August 03, 2011

Big Summer Potluck 2, Part One: On Becoming a Food Blogger

A breakfast feast at BSP2, featuring fresh peaches, gluten-free muffins and homemade jam from Sugarcrafter

I remember the first time I wondered if I was really a bona fide blogger, even a part-time one, which was all I was aspiring to be. I was having that most perfect of Saturday morning indulgences – a pedicure – and as the aesthetician and I chatted, I mentioned I had a food blog. “I have a blog too!” she said. It was a mommy blog, and she had started it a month earlier. We exchanged URLs, and when I got home I looked up her site. I had written nine posts that month – quite an accomplishment, I thought, for my little hobby. Erika had written 80. Not eight – 80. Whoa.

I had dipped a toe in the water of food blogs barely six months before. Ready-made Blogger template; barely a notion of how to tag, let alone what it would do for my Google ranking. Monetize? I had gingerly put two food-related ads on my blog; the cheque must still be in the mail. Every new follower was a triumph and it didn’t matter that the number hardly changed from week to week (well, it did, but this was a hobby, right?). I thought I took decent photos with my little point and shoot.

I was amazed at the size and diversity of the food blogging community. I threw a stone in the pond and I joined Foodbuzz, Cook Eat Share, The Daring Kitchen, Charcutepalooza. With each ripple, I saw the community was legion, and I couldn’t even make out the distant shore. Relationships mattered, and Twitter provided a way to form immediate connections, even if at arm’s length and more like cousins twice removed than siblings.

The beautifully simple table setting at Linden Hill Gardens

And that’s how I heard about Big Summer Potluck. It hardly mattered what it was; what did matter was that it seemed to be a MUST ATTEND event (and if @thepeche said so, I was smart enough to believe it). It seemed a friendly thing – somewhere in the middle of Pennsylvania – and with just the right amount of people; not too big to be overwhelming, not too small to feel out of step with all those who would surely know one another. And so I bought a ticket. With that weird blend of low and massive expectations, I made my way by two planes and an automobile to Ottsville, PA, quinoa and rice salad in tow.

I learned a lot.  Not about SEO, or monetization, or tagging or writing the perfect post.  I learned that a moment can be an idea.  That the hardest part of getting a great photo is getting past yourself.  That you need a point of departure - what, exactly, are you trying to say with those words? That photo? The post?  And that it's okay not to know the answer to those questions when you start.

Chickens at Linden Hill - living in the moment

At BSP2 last weekend I wondered again if I was a bona fide blogger. But for the first time, I finally got permission to be exactly the kind of blogger I can be, with the expectations not formed by some amorphous and invisible host of judges, but by me. That was the life lesson, amongst many, that Shauna James Ahern, the wonderful Gluten-Free Girl, imparted.  Get real and be real, girl (and boy).  Expose your messy self.  It's what matters and what makes a connection count.  Yes, indeed.

The radiant Penny de los Santos.

Perhaps by now you’ve read some of the amazing and moving blog posts written by others who were at BSP2. If you haven’t you should know that Penny de los Santos is a wizard – not just with her camera, but with her ability to spellbind a room and recreate a photograph that all of us could see as clearly as if it were in front of us. [Click here to see the incredible photographs that Penny was describing and the read the beautiful story They Remember Home by Annia Ciezadlo].  I have never been so inspired and felt so connected to a speaker before – but that’s because this was a personal conversation and Penny offering her art (and self) up to us with arms wide open.  And that was her point, really.  As Penny says, photography is a metaphor for life - and that magical moment of making a connection, of drawing people in - is what really matters.

Expectations? Beyond exceeded.  But that's what happens when you think you're going to a food blogger event and you find yourself connected to an instant family of friends.

So am I a bona fide blogger?  If what that means is that I am passionate about what I write, that it matters to me, and that I am being my real self - then I think the answer is yes.  It matters less that I have the requisite photo of ingredients with "easy and delicious recipes that you can make for dinner tonight!" (guilty as charged).  It matters more that I am connected - to myself first of all, and then hopefully to you too.  I hope you stick around to see how it all comes out. 

[With a huge 8 second hug and thanks to Maggy of Three Many Cooks and Erika of The Ivory Hut for an amazing event. Can't wait 'til next year!]


  1. I love this post. You really encapsulated what i think a lot of us crazy food bloggers are feeling. I'm so glad to have met you!

  2. This is a fantastic post. You captured my sentiments about the weekend exactly. It was lovely to meet you.

    And can I say, I'm drooling over your kitchen?

  3. Beautiful post! It was so amazing to meet you and get to spend some time with you this weekend. I'm sorry we didn't have a chance to chat more!

