Orangette and books from blogs
When I’m weighing up whether to indulge in a new cookbook, I’m usually swayed by the photography. If I fall in love with the styling, the overall production of the book, I’m sold. It’s something about coveting a lifestyle perhaps – I cooed over Rachel Khoo in her Little Paris Kitchen – but Sophie Dahl’s left me as cold as semi-freddo.
But recently I bought what is ostensibly a cookbook with no photographs in at all. It is a book called A Homemade Life by Molly Wizenberg and I devoured it in one sitting at the weekend.
It is based on her blog Orangette which she started all the way back in 2004. I’d never even heard of blogging then but old school bloggers talk about it like the golden age.
A Homemade Life is more like a memoir than a cookbook. Each chapter takes you through a period in her life – her childhood memories of preparing food with her family; living in Paris; the death of her beloved father Burg; meeting and eventually marrying her husband Brandon who she actually met through the blog – it’s worth it for that story alone. She and her husband opened a restaurant in Seattle about three years ago and just last month a bar.
I found her blog before I bought the book and I’ve been obsessively checking it every day for the past few weeks to see if she’s had her baby. When I saw her most recent post announcing the birth, I was almost as excited as if it had been a close friend. It’s strange and yet weirdly beautiful to become so invested in someone else’s life through a blog that you most likely will never meet. It’s even better when you do. For me, that’s still what blogging is all about.
Wizenberg says that she started Orangette because she had an idea that she wanted to write about food and one of her friends suggested writing a blog and it took off from there. She has that innate talent for writing that she would have been ‘found’ no matter what. But making a whole book from the springboard of a blog is a tricky feat. I think readers would feel shortchanged if it’s just going over the same ground as they’ve already read online, yet it’s still different from seeing events unfold in real time. A Homemade Life could stand alone on its own merits but it also illuminates and expands on the gaps.
The only other books I have read that have originally come from blogs have been Alexa Stevenson’s Half Baked (her blog is called Flotsam) and Planting Dandelions: Field Notes from a Semi-Domesticated Life by Kyran Pittman. I haven’t yet read Jenny Lawson (aka The Bloggess) Let’s Pretend This Never Happened but it’s on my list. Another great book I bought because of a blog, although not based on it, is Kate Inglis’ The Dread Crew: Pirates of the Backwoods who is one of my favourite bloggers at Sweet Salty. She is another whose life I am invested in, meaning I care about what happens to her, all the way over in Nova Scotia.
Have you read any books that have come from blogs? Leave me a link to a favourite personal blog who you care about – even if you’ve never met them.