I spent the last two days at BlogHer Food, a conference attended by more than 300 food bloggers in San Francisco. I don’t know what’s more strange — that I have become a food blogger or that I chose to cloister myself with a crowd of people in a large, downtown hotel on a beautiful weekend. Both of those things surprise me.
Yesterday at lunch, there was a field trip to the enormous Ferry Plaza Farmer’s Market. Many attendees scurried off on a conference-sponsored scavenger hunt, but I wandered around in a sun-struck daze, getting drunk on color. (Later, when the winners of the scavenger hunt walked away with their $250 and $500 gift cards I thought I could have been more ambitious, because I really would like a new food processor. But I got some good crispy chicken tacos from Mijita and a handful of grapes instead.)
Just before leaving the market, I freaked out when I discovered that I’d run out of blog calling cards — one of the most essential things to have in your pocket at an event like this. Finding a substitute became my personal scavenger hunt. Could I scrawl my URL on olive leaves? How about candy wrappers? Finally, I snagged a deck of Backyard Birds playing cards from The Gardener and scribbled my name and blog information on the backs of them. I thought they were sweet and figured if I got bored, I could lure someone into a game of blackjack.
But boredom wasn’t a problem at BlogHer Food. The event was packed with interesting discussion panels. It was only a matter of finding where you felt most at home. I slipped away from the panel on styling food photography and happily settled in with a smaller group discussion on urban farming. These were some very cool panelists, I must say: Novella Carpenter, author of Farm City; Margo True, Sunset Magazine editor and blogger at One Block Diet; Agrarianista Joshua Stark; all moderated by the relentlessly interesting Hunter, Angler, Garderner, Cook — Hank Shaw.
Even smaller was the group discussion on canning, preserving, and foraging, but we were a passionate few, led by Sean Timberlake from Punk Domestics, Marisa McClellan from Food in Jars, and Audra Wolfe from Doris and Jilly Cook. These are my people. Foraging expert Hank Shaw joined this panel, too, and I can’t believe how much I’ve learned from him since yesterday. How come I didn’t know that I could gather huckleberries right here in West Marin?
Anyway . . .
The colors of things.
One of the benefits of a conference like this is that it allows you to reflect on what inspires you, what you value. There was plenty of good information about making your blog a business: branding, marketing, SEO. I’m not indifferent to such things. I want people to read my blog. It would be great to make some money. But mostly I’m like, “Oooh, look at the boat . . .”
Seriously, it just dawned on me that I can take the ferry from here in Marin County right to the door of one of the most renowned (and, yeah, expensive) farmer’s markets in the world — and I never do. That’s going to change.
Finally, as you might guess, there was also some food at this event. Plus a few parties, with a lot of grown up goodie bags. The very best thing, though? The people. This weekend’s biggest surprise was how warm, generous, and just plain delightful a critical mass of food bloggers can be. With or without the bacon martinis.