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.

Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
News
Kim Wilde began gardening in the 1990s when she moved to the countryside
peopleThe singer is leading an appeal for the charity Thrive, which uses the therapy of horticulture
Sport
Alexis Sanchez celebrates scoring a second for Arsenal against Reading
football
Life and Style
health
Voices
An easy-peel potato; Dave Hax has come up with an ingenious method in food preparation
voicesDave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
News
i100
News
Japan's population is projected to fall dramatically in the next 50 years (Wikimedia)
news
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Food & Drink

    Recruitment Genius: Bid / Tender Writing Executive

    £24000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: With offices in Manchester, Lon...

    Guru Careers: Marketing Executives / Marketing Communications Consultants

    Competitive (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a number of Marketi...

    Recruitment Genius: Marketing Executive

    £20000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This well established business ...

    Ashdown Group: Management Accountant - Manchester

    £25000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Management Accountant - Manchester...

    Day In a Page

    NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

    Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

    A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
    Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

    Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

    The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
    How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

    How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

    Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
    From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

    The wars that come back to haunt us

    David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
    Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

    Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

    A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
    Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

    UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

    Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
    John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

    ‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

    Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
    Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

    Let the propaganda wars begin - again

    'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

    Japan's incredible long-distance runners

    Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
    Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

    Tom Drury: The quiet American

    His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
    You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

    You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

    Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
    Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

    Beige to the future

    Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

    Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

    More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
    Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

    Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

    The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
    Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own