This post has been a long time coming. Eat Drink Blog was held in Canberra over 5 weeks ago, but it feels like a lifetime. Since getting back I have battled my way through another WSET exam, dealt with some fairly big life stuff and survived the lead up to Melbourne cup whilst working in the wine industry – no mean feat. I’ve also had to make time to clear my brain and work out my direction. You see, Eat Drink Blog was a somewhat epiphanous weekend for me. I have lacked clarity with my goals for a long time and have been a bit blue. There was a point during Eat Drink Blog where I felt so brittle that I thought I might snap in half. Wise words from wonderful speakers had me questioning everything I thought I knew about my blog; I was spending breaks between sessions on the phone trying to help a loved one through some very traumatic stuff; and I felt tired, clunky and emotional. Not the best way to make new friends.
I was reminded of this beautiful quote by Tina Martin Hoversten
It’s OK to be a glo stick. Sometimes you have to break before you can shine.
I came back from Canberra determined to make some changes. I still don’t know exactly what they need to be, but recognising the need for change is usually half the battle. Pretty serious stuff to come out of what was supposed to be a weekend of eating and drinking with like-minded foodies. I considered not posting about the conference, there are so many good posts on what we ate and drank, the technical stuff we learnt and how freaking lovely Canberra is; but epiphanous weekends should not go unrecorded. So, here is what I learnt at Eat Drink Blog:
Canberra is awesome and I think I maybe might want to move there
Hear the hesitation in that title. I love Melbourne, but there was just something about Canberra that stole a little piece of my heart.
The last time I visited Canberra was in Grade 12 when my school attempted to make a ski trip educational by a quick visit to Parliament House on the way home. I remembered a lot of orderly looking buildings and town-planned streets and a really average meal in an RSL. I figured Canberra had a bit more going for it, having read a number of Canberra-based blogs, and that the foodie scene was pretty OK if you knew where to go. I had underestimated Canberra…
The registration event was held at The Hamlet, a food truck haven in Braddon. I am not usually one for food trucks, preferring quality over convenience, but the food emerging from these little vans was creative and inspiring. Visits to Westside Acton Park, the Capital Region Farmers Markets, dinner at A.Baker, and various other offerings, revealed a focus on fresh, locally grown ingredients and commitment to quality. Everywhere we went, wine lists were well curated with premium examples of wines from the Canberra region. The Canberra food scene is such a strong, supportive community.
We need to start thinking more about where our food comes from
A keynote address by Matthew Evans has got me thinking more about food. Or should I say, thinking differently about food, given that it is pretty difficult to think ‘more’ about something you think about all the time. Matthew trained as a chef in Canberra in the eighties (the source of a number of very funny and cringe-worthy anecdotes documented in Never Order Chicken on a Monday), before becoming one of Australia’s most celebrated and controversial food critics. In 2008 he turned his back on all those free dinners and moved to Tasmania to become a Gourmet Farmer.
Matthew spoke to us about the flavour of milk – the difference in quality of milk from a single herd; the subtleties of a milk that has not been homogenised and pasteurised at such high temperatures that the character has been lost. He discussed melting flesh peaches – mythical creatures that when eaten, drip juice down your elbows and engulf you in flavour. Peaches from another time and place that don’t safely exist in cold-storage, blemish-free for three weeks before being purchased from a supermarket.
I want to taste real food. And cook with it. Maybe even grow it. I want us all, if we eat meat, to think about where it comes from.
“What you do in those quiet years, when no one knows you, defines you as a businessperson”
This was something Amanda Whitley, inspirational founder and editor of Her Canberra, said during a panel discussion. I actually don’t remember the context but the comment stuck with me…”Those quiet years”, these ones I’m having now where I push myself to the point of exhaustion everyday trying to squish all the competing aspects of my creative soul and ambition into a life that involves the reality of a sometime soul-sapping career. Amanda’s comment has made me look at things differently – all this energy is building the foundations of future projects and the life that I want. And I need to make sure I’m not depleted when I get there. It helps me to know that people I admire and respect also had those quiet years. It also helps to be reminded that strong foundations are important, to be reminded to make it all count.
My big take-home from Carly Jacobs of Smaggle. Batching is all about doing similar tasks at the same time. In blog-land it means writing a bunch of posts all at once, then adding pictures, then scheduling social media; rather than wasting time and thought process flitting between jobs. Almost the opposite of multi-tasking, and it works. I have been trying to batch other stuff in my life too – dealing with, and finishing one job before moving on to the next. I am finding it leads to more structured thought, a skill that is beginning to be lost in our social media driven lives.
