We don’t always get to do what we want in this world. We’re encumbered, sometimes by the things we value and cherish most: our family, our work, our responsibilities, as we adults call them. So often, even our free time, those treasured few moments we carve out of our frenzied days, slip away unnoticed and unaccounted for.
My time, and how I spend it, is something I’ve thought about a lot this past year, maybe more. We’ve lost people we love and we’ve walked the path of illness and grief with others close to our hearts. We’ve even had a couple of close calls ourselves. That delicate line between “the life I once had” and “the life I need to somehow accept and embrace” has never been more clearly drawn around so many of the people we love. And it’s not over yet. Because, let’s face it, it’s never over. Until it is, of course.
This past weekend, I traveled to the International Food Blogger Conference in New Orleans, a place I’ve never been, and a city much like my own. Scarred but strong. Weary but resolute. Working it through, and making it work, somehow, despite overwhelming odds.
These beautiful cities — New Orleans and Detroit — both walked that line, for reasons similar and vastly different. More than a few things connect them: their unique brands of music, culture and food. New Orleans built itself on a rich legacy of food. And food, in a small, yet powerful way, is rebuilding Detroit.
But none of this was on my mind as I flew south Friday, because I was doing exactly what I wanted to do: Taking time to spend with friends. Meeting new people. Making connections. By this, I don’t mean networking, a term I’ve always despised because it feels so calculated and false. I’m talking about geniune connections with people who come from wildly different places and backgrounds, but are threaded together by their passion for food and all it represents.
We listened to Shauna, who views what many might consider deprivation as a joyful world to explore. We peered into Andrew’s soul when we looked at the pictures he’s made. We were inspired by John, who nourished the city he loves after it fell. We talked about practical things like writing recipes, endorsing products, sustainability, managing our brands. And, ironically, managing our time.
We ate. Often and well. We’re food bloggers; that’s what we do. Seafood gumbo. Charbroiled oysters. Fried tomato salad, layered with bacon and buttermilk-dressed arugula. Charcuterie. Crispy Shrimp and grits. More grits, this time with eggs and sausage. We ate at Bourbon House, NOLA, Couchon Butcher, and Drago’s. We walked along steamy, stinky Bourbon Street, drinking cold beer, revelling in the moment. We talked, and laughed and laughed a little more.
Every time I’m with my food friends I walk away astonished at how much I receive, and how wonderful this community is. When I returned home, exactly where I wanted to be, my heart was full.