This is a mini rant.
Friends know that my one guilty indulgence is reading food blogs ("flogs"). ("guilty" because I read them at work...yes, my boss reads this flog too) And Singapore, despite its little size, has a very developed food blogging scene. A quick surf on the internet will prove that there is an inordinate number of flogs for a country as tiny as ours. I suppose it's really due to the connectivity of our island, its technologically savvy netizens and their insatiable appetite and love for food.
But lately, I've noticed a worrying trend.
There is a growing number of flogs that I've stopped reading entirely, simply because almost 90% of their posts are all based on invited tastings. Don't these cheapos ever pay for their meals anymore?!? I've always thought that the (one of the primary) purpose(s) of writing a flog is to introduce to the good people of Singapore the various culinary treasures on our little island. An invited tasting will never be a fair assessment of the food served at the restaurant. The chef already knows that he's being judged and critiqued, and so the food will be the best possible quality produced, and service will be at its best behaviour. Just think: do you put in your best effort in your Chinese year-end exams or your weekly Chinese spelling tests? (I use this example because I would sometimes score a big fat zero on some of my Chinese spelling tests but still pass (reasonably well) for my year-end exams, because the year-end exams count and go on your transcripts forever, but nobody really cares too much about spelling tests because they are a weekly affair with no permanent implications.) It's the same with the chefs at such invited tastings.They put their best foot forward because they know that whatever they put on the plate will consequently be put on the internet, a permanent mark on their record of sorts.
Mind you, I'm not against invited tastings per se, just that some food blogs (you know who you are) don't even seem to pay for their own food anymore. Very rarely on these flogs do I see a post that's not an invited tasting. Do these people think that the typical diner will get to enjoy the same type of experience that a flogger gets at an invited tasting? The answer is a resounding and obvious "NO". This is why I always skip reading posts that are based on invited tastings. They're just not an accurate portrayal of the food usually served.
And if the flogger doesn't bother to even dine on his/her own dime anymore, and/or to critic food that's not an invited tasting, why would I even bother to read their flog at all? Their flog is full of inaccurate portrayals of the food actually served at such establishments on a daily affair! I've stopped taking them seriously as "food gurus" because most of their reviews are "tainted". Their flogs rarely contain reviews I'd rely on for honest and realistic recommendations for the best chow.
This is why, I think, more credible reviewers such as traditional media food critics tend to go back to the restaurant, after they've attended an invited tasting, to dine again, incognito, just to compare the food served during both occasions. Maybe floggers should do the same, to lend credibility to their reviews at such invited tastings.
I suppose there will always be the difference between the reviews by floggers and traditional media, the latter having more checks and tighter controls for accountability and credibility. The flogging scene's currently a bit like the Wild Wild West and there doesn't seem to be any checks on flogs. I'm thinking, surely the public court of opinion isn't enough to separate the wheat from the chaff.
Please bear in mind my irritation is directed at floggers who don't seem
to blog about non-invited tastings anymore, whereby you'll be
hard-pressed to find a post that's not based on an invited tasting.
Those that blog about the occasional invited tastings are still alright, in my book. It's those extremely "commercialized" flogs that annoy the crap out of me.
Also, another pet peeve of mine is floggers who don't know how to use big words but attempt, miserably, to do so. Seriously, if your English isn't great, just use simple English. I've actually read a post wherein a flogger used the word "paranormal" to describe the view, when, I think, the word "panoramic" should have been used instead. I highly doubt that the view of the Marina Bay waterfront was supernaturally scary.
I have nothing against floggers who aren't very proficient in the English language, or those who make typographical errors (because even I'm not that meticulous in checking my work), or floggers who use slang (Singlish is, afterall, part of our local vernacular) or colloquial language. I applaud floggers who use their flogs in the betterment of their English. I can close one eye to small errors in grammar or spelling. But not pretentious try-hards who think that their 'engrish' is so 'powderful' that they make glaringly obvious CMI (cannot-make-it), ROTFL (roll-on-the-floor-laughing), forward-to-friends-for-LOL-moments, types of errors. Know your limits, and if you don't know what the meaning of the adjective is, don't use that to describe the food/view/ambience/service. Nobody will fault you for using plain, simple, English. Or else, check the dictionary. You're never too old to use one.
Okay, maybe the rant wasn't so mini afterall.