Friday, October 29, 2010

Poor Girl: Unprocessed - Why I'm Glad I'm Out of Project Food Blog

Confession:  For the past six weeks, I have felt like a complete sell-out.

I entered the Project Food Blog competition because I could really use $10,000.  Not that others couldn't benefit from such a healthy sum of money, but in terms of actual need I think I have everyone beat.  I'm flat broke, unemployed, and might have to live with my mom for awhile if things don't start looking up soon.  Ten grand would have certainly made things easier for me.  But I also went in fully knowing that I probably wouldn't win (even though I hoped I would).  Not because I'm a pessimist, but because once I read the way the judging worked - 50% of the points coming from the judges, 50% coming from Foodbuzz Featured Publishers, with a lone Readers Choice Award given to one contestant per round based on the public vote, rather than taking into account the votes of the public as the other 50%, considering they are the true readers & traffic-builders for every blog - I knew this would be more about popularity than actual quality content or what the general blog-reading world really thought.  Still, I needed the money, and against my better judgment I entered at the last possible minute.

Now, I know some folks who read this will think that these statements are those of a sore loser who didn't make it through to the next round.  That's cool and they're entitled to their opinions.  But I'd like to state for the record, loud and clear, that is not what this post is about.  If anything, I couldn't be happier about having my weekends and my sanity back, the worry of what the heck I'd come up with for each challenge and wondering what areas of my fridge & cupboards might magically provide extra food for this thing blissfully gone.  But I am sore about something: I am sore at myself for losing focus, for having my love of food blogging clouded by the distant possibility of $10,000.

At the International Food Blogger Conference this summer, we talked a lot about "selling out" and remembering why we all wrote our respective blogs.  It was nice to be surrounded by people who felt as passionate about food and writing as I do, and it reminded me of why I started PGEW in the first place: I started it for me.  Because I like writing, I like cooking, and thought it would be interesting to put them together and see what would happen.  Then I started getting a bigger audience and I started writing for them and me, because what I was doing seemed to be helping people.  I honestly never expected it to take off the way it did, and I am always elated whenever I receive a positive review, comment or email that thanks me for this recipe or that, or for helping folks save money.  That's what I've thrived on these past two-and-a-half years, and what I consider to be the best part about my PGEW endeavors.  

But once I entered Project Food Blog, my time and my sanity were pretty much sucked out of me, leaving me to post nothing but PFB related posts, tweets and Facebook updates.  Don't get me wrong: it did force me to reach into the deepest recesses of my mind to come up with stuff I never dreamed I'd cook because certain prompts were given for each challenge.  But in the process, I let my PGEW-ness go, and that sucks.  I'm already creative enough as it is, and I wanted to post other things but I couldn't!  Partly because my brain was cluttered with ideas for the next round, but mainly because I just couldn't afford to use the food I did have on hand on "extra" posts because I might need it for the next round of the competition.

Then it hit me: "extra" posts???  Since when are my standard recipes & tips "extra"?  The competition should have been the "extra" in all of this, not the other way around!  In the creating, the posting, the photo-editing, and the shameless vote-soliciting (though I do have to admit I was getting rather good at that toward the end, lol), I temporarily lost track of what this blog is about: it's about me, my financial struggles, and how I go about making my meals the one bright spot in my otherwise stressful life.  It's about helping others find their inner chef and their inner smart, frugal shopper.  It's about showing the world that it is completely possible to enjoy food that both looks and tastes good, yet doesn't cost an arm and a leg because it's made with real, accessible ingredients that anyone can afford.  It is not about winning a contest!

And so today, when I saw that I did not have a little trophy icon next to my entry for the sixth round of Project Food Blog - for which I almost killed myself as I went out in a huge storm with a raging flu - I actually breathed a huge sigh of relief.  At first, my reaction to the news that I had not advanced to the next challenge seemed strange to me: shouldn't I be upset, especially after all the hard work I put into this friggin' thing?  Shouldn't I be pissed off that I am still sick because I was determined (or stupid) enough to finish my Round 6 post regardless of how sick I was & how horrible the weather?  I could have copped out and taken my picnic to my backyard, but I didn't.  I competed properly and took my chances by traveling in the howling wind and heavy rain.

But then a big grin spread across my face when I realized that I was free!  Much like the month of unprocessed foods I've been enjoying for October: Unprocessed, I'm free of things I don't need.  Free from all that pressure, so I can write what I want to write, within my own parameters & deadlines.  I'm free to spend some time on another $25 Shopping Cart with some of the money generously donated by you fine readers, and come up with something simple, but comforting, from the purchases I'll make.  I'm free to enjoy my weekends without the stress of another entry, so I can clean my closets and play with my cats whom I've neglected so cruelly this whole time (which is probably why StuKitty got into the PFB cooler to begin with.  Doesn't that picture scream "NOTICE ME!!!"?).  Heck, I'm even free to get over this friggin' flu!  I'm just Poor Girl again, with no expectations other than providing quality written content, tips and recipes for myself and for my readers.  

