The Heart of the Food and Wine Conference 2015

Food and Wine Conference 2015 recap | #FWCon | pastrychefonline.com

This is supposed to be a recap post, where I tell you all about all the sessions and speakers, the meals, snacks, sponsors and fellow bloggers at the Food and Wine Conference. That's not what I'm going to do though. I'm a rebel that way. If you would like a rundown of all the events from beginning to end, all the FWCon ambassadors are writing one. Here are three excellent recaps from Brianne, Robin and Cindy.

As one of the Food and Wine Conference Ambassadors, I am "a person who acts as a representative or promoter of a specified activity." Rather than be an ambassador of the mechanics of the event--the venue, the meals, the speakers and sessions--I am taking the liberty of acting as the ambassador of the heart of the event. The way a conference can make you feel and what impact the Food and Wine Conference had on me this year.

2015 has been a rough one for my family and me so far. My folks are aging, and while mom is doing well, my dad? Not so much. The day before his eightieth birthday in October, he fell and broke his kneecap. While that's bad for a young person who has to hobble around on crutches for a few weeks, it was devastating for him. He could do nothing by himself for several weeks. I made the three hour drive to help my mom with him and made 853 phone calls trying to get some help for him from eldercare agencies. Maybe not so coincidentally, I knew to search for "eldercare agencies" due entirely to a friend I met through blogging, Kelli from Kelli's Kitchen and YumGoggle.

Dad bounced back relatively quickly, physically at any rate. He had been diagnosed with the early stages of dementia a few years ago, and the knee injury set him back mentally and emotionally.

Food and Wine Conference 2015 recap | #FWCon | pastrychefonline.comWithout going into many more details here, I'm sure you can imagine the stress my mom has been under as well as the stress I'm under to be a good daughter and help them navigate the dangerous waters of aging in America. We're supposed to have siblings to share the load, but with my brother gone, there's only me.

By the time the Food and Wine Conference rolled around, I almost didn't want to attend. I was emotionally exhausted and really just wanted to sleep or curl up on the couch and binge watch...anything, really.

Food and Wine Conference 2015 recap | #FWCon | pastrychefonline.comAside from being an #FWCon ambassador, I was also paired with Pacari Chocolate as their brand ambassador for the conference. I will be writing more about this amazing Ecuadorian chocolate soon, so stay tuned for that.

I made myself pack on Wednesday evening and caught a ride down on Thursday morning, as planned, with my good friend Kathy Hester from Healthy Slow Cooking and her wife, Cheryl. Our drive was long, and under the best of circumstances I'd have been sleepy, but in the state I was already in, the drive left me downright cranky. After hastily tossing my stuff down in my admittedly spacious and comfortable room and looking longingly at the inviting queen beds--I swear, they were vying for my attention--I did a quick change, took a deep breath, and rushed back downstairs to meet some friends for a pre-arranged dinner.

And then magic happened.

I met up with Kathy and Cheryl, with the vivacious Betsy from Desserts Required and with Lenny and Denise of Chez Us, two friends I've known online in Google + hangouts for three years but had never met in person. My tiredness evaporated as we all piled into a huge SUV (thanks, uber) and headed out.

Dinner was delicious, but more than food for the body, the company was food for my soul. These were--are--my people. People who are passionate about food. So passionate that they share it freely with others through their pictures and words and videos. So passionate that they teach others what they know and generously share their knowledge. So passionate that they drive or fly hundreds of miles to meet up with Their Kind. We ate heartily and laughed easily, because magic happens when friends break bread together.

Food and Wine Conference 2015 recap | #FWCon | pastrychefonline.comEverywhere I turned the rest of the weekend, I found my people. I found support and inspiration, laughter and understanding, silliness and hugs, camaraderie around the dinner table.

I heard truths I didn't even know I needed to hear.

Be nimble; be flexible, because everything is subject to change. Plans fall through. Parents fall. Things happen.

To have a successful business, you need to treat your blog like a business. Your blog is your business. Have a plan. Plan for success. Plan for failure. Plan.

I experienced kindnesses that were more healing for me than anyone there could ever know.

In the hugs from friends new and old, in the easy conversation even with strangers--but how strange can they be when they are your people?--in the generous sharing of What Works and Best Practices, I was renewed.

