Work has been awful, lately. Awful as in “I don’t want tonight to be over, because tomorrow morning I’ll have to go to the office again”. To say I don’t like to think or write about it is a polite understatement, yet this is a necessary introduction to my round-up of Food Blogger Connect 5.
The first day, Friday, I woke up tired and underslept, all the week’s negativity still haunting me: thoughts of being good for nothing, having lost trust in people, and similar pleasantries. The experience I had been looking forward to for weeks was around the corner, and I couldn’t even manage a smile. “This doesn’t look good”, I said to my partner. “Get over yourself”, he replied, “you know you’ll love this weekend”. He was right: I loved FBC5.
We could spend the next half hour debating whether all sessions were relevant to the audience, enough time was allocated to all speakers, and the offer of food lived up to expectations. However, an experience is what your heart makes of it, and what I found was much more than talks and quirky street parties. I found purpose, and hope for a passion I’ve been so far confining to late evenings after work. I stepped into a world in which I felt far more myself than I do when I’m sitting at a desk compiling paperwork, or stuck in office meetings. I met and listened to inspiring people, made new friends, said “It was lovely meeting you” and “Let’s keep in touch” – and meant it every single time.
FBC5 started with food. Four market stalls parked outside Battersea Arts Centre, and an encouragement to us attendees to dive in. Although, as many others, I was expecting bigger portions, small helpings of Pig a Chic Thai skewers and Dorshi barley sushi didn’t put me off much: only meant I could save my appetite for afternoon tea treats!
The day’s talks were lovely. I thoroughly enjoyed David Lebovitz, Niamh Shields of Eat Like a Girl, and Poires Au Chocolat‘s Emma Gardner talking about what makes a successful blog: in a nutshell, loving what you do, finding your own space to be creative, and making sure anything you engage with feels right to you in the first place.
However, what struck me the most were relationships. The ease with which people bonded with each other, the things in common we so quickly and effortlessly found. I discovered many realities that reflected and completed my own, and loved hearing each and every one of these stories. All in all, I hope to have built something that lasts: be it for a chat over the internet, a catch up around a cup of coffee and a slice of cake, or a get together during one of my next trips abroad, I’d love to stay in touch with every single foodie friend I made last weekend. Fingers crossed it’s mutual!
A special thank-you goes to Jen, who helped me ease my fears of being stuck in a dead-end job. “You don’t need to worry”, she said to me, “You’re young. You can live so many lives”. I guess I needed to hear these words from someone who left a 15-year career to enrol to pastry school, to believe that life will work out for me, too.
Day 2: Tell the story
The second day of FBC5 began with photographer Penny De Los Santos sharing her experience of documenting food and people from all over the world. There’s one memorable quote I will take with me: “It’s a privilege and a responsibility to photograph people. Honour them by telling their story”. Her encouragement to get to “where life really happens”, by considering the people and labour beyond a beautiful plate of food, was one of the most valuable pieces of advice of the day.
More inspiration was on the way, when a panel of attendees who published a cookbook appeared on stage. Veronica, author of Muy Bueno Cookbook, and Giulia of Juls’ Kitchen, linked their recipes to their memories, heritage and everyday life; as I listened to them, I felt a thought slowly forming in my mind. An idea for a book of my own. A storyline. Food for thought for the next couple of years, and definitely something to hold on to while the daily routine unfolds.
More afternoon tea treats were on the way, too. Although I wasn’t brave enough to try dipping strawberries in pepper, Petit Gateau‘s macarons and cakes were worth a second (and third) round.
The evening was all set for the launch of founder Bethany Kehdy‘s cookbook, The Jewelled Kitchen. What better way to present a book about Middle Eastern cuisine, than with a themed food feast?
The last day of FBC5 provided us with yet more tips on how to make the most of our food projects. Dana Elemara‘s talk on how to start an artisan food business was particularly inspiring. Her tips were more than just professional advice: asking for help when we need it, focusing on what we feel is really valuable, and accepting that compromise and sacrifice may be necessary, are lessons that apply to all aspects of life. Simple as they may seem, we sometimes tend to forget them. I know I do – and Dana’s words were a reminder of how important they are.
Day 3 was also the day of CHObrunch: a speech by Chobani’s Director of Consumer Engagement Emily Schildt, followed by one hour of brunch awesomeness. Although I steered clear of salmon sandwiches, scrambled eggs and bacon bagels (I’m a sweet tooth, y’know), I had to try my CHObrunch contest-winning recipes, and the experience didn’t disappoint. At each bite of muffin or spoonful of parfait, the taste in my mouth was that of of the exciting weekends spent experimenting in my kitchen.
I’m slowly catching up with all the lovely blogs I discovered over the weekend (from even lovelier people!). This will probably be my last post until I come back from holidays in the homeland; in the meantime, I hope to hear from you. Have you been to Food Blogger Connect 5, and how was your experience? Chances are we already met – but if not, this could be a good excuse to have a chat!