Happy Anniversary! Five Years.
Five years ago this week I decided to start a blog about restaurants. I’d just moved to Charlottesville with The Hubby after living in Pittsburgh for 8 years where I blogged at “ediblepgh” about restaurants and travel. It’s still there if you want to peek. I can’t. The writing, the design. It’s god awful. Interwebs Dark Ages.
I’d also just finished Michael Ruhlman’s The Soul of a Chef and felt full of passionate foodie vigor for his writing and enthusiasm for seeking perfection in every preparation. His profiles of Thomas Keller and Michael Symon made me believe I too could be a stellar food writer with a following. So I purchased edible-cville.com and started in. Along the way I learned a few things. Let’s step into a time machine shall we?
I spent this entire first year reviewing restaurants, making myself crazy. Running around town trying to fit everybody in. Fine dining, casual, it didn’t matter. I was intent on creating a comprehensive guide to Charlottesville restaurants. And you know what? It was BORING! There’s only so many ways you can say “delicious” or “inedible” before your eyes cross. The site looked just like my old one: orange. Bright, gross orange. And plain. Not a graphic to be found. It’s sad to re-read reviews of the places that closed, like Cassis. And humorous to read about the places I’ve never been back to ;)
This was the year I decided to get serious. And fancy. Hired a designer in Australia to create a Blogger template. Complete with a graphic header and tagline:
I love cereal. At the time I ADORED this header. It’s still cute. Because I still love cereal. For some reason in 2009 I’m still playing around the orange, brown, beige color scheme. What’s up with that?
My food photography, while atrocious today, was particularly bad in 2009. Here’s a sample. Yummy huh?
I branched out, starting to include blogs about all the scrumptious meals I was making with my new CSA, as well as the fancy dinners we ate while traveling. That sort of stuff. I was already getting bored reviewing restaurants and was constantly brainstorming other topics related to Charlottesville (and some not). To my joy there were dozens with more being created all the time. Our local food scene was bursting at the seams. I won a contest and got to be a part of a fundraising dinner at Lola which included Michael Symon, Bobby Flay, and Jonathan Waxman. Definitely a high point. This was also the year I started my own “Best of Charlottesville” awards, which are to this day the most visited blog posts at the site. Too bad they’re not my favorite. By now I’ve realized “Best of” is subjective. But I digress. Let’s discover 2010…
This was the year I got some press. Was awarded “Best Local Food Blogger” from C-Ville Weekly (an award that existed exactly one year) and appeared on local television and in The Hook. That last feature was because of a Cease and Desist notice I received from a certain local publication insisting I couldn’t use the word “edible” with a place name for my website, although said place name is an abbreviation. My email from Lawrence Lessig (look him up kiddoes) said it was BS, so I ignored it.
Continued to expand my scope of food writing to include recipes, food experiences, musings and rants about food (a là Ruhlman) as well as the occasional restaurant review. Decided I wasn’t really a foodie, but a glutton (link to this post). I also entered a blogging contest for $10K, vowing to donate $5K if I won. I made it to the fifth round and had a blast making pho for the first time as part of the competition. I still think Chef Vu was inspired to open Moto Pho Co. because of my blog post, but that’s just my little fantasy ;) Did my food photography improve? MARGINALLY. I put that in all caps for a reason. Here’s a sample. Still pretty cringe-worthy.
This was the year everything came crashing down for a while. I hurt my neck and was laid up for months. Sitting at a computer much less writing was unthinkable. In a way it was a blessing because it caused me to brainstorm ways I could blog without “writing” per se. I mean you can’t whip out a 5,000-word paean to the ham biscuit every day. Unless you’re the Joyce Carol Oates of food. I started doing more short recipes, blurbs on food news, scary food I found in the newspaper, and experimental food pictures. I took a tomato canning class with our Charlottesville treasure and food historian, Leni Sorenson. To my shock and surprise I was asked to do podcasts! No writing required. Huzzah! I sure miss doing those podcasts by the way. Pretended the whole time I was The Nightbird (again, look it up). It was fabulous.
2011 was the year I made a concerted effort to improve my food photography by getting a new camera and macro lens. I shudder to think of all the closeups of melty cheese I took in those early days. It frustrates me STILL I haven’t mastered the art of capturing food porn on film. Even with a good camera, I could do no better than this…GAH!
While I was doing all these other things, and not writing so much, a little itch began in the back of my head. Maybe it was time to change the name of the blog? I was tired of being associated with a magazine I didn’t work for. Even though my blog was here first ;) Why not make a clean break, do a complete redesign, BY MYSELF this time (because I’m a complete Type A), and launch around Thanksgiving? What the hell. And so “The Diner of Cville” was born on November 28, 2011. An adorable pun as well as a nod to my obsession for diner ephemera. Score.
I branched out even more and attended several food-related events around town. In fact, I found myself getting SO many invitations (Yay me!) I had to turn down some. Me? Turn down food? Unthinkable. What a great problem to have. I was fortunate enough to attend Peter Chang’s Chinese New Year celebration (Spicy!) and Chef Angelo’s goat roast at The Ivy Inn (Succulent!). The Hill and Holler cider event at Albemarle Ciderworks (as part of the first annual Virginia Cider Week) was a dream come true, and the Belgian beer dinner at Horse and Hound was a revelation. I was asked to help Alice Waters and Scott Peacock in a cooking demonstration at Monticello (Who, me?) and had a blast tasting rare, aged cider at Potter’s Craft. It was a very good year. And my food photography evolved to this. Not bad. Not good, but not bad.
This year is off to a fantastic start. I’ve been asked to be a contributor to Beyond the Flavor, which is imho the BEST local blog in town. And I’ve opened an online store, “edacious (cook)booksellers.” which showcases my great love for vintage cookbooks in all their scary, Technicolor glory. To me this store isn’t so much retail as it is a museum of food artifacts. A place to explore and discover where we’ve been foodwise. It’s endlessly fascinating how some ingredients and preparations have stayed exactly the same (e.g., chocolate) while others, which used to be considered convenience foods and buffet showcases, are now considered a House of Horrors (e.g., Jello mold anyone?). In my dream life I’ve got a little 500 square foot brick and mortar space where people mill about, laugh over the scarier books, grab up the books their Momma’s had, and all of us are enjoying sweet tea and cake. In a town like Charlottesville? I think it would work quite well. In the meantime, visit my store. I think you’ll like it.
Thanks for humoring me during my stroll down memory lane. Rereading those early entries makes me wince. I cannot believe how sanctimonious I sound. Like I, with only my restaurant and coffee shop and waitressing experience behind me, would be qualified to judge the merits of any chef. Just because dining out is one of my passions, it don’t make me no expert. That’s definitely the most important thing I’ve learned in this blog’s lifetime. Humility.
Thank the lord I learned it early on. One of the things I’m proud of is my ability to allow the blog to grow into what it needs to become as our food community grows. To stay stagnant, blogging the same format over and over again for years on end, would be equivalent to checking on your Farmville crops. Brain deadening.
I’ve grown and changed as well. In my opinions, knowledge, experience. As a result, my writing gets better, more informed. The whole practice becomes more rounded instead of me standing on some pedestal pointing accusingly in one direction to some poor chef who’s just trying to put out good food. Like I know what the fuck I’m talking about. I’m grateful for that.
And I’m grateful to all of you. For reading, commenting, liking, suggesting, agreeing, disagreeing. Thank you for accompanying me on this journey. Here’s to the next five years. Cheers!
p.s. One additional thing I learned I forgot to include: no matter how you photograph Beef Stroganoff, it still looks like baby poo…