Food and Wine Conference 2015 recap | #FWCon | pastrychefonline.comIt is energizing to be around your people. That is why these conferences are so important to those of us who work at home, either full-time or part-time after a full-time job outside the home. Alone in front of our computer screens struggling to write the perfect description of a plate of brownies or in the kitchen working to get a recipe just right or in our makeshift photo studios styling and shooting our finished dishes, we can sometimes forget that there are others of us out there doing the same thing.

Every time our friends or family smile vaguely at the mention of long pins or promoted posts or our struggles with Google+ or twitter, we can feel alone. Thank goodness for conferences where we are validated, lifted up and surrounded by our people. Brianne says it very well in her recap post:

As food bloggers, we spend a lot of time in front of our computers. Facebook becomes our water cooler, Twitter the break room, and Pinterest stands in for white boards and flip charts. Meetings are held via Google+ hangout, and we learn through YouTube videos and written tutorials. It's pretty amazing how such a community can be built between people spread across the world, connected only by the tapping of our fingertips. But there is nothing better than meeting in person to learn, share, connect, and of course, to enjoy fabulous meals, snacks and sweets together.   --Brianne Izzo from her FWCon Recap Post

Food and Wine Conference 2015 recap | #FWCon | pastrychefonline.comWhen Isabel started the Sunday Supper Movement, she brought people together around both the real and virtual dinner table. When she started the Food and Wine Conference as an extension of Sunday Supper, as a way for virtual friends to meet and break bread face to face instead of screen to screen, her initial vision remained, and still is, intact. In fact, when you read the about page on the Sunday Supper Movement, you find this quote:

Although we are known as a community of bloggers, we are much more.  We are a family that is bound not by blood but by passion. We enjoy virtually spending time around the family table every Sunday. The inaugural Food and Wine Conference in July of 2013 gave many of us the opportunity to meet in person for the first time. --Sunday Supper Movement

Now in its third year, the Food and Wine Conference stands apart from other conferences as a true coming together of a community who first met around the virtual dinner table.

If you are a food blogger and have not yet attended the Food and Wine Conference, and you do not have to be a member of the Sunday Supper Movement to attend, please come next year. I promise you will find your people. And you will be renewed.

Thank you for reading. Have a lovely day.

Comments

  1. says

    Oh my goodness Jenni….it just goes to show you that you never know what someone is going through. I’m glad you made the trip to be around your other “family” at the conference. It was good to see you again. It sure was a fabulous weekend. Thanks for the mention.

  2. says

    With tears in my eyes I read your post with the knowledge of how blessed I am to have you in my life. You bring me joy and laughter and renew my spirit when times are less than ideal. That I could in some small way give that back to you, makes me smile ear to ear…and we both know how big that smile is!

    Thank you for being a friend in every sense of the word. Blogging brought us together. Friendship keeps us together!

  3. says

    Oh Jenni, I am pushing back the tears, I feel for you. As we all deal with the same fears, anxieties and well, life, it is so lovely to know others who are also dealing with the same are there. It was a delight to meet you, and spend time together. I wish the miles were so not distant and it would be lovely to break bread more often! You are a wonderful person as well as friend. xoxo

    • says

      I know you understand. And I know many people do since we all have to go down the road eventually. Seeing you guys and spending time together was just what I needed.

  4. Amy Kim says

    Love this post! I either need to fly in early or leave later to spend some quality time with others! I saw you, literally, for a split second.

    • says

      I know! With as many folks as I got to see, there are at least as many that I didn’t. I think I maybe got to wave to you from across the room or something. Date next year? =)

  5. says

    Such a lovely post and I’m so happy to be a small part of it – mostly thankful that I gave you some information you could successfully use in order to help your family. I’m so glad you had a great time at the FWCon and I hope to be there next year for some friendly respite of all the things you mention above! Keli

  6. says

    The rebel in you is my favorite part, Jenni! Well said, as usual. You are the caramelized sugar – I was going to say “glue” but a sticky syrup seemed a more apt analogy – that connects bloggers and keeps us together as friends. I’m so sorry that this has been a rough year for you but delighted that you took the time for you and went to the conference after all. I’ll get there someday!

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