Friday, April 19, 2013

Leaping Forward: A Shy Girl Goes to a Food Bloggers Conference

When I was in junior high, I spent a great deal of time in the school's bathroom.  No, I didn't have a wonky bladder.  I was just terribly, terribly shy.  Every day I went home for lunch, and I would try to make it back so I was just in time for the first bell.  That way I wouldn't have to hang about by myself, or worse yet, walk down the hallway lined with the cool kids, who (I felt) were scrutinizing the big dorks and geeks.  Me.  Alas, if I didn't manage to meet up with my one pal, or if I was just a minute or two early, I sought refuge in a bathroom stall.  Not one of my shining life moments, but when you are thirteen and incredibly insecure, hiding out in the bathroom is sometimes a lifesaver.  With the trill of that first bell I was released.  If there is hell on earth, I'm a firm believer that junior high is it.

Poutine, the first course, first night.  Best thing I ate all weekend.

Things got better.  They always do.  I'm still a shy girl, though much more secure these days.  Thank God.   Going into large gatherings of people I don't know is still intimidating for me though.  I recently returned from the Food Bloggers of Canada conference (first ever!) and it was absolutely brilliant.  I was rubbing shoulders with incredibly influential food writers and culinary professionals and brand reps, and heck I even shared a van ride with Julie - yes the Dinner with Julie Julie - and yes she is just as nice as she is on her blog.  Nicer.  I was so inspired and educated and my brain did not stop, could not stop, thinking of all of the ways I can do what I do here better.  It's terribly exciting.  And I can't wait to flip through my scribbled notes and implement so many of the lessons I learned at the conference.  It's a game changer, for sure. 

 En route to a frosty Hockley Valley.

One thing that really struck me was how important it is to pitch myself.  My blog is a brand, but so am I.  And for a shy girl, this can be somewhat difficult.  Maybe it's the humble prairie sensibility I've acquired living in Saskatchewan - where we know we're awesome, we just don't have to shout it from the rooftops.  But amongst a sea of other fabulous food bloggers, one wants to stand out a little from the rest.  I had to take little leaps forward and approach people whose work I've admired and initiate conversations with others I would like to collaborate with.  The more I did it the easier it became.  Being brave can be contagious and this is not new to me.  I've moved across the country to a city where I've only known one other person.  I did this twice.  I've worked in the remote Yukon Territory, knowing not a soul upon my arrival, but left with life-long friendships.  I've quit my job without another one to replace it.  I've gone speed-dating.  I've gone on blind dates.  All the while I can guarantee you there were massive butterflies in the belly.  But if there is anything I've learned from these adventures is that the leap is always worth taking.  We don't go forward if we are standing still.  As much as it's a bit overwhelming to talk about myself and what the blog is about - okay, I had to brag a little - I know it's putting me out there, and that's a good thing.  There's plenty to be proud of here.  I just wish I could go back in time, to that junior high bathroom and tell that young girl to take a deep breath.  It's okay to come out now.

 Toronto greeted me with freezing rain. 

I hung about Toronto a couple of days on either side of the conference to catch up with old friends - yes, those who knew me when I was loitering in bathrooms.  It was just what I needed; a little spring re-boot, if you will. 

My friend knows me so well.  A visit to SOMA Chocolates was on the agenda and did not disappoint.  This is one lab I could totally see myself working in.  The dark chocolate olive oil truffle blew my mind, and I have a dark chocolate Maldon sea salt bar in the cupboard, for emergencies. 

Distillery District brick.  

Curb-side pansies and herbs made me happy.  My boots were happy to be walking on something other than snow and ice.  This is how spring is supposed to be! 

My last night in the big city was spent at Momofuku.  Surprisingly affordable, if you're going for noodles and soup.  The pork bun was absolutely luscious - a must try if you are in Toronto. Oh, and the bathroom is pretty cool, too. 

Sky above clouds and home again. 


  1. I know what you mean about stepping outside of yourself to network in a crowd. I'm still pretty awkward with it all but such a great group of people at the conference made it a lot easier.

