Two weekends ago, I found myself on the tail-end of a week of business travel. After flying to Des Moines, Iowa, on Monday for the World Pork Expo, there I was, five days later, at the BlogHer Food Conference in Austin, Texas; a city whose motto is “stay weird.”
Surrounded by some of the most widely-read, influential blogging moms, I found myself thinking about food, cooking and our industry’s complicated relationship with the aforementioned.
I think that I’ve allowed my time spent taking the defensive position and have become jaded about the American public, and the consumer. As much as I always tell my readers not to come from a place of negativity, some days I could benefit from reminding myself of the same thing.
Let me tell you--the BlogHer Food conference kicked my jaded, negative-self right out the door.
These blogging moms think of pork in terms of spice-rubbed pulled pork, smothered in BBQ sauce, or as grilled pork chops with peach marmalade. They think about meat, milk and eggs as ingredients--not product; the components of a recipe that come together to form a truly sensational, memorable meal.
Are they concerned about antibiotics? Sure. Do they have questions? Yes. Are they confused by the ever-growing list of grocery store terminology? Of course! What’s organic, what’s hormone-free, what’s cage-free?
But at the end of the day, when they’re trying to bake the next great cookie or win a deviled-egg recipe competition, they’re not fretting over whether their eggs are brown or white.
Of course there are exceptions. Not everyone at the conference was a full-blown meat lover. The vegan and vegetarian blogs had their place too, but their blogging personalities were represented in real-time around the conference table as polite, respectful mothers with a specific point of view.
Not every vegan is an animal rights activist. I walked away from some enlightening conversations about deep-fried tofu thinking “to each his own.” And yes--I even tried some vegan mayonnaise (gasp!) and it wasn’t bad, but I think I’ll be sticking with my egg-full mayonnaise.
My point is, to the majority of Americans removed from the family farm, food is just that—food, a means of nourishment.
To blogging, Pinterest-ing, Facebook-ing moms, however, food is so much more. Food is family. It’s their connection to past, present and future generations. Food is a new recipe, a new blog, a vivid photo or a story.
On the second day of the conference, we were all bussed to a local Austin park where food trucks set up for lunch, dinner and late-night bar patrons. Talk about a paved paradise in a parking lot!
The National Pork Board had sponsored a truck (the only free one!) where a former Top Chef winner whipped up scrumptious pork delights for hungry bloggers.
Beyond the Pork-a-Palooza truck (my name, not theirs) there was truck after truck of inventive culinary delights. One of my favorites was the “MMMMMpanadas” truck.
A one-woman operation, the owner, chef, and truck driver all-in-one continually cooked empanadas which ranged in fillings from BBQ beef brisket, to creamy chicken, to curry peach, to yes, even spicy black bean. Patrons were told which empanadas were hot and ready by the magnets stuck to the truck’s side, which the chef must have swapped out at least four times as I waited in the lengthy line.
I sampled the chicken and beef brisket varieties (see my mouth-watering photos here), and they were delicious!
As I scarfed down my piping hot mmmmpanadas, all around me were bloggers snapping photos of their lunch selections, writing blogs on their smart phones and tablets, or just gabbing at big picnic tables or under a shady tree in the grass.
And they weren’t talking about animal rights or antibiotics: they were talking about food.
What do blogs and food trucks have in common? They both tell personal stories about how people love food and what’s meaningful to them. Food is love, and through writing and cooking, food truck chefs and passionate bloggers share their love with the public.
Farming is personal to you--I know, because every day I have the privilege to meet dedicated, passionate family farmers.
We can answer consumers’ questions by weaving yarns that are personal, but still address fundamental concerns--because guess what, how you care for your animals is personal. That’s the message that resonates. Those are the stories we need to tell.
That’s our industry’s recipe for success.