We get letters: What’s up with Accidental Hedonist?

Reader KJ writes in:

Hi,

I am a subscriber to your blog and have been for a while. I just made your Hot Sausage and Red Onion Rigatoni recipe last night and it has become a favorite. I am from Pittsburgh and appreciate your references to my hometown. All of which is a long way of saying that I enjoy your blog and will continue to subscribe. Which is a prelude asking – what happened to the recipes? It seems your blog now mostly focuses on beer. I don’t like beer, so I just click on past those entries. I miss the other content. What about some guest bloggers? How about adding more recipes.

Thanks.

I wasn’t sure if I should make a big deal about this or not, but I’ve gotten several e-mails similar to the one above, so it’s probably as good as time as any to address it. But to do so, you’ll have to allow me to put a bit of self-indulgent introspection onto your screen.

For those who haven’t noticed a change, let me point them out. For one – no guest writers. For two – no recipes. For three – a perceptible reduction of talk about food politics, general food stories, and other similar types of posts to which I have indulged in the past. There are several good reasons for the shift in approach on this food blog. None of them related, but added together make for a distinct change of tone of Accidental Hedonist.

Finances: Anyone running a web site will tell you that ad revenues are down. This site is no exception. The revenue stream here was what I was using to pay the guest writers their monthly fees. It wasn’t a lot of money going out, mind you, but it was respectable for a web site. But once that revenue started shrinking, I was faced with the notion of paying the guest writers less, something I did not wish to do.

At the same time, the IRS came knocking, and wanting their share of the revenue. More, quite frankly, than I had anticipated. Accidental Hedonist was suddenly turning into a money loser from a business perspective.

Free Time: Quite frankly, I’m having less and less free time over the course of the past two to three years. While two to three years ago, I thought nothing of spending several evenings in the kitchen, play testing recipes, with 99 Drams and other book projects on the horizon, that time has become less and less available to me.

Food Blogosphere Status: I feel I’m fairly realistic on whatever status and reputation I have. I’m cognizant of the fact that there are other food blogs that do things better than I. I’m okay with that, honestly. There are better blogs that have recipes, other sites that deal with food politics more keenly, and essayists with a better lyrical understanding of the prose they write. I’ve always felt that AH has operated in the food blog world on its own, unique location, being definably undefinable. The problem with this approach however, has made it a poor candidate for a successful business model.

Additionally, I was getting more and more disillusioned with blogging in general. Nothing turns me off more than having prominent bloggers discuss how to increase page counts, or where to place ads on a web site. Nothing is as annoying as PR firms endlessly inundate my inbox with press releases about products that are, at best, uninteresting. As the blog world becomes more and more professional, the less engaging it appears to me.

Fun: There are two things you need to know about me. One, I get completely jazzed when offered an opportunity to learn, or teach myself about a subject unknown to me. Two, once I garner what I believe to be a sufficient level of knowledge, I move on, as the topic will then become tiresome. While other people have obsessions about a particular subject, my obsession is more geared to the process of learning surrounding any topic I deem interesting.

The result of this is that it’s difficult for me to write about things I’m not interested in, or things I’ve already reached a conclusion about.

What has been fun? Writing 99 Drams was a blast, and a tremendous positive experience. I now know more about whiskey than I ever thought possible several years ago. While the publishing process was interesting and challenging, the ultimate joy was me knowing that I had what I felt was an adequate amount of knowledge about whiskey, and I could read about it and discuss it with others without appearing like an idiot.

And for the record, food politics are not fun to talk about, at all. An argument can be made that it’s necessary to discuss them, but it is depressing as hell to consume and understand just how screwed up our system can be at times, across its entire spectrum.

Conclusion: I wanted to get excited about blogging again, but on my own terms. There are something that I couldn’t change, such as PR nudnicks sending me what is essentially spam. But I could change my approach to blogging. Rather than trying to produce great and/or interesting content for others to read, I am going to use Accidental Hedonist as a repository for notes and interesting items that I am coming across in the course of researching new book ideas. The blog is to be inward looking, rather than outward looking. It will be a place for me to try out new ideas and theories, rather than a place where a drive-by reader can find a snapshot of a recipe. My interpretation of Accidental Hedonist is that, for me to be happy with it, it shouldn’t be in the traditional web content business.

How this will manifest itself? You’re seeing some of that recently. I’m researching a beer book, so you’ll see beer information on the site. Next year, when I research chocolate, you’ll see chocolate information here. Rather than the two to three posts you used to see me write about any given food region, or food topic, you’ll see months worth, maybe even up to a years worth. If recipes are a part of that understanding, then you’ll see those (for example, expect mole recipes when I discuss chocolate).

In other words, this site will be a better reflection of who I am, and what I’m doing. I’ve turned off my stat counters, as well as my Google Analytics. I’ve ceased to care how many Bloglines subscribers I have. I’m trying to make blogging fun for me again. If I lose readers, I’m okay with that. Because in the end, I have to write about things I find interesting, not what others do.

Long time readers of Accidental Hedonist will likely tell newcomers one thing about this site – its focus is never the same from year to year. So most of the folks who’ve stuck with this site since 2004-2005 probably have just chalked up the changes to me doing something different. Next year at this time, I may have changed back.

But if it does, it will have to be for some really interesting reasons.