Learning From Those Who Have Gone Before - Kitchen Ramblings and Other Things My Mother Taught Me...With a Twist Blog at Allrecipes.com - 283133

Kitchen Ramblings and Other Things My Mother Taught Me...With a Twist

Learning From Those Who Have Gone Before 
Aug. 31, 2012 9:46 am 
Updated: Sep. 2, 2012 5:26 am
What do you suppose was the most frequently asked question during last weekend's International Food Bloggers Conference in Portland, OR? Not surprisingly, it was "what is the name of your blog?" After introducing oneself, that's the logical first question at these types of events. Same old, same old right?


Beyond that opening line, the question that I was asked most often during the conference, was "How can I help you?"

Yep. You read that right.

So here they are, approximately 300 folks who blog about food - literally COMPETITION for one another in terms of followers, loyal readership, sponsorship dollars, ad revenue and "popularity" and the question I, a newbie blogger, get asked most often? "How can I help?"
I worked in corporate America for a lot of years and worked with a ton of great people many of whom I depended upon daily and miss dearly. But I have never been in the midst of so many people who genuinely want to help each other succeed. I spent most of the event dumbfounded by the generosity of the attendees (and sponsors too). Having been an attendee, speaker, organizer etc of many a conference "back in the day" had not prepared me for this wonderful experience and literally left me awestruck at the fact that the offers of help weren't merely lip-service, but the genuine article.

I was able to attend the conference thanks in large part to Allrecipes.com who sponsored my ticket to the conference and to my partner-in-crime (aka "boyfriend") who booked my airfare using some of his last remaining airline award miles. Love you baby! Oh, and Allrecipes, I love you too.
I've been dabbling in blogging for a couple of years now wandering around the web doing a post here and a post there and have never really gotten to where I've been able to take myself seriously as a writer. Like many other folks, I've got many partial posts written, photos waiting in the wings, started up a few blogs on various free sites, became disenchanted for whatever reason and then let things linger and die only to have something renew my interest and begin again...somewhere else. So when I first read about IFBC 2012, I thought maybe attending this kind of event could be the kick in the uh...um...uh pants that I needed to get serious. How right I was.
There's a ton of other more experienced bloggers out there who will have done the conference better justice with their well-honed blogging skills but I'd love to share just a few of my personal highlights with you.

Last Friday afternoon, conference attendees were seated banquet style at round tables of 10 and were treated to a "speed dating like" tasting of the bounty of local food artisans put on by Travel Oregon.
Participants were tweeting and live blogging their way through some of the best foods Oregon has to offer. Our table had the opportunity to taste line caught Albacore tuna, sea salt hand harvested from the Oregon coast, award winning artisan chocolates, a delicious fresh brewed coffee (which was just what the doctor ordered at that time of the afternoon), artisanal beers, truffle salted caramel sauce, fresh jams and dungeness crab sushi rolls. Each purveyor had five minutes to introduce themselves, present their product, have us taste and then answer questions for each of us before moving on to their next table.

If you ever have been to an actual speed dating event, you will know the thrill and exhilaration we felt as each purveyor approached our table and a perhaps unfamiliar feeling for veteran speed daters, the yearning to have each one of them linger just a bit longer.
As if the speed date scenario had not provided adequate sustenance for us, the evening agenda - a type of grand tasting event featured both Oregon fine wines and the Portland area's best restaurants. I must admit that when it comes to wine, I am generally partial to those of Washington state and those of the big, bold blends, Cabs and Syrahs that Washington does so well. My mindset has always been that the Pinot Noirs for which Oregon is famous are a little "light" for my palate. Trust me when I say I am no expert, but I know what I like and I like them big, bold and kinda jammy.

But...beggars shant be choosers and I went into the tasting event with both glasses blazing. I wasn't able to taste them all because if I had I would surely have been asked to retire quickly to my room so as to avoid an "incident" in the hotel lobby. The standout wines for me that night were the BeckhamPinot Noir - both the 2009 and 2010 vintages. Simply outstanding. I have to give both props and apologies to the many fine chefs who prepared tastings for our stand up dinner Friday evening. I was so fascinated by the pig butchering demo put on by Camas Davis, that I could not tear myself away for dinner and retired to my hotel room that evening dreaming of the possibilities of pulled pork and crispy pork belly.

Saturday was filled with learning opportunities from some of the food writing world's cream of the crop, for me that included Kathleen Flinn, Tori Avery, Gabi Moskowitz, Kelly Senyei, Stephanie O'Dea, Rand Fishkin in addition to meeting countless number of other endlessly helpful veteran food bloggers. Saturday evening's sit down dinner was put on by Wildwood Restaurant and Chef Dustin Clark and wines were provided by Domaine Drouhin and Kings Estate.
Any food blogger worth their salt knows that a blog needs pretty pictures. As with any print medium, readers SAY that they are just there for the articles, but we know its the pictures that grab their attention and keep readers scrolling and clicking. Blog readers are visual types and there are very few mediums where that holds truer than in food blogs. On Sunday, the closing session of the conference was a three hour food photography session (worth more than the conference admission price on its own) put on by the often, if not intentionally, hilarious duo of Chef John Mitzewich of FoodWishes fame and awesome photographer Andrew Scrivani. Their session epitomized the tone of the conference for me, two wildly successful professionals gifting each attendee with their insider info on cooking, food, tastes, camera setting, lighting, tricks of the trade and humor.

