As a relative newbie to professional journalism, a conference attendance is mostly handshakes and business card swaps. I recognize few people, and I'm unknown to most. I've been writing and reporting for just under five years, not all of it full time. I have a few professional "events" under my belt and they haven't all been friendly. I've handed my card with a smile to people who crinkle up the corner of their mouths and place my information on a nearby table, leave the card there and walk away -- all while I'm standing next to them. I've tried to share stories with fellow parents only to have judging eyes rolled at me and have shit like "If you read this so and so study, you wouldn't..." thrown my way.
My time in Memphis for the Association of Food Journalists conference in early September was refreshing. I met food journalists from all walks: bloggers, cookbook authors, newspaper editors and beat reporters. Each writer I met was as eager to get to know me as I was to know them.
I was finally with my people.
We talked about layoffs, adorable toddlers, getting drunk, raising rowdy teens and the joys of peer editing. Sure, I handed out cards. Each one was accepted graciously. I returned the favor. I even handed a card, and a copy of Crop Stories, to Kim Severson, who has one of my top five dream jobs. We had a honest-to-God conversation.
One thing I didn't expect was to become enamored with a trio of food bloggers, two Memphians and a Torontonian.
Cara Greenstein is in public relations, and runs her Caramelized blog in spare moments. She summed up her experiences as a local at a national food journalists conference in an engaging post titled, "Why The Memphis Food Scene Still Matters." A highlight:
Cookbooks are still selling. Recipes are still circulating. People want touchstones to that tribal fire of cooking and eating in a community. Memphis is providing that cultural currency with inter-generational restaurants that value tradition above all else. Orange Mound Grill’s 60-year-old sweet potato pie recipe will continue, according to founder Ms. Daisy Miller’s granddaughter. The Folk and Boggs families are committed to refocusing Memphis’ original steakhouse, Folk’s Folly. Kat Gordon shares her mom Jan’s toffee bar recipe with the entire city in Muddy’s bake shops. The city is committed to continuing that “cultural currency” element that clearly holds us all together.
Stephen David Wilson hails from Toronto, having grown up about an hour north, and made his first strip to the South for #AFJ2014. He runs a blog called A Hungry Man Travels. We didn't get to chat much until the last night when we drank wine on the Peabody Hotel rooftop and watched the Mississippi River do its thing. Walking through the National Civil Rights Museum, which we did on our last day, moved Stephen greatly. It was, in a way, an unmasking, a reality check, to see a violent version of the more-guarded racism he experiences as a black man in Canada. Stephen wrote eloquently about the experience here, and will continue to do so I'm sure.
Cheryl Malik wins "Website I'm most jealous of" award at the conference. Her 40 Aprons blog is stunning, thanks to her duel skills as a designer and photographer. Here is Cheryl exploring the devilish world of vegan raspberry-filled donuts. The post gives you the greatest sense of her visual and culinary style.