Silky, decadent, old-school chocolate mousse, cauliflower with almonds, raisins and capers, and apple cider doughnuts are three dishes that Deb Perelman has made in the last week. This week she plans to make at least two more, as is her goal for next week, and the next. All that food could cause some weight gain. Perelman, though, has gained fans – more than 3 million a month, to be exact.
Perelman, a GW alumna, gets those fans through her food blog, Smittenkitchen.com. She is one of the many alumni who have dived into the world of online blogging, and by bringing the dishes she cooks in her New York City apartment to the World Wide Web via her Web site, Perelamn has turned the site into more than just her hobby. It has now become her job.
“I always loved cooking, it’s always been a thing for me,” Perelman said. “I think my mother was disappointed that I didn’t go to cooking school instead of college right away.”
Perelman studied psychology and art therapy at GW. She worked in the art therapy field for a while, but said her job’s allure eventually ran its course. After starting a personal blog, Perelman said she decided to give a food blog a chance three years ago, selling advertisement space for income. Once the site took off, she quit her job freelancing for a technology magazine and devoted her time solely to her blog. Smittenkitchen.com was officially born.
“The Smitten Kitchen, in its latest physical incarnation is a 42 square-foot circa-1935 sort of half-galley kitchen with a 24-foot footprint, a single counter, tiny stove, checkered floor and a… noisy window at the end to the avenue below,” Perelman’s blog says of itself.
Perelman cooks the food and takes magazine-quality photos of the dishes to be put on the site. Her husband occasionally assists with the photography, too.
Perelman said she believes that the site is so widely viewed because she is an average person claiming to have normal cooking skills.
“I never expected people to be interested in me making doughnuts, but I try to make cooking feel as approachable as it does to me,” said Perelman. “I try to demystify things.”
GW’s Department of Alumni Relations has 68 alumni blogs listed on its Web site, a list Director of Alumni Communications Matthew Lindsay says barely covers the amount out there. Lindsay said he has witnessed an increase in alumni blogging from five years ago, and said more recent alumni tend to be the biggest bloggers.
“I think there are people who blog to share thoughts, opinions and ideas, and generally it’s a lot of the younger people in the population,” said Lindsay. “So I think it’s common that more younger alumni do that.”
Blogging is not always a self-run business. Dan Gilgoff, an alumnus who graduated in 2001 and is now a reporter for U.S. News & World Report, began a blog called “God & Country” for the company in January. The site focuses on religion’s role in politics and public life, and has had more than 1.5 million hits since it launched.
“For the reporter, [a blog] provides an inexhaustible outlet for all of the reporting you do on a daily basis that would usually die on the cutting room floor of the newsroom,” said Gilgoff. “I always say blogging is using every part of the animal.”
Gilgoff warns, though, that with the endless writing space offered through blogs, there are also expectations for constant site posts.
“It’s harder in that you have to file a lot more and if you’re a blogger, for the most part, you are carving out a niche and you have to own that niche,” Gilgoff said.
Perelman said another issue bloggers face is content theft. Due to limited controls on the Internet, information and pictures posted on blogs are often copied and used elsewhere.
Nevertheless, Perelman said she is perfectly happy with her job.
“The thing that I like the most is, I love making my own schedule, and right now I’d say I have the best job in the world,” said Perelman, who recently gave birth to a baby boy. “I get to cook when I want to cook, write when I want to write – yes I make it seem more rosy than it is – but there is encouragement for your ambitions. It’s the freedom to go where your ambition is.”