I left the conference my head spinning with even more ideas than I had when I had gotten on the plane last Thursday. Both my laptop and my cell phone were on low battery and I was over anxious to find a quiet corner with an available plug in at the airport. I sat on the floor, ideas spilling out onto the carpet while my devices charged at a snails pace. I had to capture these ideas on "paper" while they were still fresh and my "stream of consciousness" was spilling its bounty.

I had gone to IFBC to learn from those who had gone before me. To learn what NOT to do when starting a food blog, to begin to pinpoint my food writers point of view, to observe and absorb from those most successful and to gather well vetted information on the tools of the trade. But what I really learned during those three days was that despite all that good advice on the "right way to do things", sharing my passion and my true authentic self are the most important attributes to harness and grow...everything else is gravy. And who doesn't love a good gravy or a perhaps a poutine in honor of all my new Canadian blogging friends?

Good then, I know exactly what to do next. Now..."how can I help?"

Aug. 31, 2012 10:01 am
Awesome! Thank you with us. sharingI need to pick your brain! :) It sounds like you had a jam packed, fun filled 3 days. Isn't it nice to be surrounded by helpful people?
Aug. 31, 2012 10:19 am
Beautiful post Jan! It was great to meet you and spend time together while bouncing from meal to meal, session to session.
Aug. 31, 2012 11:19 am
What a fantastic weekend to have! My culinary experiences aren't very well rounded but I can thank the great friends I've made on AR for helping me out whenever I have questions. Thanks for sharing your weekend!
Aug. 31, 2012 5:43 pm
What an amazing opportunity! Thanks for sharing some of your experiences with us!
Sep. 1, 2012 8:22 am
This looks like a blast Jan. I cannot think of any better representatives of AllRecipes than you and Valerie. I look forward to more from both of you talented girls.
Sep. 1, 2012 9:02 am
What fun Jan! It's amazing how many wonderful people there are here on AR and everywhere who WANT to help. I am so very glad you had this fantastic opportunity to attend. Thank you for sharing and your photos are beautiful. Hugs.
Sep. 1, 2012 12:43 pm
I have been attending culinary classes at Whole Foods to broaden my knowledge base. Last night was a blind wine tasting of Old world whites and reds, vs. California whites and reds. I realize I did not have the vocabulary to express myself. Wish I had read your blog first because one of my favorites I know now can best be described as "jammy" Thanks for the tip. Keep blogging.
Sep. 1, 2012 3:39 pm
Thank you all so much for stopping by. It was an awesome opportunity and I'm very grateful and excited to have been able to participate.
Sep. 1, 2012 3:41 pm
Covergirl- I just make these things up. I'm certainly no expert, but I find that any words that you use to describe wine are fine - most people in the room will just agree with you because they don't know what they're doing either! Just enjoy. That's the best approach.
Sep. 1, 2012 4:17 pm
Thanks so much for writing about your experience. I really enjoyed your blog. Nice to "meet" you. :)
Sep. 2, 2012 5:26 am
Thanks AllieGeekPi. Nice to "meet" you too.
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Cookin Up A Storm

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Fergus Falls, Minnesota, USA
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Santa Cruz, California, USA

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Mar. 2010

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Baking, Grilling & BBQ, Stir Frying, Slow Cooking, Asian, Mexican, Indian, Italian, Quick & Easy, Gourmet

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About Me
I am a mid-life career changer who has enjoyed cooking (and eating) good food all her life. My Mom went to work when I was in the 5th grade and most days when I got home from school, she'd have left instructions for me to get dinner started. Cooking never felt like a "chore" back then and it certainly rarely feels like one now. During my 20 plus year career in IT, I traveled all over the US for work. And for fun, I traveled internationally. I have a fairly broad knowledge of food, but when cooking, I tend to stick to comfort foods and pretty much anything Italian. I have a big collection of Asian or eastern foods in my arsenal and I absolutely love their flavors. I am a professional chef who runs her own personal chef service.
My favorite things to cook
Comfort foods, soups, chilies, baked goods, candies at christmas, anything Italian, pizzas, homemade dressing for big salads when good veggies are at their peak, potstickers. Anything I can bake that's bad for you like doughnuts, coconut cakes with whipped cream frosting or fresh artisan breads slathered with butter. When I cook for clients, I am forced to move out of my comfort zone and I love trying new things. I especially love coming up with streamlined ways to make seemingly complicated food easy and accessible for everyone.
My favorite family cooking traditions
Mom's Potato Doughnuts - she's frying them as she was going into labor with my younger brother and then wasn't home to monitor how many I was eating over the next several days. I rarely stray from the Thanksgiving basics I grew up with. I do switch up the veggie dishes each year, but the basics remain pretty constant. My own tradition (not one I grew up with) is making Turkey Wild Rice soup from the leftovers. No better way to extend the taste of the holiday for me. Making Chili on a cold winter weekend, in honor of my Dad who made a batch nearly every weekend in winter as I was growing up. I don't use his recipe (too much Chili Powder and Dark Kidney Beans for my taste), but I do think of him when I make it.
My cooking triumphs
Mastering Gnocchi - so light and puffy, they are like clouds. A killer Vodka Sauce - never ever have I tasted one better. It took me a lot of tries to get it right. Artisan Bread in Five Minutes - from the book of the same name. Fresh bread...anytime. I always keep a few batches (Wheat, White, Semolina) in the fridge. Heat up the oven, shape the loaves, bake...yum. Homemade Caramels at Christmas time. I make both Vanilla and Chocolate Caramels and they are to die for. I give the Vanilla ones away as fast as possible, as I cannot stop myself from eating them.
My cooking tragedies
So many to list, such little space to write in.
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