I already posted the first 9 highlights from the BlogHer Food ’10 conference on Monday, and in that post, I alluded to further elaboration on the intertwining significance of numbers 3 and 2, and how they led to number one: Finding our authentic voices, and thus our authentic blog.
Let me back up a minute here.
Variations on one message kept coming to both Donna and I, together and separately, in public sessions and in private chats. Authenticity. Honesty. Owning one’s story, and nurturing it organically. All the SEO optimization in the world, all the #strategic #hashtagging and carnival participation and promiscuous commentary on other blogs that one can manage* and still find time to sleep (and cook!) won’t make a bit of difference if what you’re actually doing is inauthentic, and comes off as contrived. And it’s a cliche, but hey, there’s a reason that cliches become cliches: Be yourself.
[*Just to be clear, I have nothing against any of these things, and could certainly stand to do more of it myself/ourselves! The point is that no amount of promotion can make up for what a product is lacking, at least in the long-term, big picture sense.]
Right from the beginning of this conference, I was discovering more and more blogs that spoke to me in ways that go beyond the recipe. It’s not that food blogs are new to me – I’ve been following food blogs for several years now. But my use of them has been a bit, how shall I put it? All-business. It was all about the recipes, really. When looking for recipes online, I love getting recipes from food blogs rather than some of the huge recipe sites because they’re more likely to talk about the process, the trial and error, what worked and what didn’t. They were also likely to lead me to more of what I was looking for in terms of dietary needs, such as South Beach-oriented Kalyn’s Kitchen or the many excellent gluten-free blogs like Elana’s Pantry, Gluten-Free Goddess, Whole Life Nutrition Kitchen and Gluten-Free Girl, just to name only a few of my favorites. But (true confession time) if there was a lengthy intro to the recipe, I usually either skimmed it or skipped it altogether. Please forgive me, I just had recipe tunnel-vision there for a while – and frankly, it was my loss.
So my eyes were already opening when Donna and I chanced upon an elevator moment with the gifted, gracious Dorie Greenspan. Friendly and open as can be, she chatted with us for a moment, we gave her one of our custom bowl scrapers, told her about our frugally-focused blog – you know, the usual. Perfectly nice. And then one of us (I couldn’t say for sure, but I think it was Donna) explained that we were a mother daughter team, and she was a bit more intrigued. We chatted some more, and then one of us said something about how we’ve been connecting through food right from the beginning, like the recipe Donna sent me soon after we first met.
This required clarification, of course, and we clarified that we were actually a birth mother and daughter who reunited 11 years ago. And as the words were leaving our mouths, and as Dorie responded to us (we were able to talk with her a while longer, lucky us), we were both realizing the same thing simultaneously. As soon as we got back to the room, it was almost cinematic.
INTERIOR OF LUXURIOUS HOTEL ROOM, SAN FRANCISCO. Enter DONNA and ANNE, loaded down like pack mules with swag. They sit on the bed together, each silent for a moment. Then they look at one another.
DONNA and ANNE
We have to change everything.
Okay, it wasn’t quite that Hollywood, but that was the essence of our immediate conversation. We considered our options. Do we really have to let go of our little site here? We’ve put so much into it, and I think we’ve created a lot of quality recipes, and learned oh-so-much along the way. And there’s certainly always going to be a place for economical cooking, for us and for our readers. So we’re not going to ‘close’ the blog. But we are going to start another one. (In our copious spare time.) Dorie was not the first to respond like this, actually, many others have reacted similarly. What’s your blog about? Ah, frugal cooking. Mmm-hmm. Okay, nice job, good recipes. Moving alon- wait, WHAT? You are? How did that happen? Tell me more. But in the context of the conference, it finally had an impact.
The final revelations of the closing keynote session with three incredibly gifted writers, Shauna James Ahern, Molly Wizenburg and Michael Ruhlman, clinched it. Everything that was talked about – relationships with food, emotional connections, and the deep value of cooking itself – affirmed exactlyÂ what has been calling to us. And so we will finally begin to write about our story, our connection with and through food, and how it has changed both of us.
It’s not that we hadn’t thought about it before, but for many reasons we’ve been cautious, perhaps overly so. At first, it was just plain too new. We had a relationship to establish, parameters and boundaries to develop. It took some time before I was introduced to the rest of her wonderful family, and she to mine, for example. We had others’ privacy to consider. And we just plain didn’t want to be premature about it. So though we occasionally reflected on how lucky we were to have one another, and what a wonderful story we had, and hey, maybe we should write it someday, the time hadn’t seemed right. So we just continued on, getting to know one another more and more, cooking all along the way.
There was also the fact that we didn’t want to be exploitative, if that makes any sense. The nature of our relationship hasn’t exactly been a secret – it’s right there in our bio on the “About” page, and written into our bio in our little cookbook (101 Things To Do With Tofu, the first food project we did together – the process of which we enjoyed so much we decided to start blogging). We even talked about it a bit in the handful of interviews we did for 101 Tofu. We never hid it. But we also never delved too deeply.
I think it’s time to start delving!
We have holidays to get through, and some other obligations and so forth, but we’ll announce when the new food adventure is ready, hopefully sometime in early 2011. (And FabFrugalFood will remain, both until the new blog starts and then in conjunction with it. Hey, if David Leite can have FIVE blogs and he’s just one guy, surely we can manage another.)
I’ll close with a quote I came across at the beginning of Gluten-Free Girl and the Chef, which says it all:
“It seems to me that our three basic needs, for food and security and love, are so mixed and mingled and entwined that we cannot straightly think of one without the others. So it happens that when I write of hunger, I am really writing about love and the hunger for it, and warmth and the love of it and the hunger for itâ€¦ and then the warmth and richness and fine reality of hunger satisfiedâ€¦ and it is all one.” — M.F.K. Fisher
— posted by Anne, channeling Donna, my culinary muse