I am sorry for my unexplained absence, planes, trains and jalopies whisked me off to faraway destinations like Los Angeles and Atlanta over the past week and change. In Los Angeles I ate extremely well (Gjellina, anyone?) and furthered my career while spending time with people who know very little about the intricacies of working in the food space. It was refreshing, filling, and resulted in the purchase of a new dress. In Atlanta I ate beige conference food and nearly decided to end my career as a food blogger after spending time with people who think they know very much about the intricacies of working in the food space. It was vapid, draining, and resulted in the purchase of a one-way Marta ticket out of town.
Don’t get me wrong, Atlanta charmed my daisy dukes off. A city full of sticky heat, impeccably-dressed women and many, many gay men is a place after my own heart. An urban belle insisted there was no way I was from Seattle as she took in my fuchsia confectionary attire replete with matching shoes. Then she leaned in further and exclaimed “Oh yes, I see it! You are from Seattle- you are wearing way too little makeup.” I can only imagine how crazy a girl like me could be in a city as decadent as Atlanta. Also, I am proud to say I resisted the urge to call it “Hotlanta” throughout the duration of my visit, but it was very, very hard. I do hope the locals have a drinking game in place wherein every time a tourist says “Hotlanta” they ring a cowbell and force a Zima down the tourist’s gullet.
The problem was the food bloggers conference. These conferences are billed as a great way to network, come home with piles of fancy Swag (another word which deserves banishment along with Hotlanta, Moist and Awesome spelled with no “E” in the middle), and get a chance to hobnob with people wildly-famous in this fringe world but virtually-unknown outside it. Imagine you are an entomologist and you have the chance to meet William Kirby. I am sure this gets your cockroaches wet like cockles, but to the rest of the world, he is just another guy with a pocket protector who can’t handle his liquor and deliberately drops pens in order to look up women’s skirts.
As I see it, in order to successfully social climb in my chosen profession, it helps if you “develop recipes” for at least 10 major food companies (Starkist Tuna and Butterball Turkey better be on the list), are a gay man, and have arms like daggers so you can elbow pierce any potentially more intriguing conference attendees who set sights on your prey (aka someone more famous, even, than you). Does this sound like a scene you want to be a part of? There are many lovely people who attend these conferences and I want to make it clear that I am not talking about them, only the few spoilt pomegranate arils who suck the juice from the fruit.
This conference was entitled Blogher Food, and I realize “Blogher” is possibly the worst word ever invented. I use the term “invented” generously- probably they came up with it after a night involving one too many peach schnapps daiquiris sitting around a table with a bunch of women who look like overweight versions of their poodles. My takeaway from Blogher Food was almost to quit what I’m doing, and certainly to never attend another conference populated by people who write for the sole purpose of gaining sponsors and advertisers. I mean, there is HONESTLY a contingency of people who call themselves “Walmart Moms” and as far as I can tell, they are tickled with the moniker. I would move for mandatory tubal ligation among this set, but I would probably be crushed to death against a dumpster in a dark alley by a mysterious minivan sporting both “honor roll” and “Palin USA” stickers on the bumper.
But then I remembered that I blog because I NEED to write. I write for me and for the rest of the people out there just “off” enough to realize I am not a major security threat to their front bums barely concealed by mom jeans and fanny packs. My laptop imploded midway through the Atlanta foray and I realized just how crippled I am without a means to communicate on the page. I also blog because frankly, I like to share the things I do with food with the world so that people not heavily-entrenched in the food community can see that it’s about more than just cake pops, sprinkles, cupcakes, cornflake chicken and all the other loathsome, pointless foods in existence. I realize this does not make me terribly marketable, per se, but at the end of the day I have to be true to myself and hey, if I say I LIKE something, you damn well can trust that I ACTUALLY like it.
One thing I really liked was this dish I conjured last week consisting of fava bean gnudi (which is like gnocchi made from ricotta), stinging nettle emulsion, and spring onions poached in elderflower cordial. I am plowing my way through noma (decapitalization intentional, that’s how they write it), the cookbook featuring recipes from the best restaurant in the world of the same name. Noma is all about pride of place in a place that was previously-deemed to not have much to be proud of in the way of culinary tradition. Denmark was considered a hinterland, lacking in the truly great foods of the world like foie gras and lobster, and yet Rene Redzepi made do with what he had to the tune of trumping even El Bulli for the esteemed San Pellegrino top honor. The recipes in noma for me are not so much meant to be followed to a tee, but rather to act as springboards to showcase my terroire. As such, I have started a little snail farm from which I hope to harvest escargot soon, and I put practically every bush and berry in my mouth during my daily runs in order to discover foods that might not be obviously edible. These “put it in your mouth” experiments are frequently disgusting but have yet to prove fatal. Hint- do not deep fry lambs’ ears- eating them is like going down on the bearded lady from the circus after she’s worked herself into a hot and hairy dither.
Fava beans and ricotta combined with a little flour and salt form tufts of gnudi soft like poached meringues. Nettles emulsified in butter with lemon prove that strength in simplicity often trumps excessive manipulation, as with a good pie crust. The spring onions in elderflower cordial add a shot of color and sweet tang punch up the graphite flavors in the rest of the dish. I get bored easily. This meal captivated my attention for days because it was complex in the way that a really good film stays with you, and every time you watch it again there is a nuance you missed, and yet, it comes out on the plate as effortless.
This is how I want to exist: thoughtfully put-together, honest about the elements that compose me, aesthetically-balanced like good art, but never trying hard to be someone I am not, because it doesn’t ring true, during conferences or daily life.