Big Summer Potluck

I’m not a gambler by nature. The risks I take are calculated, not reckless.  However, there are moments when I throw caution to the wind, say what the hell, and let the chips fall where they may.  These moments are few and far between, but they do happen.  My most recent spontaneous, caution thrown to the wind decision involved me, one untested cookie recipe, a set of Mapquest directions, six hours of driving, 39 food bloggers, several food professionals, and three deer.

The destination was called the Big Summer Potluck.  Organized by women who know food, blogging, and photography – Maggy Keet and Sharon Anderson of Three Many Cooks and Erika Pineda of Ivory Hut – this was a day to come together with other food bloggers to talk about the challenges we all face. It was an opportunity to build our food blogging community, to support and encourage one another, to learn more about our craft, and to eat some amazing food.

These ladies pulled out all the stops.  On the agenda:

Pam Anderson (food columnist, cookbook author, Three Many Cooks food blogger, and former executive editor of Cook’s Illustrated) shared her thoughts on recipe development and recipe writing, in addition to graciously hosting us at her home.

Abby Dodge (food writer and instructor, cookbook author, and contributing editor to Fine Cooking magazine) demoed a dessert from her upcoming Desserts 4 Today cookbook (brilliant concept y’all…a cookbook full of desserts that utilize four ingredients), and shared some of her tips and tricks (stabilize whipped cream by replacing half the heavy cream with marscapone…yum).

Melissa DeMayo (food stylist extraordinaire) shared her food styling expertise and tips (texture, height, ingredient shots), demoed building the picture perfect sandwich, and told us the best way to do {fill in the blank with your question of choice} is whatever results in the prettiest shot.

Erika Pineda (photojournalist, sports photographer, and Ivory Hut blogger) spoke about the Holy Trinity of photography (Aperture, Shutter Speed, and ISO), point and shoot vs. dslr, and processing.

We had a lively discussion about video content and media campaigns with Auritt Communications.

And then there was Alice.  Alice Currah of Savory Sweet Life and Everyday Alice.  Alice Currah who was named one of Forbes.com’s “Eight of The Very Best Food Bloggers” and Saveur’s food photography “Cover Contest” winner. Maybe you’ve heard of her?  She’s the bomb.  Alice spoke to us about the importance of being authentic in our craft, speaking (and blogging) from the heart and from what we know, carving our own niche out of the blogosphere while also supporting and encouraging and honoring other food bloggers.

I go on and on about The Universe this and The Universe that and it may sound trite but hear me out.  I was originally supposed to be in New York city for BlogHer this summer.  My plans changed and I didn’t have the opportunity to attend and to finally meet in person some of the people that I have grown to think of as part of my extended family.  And I was disappointed about that.  But The Universe more than made up for it by getting me to Big Summer Potluck.  BlogHer is mega big. It’s huge.  Which for my socially awkward self is completely overwhelming.  Big Summer Potluck was intimate.  It was warm and welcoming.  It was a conversation among old friends who may have just met each other that morning.  It was exactly where I needed to be.

Remember my post You Might Be A Food Blogger If… That’s how Big Summer Potluck made me feel.  I was anxious about walking into a room with an untested recipe (and we know I have strict rules about untested recipes) where I didn’t know a soul.  My lack of navigational skills resulted in me getting lost in rural Pennsylvania and being the very last person to arrive 30 minutes late.  Hello, I consider showing up on time being late.  And yet, once I set foot in the door all of that melted away.  I was embraced by these people.  I was part of their tribe.  I belonged.  And isn’t that what we all want?  To be accepted.  To be validated.  To be inspired.

There was laughter.  Warm sun, clear skies, and cool breezes.  Amazing products supplied from KitchenAid, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, New West Knifeworks, The Spice House, Fine Cooking, Green Valley Organics, Green Mountain Coffee, Cypress Grove Chevre, Naturally Nora, and Lindsay Olives.   And incredible food.  Because you have to know that at a food blogger get together we’re going to nosh on good eats.  To see people who know and make good food eat my potluck contribution and have their faces light up was priceless.  In my head, I sounded like an insecure adolescent saying OMG, Alice Currah is eating my cookie and she LIKES it!!!  There may have also been jazz hands and the Peanuts dance going on in my head as well.  I was too excited in the moment to accurately recall now.

So I’ve been quietly sending my thanks back to The Universe for giving me the opportunity to be part of Big Summer Potluck.  For the people who made it all possible and the people whose presence made it what it was.

I’ve also been thanking The Universe for allowing me to come to a complete stop on that winding back road in time not to hit the deer that decided to pop out of nowhere and lazily cross the road.  I don’t know if there is any symbolic meaning to seeing three massive bucks other than the obvious – slow down.  But that is one of the small moments from the weekend I hope to hang on to.  Yes Universe, sometimes I hear what you’re trying to tell me loud and clear.

Hungry for more Big Summer Potluck?  Check out:

Bread and Putter

Wenderly

Sugarcrafter

Smells Like Home

Tickled Red

Add A Pinch

The Sensitive Pantry

Three Many Cooks

Fine Cooking

The Dinky Kitchen

Dine & Dish

The Coquettish Cook

What’s Kookin’ In Kara’s Kitchen

How To Simplify

My Kitchen Addiction

Four Chickens

Modern Wench

The Ivory Hut

Smith Bites

Souffle Bombay

The Peche

She Wears Many Hats

Bluebonnets & Brownies

Abby Dodge

Do you wonder what a Big Summer Potluck looks like?  Check out Erika’s lovely photos of the day.

