This is the third of three posts required of food bloggers who attended the 2014 IFBC conference in exchange for a lowered conference fee. I determine the content and receive no compensation or gifts for mentions of products or organizations.
I ate lunch at the counter at Lola after the International Food Blogger Conference, observing a businessman who was eating some kind of pita sandwich (dining alone is good for character study). After I re-read my notes from Shauna James Ahern’s talk, I ordered a pot of tea so I could linger.
“We live in a crazy, fractured world,” I read again, “and people want a sense of rest.”
Of all the words I soaked up over the weekend, Shauna’s phrase, a sense of rest, is the one that keeps circling. I love conferences. I love introducing myself to people I’ve never met before and flipping open my cheap notebook in a crowded room. Still, it’s easy to wonder who is making important connections, whose sites garner the most unique visitors, who is succeeding. In the middle of all of that, it was a relief to hear Shauna pooh-poohing the SEO gods and reminding us to forgo boasting and “just offer.”
That’s always more difficult than it sounds. I’m tempted, when I read a post or article or essay by someone else, to try and change my voice. That other person is creative, instinctive, cute. I manage to convince myself that if I can hum a little of their tune, some of their hard-fought authenticity will repeat itself in my work. I do it all the time, even though I know it’s not the way of creativity or instinct or personality.
A few weeks after the conference I wrote two words on a yellow post-it and stuck it to the monitor stand on my desk, to re-focus me: it’s HOW. It’s how we cook and eat, how we photograph, how we struggle, how we reappear and reinvent; how we are. That’s the thing, all along the way.
After I left my sunny perch at Lola’s, I attended an extra session with Kathleen Flinn. She had us write a six-word autobiography and mine turned out to be—guess what?—more mantra than documentary: Peel it. Find the tender leaf.
If I didn’t like it so much, I’d probably laugh aloud and roll my eyes. Lighten up! But what can I do? I ruminate.
An instructor at a workshop once said that blogs are best suited for lighter stories. And it’s probably true. I love writers who can tuck you right in next to them and take you for a spin. Those are the sites I go back to again and again for dinner ideas, and just to see what they’re up to. But I like deep writing, too. When I’m working on a new post, I often read Kate Christensen’s blog, a study in fluidity, sharp observation and her uncanny ability to make the quiet events of her quiet life compelling.
When it comes to putting words out in the world, there’s nothing to be done but the honest thing. “Just offer,” Shauna told us. “Connect with whoever needs your work at the moment; love every single thing you put out there.”
With that, I’ll give you what I have to offer this week, because I love my life, even when it’s pretty much just eggs and soup. The eggs were from our friend, Seth. I photographed them out back on a dry, cold morning, and they were gone in a couple of days. My kids don’t even really like eggs but since they came from a friend, from the warm bodies of the hens in their yard, they kept lobbing out ideas about how to use them.
The soup was simple, made on the fly using Kathleen’s tasting guide (from this book). I sautéed shallots in butter and added thyme and salt. I roasted a Gil’s Golden Pippen squash from Puddleton Farm and combined it with the shallot mixture, along with some water and bouillon concentrate. Then I blitzed it with the immersion blender. You could add more liquid or make it even creamier with a few tablespoons of half and half. That’s what I’ll do next time.