Sucking Up IFBC

Note to readers: This is a subsidized post. In exchange for a reduced conference fee, I agreed to write three posts about the International Food Bloggers Conference.

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The agenda of speakers and breakout sessions at IFBC ’14 was feast or famine for me: I either faced a scheduling conflict with multiple events of interest happening at the same time, or nothing at all to capture my attention. Of the latter, I actually left and saw a movie during a loll. (The Maze Runner, which wasn’t half bad!)

One session I chose to attend over two other equally intriguing options was a writing class with Dianne Jacob, author of Will Write For Food, a book which I think I may have purchased, put on my shelf, and never got around to reading. (Nothing against Dianne — I’m like that sometimes with books.) In her well prepared and presented hour with us, Dianne offered some excellent advice and tips: Use context. Add memories from the past and bring them into the present. Tap into all your senses. Be conversational. Activate the verbs and get specific with the adjectives.

The session also including a couple of in-class, timed writing assignments. The first was to describe our lunch, which for many of us was served and consumed in the Westin Hotel conference center, included with our registration fee and sponsored by a blender company. Here’s what I wrote:

There’s always a sense of foreboding when approaching a hotel buffet lunch, forged from countless business meetings, weddings, and other situations where you’d likely rather be somewhere else. As this lunch was being served to a conference of food bloggers, my expectations were a little less gloomy, hoping that the kitchen and conference organizers had risen to the challenge of serving hundreds of hungry and highly critical folks.

While the buffet tables stood ready, awaiting to be scavenged and devoured, a few shutterbugs swarmed over the multiple spreads, capturing heaping bowls of cheery chopped salads, baskets piled high with plump chunks of herb-studded focaccia, and long gleaming steam tables, their ornately adorned stainless steel lids still closed, providing some drama and mystery.

Would this meal for the masses pass muster, or even become a highlight of a very full day of tasting and experience? Or would it be as laughable and unappetizing as a rubber chicken?

Notice how I barely mentioned the food? That should tell you everything you need to know about it.

The next assignment was to “write sensually” about a food item; roasted almonds and ginger candy chews were distributed around the room to get our mouths and minds flowing. Personally, I hate this kind over-writing; it’s campy, clunky, and unnecessary. As the mostly middle aged women in the room tittered over their “racy” compositions, I wondered if perhaps food writing has become the romance novel of the modern age.

Here’s what I wrote:

Under two layers of crinkly paper, a dime-sized amber brick emerged, dusted with an unusually gritty powdered sugar. Though it had the translucent appearance of a gummy bear, a small bite revealed a much denser, tougher consistency that surprised my teeth. Chewing the candy into submission rewarded me with a deep rush of warmth, and the spicy sensation spreading across my tongue was yet another surprise from this deceptively simple-looking treat.

I kinda hate that I ‘went there’ and wrote something that involved “surprising” my teeth. But that was the six-minute assignment, and I truly thrive on direction, parameters, and deadlines. Even if it’s not something I’m into.

The people in the session who read their work aloud also had no problem embracing a romantic, over-the-top style of writing. They consistently included all sorts of gory details about the maceration of foodstuffs inside their wet and busy oral cavities, bearing mouthfuls of beautiful destruction and discovery. Or something like that. To that feast-y style of overwrought writing, I simply must say: yuck.

Marketing at IFBC: The Good, The Bad, and the Huh?

Note to readers: This is a subsidized post. In exchange for a reduced conference fee, I agreed to write three posts about the International Food Bloggers Conference.

The good: this genius shirt from the Bordeaux Wine Council.

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I was more than happy to post this Instagram photo to get one. And great to make a new local friend, Allan Aquilla! We had a good time together at the Saturday night event.

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The bad: please please please can we put the “Keep Calm And…” thing to rest already?

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I will acknowledge that this at least has a somewhat nice ring to it. But still. I don’t want to use these pans to cook the dead horse you’re beating.

The huh?

I was surprised that there weren’t more Seattle/Northwest brands represented. How is Starbucks not a sponsor of an event like this? A few local restaurants were part of the Saturday night “Taste of Seattle” event but it was dominated by other national/international brands. Raincoast Crisps had a significant presence at the opening event, but Lesley’s Stowe’s little pitch speech was widely (and loudly) ignored. As I learned over the course of the weekend, ignoring people who are talking might be one of the hallmarks of a bloggers conference. I was in a breakout session on writing and a woman near me spent the entire time writing and monitoring three Twitter feeds. Does it count as “being there” if you’re not really present in the moment?