Creating Community, One Meal at a Time (+ a Giveaway!)
A few nights ago, I had some blogger friends over for dinner. Phoebe (Feed Me Phoebe), Serena (Domesticate ME!), and Amie (The Healthy Apple) gathered around my yellow table for a night of good food, storytelling, and brainstorming. Amie and I met several years ago at IACP, and I met Phoebe and Serena last fall at a blogger potluck dinner. These women are total rockstars: they each have fantastic blogs, all work as private chefs and freelance writers, and still manage to juggle a variety of side projects. As much as I love connecting with people via social media, there's nothing like gathering face-to-face for a meal and honest conversation. Blogging can feel isolating at times – you're working alone, creating new content day after day that (you hope!) will resonate with readers. It's comforting to know I'm not alone on this crazy career path.
For our dinner, I decided to try out a few recipes from Sara Forte (a.k.a. Sprouted Kitchen)'s fantastic new book Bowl + Spoon – yummy za'atar-roasted carrots (pictured above) and an addictive lentil-olive tapenade (see below) – plus a simple green salad and my favorite honey-Dijon roasted salmon. We drank bubbly (obvi) and swapped stories, confessed fears and doled out advice. We laughed, we vented, and we cheered each other on. It was such a fun night, and one we hope to make a monthly occasion. And to any other bloggers – or freelancers who work from home – reading this, I encourage you to do the same! Create a monthly blogger (or graphic designer or artist or writer) dinner in your town. We all need this type of community and encouragement.
Since the dinner, I've been thinking about the mission behind my blog. There are literally thousands of food blogs out there – what sets mine apart? Why should someone spend their valuable time reading my posts? Am I offering something meaningful, or at least useful? People in the publishing world tell me I need to have more of a "niche." The most successful food blogs seem to specialize in one subject, whether its health or weight loss or baking, and post recipes that are (pick one) gluten-free, Paleo, raw, vegan, grain-free, whole foods-based, desserts, or kid-friendly.
The Yellow Table doesn't really fit into a niche. I post simple, seasonal – mostly healthy! – recipes that I like to eat. I share about my own insecurities and fears, but also about truths I've learned along the way. I invited you all into the process of writing my cookbook. I share about the dinner parties I throw, and hopefully inspire you to gather people around your own table. But at the end of the day, if I had to state the mission of my blog, it's this: I want to create authentic community – online, yes, but even more so, offline. I want to help people connect, over a home cooked meal, and hopefully around table.
I don't subscribe to a specific diet (other than 'Eat lots of vegetables!'), but I do believe that there's something deeply nourishing about a home-cooked meal. I believe that the table is a sacred space, and time spent talking with friends or family over a meal can be healing and life-giving. If I could do just one thing through this blog, it would be to spark a movement of shared meals. I'd love to see people inviting friends, colleagues, neighbors – strangers even – into their homes to share a meal and conversation. A picture-perfect tablescape or elaborate spread of food has nothing to do with it – ultimately, it's about creating connection.
I have no idea how I'll achieve this mission – or even if I can – but it's helpful for me to have an intention behind this blog. My greatest joy as a blogger come from connecting with you all – through comments and emails and social media and recipe-testing – and through collaborating with other bloggers (like on my road trip last summer!). I hope this year brings more connections and collaborations, and many more shared meals.
Sara Forte is one of the bloggers that I've loved connecting with. Though we've only met once in person (over brunch!), we stay in touch over email and text, and she's been a huge inspiration to me. I love her blog, both for her recipes and her perspective on life, and her books are go-to's for me when I'm craving a healthy, delicious meal. I hope you'll order Bowl + Spoon - it's full of healthy, one-dish recipes that are best eaten out of a bowl (which, coincidentally, make them perfect to serve for a gathering with friends).
I love this book so much, that I'm giving away a copy! To enter the drawing: 1) Leave a comment below (What does authentic community look like to you? OR what's your favorite bowl food?!). 2) Share this post on any social media channel. Easy!
The winner will be randomly drawn next Thursday 4/16 and announced in my newsletter Friday 4/17 – sign up if you haven't subscribed already! (NOTE: This giveaway is for U.S. residents only.)
(Food photos by Brandon Carl)