It’s time to start believing in myself
I won one of the writing prizes, in the recipe category, with my Sticky Date Cake with Caramel Custard and Cream Cheese Frosting. Pretty exciting. Oddly though it made me feel ridiculously exposed. I always downplay my blog a bit, like it is a bit of a hobby floating around in the background. This is quite crazy because in actual fact my blog is incredibly important to me and I am very proud of it; there is a bit of a disconnect. To receive recognition for something blog-related, particularly in a room filled with so much talent, forced me to rethink and confront my relationship with my blog.
Way back on my previous blog I once wrote about Why I Write. I just reread it, and it made me smile. I think I had forgotten why I do this. Recently I have become a little bogged down in what I felt I had to write about. The fledgling success I have had has brought me some sponsored posts and while I was honest in writing them, they haven’t always been about things that captured my imagination. There is always that risk, at the beginning of a career (writing may not become my career but food and wine certainly is), that saying ‘no’ might lead to doors closing. However, saying ‘yes’ can be equally as dangerous.
Wendy Johnson, a prominent Canberran restaurant reviewer, spoke at the conference about the importance of integrity in reviews. I think integrity needs to be evident in all aspects of this blog. It is my voice after all. I don’t think I have lacked integrity…yet. But what scares me is I can see how it might happen. I’m going to say no a little more often and only collaborate with projects I am truly passionate about. I am also going to publish perhaps a little less frequently but make every post count.
And I’m going to start telling more people, proudly, and not dismissively, that I write a Food and Wine blog called Champagne and Chips.
Enormous thanks to the absolutely wonderful team behind the conference:
Amanda from Her Canberra (also a major sponsor)
Tara from In The Taratory
Guilia from Love at Every Bite
Rachi from Le Bon Vivant
Belinda from The Forage
Make sure you check out the other posts about Eat Drink Blog too. And if you are tossing up whether to go in 2016, my advice is DO IT 🙂
I’m sorry it was an emotionally tough weekend! I think you did a great job making friends and I’m looking forward to catching up soon. I also came home feeling fuzzy, knowing that I needed to focus more, and a bit disheartened honestly. I’ve been able to think more clearly. Thank you for linking to my post.
Thank you lovely, it was so good to get to know you properly. I think that blog conferences always bring up a lot of uncertainty and even maybe comparison…which is sometimes tough to deal with.
I look forward to seeing you soon
Love this. I’ll accept your challenge and start telling people proudly about my blog. A few people at work found my blog this week and told me how professional it was. Made me happy. My EDB round up posts are coming, slowly. I need to try more of the batching lol
Woohoo to both accepting the challenge and nice feedback from the peeps at work.
Batching is absolute gold!
Oh gosh Nicole, like I commented on your last post, I think you’ve done amazing things in the last year and I really think after reading this post that you are going to do something extraordinary in the coming year. I am looking forward to watching how far you go, it’s just inspirational visiting your blog these days! Hope life settles for you and the blues get shaken, X
Thank you lovely. You have made my day.
You have done some seriously wonderful things this last year. that little love of yours is just exquisite.
I love your honesty! That’s part of the reason I keep reading your blogs.
Not just honest to your readers but with yourself as well.
Thank you Roz, such very kind words. I really value honesty, I’m glad it comes across in my writing.
It was so wonderful to meet you. You did hold it together quite well (saw you sneak out a few times xoxoxxx)
Great recap 🙂
Yeah, I felt horribly antisocial 🙁
It was lovely to meet you too.
Great post Nicole. I noticed you on the telephone a lot and looking very serious. I hope that situation has worked its way through to a good resolution.
You’ll always be welcome in Canberra. So much wine. So much food. So much fun with other food bloggers
Yeah sorry Gary, I was terribly worried about how antisocial I was being but there wasn’t much alternative. Things are much better now, it all takes time.
Canberra was fantastic, I really am looking forward to returning soon.
No need to apologise Nicole. It’s good on both counts things are getting better and you want to visit Canberra again. When you do I hope we can set up a blogger thing
Hope things improve for you Nicole, they will. This year has been full of challenges for most people.
Thank you x It does seem to be a challenging year for a lot of people….bu then i think I say that every year. Things have settled down a lot now.
This was so nice to read! I almost made it to the Eat Drink Blog conference last year when it was in Brissie but couldn’t make it at the last minute – now I can see what I missed out on! Sounds like a lot of fun, but more importantly a very encouraging journey for you. Congratulation on your award, that is so wonderful! Hope it keeps you excited for a new year of blogging in 2016! Let’s go friends!
I think I’m just lucky you weren’t at the conference Jess, your recipes would have won for sure (however I would have loved to meet you). Perhaps next year?
2016 is going to be a big’un, I can just feel it 🙂
What an amazing conference! I’ve never been to Canberra – but now I think I need to go. Yes you do definitely need to believe in yourself. We all know how wonderful you are… now you need to as well!