This past weekend I attended the International Food Bloggers Conference (IFBC 2014) in Seattle. After spending most of this month focusing on fixing the broken at home (I now have a working shower, doors that open and close, and new brakes on my car — woohoo!), and not finding enough time to write or work on recipes, the conference was a necessary respite: like a weekend away at camp. It was a weekend to focus on what I love — food, writing, and communication — and connect with other kindred spirits who relish the same.
Throughout the conference, the question “Who are you?” came up multiple times. (Hey, we’re writers; we have a tendency to get deep.) While it’s the kind of question that, examined too closely, could send you into a total spinout, it’s a good question to ask yourself during the course of a writing project or career. In short: what matters so much that you want to write about it…and why? It’s a question that I had to ponder when I started this blog, and yet it comes up again and again — especially when you’re at a food bloggers’ conference, and the person sitting next to you at breakfast starts the conversation with “So, what do you write about?” Oof.
In terms of conference takeaways, “Who are you?” is a good one, although it can be a daunting question to consider, as well. For me, it’s relevant as I’m coming up on the one-year anniversary of 650Food (which, by the way is pronounced six-five-oh food, not six-fifty food). Sure, as a businessperson I need to look at things like branding and audience reach, and all that, but as a writer, my committment is to writing authentically about all aspects of local food — from what to do with an excess of sage in my garden (Anyone? Anyone?) to supporting small-business foodcrafters. If I’m being true to my mission, then hopefully you’ll learn something useful, discover a cool new place to eat, or get a little more creative in the kitchen.
While I approach food writing through a hyper-local lens, some of what I write about — being a part of your local food system, eating well, and creating community through food — reaches beyond county and state lines. Wherever you live, you’re part of a local food system, from where you shop to where you dine (even if “dining” means grabbing takeout from the place down the street).
Most of the time, my local is within the boundaries of the 650 area code: aka, The Peninsula, south of San Francisco and north of San Jose. But when I travel — whether it’s to visit family in the midwest or unplug completely for a few days in Puerto Rico — I’m looking at the local food system in that environment. What can I eat there that I can’t get in the 650? Or, how is a dish (let’s say: ceviche) made differently in San Mateo, Cleveland, or San Juan? What’s the source of the ingredients? How has climate change affected the growing season and availability of local produce? What’s the committment to supporting the local food system?
The subject of food is broad and deep, and I’m intrigued by the ways in which it impacts so many aspects of our lives: health and well-being, family and community, pleasure and indulgence, sustenance and sustainability, celebrations and lamentations. As a cook, I love the process of figuring out recipes, creating something simple but delicious (ok, sometimes complicated and delicious), and yes, the precision required in creating baked goods and confections. As a writer, I like sharing what I’ve learned and enjoyed over the course of my culinary experiences. Sometimes that includes a recipe, sometimes it doesn’t — sometimes it’s a technique or a place to eat.
So, what’s the answer to “who am I?” That’s probably a thesis and not a blog post. So, without getting too existential, you can check out my LinkedIn profile and About page of this blog for the “official” versions, but when it comes down to it, I’m someone who has a passion for making, eating, talking about, writing about, and sharing food. I like a good food story. What about you? What’s your food story?