From Foodie to Food Historian?
I am a baker. I moved in to my apartment 8 months ago and since then I have been slowing improving in the baking department. I called my mother a few months back and was excited to tell her about my newfound hobby; disappointingly her reply was, “Don’t think you’re some kind of baker. You’re not dropping out of college to open a bakery.” Thanks, mom. So technically I guess I am not a baker. (Sidenote: I did get a kitchenaid mixer for Christmas which I am overly excited about making creations with)
Despite my mother’s discouragement I am an avid foodie. Dinner out at an up-and-coming restaurant in Wicker Park or Lincoln Square is my perfect date night. Hot Chocolate is a favorite of mine – Mindy Segal is an uber-talented pastry artist. I’ve also been wishing to go to Elizabeth and Nightwood for a while now.
In my internet-life I follow quite a few food blogs, but none like The Food Timeline. Most of the blogs I follow post recipes or ‘food journals’, whereas this site provides a chronological blog history on food and recipes. This blog is a combination of an archive and electronic essay/exhibit. The Food Timeline provides a compilation of quotes from primary sources and does so in the presentation of a timeline narrative.
In conjunction with the Web Review Guidelines through the Journal of American History and History Matters, there are four main criteria for evaluating web resources: content, form, audience/use, and new media. From the Journal of American History and History Matters’ website:
- Content: Is the scholarship sound and current? What is the interpretation or point of view?
- Form: Is it clear? Easy to navigate? Is it accessible to all users? Does it have a clear, effective, and original design? Does it have a coherent structure?
- Audience/Use: Is the audience clear? Will it serve the needs of that audience?
- New Media: Does it make effective use of the web? Does it do something that could not be done in print, an exhibition, or a film?
The Food Timeline provides an up-to-date page, with the copyright updated almost daily. The timeline itself, however, has not been added to since 2009. Although, I am unsure of any food or recipe innovations that have come about in the past four years.
The form is what I have a problem with. Yes, the page is easy to read and navigate, but, man, it is ugly. The color of the background, text, and accent colors seem to be reminiscent of a weird blueberry puke. After clicking on a link on the lefthand side of the timeline the user is taken to a secondary page that further explains the history behind the chosen food. I found the ease of use on the secondary page to be jumbling and confusing. As a food blog, where are the pictures? This secondary page is a wall of text that confronts the user as a bore to read.
The page for horehound candy – which I have never heard of – provides a great, detailed history on the origin of this candy. But where is the picture? As a user who has never heard of this product before it would have been helpful to have a supplementary picture. Upon my own google image search of the term ‘horehound candy’ I easily found several images of the like:
I would argue that the designer of the website could have easily done the same google search that I performed, inserted a supplementary image, therefore making the content of their website infinitely more comprehensive.
As with many websites, the audience of the site is open and may be viewed by anyone who has internet access. A downside to having this information of a blog is that those without internet access who are looking to find out information about food history will not be able to view this source.
Unfortunately I would say that this source does not make use of new media as well as it could. Like I said previously, where are the pictures? Even videos? The purpose of blogs and online historical archives is to create comprehensive sources which incorporate new media. This site on food history would be a more successful online historical source if it included pictures of the foods, and videos of how the food was made. Unfortunately this blog only uses text and quotes from primary sources, along with a sprinkling of additional citation links.
What I enjoy most about the food blogs (both journals and recipe-based blogs) I read is that they include videos, pictures, and external links to other related content. Although I can validate that a history blog is different than the types of blogs I normally follow, I feel that the engagement of the audience is the same. All blogs should strive to create a page with many types of new media in order to comprehensively engage the viewer. Unfortunately, The Food Timeline has done anything but engage me.