    And, for what it's worth, I think you are much more of a bona fide food blogger than many that I know who have millions of followers and have been doing it for yours. Your heart is truly in the right place and that makes it absolutely beautiful!

  4. I went last year and it was amazing, but I think this year was even more mind blowing. Wish I could have been there! Enjoyed your summary

  5. I was a first time BSP attendee this year too, and not even a food blogger, so I can really relate to what you are saying here. I love the sentence you wrote after "So I am a bona fide blogger?" That's what really matters about this whole crazy, wonderful place called the blogosphere!

  6. Well said new friend!

    And please excuse my drool as well over your fabulous cooking space. Cool!

  7. What a wonderfully written post. I have devoured all of the BSP2 blog attempt to imagine that I was there too. Maybe next year....
    For now, I will continue my passionate devotion to my blog and hope my thoughts are reflected as purely as yours are.

  8. Lovely! I couldn't agree more! I SO enjoyed chatting with you, love! Your new kitchen is amazing!

  9. You captured the heart of the weekend so beautifully in your post! It was so nice to meet you and I wish we could have chatted more. You are absolutely a bona fide blogger and don't let anyone else tell you otherwise! Looking forward to following along your journey!

  10. You captured the weekend perfectly! So great to meet and hang out with you. I hope our paths cross soon before BSP3.

  11. I am a food blogger but I am also a business owner who helps other food bloggers with some of the business end of their blogging as the owner of a web development company. As much as I know how to offer the required information to do the things that can boost a blog's visibility, no one stands firmer in the corner of those who blog for the love of the game.

    Keeping your heart in what you do and not having that process be influenced by others is at the core of being successful. There are huge blogs that are considered very successful that I find boring; they are looking for traffic and money, period. I still want to see YOU, want to feel why you do this; those are the things that have me come back again and again.

    You are most certainly a food blogger.

  12. Elizabeth!

    This post is wonderful. Goose bumps. You gave me goose bumps. FIVE times.

    You are a wonderful writer -and really managed to capture the essence of the entire weekend. Just beautiful.

    So happy and grateful to have met you. Just wished we'd had a little bit more time....


  13. Thank you for putting blogging into perspective, and writing it so eloquently. Just what I needed today!

  14. What a terrific post! I'd love to attend one of these big blogger meetups - they always sound like so much fun. My issue is that I don't really have a category. I don't do enough DIY to be a DIY blogger, or post enough crafts to be a craft blogger. I'm not a design blogger though I love reading them, and while 40% of my posts are food, I don't think that's enough to make me a food blogger.

    It's neat to read your perspective, because I would definitely consider you a real food blogger. I love reading your inventive food posts. Thanks for sharing.

  15. These BSP2 roundup posts are making me insanely jealous... it sounds like it was a wonderful, inspiring, energizing sort of conference. (It's impossible not to feel that way after getting the "just be yourself and the rest will come" chat from Shauna... it makes you feel warm and gooey inside.)
    PS - You're totally a "real" food blogger. Anyone who's talked to you about food for more than a minute or read one of your recipes would know that right away... and posting frequency and SEO and all that other BS be damned. :)

  16. Thanks to all for your wonderful comments. I'm so glad you enjoyed the post. Sending an 8 second hug to all the BSPers... Stephanie, we'll connect again... LaxSM, my constant reader and supporter - TY! And Izz, I thought lots about you this wknd, and how much you would have enjoyed this event. Thks for the comments :-) You gotta come next year!

    Eliz xox

  17. You are for sure a bona-fide blogger especially with this touching post. I really enjoyed reading it as I shared similar insecurities as a food blogger. You're right being connected to yourself is the key. Thanks so much for sharing and hope to see you next year too!

  18. "So am I a bona fide blogger? If what that means is that I am passionate about what I write, that it matters to me, and that I am being my real self - then I think the answer is yes. It matters less that I have the requisite photo of ingredients with "easy and delicious recipes that you can make for dinner tonight!" (guilty as charged). It matters more that I am connected - to myself first of all, and then hopefully to you too."

    I love that. Well said. An encouragement to all who blog, whether about food or not. I'm with Laxsupermom in blogging over a very general and wide area that is my life, but it is who I am, and it'll have to do!

    The weekend sounds like it was a blast.

  19. Elizabeth, it was great to meet you at BSP! This is a great post about the event. It also helped me to hear that it's best to be true to ourselves as bloggers. Although I don't consider photography to be my strength, I loved Penny's quote about how the biggest challenge in taking good photographs is getting past yourself. Very inspiring.

  20. You made some gorgeous photos. I'm so happy to have met you, and that you're a part of this community. Hugs to you!