Bytes to eat

Along with a staple diet of cookbooks, the net can provide all a foodie needs

Several years ago, a friend who works in IT informed me that cookbooks were about to become redundant. People would find any recipe on the internet. No, I protested: neophile as he was, he did not understand why books were special. So far, the thriving cookbooks market has backed me up. But my friend's premise, if not his prediction, has come true: the internet does have everything a cook might need.

It is more than a year since I last had a good browse among the food blogs. I had assumed that blogs were rather 2007, or even 2006. Many books based on blogs have failed; a publishing company specialising in such books has gone bust; most bloggers fail to keep up their hobby for longer than a year. But food blogging gets ever more varied and interesting.

If you are unwell, or if you suffer from allergies to certain foods, you should be able to find an appropriate blogger. Through the UK Food Bloggers Association, I came across Cancer Foodie, who is "learning how to cook to win the fight, and is surprised to discover she's enjoying it!". Cancer Foodie has not had an easy time, "living as a neurotypical with an Asperger's husband, son and elderly mother" and finding herself single in midlife. Despite all this, her blog is jaunty. So is Figs and Lavender, the author of which has coeliac disease - a bowel disorder that involves a severe allergy to gluten.

Or there are regional specialists. Eating Leeds, for example, is part of a thriving Yorkshire blog scene. There are also Yorkshire Food and Yorkshire Deli, and the Good Stuff, based in Leeds, which gives recipes and recommendations of beers to go with them. The author washed down his tasty gnocchi, sauced with ham and chilli, with Adnams Explorer - "hops are dominant, with a lemony, grapefruit aroma running through". Other beer blogs, defying the decline in sales, include Real Ale Blog and Stonch's Beer Blog.

Some bloggers are professionals, or at least write at a professional level. The food writer Fiona Beckett has an appealing site called the Frugal Cook. Baking for Britain is both a collection of recipes and a delightful education: it tells you about the history and culture of Christmas cake, parkin, broonie (Orkney gingerbread) and so on. The Italy-based expat who blogs as Pomiane - after the author of the classic Cooking in Ten Minutes - has a background in catering, and is clearly a highly expert cook. His recent posts include a fascinating recipe, which I am eager to try, for pasta cooked as you would a risotto, by adding stock to it ladle by ladle.

Not many bloggers have such expertise. Their enthusiastic amateurishness is what appeals. I could do that, you think - not a reaction one experiences on reading Heston Blumenthal. Even Pomiane's recipes seem approachable because of the web medium. My friend's prediction may yet come true.

Nicholas Clee, the NS food columnist, is the author of Don’t Sweat the Aubergine: What Works in the Kitchen and Why (Short Books). He is a former editor of The Bookseller, and writes about books for papers including the Times, Guardian, and Times Literary Supplement.

This article first appeared in the 28 April 2008 issue of the New Statesman, Everybody out!