Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Big Summer Potluck: On Inspiration and Community

Words of wisdom, of experience, of inspiration. Words that came while we sat in a beautiful darkened barn, with harsh sunlight pouring in from the windows and a brisk breeze blowing out the East Coast humidity.

Words that I took to heart when I returned home and realized my take on the story hadn't quite gelled yet. There was too much going on. Once the plane's wheels touched down in Lindbergh Field and I was in a taxi heading along our stunning harbor, my calendar began to rapidly fill. My primary application for medical school was verified, I had a lot of catching up to do at work, a bunch of friends to see, and my blogging anniversary passed. Instead of rushing this post, I decided to enjoy the people and get the work done.

I've had the opportunity to see, meet, and spend time with some amazing people in the last month. It's fitting that this post is about people and inspiration.

A few months ago, I eaves-tweeted (or is that tweets-dropped?) on a Twitter conversation between Amanda of What We're Eating, Nicole of Pinch My Salt, and Lori of Recipe Girl, during which they talked about tickets to an event called Big Summer Potluck. Intrigued, I checked it out and, lo and behold, there were a handful of tickets left. The brainchild of Maggy of Three Many Cooks and Erika of The Ivory Hut, a small-ish gathering of bloggers to meet, eat, and listen to speakers Penny de los Santos, Shauna Ahern, Pam Anderson, and Justin Schwartz.

In. I was totally in.

I clicked BUY immediately and snatched up one of the last tickets. As I looked over my confirmation, the one little part I'd initially glossed over hit me in the face.

Um, this shindig was going to be in eastern Pennsylvania. San Diego is about as far as you can be without leaving the continental United States.

It ended up being a trip about friendship. Seeing old friends who once lived mere blocks or miles away in San Diego. Meeting new ones at Big Summer Potluck. Somewhere along the way, I decided to leave the camera in the bag and enjoy the moments. Little did I know that Shauna would talk about living in the moment. Her words seems so much more poignant because I was already trying to live by them.

There's Sally of Cooking Lessons, whom I'd met at Food Blog Camp. I didn't know many of the bloggers at BSP, but they all made me feel very welcome. Although I knew this was a community that would stick by each other, it took a tragedy to show how powerful that community was.

It started with dinner in the amazing home of Pam, Maggy, and Sharon of Three Many Cooks. People brought delicious items to share, including a delightful margarita from Souffle Bombay, gazpacho from Sally, and brown butter rice krispie treats from In Jennie's Kitchen.

We reconvened the next day in that stunning barn. I listened, I learned, and I became absolutely crazy about this group of people. There was no pressure to network and no business cards handed out. Our meals were filled with Green Valley Organics, Kerrygold, and Popchips. There was a lot of laughing, a fair amount of sweating, and incredible generosity from hosts and guests.

Pam and Justin had a fan-side (it was so hot that even the word "fire" was verboten) chat about publishing and cookbook-writing. It was so interesting and, even though I have no desire to write a cookbook, the chat was chock-full of great information. If you want to publish a cookbook, these two are great resources with Pam writing cookbooks and Justin editing and publishing them.

Shauna talked about writers living each moment twice: once when it happens and once more when recapturing it with words. I was so caught up in what she was saying that I forgot to snap a picture of her speaking. She talked about how we can be too caught up in editing that we lose what we're trying to say. She encouraged us to write about what inspired us and to write when inspired. There is a difference between visitors and readers and Shauna thoughtfully sorted those differences, making me realize that I write more authentically when I'm writing for readers. You know, those of you who actually read my drivel more than once (thank you!!).

Penny told an amazing story about taking the near-impossible shot and then sitting back and living in the moment. She also said that photography was about getting to know who people are and honoring them with one effin' great picture. The funny thing was that she didn't have access to media for her talk, so she talked about pictures without showing any. And what a talk it was... Penny effectively created pictures with her words. No visual aids needed. Dan was a little dismayed when I told him I was giving up my dream of med school to live behind my camera.

I'm kidding. I think.

Our meals were delicious and gluten-free, including desserts that took an insane amount of time to reach us due to traffic. Major props to the folks at Cherbourg Bakery for making a delicious gluten-free lemon bar.

