Mostly rambles, few brambles
Food Blog Unfiltered
February 1, 2016Posted by on
No, really. It’s fine that you jam-pack your updates with photogenic kitchen triumphs. Sure, I used be in that game.
Titans we were. We pandered cyberspace for web-traffic supremacy. Our cartel commanded the masses through food smut. Overlays, lighting effects, hue blending—we said slobber and the world asked how much.
Innocent beginnings snowballed into propagating unrealistic food expectations. Our business became validating unattainable standards and further detaching the public from reality. Life isn’t one big Bon Appétit spread. My online presence didn’t need to be one either.
This was a new vision of authenticity. I would no longer vie for clicks. I’d be completely detached from society’s attitudes on beauty or edibility. Here, pure disaster could paint its refreshingly human picture.
Un-delicious. That’s the term readers initially sought. My maiden post, graced with the face of a five-day-old chain-restaurant burger half, was the true antithesis of delicious. Ketchups, hot sauces, and mustards had patiently soaked into the congealed bun, a now dis-appetizing pseudo-sponge. I would have eaten it sooner but I forgot—I’d been self-medicating—and instead it drifted, steeping in my refrigerated sea of spoilage.
Traffic was not my concern. It didn’t matter to me if that first post went viral or only corroborated a viral infection.
Normalizing food standards couldn’t happen overnight. Though, it was still promising to see a few readers identify with my self-disclosure. Their connection felt raw and empowering.
We were fighting the good fight. Imperfectly functioning, I was not immune to staying awake all night, neurotically self-diagnosing on WebMD, before hazily pressing “Potato” instead of the “Popcorn” setting.
My microwaveable bag—singed by science and sporadic illiteracy—personified the distracting anxiety of living off cheap alternatives to health insurance. Readers related. Life sometimes leaves us with something that’s not ideal, or appetizing, or even safe to eat.
Our ranks continued growing. Open yet safe, our self-deprecating legion laughed off our mistakes and missteps. A post about a cold medicine mix-up, subsequently falling asleep with a frozen pizza in the oven, and waking up to the smoke alarm that would have been chastised in my former life was now lauded. The transparent train kept bravely chugging and, albeit slowly, the Internet tide began shifting.
Our movement was gaining traction. Then a half-eaten grilled cheese changed everything.
The post had been the fallout from another panic. A collection agency had disputed an installment on an outstanding hospital bill. This had sent me foraging through the trash, searching for the payment confirmation number I’d sworn I’d scribbled down. The excavation yielded said discarded, gooey half-sandwich. Reaping the garbage spoils of near-hysteria was frank and gritty, and, reflexively, I snapped pictures.
Site traffic exploded. Links were syndicated and hyperbolically dubbed across all click-bait juggernauts. YumNation.com rang. They saw potential.
Salaried with full benefits. I couldn’t refuse. I promised myself the YumNation.com platform wouldn’t change anything. I was still committed to culinary realism.
I was put in rotation with the other YumNation.com columnists. The most senior contributor was a busty woman in a tube top who filmed herself eating and reviewing various cheesecakes. Another was an obese twenty-something who hosted a segment called “Portions: Uncontrolled.” Rounding out our staff was me and a Korean War vet who documented his adventures in cooking for a finicky, bow-tie-wearing guinea pig named Mr. Biscuit. The four of us were tasked with filling in the gaps left after YumNation.com re-posted and re-titled links to the Internet’s most shared pieces on food—and sometimes just, like, pop culture gossip or heroic pet stories.
Again, I started sans splash. Healthcare coverage had thankfully de-complicated my day-to-day. Though even with more dedicated time, my first YumNation.com post fell flat. Macaroni sludge had solidified while I’d been arguing with the mailman. Unchecked anger had boiled over, like my noodles, as the civil servant and I exchanged threats.
The post brimmed with passion and an inability to avoid escapable kitchen failure, yet the resulting views were a drop in the bucket when compared to the previous day’s post of Mr. Biscuit eating a tiny quiche.
Not since my days as a food porn mogul had I agonized over traffic. It had been reenergizing to concentrate on a larger mission, but YumNation.com demanded clicks. I resolved to toe the line, stay true, and keep my original fans happy while remaining insured.
More expired oatmeal, more forgotten toast, more leftover Caesar salad—my unsound judgment was chronicled week after week. A few fans were receptive to the realism. It was slow going, though, and this new platform lacked any discussion or connection.
YumNation.com grew restless though. Frosting vats, guinea-pig dinner parties, and cheesecake-stuffed cleavage were habitually dwarfing me with their traffic.
I needed clicks or I needed to get out. I asked YumNation.com to reconsider. I cited that, with time, my regular following could have me on par, but the idea was dismissed.
YumNation.com insisted on a rebrand. Revolting and controversial was our new angle. If people didn’t want to click through for stimulating reflection, we’d give them their desired Internet freak show and comment section bickering.
I reluctantly agreed. I intentionally burned Easy Mac beyond recognition and consumed. After posting it I found myself desperately hoping people would click through, despite being disgusted with myself for originally creating it. In the second revamped piece I ate a box of baking soda and vomited on a Confederate flag. I tried, unsuccessfully, to work in through the copy how these stunts were both done out of a desperate, bewildered hunger.
YumNation.com inflated my titles with terms like “Epic,” “Must See,” and “You Won’t Believe.” It worked. Traffic skyrocketed. It became a binary reaction. People were either disgusted or not, amused or not amused, shared it on social media or didn’t. Connection or critical thought was never sought.
I’m now stuck. I fabricate these challenges of faux food filth—really just this side of garbage. It’s a process to constantly one-up and out-gross the rest of the Internet in a race to the bottom. I’ve reached the other end of the unrealistic spectrum. There’s no authenticity. Any true fans are long gone. It’s only the anonymous now, the demographic enticed by a hype-riddled teaser looking for a quick thrill.
Quitting and restarting is an option. The idea of personally rebranding the rebrand and seeing how long YumNation.com tolerates my former style before I’m fired has been considered. I could always, of course, accept the label of sellout, acknowledge my shill status, and recognize that I’ve found my calling marketing to humanity’s lowest common denominator.
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