For yesterday’s column I took a look at Eatocracy — CNN.com’s just-launched food blog that brings a whole new kind of smart and funny to the table. Though based in New York, there’s a whole lot of Atlanta in this blog, as well. (A video profile of the King of Pops and spotlight on the Blissful Glutton blog, being two recent examples.)
CNN’s Eatocracy blog opens a world of food
During the first few days of July, a meme swept through the foodie Twitterverse. Meatsongs! Suddenly the Beatles were singing “Bacon the U.S.S.R.” while Jay-Z and Alicia Keys were in a “New York Strip State of Mind.” And remember that Billy Idol hit, “Nice Day for a Light Breading?”
There were more groaners than truly funny puns among the Meatsongs, truth be told, but everyone was joining in with such glee that the entire enterprise left you smiling.
The whole thing, it turns out, traced back to Kat Kinsman and Sarah LeTrent, the creators of CNN’s food blog, Eatocracy (eatocracy.cnn.com). Of course. It was smart, joyfully goofy and wholly democratic in spirit –- just like their terrific new blog.
Eatocracy only went online in mid-June, yet it has already staked its own corner in the crowded world of food blogs with a completely fresh tone. There’s no chef gossip, no reality-television fawning, no restaurant roundups, no pandering tongue-wagging about caloric atrocities like bacon-wrapped cheeseburgers served between two doughnuts.
“We’re fundamentally a news company,” says Kinsman, the managing editor who reports the blog from both New York and, occasionally, Atlanta. “So we do reporting and look for the food angle in the big news stories, such as the Gulf oil crisis and the World Cup. That’s the DNA of the company. But we also want the blog to be extremely accessible and present food that is achievable.”
“Such as a barbecue sauce fountain,” Kinsman laughed. “We had one for our ‘Lick the Screen’ feature.”
Indeed, Eatocracy serves up a daily snapshot that you may find appetizing enough to consider oral contact with your monitor. You could be at a party at New York’s 17th St. Bar and Grill with a burbling barbecue sauce fountain (and, presumably, nearby platters of ribs), or at a greenmarket, where one of the season’s first heirloom tomatoes sits sliced across the bias.
Eatocracy toggles between newsy stories and silly bits so deftly it all begins to feel like part of the same inquisitive mind. Readers can go to Eatocracy for a compelling story about the plights of Gulf state food banks, or they can upload midday pictures of what they’re eating in realtime for the “Lunch out Loud” photo-sharing service. The daily “5 @ 5” – a food-related list from an opinionated guest — might be the five people having the greatest impact on remaking school lunch programs according to Washington, DC, superstar chef Jose Andres. The site constantly surprises you with its small insights into people’s worlds.
But true to its name, Eatocracy doesn’t rely solely on food insiders. Kinsman gets dispatches from CNN reporters stationed throughout the world. In one, a reporter in Iraq asks a cab driver to take him to a good restaurant and finds himself taken to a branch of Subway. So he rephrases the question – “What is your favorite restaurant?” – and is soon sharing a glorious Middle Eastern feast of grilled meat and salads. The accompanying picture does make you want to lick the screen. In coming months Kinsman will be assigning more food stories to CNN’s half-million-strong army of “iReporters” – unpaid volunteers who contribute text, videos and images to the network.
Kinsman sounds most proud of the “Heirloom Recipes” feature for which readers send in images of well-worn family recipe cards and describe why these recipes are so dear to their families.
“This is really the beating heart and soul of this thing,” Kinsman says. “It’s like our own little WPA project. The goal is to have a national archive of these recipes that were very idiosyncratic to these families.”
But first Kinsman has to compile the best of Meatsongs for a blog post. Her followers, having played every meat pun out there, moved on to Fishsongs.
Look what she’s spawned.