Did you know that I'm a recipe developer? Or that bread is actually a gel? Have you ever tried describing a lemon without using words like "citrus" or "sour"?
Our second and third days at the IFBC were chock full of panel discussions and activities like these, making the weekend both fun & informative. Session highlights from Day 2 included...
- The Great Semicolon Debate of 2010 - Though the session was technically on the Art of Recipe Writing, somehow the presenters wound up debating over whether or not semicolons are necessary. Dianne Jacob, best-selling author of Will Write for Food thinks they're pretentious (which is true if they're overused), while Kristine Kidd, former Bon Appetit food editor and cookbook author, thinks they're necessary. Amy Sherman of Cooking With Amy remained neutral as Switzerland and moderated the unplanned debate with ease. Personally, I am a huge fan of the semicolon (you regular PGEW readers may have noticed that). The way I see it, sometimes you need a longer pause to distinguish between two phrases: one that cannot be properly conveyed with a simple comma but keeps both thoughts more connected than a period. Other times, you need it for a series of phrases that already has some commas in them; a mess of commas just makes things harder to read. Still, it made me smile inwardly to hear other writers actually argue about punctuation marks, making it the first of many geek-out sessions for me.
- Writing with All Five Senses - Kat Flinn had us all regard a simple lemon and describe it for each sense without using the more obvious modifiers. At first it seemed like it was a contest to see who could be the most poetic, something which I personally did not feel was the true purpose of the exercise. Sure, it was interesting to hear the seductive, witty, and sometimes hysterically funny odes to Ye Olde Lemon, but really... who writes like that on a food blog? Most of my favorite food bloggers, like Garrett McCord of Vanilla Garlic, strike a much better balance between descriptive and conversational (and in Garrett's case, downright hilarious) writing. Personally, I felt the exercise wasn't to see who could outdo everyone else with sexy adjectives woven into mini-vignettes about citrus, but to open our minds as food writers. Food ought to be experienced with all five senses, and I liked that this exercise forced me to engage all of them to stretch my writing mind past its comfort zone. And by the end of one hour filled with bloggers sharing their writing examples with phrases like "dripping juices", it was plainly evident that: A) writing about food is strikingly similar to writing about sex, and B) food bloggers have dirty, dirty little minds. :)
- Robin Goldstein's "Recent Advances in Bullshit Reduction" presentation: I was probably looking forward to the panel session on Law & Ethics of Food Blogging a bit more than most folks because of the issues I've faced with content and title stealing. Though it actually focused more on FTC regulations and full disclosure, it was still an informative session. Then Robin spoke and it got... interesting. Between his understated but hilarious sense of humor, his exposé on Wine Spectator's "awards of excellence" and the fact that he was extremely attractive with a fairly decent command of Italian (at least, pronunciation-wise), the mostly-female audience of bloggers was all a-twitter - literally. Because this is a family blog, I will not say exactly what sorts of tweets were going around (mine included), but let's just Robin Goldstein was, by far, the most appreciated presenter of the weekend. For awhile.
- Marinated Baby Octopus with Chickpeas, Preserved Lemon and Chorizo Vinaigrette - Really, need I say more? Perhaps my favorite dish of the entire lunch.
- Salmon Carpaccio with Capers and Feta - A quick dusting off of the capers (my least favorite thing to eat on the planet), and this was sheer perfection.
- Zucchini in Capione with Fennel and Apricot Dressing - Though a bit on the oily side for me, it was a good olive oily. The fennel was but a mere accent to the dish, with the light drizzles of apricot dressing adding a sweet finishing touch.
- Beef Tartare with Arugula & Fresh Baguette - As a card-carrying ceviche addict, I have no problem with delicious, properly prepared raw meat dishes, so for me this beef tartare was a true delight. Served atop the fresh baguette slices with tender leaves of arugula, this was a lovely addition to the rest of our amazing spread.
The official desserts were good, but the only one I remember was the one that was actually served to us by volunteers: the molten lava chocolate cake. Granted, this is not a new concept by any means, but when a dessert is done properly, it really doesn't matter how "trendy" it may be. This was bittersweet, oozing with melted chocolate, and rich enough to only require being a couple inches squared in size. I believe there was a salted caramel drizzle involved as well, but I was so high off the chocolate opioids that there could have been capers involved and I probably wouldn't have noticed. Had I not been so full on beef cheeks and wine, I would have happily sweet-talked one of the cuter volunteers to bring me another. Or fought Catherine for her piece (Shhh! Don't tell her I said that! ;-) ).
Day Three recap up next!