Certain expectations are made when you are a food blogger. An invitation to a potluck, or to bring a dish to a dinner party, comes with high expectations that I’m going to bring a show-stopping dish: something exotic, something new and exciting, something very different from anything else on the table. No store-bought dips and chips or veggie trays! It’s game on! I generally relish the opportunity to showcase recipes featuring local, seasonal ingredients and show what’s possible when you shop at your CSA or farmers markets, but I’m a working girl and sometimes those expectations clash with reality.
You have to gauge your audience and be realistic with your time and resources. A debate watch-party at 6:00 on a Wednesday? I’m not making fresh bread or anything requiring cooking because I’ll likely show up right before the event; instead, I’ll pack a cooler with something that can sit in my office all day. A potluck at work with no access to an oven or stovetop? I’ll need to bring something that can be heated in a slow cooker or served at room temperature because the kitchen refrigerator is always overstuffed with all sorts of things. The annual HOA meeting? That’s in July, it’s hot, and the food is going to sit on a folding table for a few hours so think cool, crisp and refreshing with minimal risk of food poisoning. Yet, as a food blogger, the expectations are pretty high so it can be hard to pull it off with all these considerations.
The hardest is Super Bowl Parties. First, it’s February when the local produce is at a low. Realistically, people want football food. They want mini-wieners wrapped in dough and dipped in yellow mustard. They want hot wings. They want bean dip and guacamole. They want nachos with queso. You know, the stuff of American football! All of that is great and I love to swipe a chip through bean dip as much as anyone else, but sometimes I want to bring other foods that show my creativity and cooking prowess. I’ve learned not to bother because nobody eats them. I brought a Mediterranean plate to a Super Bowl party one year: homemade dolmades, hummus, feta, olives, pita, etc. It was a beautiful presentation and each element was top quality. Few touched it. One person said the hummus looked like cat food. Grrrr…. Another year, having not learned my lesson, I brought a platter of seasonal pears, sprinkled with gorgonzola and local honey. Similar reaction. Why would anyone want to eat fresh fruit when they could indulge in mini meatballs simmered in grape jelly? (Admittedly, one of my favorites!)
The best occasions to showcase my cooking abilities are on weekends when I have time to shop, cook and create. A recent soup party gave me time to assess the goodies from my CSA, search for thoughtful recipes and cook a great soup containing mushrooms, onions, garlic, carrots, celery, barley. I showcased local produce and touted the glories of my CSA! At a late-summer, pot-luck I brought a warm salad made with orzo and roasted veggies from the garden: peppers, summer squash, onions – topped with diced tomatoes and drizzled with a good olive oil. It was a perfect way to present summer veggies without spending a lot of time over a hot stove. In these instances, I think I met expectations.
When I host dinner parties, I ask about food allergies and aversions and then I create a menu based upon what I expect to find at the farmers market or my CSA bag. Even the simplest ingredients can be showstoppers with the right presentation. Think of a platter of watermelon radishes and cucumbers arranged in a circular pattern, sprinkled with chopped herbs and drizzled in lemon juice, buttery olive oil and coarse salt. Too pretty to eat! Or a vegetable lasagna featuring layers of eggplant, summer squash and fresh tomato sauce from the garden. Bring that pan right to the table and serve your guests as the scent of basil wafts over the room and they watch the steam rise from the masterpiece. It’s pure showmanship! A spring risotto featuring peas, young carrots, spring onions and garlic scapes served with a roasted chicken from a trusted farmer. These are great meals and live up to the reputation of a food blogger.
Being a food blogger is a lot of work and can be great fun. Taking raw ingredients and turning them into something amazing is fantastic! Feeding friends and family is the biggest reward. Even if they have to sit back and wait to eat until I finish taking umpteen pictures of radishes for Instagram!
Pepper – November 2022