I wanted to share a few things I learned about myself after attending the IACP36 conference in Chicago. There are many, many more tidbits of external bits of information I absorbed, including the latest projects from Ferran Adria, the Lexicon of Sustainability, the latest research on cookbook purchasing, the cider renaissance that's underway (the alcoholic kind), recipe writing, and what mind-bending things the researchers at the Nordic Food Lab are doing, such as making bog butter and insect broths. 1. My yoga practice helped me on the road. I was mindful of my energy during the whole trip and didn't push it. I wanted to use the time for introspection and reflection at the end of the day, which was different from how a fair portion, I suspect, of my fellow conference goers use their time in a foreign city with great food—they go out. That's ok. This was my first conference, and I wanted to be on my game and take it seriously when it was time for the sessions. I did not want to feel icky in the morning—too much food and drink dulls the senses. Someone famous said that. Maybe it was that historically famous overindulger Benjamin Franklin?
2. I had a bit of anxiety going into this event, feeling like a newbie and unaccomplished in comparison to my peers; almost everyone there had a cookbook, it seemed. Admittedly, I have so much to learn and explore (more food and recipe work—bring it!), there's so much I already know and am capable of. Often I've wished I'd landed in food writing earlier in my career, but I am now able to (mostly) dismiss those moments. Trust: You are where you are supposed to be.
I also was reminded in two sessions specifically how much I am already on the right track and maybe further along than I thought. We had a session with Adam Ried from America's Test Kitchen on recipe writing—a sort of a bootcamp in which he discussed his methods and then we made four different iterations of, get this, pimento cheese. It was incredibly validating: Yes, I've basically been doing it right all along, but I also learned a lot.
The second session that reassured me was the Pitch Slam on Monday morning, in which you could present your ideas to a bunch of awesome food editors from across the spectrum (magazines, books, newspapers). I realized at that point something that was should have been evident but hadn't really crystallized for me: a lot of people come to food writing from food and therefore don't know all the ins and outs of pitching editors. Learning the hows, the whys, the protocols, the methods, what they want, and so forth takes time. I know many of these things but I still learned a lot (yoga thought: you're always a student!). And the ability to recognize fear (false emotions appearing real) and push it aside and pitch twice with two separate ideas was irreplaceable. (Let's see how this helps me with inversions.) And then, as I approached the table afterward to thank the panelists, I swear I was guided directly to the one person who wasn't already engaged in conversation. And that one person was also a yoga instructor. Of course. One of my story ideas was about the intersection between yoga and food.
3. Food people really are a lot like yoga people. Everyone I met had was incredibly generous with their time, business cards, and their knowledge. This was true of folks like me who are trying to get to the next level, grow, sort themselves out, however you want to call it, or those with established platforms and blogs and cookbooks under their proverbial belts. Many of the folks I met wanted to help each other and share. At the most basic level, we are all united by the love of food, the commitment to deliciousness, the passion for creating something new and different, and the act of sharing that with others. It's the most welcoming community of writers I've experienced in my 15+ years as a journalist. I know this on a micro level, day to day, with people I encounter. Imagine that, en masse, with hundreds of people. And lots of food. Yep.
You might say, oh, it's all that heart. Yoga opens the heart. Undeniably, it does, if you do enough of it and let it happen. And people talk easily about cooking from the heart. This is true, for many. Michael Ruhlman told us at the conference (and his readers a while ago) about the fallacy of following your passion, that he started cooking out of fear and anger. However, once he did, look at all the space he made for beautiful things to happen in his career. He acknowledges as much—you're opening yourself up. He says he came to food and cooking by accident, but seriously, there are no accidents. No matter.
Food people and yoga people have lots in common, and I loved seeing how these two dovetailed so harmoniously. The mat work informs your life, if you let it.
There's more to say, of course. But that's it for now.