoffrey Macnab reveals how its star perfected his moody act
    Catch-22: How the cult classic was adapted for the stage

    How a cult classic was adapted for the stage

    More than half a century after it was published 'Catch-22' will make its British stage debut next week
    10 best activity books for children

    10 best activity books for children

    Keep little ones busy this bank holiday with one of these creative, educational and fun books
    Arsenal 3 West Ham United 1: Five things we learnt from the battle between the London sides

    Five things we learnt from Arsenal's win over West Ham

    Arsenal still in driving seat for Champions League spot and Carroll can make late charge into England’s World Cup squad
    Copa del Rey final: Barcelona are paying for their complacency and not even victory over Real Madrid will put things right

    Pete Jenson on the Copa del Rey final

    Barcelona are paying for their complacency and not even victory over Real Madrid will put things right
    Rafa to reign? Ten issues clay courts will serve up this season

    Rafa to reign? Ten issues clay courts will serve up this season

    With the tennis circus now rolling on to the slowest surface, Paul Newman highlights who'll be making the headlines – and why
    Exclusive: NHS faces financial disaster in 2015 as politicians urged to find radical solution

    NHS faces financial disaster in 2015

    Politicians urged to find radical solution
    Ukraine crisis: How spontaneous are the pro-Russian protests breaking out in Ukraine’s east?

    Ukraine crisis

    How spontaneous are the pro-Russian protests breaking out in Ukraine’s east?
    A History of the First World War in 100 moments: The first execution at the Tower of London for 167 years

    The first execution at the Tower of London for 167 years

    A history of the First World War in 100 moments
    Fires could turn Amazon rainforest into a desert as human activity and climate change threaten ‘lungs of the world’, says study

    New threat to the Amazon rainforest:

    Fires that scorch the ‘lungs of the Earth’
    Liverpool, Chelsea and Manchester City: And the winner of this season’s Premier League title will be...

    Who’s in box seat now? The winner of the title will be ...

    Who is in best shape to take the Premier League prize?