This is my second post written for the What’s Your Foodportunity? contest, which is like the best reunion you’ve ever heard of, because the food rocks and it’s a bunch of food nerds crammed into one room – and you don’t want to leave.
At this point I have had plenty of first moments both as a writer and photographer. That first time on twitter, followed by staring at a blank screen with nothing witty to say for about a good five minutes until I gave up and posted something vague about bacon. Entering the convention floor of the Winter Fancy Food Show, coming back to my hotel only to sleep off exhaustion. Visiting Norway, eating lunch with howling puppies and grinning from ear to ear.
That first step is still always scary.
And the scariest first step for me of joining Seattle’s media was walking in the Palace Ballroom for Foodportunity.
Oh sure, now that I’ve had beers with a former Royal Chef of Sweden and met Thomas Keller, I can be a lot more cool and collected about this. I can even almost pretend to be chill. Best of all, I can spot the new frightened writer walking in and give them a gentle push towards the right person.
But let’s not mince words: when I entered that building for my first Foodportunity, I was freaked out.
Here I was, this tiny forestry graduate student, trying to fit in with all these people who knew so much, and I didn’t speak the language. It was my first event of any kind, and I felt way over my head.
I blitzed from booth to booth, meeting chefs and seeing faces I only knew from websites or cookbooks that I owned. I’d see a nametag and gasp in recognition, but not say anything because I had no clue what to even do. I think I finally managed the nerve to speak to Ann Peavey, the Seattle Maven, who I knew from twitter, but that was unadulterated awkwardness on my end.
Then I left with an armful of pasta and thought I’d never attend again.
The first step is always scary. But so is that second, third, fortieth.
Food is a daily craft, both for eating and writing, and it’s too easy to sit in your coffee shop of choice and only read and write nonstop. We need these chances to both explore beyond our own shells and simply get distracted by wonderful things.
I grew out of my fear, or at least enough to treat Foodportunity as a chance to meet and plan new ideas in a room full of co-conspirators. My people. And that is freaking awesome.
I chatted with Leslie at the event last year, and won a bag of rye flour at her booth. I completely forgot about it, and ended up picking it up from her at the sushi tasting hosted by Shiro Kashiba and Daisuke Nakazawa. We talked briefly, and all I wanted to do was drag her out to tea and talk food for the next few hours. But I had plans, and so did she.
That’s the other problem: once you pass that first step, you never seem to stop moving. (I don’t know if I’ll ever adjust to scheduling hangouts a month in advance.)
And in the last year alone I’ve changed gear, writing styles, cameras. This has been one of the most rewarding and frustrating years in my life, with rapid-fire switching between the roles of graduate student and food nerd. Both are full-time jobs, and have left their fair share of marks, literal and figurative, from blackberry scratches to half-healed skillet burns.
I think I have an equal number of people in both academia and food wondering when the hell I’m going to make up my mind, and I’m not sure if I ever will. I’m okay with that.
Over and over again, people will tell you how life is about finding your fears and going on anyway. And I still get scared, even at places like Foodportunity. I’m an introvert, so I always walk in and immediately search out the familiar. But that’s okay, because let’s face it – you should never stop having first moments. Nothing ever tastes exactly the same from season to season, and people are always coming up with new ideas and ways to collaborate. It’s one of the most wonderful things about being a writer in Seattle: it’s a whirlwind.
And the best way to do it is to realize that you’re afraid and go forward anyway.
Go have a Foodportunity, on me, and I’d love to take you out for tea.