Food bloggers to be friends with
This weekend at BlogHer Food I met some amazing bloggers. At lunch I gossiped with Sassymonkey and her friend the marine scientist who was carrying around a crocheted lobster, whose name and blog I wish I knew! At lunch, Mrs. L from Pages, Pucks, and Pantry and Karen from Cook4Seasons were sitting next to me. Mrs. L writes about scrapbooking, hockey, and food, a great combination!
Karen just finished chef school to be a Natural Chef. Cool! I got them to talk about Typepad, WordPress, Blogspot, and how they felt about blogging platforms and their code -- my favorite subject right now. How do BlogHeristas feel about the software they use? How into it do they want to be? Do they aspire to look under the hood and control what's going on? Or do they long for their very own pet web developer to take care of things? Opinions were divided, as some people want to focus just on writing, photography, and of course… food! Others were more open to treating their blog templates just like they'd treat learning to make a pie crust or bake a loaf of bread.
This is my soapbox (yay blogging!) so I'll tell you what I found from the many conversations at BlogHer Food. Bloggers tend to start out on Blogspot/ Blogger, because it's free, and many continue along there very happily, eventually creating custom themes or adding more and more elements to fancy up their sidebars. People who can afford to pay a bit for hosting, and want technical support but who also want to run ads, tend to start out or move to Typepad. There is definitely a core of Movable Type users as well. The perception I saw was that some bloggers went with WordPress because of its reputation and the idea of having control over their own software and platform. In each group of bloggers, some of them hire consultants or get friends to do their coding, and others learn to tinker with their sites. Universally there was a bit of a guilty reaction, as if people felt they "should" know more or do more. Was that me guilting people out? Or is it the technology and something of a gender issue? It also may be a communication style issue, because people who I know are expert all said they weren't.
I liveblogged two panels in the afternoon. How Food Blogs Can Save the World absolutely rocked. Lydia was earnestly passionate about bringing fun, happiness, and respect in the form of COOKIES to families in women's shelters. I loved her point about it being good to do something beyond meeting a person in trouble's basic needs. Because, hello, when do you need cookies more than when you're down?! She described the process of starting up a cookie decorating an donating event. What she does now is to facilitate other bloggers hosting events locally, hooking up with local shelters. Pim's vivaciousness and full life came through in her talk, clearly a fun person who loves the net, and who figured out how to balance her regular blogging and a fantastic yearly event that raises thousands of dollars and keeps people involved. I love when she said "Oh, it's BlogHer, I can say this here!" Exactly! Yes you can! And Valerie represented her blogging group with quiet, steadfast authority describing exactly what they do and how they began interacting with United Nations groups like the World Food Programme. They were all impressive. If you want to use your food blogger powers to do some activism, I recommend you read the panel transcript and take a look at all of their blogs.
The other panel I liveblogged was The Meaning of Identity and the Value of Voice in a Crowded Blogosphere. In other words, identity and voice. The panelists, Ree, Garrett, Dianne, and Susan, spoke as writers. They were all fantastic speakers! For the rest of the day, I searched for Susan Russo from Food Blogga, who writes about cooking as an Italian-American from Rhode Island, so I could ask her if she grew up shopping at Ruggieri's or what. The discussion between Dianne and several journalists in the audience was especially interesting, as they talked honestly about moving back and forth between traditional print media, newspaper or magazine journalism, and blogging, where they had to work to develop a personal voice that journalism trained them out of using.
During one of the breaks, I ate incredible mushroom soup that tasted like bacon and talked with Consuming Lilly, an extremely geeky anthropologist of food history and I think women's history. She along with a few other people really made my day by telling me that my talks at BlogHer Boston and DC helped them grow more confident about the technical aspects of their blogs!
Then there were the parties! I hung out with an extremely lively crowd of women including Megan from Not Martha and Whitney from Ugly Green Chair. We had some good dirty low down blogging and Silicon Valley gossip going on and a LOT of giggling. I don't know who started it, but someone told someone else to go order a "silver fox" cocktail from a particular bartender. The joke was that the *other* bartender was a rather handsome and distinguished looking older man with silvery hair. So, the hapless blogherista who went up to order a silver fox, a cocktail which apparently doesn't exist? Marcello the St. Regis bartender poured one out for her, made up on the spot, and didn't even wink. For the rest of the evening he brought us all "Silver Foxes" and cosmopolitans. At the next party I ate super delicious tiny tacos and Scharffenberger chocolate mousse cakes and incredible things from Foodzie - I especially recommend the Mayan chocolate caramel candies. Then hung out a little while with Grace Davis: Pioneer Woman has a cute photo of us!
Talking to so many food bloggers opened my eyes to the world of storytelling, technical skill, family history, and politics that make up the craft of writing about food. Everyone I talked to was multi-dimensional, thoughtful, funny, and laid back. Or maybe that's just the sorts of people who came up to talk to me and I'm lucky that way. But it's my impression that this small gathering of food bloggers tapped into incredible talent. Just like the first BlogHer conference attracted a lot of the most passionate writers on the net, this first BlogHer Food conference I think will be a real catalyst for a core of very dedicated women and men.