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Blog // Thoughts
May 30, 2016

This Week I Quit Being A Food Blogger

This week I quit being a food blogger. Wait, you have a food blog, I hear you ask. Well, I did, sort of. What I had was a passion project that consumed a lot of passion but yielded very little as a project. Over the last five years I’d tried to launch, then relaunch the […]

This week I quit being a food blogger. Wait, you have a food blog, I hear you ask. Well, I did, sort of. What I had was a passion project that consumed a lot of passion but yielded very little as a project. Over the last five years I’d tried to launch, then relaunch the food blog several times, without much success. The time has come to quit.

Peeling

The Beef & Steel Story

From 2006-2011 I lived in Hong Kong. Those were years of great change for the Internet. In 2006 there weren’t a lot of good blogs in Hong Kong. But, as blogging for commercial purposes became more popular, and as social media started to take off as a way to support and promote online writing, Hong Kong’s blogging scene exploded. Chief among these were food blogs, either reviewing restaurants and eateries, or sharing recipes and cooking experiences.

Although I didn’t have a food blog per se, I did occasionally write about food and I was sharing a lot of cooking and eating experiences on social media. I got to meet many of the first wave of Hong Kong food bloggers. Pretty soon I was wondering if I could start a food blog myself.

The idea made more sense after I moved to Singapore. Suddenly, I had a much larger kitchen and a fresh burst of energy from living in a different city. I registered a domain and got to work creating a new blog, taking the name Beef & Steel from a line in Shakespeare’s Henry V.

“…then give them great meals of beef and iron and steel, they will eat like wolves and fight like devils.”
Constable Henry V → Act 3, Scene 7

Why Food Matters So Much To Me

Over the years I’ve used a lot of titles as my “day job” has changed. I’ve been a musician, an academic, a researcher, a stay at home dad, a photographer, an entrepreneur, an artist, to name a few. I’ve studied theology, ancient history, philosophy, culture, music, art, design, tried to learn new languages, Ancient Greek, Hebrew, Latin, Hindi, Mandarin, Japanese, and made new homes in seven different countries.

But, there’s been one constant: I cook.

From middle school on I was a latch-key kid. My parents worked, so I had to fix myself something to eat after coming home from school. Pretty soon I graduated from making toast to cooking pies, then frying eggs, then making myself salads or pasta. By my late teens I’d also learnt that being able to cook was a pretty handy social skill. Guys seemed to like it when I rustled up a big tray of nachos. Girls seemed to like a guy who could just cook at all!

In recent years, as I’ve moved from country to country, cooking has been one of the most important ways I’ve contributed to family life. The fact that we sit down together almost every night to a fresh, healthy, home cooked meal is like an anchor for us. The kind of recipes I did manage to post on Beef & Steel, like Chanterelle Quesadillas, Clam Risotto, Beef Short Rib Tacos, represent the kind of food I love to experiment with, the sort of stuff I regularly dish up to my family.

Side Hustles And Motivations

Over the years, my cooking has attracted a lot of compliments; you should start a restaurant, you should give lessons and more recently, you should start a food blog, or you should have a cooking channel on YouTube. Every time I found myself fumbling for the same mewling replies.

As a creative, it’s hard sometimes to just say thank you. We feel like we have to do something with the compliments. After all, recognition and validation could be a sign, a hint we’re “onto something.” Perhaps with a little help we could turn this into an opportunity, a breakthrough, a chance to shine.

Apples

It’s fashionable in creative circles to talk about hustle, side projects and even side-hustles (which sounds like some kind of 70s dance move). It’s increasingly hard for creatives to make ends meet by focusing on just one thing. The hustle very easily becomes an insane juggling act, as we try to keep every good idea alive as a potential side project. It’s easy to end up having these consume a huge part of your emotional energy, while yielding little in the real world.

With Beef & Steel there always an element of personal pride. I used to love cooking for guests. I was fond of saying someone was’t really a friend unless they sat at my table and ate my food. But, it feels like people have become more fickle about social commitments, turning down invites or cancelling at the last minute. I let the food blog be a way of making a point about how important food culture was to me.

Which I think diluted the far greater motivation, the love of food. The manifesto I wrote for Beef & Steel still feels right, but looking back I should have placed more emphasis on it, letting the love shine through more clearly.

“Cooking should be an act of love. The way we cook should express the way we feel, about ourselves and the people we cook for. Your cooking technique is a window into your soul.”
The Beef & Steel Manifesto

How I Did It

The first big decision was whether to try and hold onto Beef & Steel as a “brand.” I love the name. It’s edgy, it reflects where my mind was during the years in Singapore, when I was cooking in a big open kitchen, with few tools, fighting the constant construction noise and oppressive heat. But, does Beef & Steel reflect how I cook in Tokyo today? Does it really fit those culinary passions I identified, like the problem of authenticity, or the link between Latin and Asian food? No.

So, if I wasn’t going to hold onto the name, then there was no need to keep any of the digital assets, Twitter, Instagram and the blog itself. Deleting the social media accounts wasn’t difficult. Twitter made me jump through a few hoops, then presented me with a 30 day deactivation, before all the account details were gone. Instagram was a little trickier. Look under the account settings and all you’ll find is a link to temporarily disable the account. To fully delete an account, you need to find the delete your account page, which I was only able to navigate to via Instagram’s help pages.

beefandsteeldeactivate

The website was more challenging. I wanted to take everything down at the same time, but I wasn’t sure what to do with URLs, databases and the like. The simplest option was to go to my domain host (Hover) and redirected any traffic to beefandsteel.com to this post. That way, if anyone had bookmarked the page, they would find their way to this explanation. This bought me a few days to take down the content via FTP before letting the domain expire.

beefandsteelredirect

How Quitting Creates Clarity

As I stared at the Beef & Steel folder on my computer, all the versions of artwork, logos, photos, and website copy I was struck by the most powerful question we face when shutting down a creative project,

If not this, then what else?

I haven’t stopped loving food. I’m not about to give up cooking. I’m still keen to become a better food photographer.

I’ve just realised that right now, the way my life is shaped, trying to run, or launch a food blog, or anything similar, makes no sense. Quite possibly it might never make sense, given how mixed my motivations were.

But, now I’m free to think about different kinds of projects. Something where I focus my energy in a different way, in a way that better fits my abilities, or schedule. I could imagine that, now I have the space to do so.

Quitting a creative project can hurt, especially quitting one we care about. This week has been tough for me, it’s brought a lot of emotions to the surface, opened a lot of wounds. But, it’s also reminded me of some great memories; of the literally thousands of delightful meals I’ve prepared for friends and family, of the way cooking doesn’t just transform ingredients into food, it changes and deepens the relationships we have with the people we love.

This Week I Quit is a weekly series where I try, in a personal way, to address the habit of overcommitment. Each week I quit something, it could be an app, a habit, a possession, a word, anything that had a hold on my attention. I explain why I made the choice to quit and what it was like. Last week I quit leaving clothes on a chair in my bedroom and you can read all the posts in this series here.

SalsaenJapon

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