Here’s a little secret about travel bloggers: we all secretly want to be food bloggers. Well maybe not everyone, there are a few picky eaters out there, but in general we all really enjoy exploring the world through food.
I like to write about what I eat and, although I don’t really write about it, I love to cook as well. I’ve even occasionally toyed with the idea of starting a cooking blog in all that spare time I have lying around (ha). So when I heard about the International Food Blogger Convention (IFBC), going on less than a mile from my apartment in Seattle, it seemed like a no brainer to attend.
I can’t say it went exactly as I expected. I didn’t spend the weekend tasting unique cheeses and discussing the merits of different microbrews. In fact, I didn’t get to talk about food that much at all, at least not in the way I typically talk about it, which is as a giant fangirl.
Here is what I discovered as a spy in the house of food bloggers:
Commercialism out the Wazoo
This may be the pot calling the kettle black, as lord knows travel bloggers love sponsorships and swag and TBEX is certainly awash in those things. Maybe it was being in a different setting, maybe it really was more blatant, but it was crazy to see people going bananas, and over so little!
Convention-goers were showered with free swag from popcorn to kitchen appliances to seaweed snacks, all in the hopes we would write about it. I mean, I can’t argue with free stuff, but it did feel a bit pointed.
More annoying, some of the conference sessions (a conference we had paid to attend mind you) were little more than sponsored infomercials. During breakfast we listened to a presentation on Noosa yogurt, at lunch we were lectured on the benefits of Ninja blenders and happy hour was sponsored by Butterball Turkey.
The educational sessions weren’t safe either. There was “Fresh Ideas for Entertaining” with Krusteaz and a wine tasting session with Bordeaux wines. The one I attended, “Know your Beef, Know your Butchery” was sponsored by Beef Checkoff (the “Beef, it’s what’s for dinner” people), and it was just this side of propaganda- and that is coming from someone who really, really likes beef.
People Have Very Strong Opinions About Food
Okay, I knew this, but putting 400 food-passionate people with different diets in one room really highlighted this. Barbed tweets and pointed questions went back and forth all weekend between the gluten-free bloggers, the vegan bloggers, the paleo bloggers etc.
One of the first sessions featured Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg, authors of The Flavor Bible. They were there to talk about their new book the Vegetarian Flavor Bible and, not surprisingly, their conversion to vegetarianism.
I didn’t even know that choosing to be a vegetarian could be seen as radical in this day and age, but the twitter hashtag exploded with angry bloggers slamming the pair’s advice. The WABeef twitter account even got involved, which surprised me.
The Writing Sessions Were Great
It wasn’t all a bust though. I attended several really great sessions. There was a delightful cooking demo with Thierry Rautureau aka the Chef in the Hat. The writing workshop with Dianne Jacob was worth the price of admission by itself, and I really enjoyed listening to Washington Post food and travel editor Joe Yonan talk about taking risks. I left with some serious thinking to do, about my writing and work.
Seattle is an Amazing Place to be a Foodie
I have to say, I picked a pretty awesome place to live. I already knew this, but the conference really brought it home. So many exhibitors, from Theo Chocolate to Bristol Bay Salmon were all Pacific northwest companies. On Saturday a variety of local restaurants catered the reception and they were all excellent. Many attendees left raving about Seattle, as I smugly got to stay behind.
In the end I’m not sure I would go back to IFBC. I felt out of place the entire weekend, even though I was fortunate enough to see some old friends and meet some lovely new people. lThe conference was definitely geared more towards recipe bloggers, not food reviewers. And I know for certain now that I’m not cut out to be a recipe blogger because sigh, I just don’t care about 8 new ways to cook make pancakes or the merits of different blenders. I’m still not sure what a sous vide machine even does. I didn’t belong there.
That is okay. I like food, I like eating it. I like learning about it and once in awhile, cooking it myself. I like writing about that. So I’m just going to keep on going and hope you guys will continue to indulge me.