If you're going to make paella, then it should be done in style. Here's Pam using a shovel-spatula to stir the paella. It was impressive and delicious. This came at the end of an awesome day and I didn't want to leave.

We learned at BSP that it takes 8-seconds of hugging to get those feel-good brain juices flowing. Big 8-second hugs to Erika, Maggy, Pam, Sharon, Penny, Shauna, Justin, and all of the wonderful family, friends, and bloggers who made Big Summer Potluck a smashing success! I hope I can join y'all next year.

Donate to Bloggers Without Borders--------------

Unfortunately, there is a sad postscript to Big Summer Potluck. Many of you have heard of the passing of Mikey, Jennie's husband. Jennie shared lots of goodies, in addition to those brown butter rice krispie treats, in celebration of food and community. The community has rallied to celebrate Mikey's life and to give Jennie and her daughters tons of love and support as they move forward.

There are a lot of amazing auctions happening, including an upcoming one from several San Diego food bloggers and me. If you would prefer to donate directly, please follow the button to the left. Thank you!

15 bites:

Margaret said...

I'm so glad you traveled all the way from San Diego.  It was definitely great meeting you, and glad to share the amazing experience together.  Great job with the photos; they are beautiful. 

Crazy Wheel Coffee said...

"She talked about how we can be too caught up in editing that we lose what we're trying to say." - This reminds me of the many times I had ideas running through my head and the moment I found the time to write them down, I've decided to just forget about it. Me and my fast-editing brain. :P Also, the no networking and no business cards handed out part must have been refreshing. :)

Erika said...

I'm so glad you came and I had a chance to meet you. As an ex pre-med student, I totally understand being pulled in other directions. I likewise know that most of the great doctors I know are also highly creative. So maybe there can be room for both? Looking forward to catching up with you next year---in person, at BSP3. :)

sunnyinsyracuse said...

It was so great to meet you cutie pie. I am glad you made the trek! What a fulfilling weekend and I can't wait to do it again!

MiDLiFe CrUiSeR said...

Hi Marie! I've been following your blog for a while now because I love your photos and your takes on places in San Diego.  My husband and I are planning on moving to there when we get tired of our RVing adventure.  I found your blog when looking for San Diego bloggers :)  I love the internet! I even have your blog bookmarked on my phone. 

I just realized I never publicly "followed" you, and wanted to add myself to your gallery of "readers" and not just "visitors".  This is the first time I'm commenting since your post really moved me.  Thank you for sharing your experiences from the potluck with all of us.  It really made me reflect on my blog, reasons why I blog, and my readers.

Hope we can stay in touch!

Magic of Spice said...

Looks like such an amazing time...everything looks and sounds so memorable. Glad you had such a fantastic experience :)

Tracy said...

Loved reading your recap, and it was so great to meet you! I'm so glad you made the trip San Diego. And, I'm glad you're in our football league, too! :-)

Marie said...

I've heard it's helpful to carry a notebook/notepad around, but I agree, it's hard to write those great ideas down when they come during busy moments. I'm not much of a networker, so BSP2's relaxed atmosphere fit me like a glove.

Marie said...

I certainly hope there's room for both! :) I need to be better, though, at not letting the blog be the first thing to go when life gets crazy.

Thank you so much for a wonderful weekend at BSP2! Hopefully we'll see each other before then, but if not, then BSP3 for sure. Big 8-second hug!

Marie said...

Thanks, Margaret! It was so great to meet you! Next year?

Marie said...

Me, neither! So glad to meet you, too! Thanks for seeking me out on Twitter way back in the beginning. It helped a lot knowing that I already "met" some of the participants when I was heading to BSP!

Marie said...

Thank you for your comment, Nellie! I really appreciate you following along. When you get to San Diego, you'll have to look me up. This is a great place to live. Enjoy your RV adventure! It sounds like one heck of a journey!

And yes, I believe, as bloggers, we always need to remember why we blog and who we're blogging for. If that ever becomes blurry, it might be time to step away.

Marie said...

Thank you!! Maybe you can go to BSP3 next year?

Marie said...

Great to meet you, too, and thank you for intro'ing me to the beautiful Canon 7D. Can't wait to have one of my own. And soooo glad to be playing fantasy football this year, but what makes it even better is that it's with food bloggers!

Magic of Spice said...

Sounds fun :)

15 bites