This post has been a long time coming. I’d love to have an excuse for this but the truth is: it’s hot, I’m not built for heat, and so I’ve been napping after work. Such is the life of a ginger.
Last weekend, I woke early, tried to fashion my appearance into something other than “sweaty mess”, and nipped across London to volunteer at my very first Food Blogger Connect conference. To say I was nervous would be a huge understatement. I’d never met anyone there before, and with a blog that’s only 7 months old, I was well aware that most people would have no idea who I am.
We were blessed to have a team that really cared about making everything the best it could be, even if that meant spending half the day going up and down stairs with jugs of water. As for assembling the goodie bags: I’m pretty sure there are boot camps less intensive than that. We quickly developed a level of camaraderie that can take months to build in a normal setting – but once you’ve held your arms up while someone else douses you in spray deodorant, there’s no turning back. And when you’ve wiped sweat off your upper lip while the other person gracefully pretends you aren’t clearly leaking from every pore you have, you’ve definitely reached the point of no return.
Of course, outside the volunteering team, I met yet more bloggers, some of whom I’d been following for years. What became clear was that these bloggers were passionate and talented, but also really determined and innovative. Foodies, yes, but more strikingly inspiring ladies who persevere and work damn hard. With all the photography, social media and dealing-with-PRs chat – and despite the fact that I got all sorts of shy – it was like being returned to my tribe after a decade away. I could go on for hundreds of words about how much I enjoyed the weekend, but instead, here’s a summary of some of the highlights. For a fuller run-down of events, check out the liveblog I was working on over the weekend.
When I was a lot younger – young enough that this story comes from anecdotes, not memory – I pretty much lived on dairy products. Not for my parents’ lack of trying to get me to eat normally: I was just really into yoghurt and cheese and not much else. It took many (wasted) years for me to even eat bacon. Though I’m now marginally more normal, I have a far more rounded diet, but the love of cheese persists. Getting the cheese sweats is absolutely a “thing”. So when, on the Friday of FBC, I spotted La Fromagerie toting their wares, I got right in there to snaffle up some brie aux truffle. It was exquisite.
One of the biggest hits at the conference was Moose Maple Butter, and for good reason: maple butter on toast is potentially better than even chocolate spread on toast. It was my saviour at 1:30am the night of the afterparty when we discovered that nowhere in Clapham delivers pizza in the wee hours on Monday mornings. Absolutely cannot wait for it to hit the shops.
FBC founder Bethany Kehdy launched her debut cookbook, The Jewelled Kitchen, at the conference, marked by an incredible Middle Eastern feast (pictured above) that still makes me salivate when I think about it now. It’s not a cuisine I’ve ever explored but I did bring home some freekeh from Terra Rosa to get started with – the freekeh and pomegranate dish they made was incredible. I might have gone back for seconds (and thirds and fourths…).
One of my favourite discoveries of the weekend, Buddy’s bourbon beer, was actually squirrelled away in the goodie bags. I have no idea where to get it now, but considering it’s just about the only thing in my fridge right now, that’s probably a good thing.
It’s been hyped up a lot by FBCers over the past couple of weeks, but Chobani really was a bit of a godsend. Not just because it was gloriously, refreshingly cold, but because it was stored in really big fridges that I periodically put my face in.
I’d spoken to Claire of Claire Bakes on Twitter before the weekend, but nothing could have prepared me for our actual meeting. Which makes it sound dramatic – it wasn’t drama that made it noteworthy, but more the fact that we basically share the same brain. I’m pretty sure we weren’t the only ones who were spooked by the times we accidentally spoke in perfect unison. A week later, we still seem to be sharing brain space: on Friday I was craving Krispy Kremes and hours later looked at Instagram to find that Claire had been eating them at the same time I was craving them…
Karen of the beautiful Lavender and Lovage was one of the first people to turn up – when we were still somewhat in a state of chaos – and, unbeknownst to her, instantly put me at ease with the whole weird social situation that is conferences by being absolutely lovely. Thanks Karen!
I only spoke to Sarah of Noisette Bakehouse very briefly (too briefly!) but I do love a northerner. Check out her gorgeous website here.
Although most people were pretty chirpy throughout the weekend – who wouldn’t be? – Helen of Dairy of a Cake Maker stuck out as being relentlessly cheerful and positive, even when carrying around multiple suit cases in hot, sticky London. You’ve gotta admire that.
After the conference, I saw tweets circulating about an egg book. Having recently had to wade through two dozen eggs (spoiler: I couldn’t do it) a book that’s entirely egg recipes was more than a little appealing. Jane from Hedge Combers delivers the goodies here!
Other round ups!
- Chief of tweets Sally here, with more photos than you can shake an, er, tripod at (My Custard Pie).
- FBC-inspired food blogger talk from Fiona here (Matching Food and Wine).
- Emma’s round up, including girl crushes and quintessentially British queueing (Adventures of a London Kiwi)
- Amazingly thorough journal of the whole weekend from Andrée-Ann (la voie a la bouche).
- Uplifting wrap up by Iris (Whatever Gets You Through the Day).