The first challenge entry (and first elimination round...eep!) asks contestants to explain what defines them as a blogger, what makes their blog unique, and why they think that they have what it takes to be the next food blog star. Loaded question, much?
Given the importance of this blog entry, I sat down and actually started brainstorming. I mean really, there are a gazillion food blogs out there that give tips, tricks, recipes, and reviews, but I started Fro and a Fork because I believe that I have a unique perspective to offer, given my relationship with food.
Instead of answering the question of why my food blog is makes me worthy of being the Next Food Blog Star, I decided to uncover why food is so important to me because I think that will better explain what makes me worthy of the honor. Makes sense right? If I didn't have a passion for food why would I even have this blog?
I've always noticed a strong link between food, family, friends, travel, and life lessons, all things that I briefly mentioned in my CNN iReport. I want to expand a bit so that you know what inspires me when I interact with food, be it shopping, cooking, experimenting, or dining out. This will give you an idea of what motivates me to blog and share these things with you. Also, I hope you enjoy watching my hair change through the years...
When I was little, I always wanted something new and different to eat and my parents tried, with various levels of success to make that happen. My grandma was essentially my short order cook and my dad was my supplier of things my mom wouldn't let me eat. My mom always called me in the kitchen to help her, not because she needed it but because she wanted us to bond and grow closer as I grew up. Basically, cooking and mealtimes in my household were about more than food, it was a time to receive advice, life lessons, praise, and occasionally scolding from my parents and grandmother. (In the photo, my dad and I were talking about my first semester of graduate school, while slicing the Thanksgiving ham.) Advice was best dealt over cake and juice (remember, I'm lactose intolerant), and scoldings were usually saved for the end of meals, trapping me at the table with nothing to be distracted by...including food. But I love and cherish the moments in our kitchen and dining room.
When I went off to college, food maintained its importance in my life. Trips to the cafeteria at midnight signaled study exhaustion and new friendships, grocery shopping on my own gave me opportunities to try foods that my parents wouldn't buy, and even an internship with Student Action with Farmworkers changed the way I viewed food and how it makes it to my plate. This was a time of great experimentation and the discovery of the term "foodie."
Student Action With Farmworkers Internship: Sumter, South Carolina.
From Left: Me driving a tractor, chicken farm, farmworkers in a cucumber field.
While in college, I studied abroad in Chile in 2006. I was super excited to go to South America and try a new culture...and of course the food! I could not eat enough in Chile, and essentially I became a bottomless pit.
My first moments in Chile.
From Left: My study abroad group at Quien Sabe,
Empanadas and Vaina, Dinner the first night,
and Cafe Cortado with a dulce
During this time, I also spent my first Thanksgiving away from home. My mom asked how I felt about missing Thanksgiving before I departed for Santiago, and I said "Oh Mom, its just Thanksgiving." However, when Thursday, November 23, 2006 rolled around I was an emotional mess. I was so confused to see Chileans moving about their everyday (and yes, I had to go to class), I wanted to scream "Don't you know it's Thanksgiving?!," but it would be to no avail, since its a North American holiday. My amazing host mom, Jenny, tried to comfort me, but it just wasn't enough--I wanted Thanksgiving.
Apparently other gringos in my group felt the same way, so we ended up getting together and having our own little potluck Thanksgiving! It was incredibly hard finding a turkey, stuffing, and cranberry sauce (not to mention incredibly expensive), but our group of 20 came together for a common cause and had a great time in the process. We even invited our Chilean friends to our dinner to see what they thought about it...cranberry sauce was not a big hit, but they loved the idea of Thanksgiving and what it meant to us.
Dia de la Accion de Gracias (Turkey Day the Chilean Way)
While in Chile, I decided to hop over to Peru for a few weeks. Before departing, Jenny made me the most amazing lunch and walked me to the buses that were taking my group to the airport. She told me I would love Peru, and that the food was amazing...she was correct. Upon arriving I began drinking coca tea to help me with the altitude, but quickly moved to warm red wine with honey and Inca cola. I had amazing pizza, ceviche, and Asian-fused foods while there, all while being in awe of Inca ruins. The things that I remember most about Peru, aside from the friendly people, was the delicious food and how I felt apart of their history--which they eagerly shared with me in cafes and on street corners.
Peru! from left: ceviche, me in Cusco bartending, my host mom-Jenny,
me playing in a corn field, wood- fired pizza
The last week that I was in Santiago, I decided that I was going to make my host parents dinner to thank them for sharing their culture, by sharing my own. I'm from the south, so soul food is love. I made my host family a traditional Sunday dinner of fried chicken, collard greens, macaroni and cheese. I even got a bottle of hot sauce from the U.S. (thanks to Steven) to round things out. They loved it! This also spurred an amazing conversation about slavery, race in the United States, and the sentiments behind soul food.
Bringing Soul to Chile: fried chicken, mac and cheese, collards, hot sauce, tomatoes.
My host mom even has the itis!
I got back from Chile at Christmas time and I had so many Christmas dinners because everyone wanted to see me! This brings me to celebrations which always involve good food, but the food is more flavorful because of good company. One of my favorites was with my two dear friends, Aimee and Sloan, at Sloan's mom's house in the middle of nowhere, South Carolina. Something about that old, creaky house made the dinner just that much more special.
Welcome Home, Christmas Dinner Party 2006Birthdays are also one of my favorite occasions. Its always great celebrating with friends and reflecting on a year and anticipating what this year of your life will bring. A few years ago, I tried my hand at baking and I made Steven a pretty awesome birthday cake. As you know, he's a gamer (I'm not, at least not like him) and so are his friends so they were pretty impressed that I made awesome game themed cakes for the party, not only were they delicious, but everyone was impressed with the thoughtfulness of it.
Cookie Cupcakes based on the video game Portal; Mega Man Birthday Cake
This year, Steven took me to Charleston so that I could eat at some of my favorite restaurants which have also become some of his favorite restaurants. We had a great time at the beach, ate lots of cupcakes, and had dinner at my favorite restaurant in Charleston--Basil. This means a lot to me because Steven is by no means a foodie, but my love of food and sharing it with him has made him more open to trying new things, something that he always thanks me for.
My 25th Birthday Cupcake, Red Velvet...of course, I'm a southern girl!
I'll just stop here so I don't bore you to death because I can talk forever, but the point of all of the above photos and stories was to express that in my opinion, food isn't just something to cook or something that tastes good, its a total package of taste, company, memories, experiences, and stories to tell later. So if you don't remember anything else about this post, I just want you to remember that to me food is involved in the creation of bonds and strong friendships, cultural understanding and awareness, as well as traditions and memories.
I think that Fro and a Fork delivers all of the above to my readers which hopefully inspires them (even the non-foodies) to try a new recipe, cuisine, or food...or at the very least think about doing so. How you ask? Well, because when I travel, you travel. When my mom teaches me a new trick, I blog about it and teach you. When I honor my grandmother's memory through food, you get a recipe. When I experience success, you guys cheer me on. And when I mess up, I fess up and steer you in the right direction.
I don't claim to be perfect or the best cook, I don't know everything about food, and I haven't eaten the world. But what I do have is a passion for food and all of its intricacies. It is my hope that Fro and a Fork transfers more than culinary knowledge; I want my blog to help readers create their own memories and experiences through something that they read or learn about here, and this is why I think I have what it takes to be the next Food Blog Star.*
*Plus, I have an ungodly amount of student loan debt and a wedding to plan so I'm not going to lie, $10K would be sweeeeet!