I am Poor Girl: Unprocessed.  Free of the idea of $10,000 and some minor fame.  

Some might say that I'm just not good at competing, and in a way they're probably right.  I take competition very seriously; maybe too seriously.  Once I'm in that mode, I'm stuck in it, the rules, deadlines and entries my blinders, so that I can't see anything but the contest and its final prize.  But that kind of focus is also what makes a good competitor, and I'm happy I was able to make it as far as I did considering some of the food bloggers I was up against.  And though I already know I'm good at what I do and so do you fine readers, the fact that the editor-in-chief of Food & Wine magazine was reading my blog for the past 6 weeks and thought I was good enough to keep advancing to this point is also pretty damned awesome.

Still, I feel better now, even if I won't be $10,000 richer by December.  I feel cleansed in a way, and doubt that I'll ever do something like this again.  I'm just not the NOTICE ME!!!!!! type, and that's okay.  I get more than enough validation from my readers.  Money that will be quickly spent on mundane things like rent isn't quite as gratifying as knowing I saved a mom from trying to figure out what to feed her kids, or that I helped someone lose 15 pounds just by changing the way she ate.  The simple things are what mean the most, and I'm glad I have the time to focus on them again.

Besides, as much as I love competing against others, I'd much rather work on goals that involve me competing against myself.  Like finishing up the first couple chapters of the real PGEW book that should be published sooner rather than later...  ;)


  1. Well, I'm glad for whatever you write. So there!

  2. I'm one of those people who reads your blog but doesn't comment very often. I'm sure I speak on behalf of those of us who you help when I say - THANK YOU! And, CONGRATULATIONS! You did make it far! Keep writing, we'll keep reading, and I can't wait to see that cookbook come into the world!

  3. I did not read your post as a "sore loser". I totally understand your feelings. I filled out my profile for the competition, but before it was even time to do Challenge #1, I was thinking, "Do I really want to do this?" I decided that I did not want to do it. I didn't want PFB dictating what I would be blogging.

    Good for you for giving it a go!

  4. Good for you being "free" and coming back to your roots realizing that you blog for you!

  5. I understand you wanting to get out from deadlines but I hope you continue to do the Project Food Blog Challenges on your own timetable as some of the Challenges have really brought out your creativity! The Chocolate Dinner Party was phenom! So let the challenges inspire you but stay inside nice & dry!

  6. Well I'm glad you participated! I would have never found this blog. :)

  7. mazel tov on your many wonderful entries and also for getting back in your blogging groove now!

  8. Hey there.

    Though I understand what you express, and I can see that you've been thinking about it a lot.

    Yea for your time and energy (and meal-planning) being less cramped!

    There was one thing I wanted to share my point of view about - your "selling out" concerns: I do not think they are warranted.

    You may have shifted priorities, but I think that you were still cooking food that you respected and that you would actually eat. (Hello! That cake? So cool! I am not a cake person, but am considering making mini-loafs or muffins for friends.) I still got the interesting recipes that I visit your blog to discover. Yes, you had to do the obligatory "Please Vote" thing, but that was okay with me.

    Now, if you'd progressed, and ended up winning, and never looked back to those who read your blog, yes - that'd be selling out ;-)

    Anyway, I just wanted to give you another point of view on that particular area of this post.

    Hope you're feeling well soon.

  9. I've never thought of you as a sell-out for one moment. I love this blog. Tonight I made your Hearty Mushroom & Potato Soup recipe from last October for the third time. As a food-lover on a tight budget myself, I look forward to everything you post (OK, except the dessert recipes, as I don't eat sweets), and I always read with interest.

    Thank you for blogging; you're a real inspiration.

  10. I voted multiple times for you and posted a link to your blog on my FB page - I hope you gain more readers and fans! You are a wholesome, honest, creative, bright and amazing woman! The value of your efforts is not diminished by the fact that you didn't advance to the next level of a competition. You are educating and empowering people, and that is all that matters!

  11. Like one of your other commentors, if you had not participated I would not have found your blog, and I'd be rather sad about that! Well I wouldn't be - because I would not know would I? Anyway - I'm glad I found you and I know I am going to enjoy reading your blog. Although I don't have to be as frugal as I once did, I still prefer to cook economically for my family of 5, and I know I'll get a lot out of your blog :)

  12. I understand completely why you feel the way you did, I do love Food Buzz for what it is, for all the wonderful people I have met, and for all that I have learned over the past year. But to mis-quote a phrase form George Strait's Movie Pure Country, I don't want to be anybody's dancing have to see the movie for the context.. There were just not enough hours in the day, and since food buzz is a social network that promotes results through popularity, I knew it wouldn't be just a food competition. I don't think you sound like a sore loser, I do think it was a lot more work than some folks had any idea it would be.
    But I hope you did have some fun doing it, and learned from the experience. Feel better, keep up the good work on your blog, and try to enjoy the weekend!