  2. I'm SO glad you came to the conference! It was such a pleasure meeting you, and I look forward to getting to know you even better in the days to come. xo

  3. Conferences can be so overwhelming, I love that you dove in and grabbed the day by the throat.

  4. Yes, there's shyness there. But you can't hide the twinkle in your eye that says you're up for a good chuckle! Thanks for the fun weekend, roomie :)

  5. Renee!
    You were shy? Are shy? I would have NEVER guessed that. Your voice is strong and confident in your writing and you are everybit as vibrant in person. It was SO lovely to meet you. I would have loved to have shared a meal with you for a longer chat! And more! Lucky you, to have friends in TO. This may be a surprise to you, too. I was EXACTLY the same in grade 5 and 6 and the first half of grade 7. Always the ONLY one allowed to go home when the entire class was made to stay in after school - too many times. No one can believe that about me, either - so I can completely relate. I didn't hide in the bathrooms. I did have my friends. I was just good at being very quite, an astute observer with zero voice. One of the invisible multitude. It made me so aware of my invisible students as a teacher.

  6. It sounds like it lived up to all your expectations and more! Your photos of Hockley and Toronto make me a little nostalgic; my daughter was born in Toronto :)

  7. So glad you were able to hit Soma - one of my most favouritest places in the world!!
    Renee, I'm so glad you were there and so sorry I couldn't spend more time chatting with you. It was so lovely to finally meet you in person after reading your blog for so long and you are just lovely! Please do let me know if you make it out to the west coast - would love to share a meal or a drink (or both!) with you.

  8. Bridget - you're right. Everyone was so darn sweet and approachable.
    Jan - it was lovely to meet you too! Looking forward to chatting more :)
    Julie - thanks lady.
    Amy - thank YOU for the fun weekend. I love that you get my "twinkle".
    Val - thanks or your kind words! You must have been one fantastic teacher :)
    Donna- my expectations were surpassed. Toronto is a beautiful, lively city and I was so happy to hang out there for a few days.
    Melissa - thanks for the invite. I'm going to take you up on it one day!

  9. Sounds like you had a great trip and I am certainly one who can understand your feelings. It's interesting. I read another blogger who wrote about her anxiety in going the the conference(Brunette Baker, perhaps?)- who chronicled her struggles with putting herself out there. It surprises me who many of us "shy" people are food bloggers. I'm sure someone could do a fascinating study about that ;)

  10. What a great post, and beautiful photos, as usual! And guess what - I was that big shy kid in junior high too! I remember my favourite bathroom stall - the one at the end - with amazing clarity.

    It was SO great to meet you, and you taught me so much! (Camera Plus!!) It was a fabulous conference, but getting to meet people like you and Amy and Kelly and everyone else was the highlight.

  11. Jennifer - I had a great time at the conference - missed you though. Yes, it does seem that they are a few of us shy ones, doesn't it. I'm sure it would make an interesting sociological study!
    Julie - thank you so much! Thanks also for sharing your junior high horror story. :) Meeting was pretty cool too, and I hope we get to hang out more in the future. Isn't Camera Plus the best ?!!!

  12. It's so funny, so many of us (yes, me included!) are admitting in these post-conference posts that we are shy or feel uncomfortable in social situations with a lot of people we don't know yet that at FBC2013 it was actually so much easier than we expected. I am so glad about that. So glad we were able to get people together to connect and engage. It was lovely to meet you albeit briefly - and like Melissa, glad you made it to SOMA :)

  13. I LOVED meeting you Renee! You were so confident and self assured that I actually felt intimidated to talk to you at first. But I was really curious about you and your life as a chef, so I ended up chatting you up ;-) And found one of the nicest people I have had the privilege to meet!! With a love of !! and :)

  14. I still shudder when I think about my junior high experience. What doesn't kill you makes you stronger, right? Sound slike you had a blast at the conference. Can't wait to read abotu and see all the things you learned.

  15. Shy? I never would have guessed. One of my fav parts of the conference is realizing (from instagram) that I had met THE Sweet Sugar Bean without even knowing it! And I am so happy I did.

  16. Your post really touched me. I too went home for lunch everyday or I hid out in the library quite often. I want to note that you were the first person who spoke to me. I was very shy when walking in but I was putting my best foot forward. You must have noticed that I was a fellow FBC2013 attendee. Anyhow, thank you from one shy girl to another.

  17. Mardi - you're right! FBC2013 was so comfortable and friendly, opening up was a lot easier than other social situations. So glad we got to say hi too!
    Michelle - You're awesome. Will come for tea next time I'm in Edmonton!
    Shelley - it really does. So glad I got a chance to have this experience!
    Kathy - Sweet lady! Instagram forever :)
    Christina - Wow. Thank you. I was shy walking in too, and like you was putting a best foot forward. I'm so glad we got a chance to meet. Shy girls rule :)


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