Wednesday, April 30, 2014

The Big Traveling Potluck

McKenzie and I don’t get to spend much time together in person anymore. 

That first summer over three years ago when Nourish RDs was born, McKenzie had a permanent bedroom at our home, complete with a duvet of pale yellow—her favorite color.  Over hours perched cross-legged on the sofa with laptops and coffee and long walks around Bellingham Bay, we laughed hysterically and shed equally as many tears as we planned and dreamed, bravely (but not fearlessly) creating the business and life we wanted.

When we wrote that first blog post, we knew we wanted the Nourish blog to be an extension of our business, a virtual place where people could come for encouragement and inspiration, a place supporting our heartfelt wish for everyone to stop making food so complicated already and to just eat real food and share it with those you love.  We’d share the truth (as we see it) about nutrition, and how to love yourself from the inside out—and stop being so hard on yourself.  We’d share recipes that make it less intimidating to eat well, with an emphatic assertion that food that’s good for you should taste good. 

And no, you don’t have to give up bread.

Have we succeeded?  We keep working on it.

This past weekend, I flew to California to meet McKenzie and we arrived together at The Big Traveling Potluck, a weekend of community and inspiration and sharing meals with like-minded food lovers—other food bloggers.  We wanted to see if we were doing this whole blog thing right.  And maybe make a few friends in the process.

The Big Traveling Potluck |
scenic view from Plateau Edge
Since we didn’t know anyone else at the event, that first night was a little overwhelming at the beginning.  However, we quickly found friendly faces among the crowd at Callaway Winery, and ended up having dinner with Dre and Renee from Earthbound Farm and chatting with Amelia from Eating Made Easy, who has a really great nutrition blog debunking nutrition myths.  You should read her blog, too.

The next day—unseasonably cold for an April day in the California dessert—found everyone seeking warmth in the sun at the scenic Plateau Edge.  Over a breakfast of chilaquiles, hot coffee and an amazing array of sweet offerings from Potluckers, we discovered Karen’s fascinating search for the truth behind her grandmother’s death, in the mountains of western North Carolina.  There’s more to food bloggers than just food.

The Big Traveling Potluck is not a structured, stiff conference.  It feels more like a casual weekend with friends who share a common passion.  But, there are speakers.  And the speakers were amazing and brave and moving.

Aron of Cannelle et Vanille spoke poignantly about the perils of striving for perfection—in blogging and writing and photography and life.  And how, perhaps giving up (at least some of) the pursuit for perfection and realizing the juxtaposition of beauty and imperfection frees us to see—and be or write—our truth.

Ashley of Not Without Salt persuaded us to date our blog, just like we would court a loved one.  To give it attention and kindness and heed our intuition when we sense our direction should shift, change, as our relationship—with our blog, with our readers—changes.  It's like anything else in lifewhatever we give our attention and energy to flourishes.

Cheryl of 5Second Rule gave both an insightful workshop and inspiring talk on the craft of writing, reminding us of the power of storytelling.  She explained when we take our readers on a journey of discovery, we all gain something in the process.  For it's really the stories that matterstories make blogging different from reading a cookbook, or even a magazine. Through our stories, our shared experiences, we grow together.

Hearing those three speakers talk about the struggle between privacy and authenticity, art and convention, striving forward or holding back reminded us of the power of the words and photographs we use to reach people, and to hold that sacred, both for ourselves and for our readers.

There were lighthearted workshops, too.  

Jordan and Jocelyn from This Girl Walks into a Bar showed us how to bottle cocktails, which we are so doing in a post coming soon.  Maggie from Eat Boutique graciously shared how to give love by personally packaging simple food gifts, like the citrus sea salt and lavender sugar we bottled.  And Deb and Rod from Smith Bites held a three-hour workshop on shooting (professional-looking) videos for our sites.  What could have been an awkward team experience with strong-minded entrepreneurs was warm and supportive and continued to build new friendships.  

The Big Traveling Potluck |
Jordan and Jocelyn from This Girl Walks Into a Bar
The Big Traveling Potluck |
citrus sea salt and lavender sugar, ideas from Maggie from Eat Boutique 
The Big Traveling Potluck |
Rose from Our Lady of Second Helpings, at our video demo
Did I mention we ate well?  Really well.

The Big Traveling Potluck |
ice cream break
The Big Traveling Potluck |
whole roasted cauliflower and flatbread at Saturday night's dinner
The Big Traveling Potluck |
brunch on Sunday
At the end of the weekend, we walked away with two things.  Okay three.  First, being a food blogger isn’t just writing about food.  It’s about creating an authentic conversation between us and our readers that is beneficial to both of us.  You know, like a relationship. 

We hope you feel that way.  We feel that way about you.

Second, food bloggers are really nice.  We met some really lovely people—people we were drawn to and hope we continue to get to know better. Our reading list grew, too.

Lastly and most importantly, McKenzie and I got to spend a weekend together, nourishing our friendship and remembering why we started this whole crazy game in the first place.

The Big Traveling Potluck |
best friends and business partners
A great big Thank You! to all of the sponsors who gifted us with so many goodies and helped make the weekend possible.  Gourmet Garden, Sabra, Earthbound Farm, KitchenAid USA, OXO, California Ripe Olives, Kerrygold and Fork in the Road.  These are all companies with outstanding products we love and use.  And we’re not being paid to say that.

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