  13. I can totally understand your drive as well as the relief and getting back to basics once it was over. We are all damn proud that you went so far in that contest. Not that we are at all surprised.I don't remember how the heck I ever found you but sure glad I did. your tips and recipes are amazing and I'm constantly sharing them with friends. Great job and thank you for all you do.

  14. Don't beat yourself up on this one, it was a learning experience. I love your blog and your recipes are fantastic. I can hardly wait for your book. You are truly an inspiration to us all.

  15. Hey Kimberly! Congrats on getting as far as you did!! It's a huge accomplishment and it looks like you've gained many new readers!! Your blog has been one of my favorites since you started, you have really helped me be conscious of creating healthy and economically friendly food for my family!
    Hope you get feeling better soon, looking forward to more wonderful posts from you!

  16. I think that you are smart ~ using your heart to do what you are so good at. Not your head to do what you "think you should do". Good luck! Hope things come together soon. You are great at what you do!

  17. Very well said! But I have to say, had you not participated, I probably would never have found your blog.

  18. You're not a sell out, and we appreciate your honesty. Do you realize though how many fans you've acquired through this project? I mean, shoot, Mikuni has been following you on their Facebook page and think you pretty much rock! You're in the big time now. And you deserve to be. Get back to what you love to do and the rewards will follow. You're a creative and innovative chef and whether you know it or not, you have been recognized. Keep up the good work. Sacramento is proud of you!

  19. I only made it through the first three challenges and I had mixed feelings about getting cut, but your right. It was a very intense competition. I'm glad to have my blog back. Although I've had a very time getting back in the saddle. I was posting 2-3 times a week. Now I am down to just once. It's okay. It's a hobby. Something I do for fun. I don't have deadlines, or restrictions. And I too was a bit sad, but glad to have my life back. What I'm saying is I understand.

  20. It's funny in a way because your "losing" this challenge is kind of like my very fresh break-up. I've worked so hard on this relationship that was kind of doomed, and when we decided to break it off, I was more relieved than anything, although I am a little sad when I think of what it coulda woulda maybe be.

    So, in truth, this isn't a loss, nor a break-up. This is a fresh start :)

  21. Hey there! I found your blog through PFB and was throwing my weight behind you (I got ditched at challenge 2 lol) because I wanted to see a blogger who didn't have a sous vide machine or $20 wedge of cheese to win because if you can afford frou frou things, yes you can do cool stuff but you're also not forced to be as creative as someone who can't (ie: you). So, I understand your sentiment, not a sore loser you're just speaking the truth.

    Anyhow, your quinoa cake looked amazing, I plan on giving it a try and I really hope things start looking up for you!

    xoxo, Kashia (from Fro and a Fork)

  22. Congratulations on making it as far as you did! Getting to the sixth challenge is a huge accomplishment on its own, and it really helped you recognize what you'd like to be spending your time on -- the kind of blogging you started as. Congratulations!

  23. Just so you know, my friend from Sacramento read about you and was so proud a local blogger was around doing great work! keep it up =)

  24. For what it is worth I was sad you didn't make it. I found out about the project food blog because of your blog. I made a point of voting for you each and every round. Sometimes food bloggers concentrate on food that the average person cannot afford etc and the two bloggers I read and cook from regularly were passed over for people who cook with ingredients I have no clue where to find nor do I want to.

    HOWEVER I am glad that blogging is back to being less stressful and a pleasure. That way you will stay around doing what you do for longer~~ huzzah for us :D

  25. I appreciate the effort you put into your blog. I was impressed with all your entries for PFB. I like reading about my local gal and hope you will keep going - one day PGEW will make it big time.

    You'll always be the gal that brought me to quinoa - now I've got to make that cake!

  26. I just stumbled upon your blog because a friend of mine "shared" one of your recipes on facebook. Boy am I glad I clicked on that link! I have enjoyed reading your recipes so far, and I can't wait to read through some more and start cooking!

    Your blog is also wonderful for me because I used to live in Sac. I'm now living in Maryland, hating it, and missing Sac. *sigh* I can live vicariously through you, your recipes and your pictures of Sac. :)

    Keep up the good work! I love it!

  27. You definitely did a great job in PFB and it's great that you're keeping true to yourself! Your blog is great and don't ever let a silly competition get you down (which you obviously haven't! and that's great!)

  28. I can understand why you went for it - after all, we all have bills to pay and responsibilities. But it seems to me that you decided to do the contest for the wrong reason. Not because you necessarily have a passion for eating unprocessed - but because you needed the possibility of money. Truth is it seems like you returned to your own integrity when you decided to leave the contest and share with your readers about it.

    I'm grateful you did the contest at all: first, because I found you and your blog, and, second, because that cake with the quinoa looks really great.

  29. When we go down any path we sometimes get a feeling that tells us something is wrong. your elation and relief at letting it all go shows you that you were spot on.

    It was not wrong at all to go for it. It would have been wrong to continue.
    You are quite wonderful, poor lady.



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