And stay tuned for the Peanut Butterfinger cookie recipe that I took a gamble on being Big Summer Potluck worthy.

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25 Responses to Big Summer Potluck

  1. JenniferA says:

    What a wonderful description of the event! I agree with so many of your points, like how intimate and welcoming it was, and especially the old friends we just met today! It was lovely to meet you.

    • Wendi says:

      Jennifer, I still kind of can’t believe that I was actually a part of that day. It really did feel like I was spending time with old friends.

  2. Jen W. says:

    If the Big Summer Potluck happens again, the organizers should hire you as a PR person because now I want to go next time! It sounds like the event really inspired you too.

    Also, I love the pictures!

    • Wendi says:

      Jen, the day was more than I could put into words. It was an extraordinary gift from The Universe. As the recaps start posting, I feel like I’m back there all over again.

  3. Amber says:

    Haha, I totally had that insecure adolescent moment too, when Alice came up to me to say she loved the Chicken Tropicale I made for the gluten-free folks to eat. I was like, OMG REALLY?

    I think we all went into the BSP feeling a little insecure. It’s scary to put yourself out there with people that you’ve never met face to face. It’s so easy to hide behind a computer screen. And then there are those of us who are not nearly as articulate in person as we are online *raises hand* – it can be downright terrifying.

    But you hit the nail on the head. This is our tribe. And I think the 39 of us, plus speakers, will be very close in the year ahead. I think we are already.

    • Wendi says:

      Amber, the more BSP recaps I read this morning, the more I see the theme of anxiety over fitting in being completely vanquished by the warmth and genuineness of everyone there. Deep down, even the most confident of us (and that’s totally not me) want to be accepted.

      The funny thing is that we grow up being told don’t talk to strangers, beware of people you meet online, etc. And what the hell did we do? We ignored those rules, had a fabulous day, and didn’t end up with our picture on the back of a milk carton.

  4. Tracy says:

    Loved reading your post! I totally agree, it was such a warm and welcoming event and I loved the small group setting. I’m so glad to have met you and wish we could have chatted more!

    • Wendi says:

      Tracy, next time I will make a point of coming out of my shell more and talking to more people. This was good practice for me going into IFBC at the end of the month.

      I am so hoping there are future BSP events.

  5. Food, on its own, has amazing anti-anxiety properties but when it’s being shared with others who have the same passion, enthusiasm and love for the craft? It’s like getting hugged by a unicorn.

    I wish I could’ve been there. I have until next year to brush up on my Bawlmerese.

    • Wendi says:

      Ali, I wish you could have been there to be hugged by that unicorn too! I must now go tweet that description. I have a feeling that the BSP folks are going to love it.

  6. Brooke says:

    What a fun idea! Glad to see you got to meet up with some food bloggers. I’d love to meet up with some food bloggers… I can only imagine the spread. *heavenly*

    • Wendi says:

      Brooke, all you have to do is move to Baltimore, or let me move in with you, and you become BAH’s official photographer. So when I go to food events, you go to. It’s a total win-win. And yes, the food was *heavenly*.

  7. Okay, now I’m totally jealous.

    I had my own universe moment today…I thought I was having a bad day, and then on my way home I passed a multi car accident on the beltway–one of the cars was flipped over. Big reminder that things aren’t really that bad.

    • Wendi says:

      Beth, sometimes we just have to open our eyes to the possibilities. And also to the reminders that sometimes things really aren’t as bad as we think.

  8. Emily says:

    this sounds like fun! remember, whatever you call it……the Universe puts you where you are supposed to be when you are supposed to be there and with those you need to be with. Much is learned from standing still and listening to what goes on in the Universe around you!

  9. Wendi, what a great opportunity! It sounds like a helluva party–thanks for sharing with us!

  10. alice says:

    What an amazing job you did at capturing the day in this post! Your cookies were awesome but not as awesome as meeting you! I’ve been to several conferences and workshops and this magical day in Bucks County, Pennsylvania was by far one the best one I’ve ever attended. I learned so much from the panelists but came away with a greater sense of community. You’re right.. we all want to be accepted, acknowledged, validated, and feel a sense of purpose to what we do. It was such a breath of fresh air to be among people who were for each other and the community building that organically happened that day was not only rare it was one of my best blogging adventures, ever. Glad we met and hope our paths cross again soon!

    Alice

    • Wendi says:

      Alice, I think all of us who attended would count this among one of our best blogging adventures as well. The entire day was a wonderful gift.

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  12. Wenderly says:

    Great post Wendi! Such a magical day filled with such inspiration, talent, and loveliness all around! So comforting to be with people who “get it” without even trying! Great to meet you, you make me *chuckle* love your sense of humor!

    • Wendi says:

      Wenderly, being surrounded by other people who understand why I do what I do is priceless. Much as my husband tries to be supportive, I don’t think he “gets it”. I’m surprised that a network of support groups for the spouses and significant others of food bloggers hasn’t sprung up. But I suppose as long as we keep making the food that we blog about, and the spouses get to enjoy it, they are willing to put up with the quirks that come along with deal.

      So nice to meet another member of the Wendi/Wendy club.

  13. Pingback: Peanut Butterfinger Cookies | Bon Appetit Hon

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