This past week Jody made two apple tarts. I photographed them and, despite their differences in sugar and salt, thought they were both delicious. Jody did not. “You know,” she said. “Neither of these is as good as the sheet pan apple tart.” She was referring to this. “We should just republish it and tell everyone what happened. People like it when you’re honest about not getting things perfect.” Mm-hmm. In principle, I agree with this, but I sensed a tremor in the force. “Maybe,” she continued, “we need to think about what we’re doing.” Not a tremor. A quake. A 7.4 on the Uh-Oh Seismometer.
If you’ve been there, you’ll know exactly what kind of Uh-oh I’m talking about, the one where Imminent Change is striding about your house, clanging garbage can lids together while shouting, “You’ve got com-pan-nee!”
We started this blog over three years ago, at the suggestion of our literary agent, who had just unsuccessfully tried to sell our latest book proposal. Our agent, who claimed to have loved the proposal, had received a positive, nay, excited, round of initial feedback from editors, high-powered publishing panjandrums all. And then, er… nothing. No one bid on it. The cookbook biz is, to put it generously, not a warm and fuzzy place these days for cooks and writers without tv shows or restaurants of less than tractor-trailer PR throw-weight. There are notable exceptions, of course. The OTTOLENGHI books come to mind, as does the magisterial ART OF FERMENTATION by Sandor Katz. I could mention a dozen others. And that’s the problem, a dozen others. The glory days of a thousand flowers cookbook publishing seem to be drawing to a close, just as a thousand other blossoms open on the web. The solution? Start a blog, attract a group of like-minded followers, then write another book proposal, touting your thousands of followers.
Excusez-moi, a blog? But – insert spluttering protest – we are not bloggers (We-air-nut-blug-airs!). We are “industry,” restaurant people. Yeah, well, shut up and get on with it. And so we did. All except for the proposal part, which I’ll address in a sec. Blogging, I humbly acknowledge – bow, scrape, bow – has introduced us to a realm of people we never knew existed – literate, accomplished online lovers of food and cooking, not all of whom – surprise – go to restaurants. As the voice of The Garum Factory and its primary interlocutor I feel as though I’ve gotten to know some of you quite well. We’ve met some of you in person. With many of you, should I find myself stranded in your city (Tokyo, Dublin, Rome, Oklahoma City, Manhattan, Gourmandistan) I would not hesitate to ask if I could crash on your couch, especially if we could cook a meal together first. And I would expect you to call me should the same fate befall you. The blog has provided Jody and me a way of working together (initially risky, but great in the end), while giving us heaps of followers (we love you, thank you). We’ve even received nibbles from publishers (Are you guys putting a proposal together? Love to see it. Ever in the city? Thought about a book? Let’s meet. ADORE your food and the pictures are GORGEOUS – call me.) And, my obsession with food photography has led to this whole other side gig of food and restaurant work.
But the blog has outgrown us. The thing is, we both love blogging days, but we can’t indulge in them in the way we have, not while we’re doing other stuff that puts bottarga next to the butter. We could gin the blog up into a paying proposition (advertising, brand endorsements, affiliate-marketing, etc.). Or we could write a proposal for a full-blown cookbook or… we could consider something in between. We have some ideas for alternatives to traditional full-length cookbooks. But we need some time to thrash them out. While we do that, we’re going to put The Garum Factory on a diet, slimming down to a post a month until we figure out who’s making all that racket with the garbage can lids.
We will continue doing what we’re doing, just less frequently. In the meantime, we’d love to hear your ideas. Is anyone out there interested in, say, short-form cookbooks? Small books of 15 – 20 recipes focused around a single theme or ingredient. Epub or real paper? Is there a favorite region (e.g. Provence, Puglia) or style of cooking you’d like to see highlighted? While you’re mulling this over, you might click on the link for the Lazy Man’s Sheet Pan Apple Tart. The guy who took the pictures wasn’t a sophisticated photographer, but he’s gotten better, and the tart is still a winner. Enjoy. Ken