foodblogSouth and why i blog

I went north this weekend, and I found the South. If you know Florida – and I’m pretty sure some of you are familiar with it – you probably also know that Florida is unusual. It doesn’t really fit into the South the way Georgia and Alabama do. Blame Miami or Orlando, but it really doesn’t matter. It’s a unique state, and I sort of like that.

I consider myself a southerner. I resisted it for a while, but the charms of southern culture have grown on me. Over the weekend, a group of food writers, stylists, photographers, and bloggers convened in Birmingham, Alabama, to embrace and celebrate all that is the South. foodblogSouth was the brainchild of Shaun Chavis and Jason Horn, with the dual purpose of bringing together food bloggers and raising money for the Desert Island Supply Company and the Alabama Gulf Coast Environmental Recovery Fund.

finer grind coffee

virginia willis

The conference was packed with sessions aimed at different levels of food bloggers, from novices to those of us that have been doing it a little while. The session with Virginia Willis and Alison Lewis on developing, writing, and testing recipes was a great reminder of technique, and it didn’t hurt that Virginia and Alison are so engaging. Jennifer Davick and Marian Cooper Cairns, both from Southern Living magazine, led the food styling and photography workshop, walking us through the process of styling and shooting a meal. Kim Severson, author of Spoon Fed: How Eight Cooks Saved My Life, was the keynote speaker, and – whether she meant to be or not – she was hysterical. She was down-to-earth and genuine, and it came across in everything she said.

photo styling workshop

photo styling workshop

photo styling workshop

A food blog conference wouldn’t be a FOOD blog conference without food. Saturday morning started off with a great cup of coffee from FinerGrind Coffee Roasters. Lunch was a grits bar, and of course I had to have the shrimp and grits. Have I mentioned lately that I adore grits? An afternoon pie break was sponsored by PieLab, a wonderful Greensboro, Alabama, restaurant and community space. While the sweet potato pie with cinnamon meringue was pretty darn good, I couldn’t stop eating the apple pie with cheddar crust. Oh, holy yum.

shrimp & grits

bread pudding

At IFBC in Seattle, a theme that I took away from that conference was that blogging should be about doing what you love to do. After spending Saturday in a variety of sessions at foodblogSouth, I started thinking about why I blog. Why exactly AM I spending so many hours creating this? It’s a lot of work, and I have to do it when I get home from my real job or on the weekends or after the kids go to bed at night. In its simplest form, writing a food blog involves researching recipes, cooking a dish, photographing the dish, editing photos, writing and editing each post, and finally pressing that “publish” button. Time consuming is probably an understatement.

So, why do I do it? Do I want to be famous? Do I want a cookbook deal? Is THAT why?


The answer is not simple, but I’m pretty sure the answer is NO, I don’t do it for those reasons.

I do it because I love to write. I love to create. I love putting my voice out there for someone other than me to read. I do it because it makes me a better cook. The process of seeing food through a camera lens and then on a computer screen gives me an entirely new perspective on the food that I put in my mouth and into the mouths of my loved ones. I do it because I need a creative outlet. I do it because my job is often stressful, and I need to make something beautiful after a long day in the hospital. I do it because I love the community. Through this blog, I’ve met the most incredibly talented people. The time I spent with Chris, Tami, Taylor, Helene, Paula, and Kelly was the best part of this weekend’s conference.

So, no. I don’t do it because I want to see my name in lights.

I do it because I must.

(Note: If you want more information on each photo, click through each one to my Flickr stream.)

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47 Responses to “foodblogSouth and why i blog”

  1. 1
    Chris — January 23, 2011 @ 9:35 pm

    Well done, MJ! Love the recap and great pics! I think you’re blogging for the very best reason. It was lovely, lovely, lovely meeting you. I can’t wait to see you in March, although I am not sure you’re going to get that Dutch Oven back. (lol…kidding.)

    • 1.1
      mj (merry gourmet)
      mj (merry gourmet) — January 24, 2011 @ 1:33 pm

      Ack! My Dutch oven is being held hostage!
      Seriously – it was SO good to meet you and spend the time talking. Can’t wait ’til next time!

  2. 2
    Mardi@eatlivetravelwrite — January 23, 2011 @ 9:35 pm

    What a lovely post MJ. Last week I was going through the ‘why am I doing this?’ and I have to say the tweets from you and Kelly and Paula over the weekend helped me reassess why I do it too. Watching (reading) all of you, I realised a big part of why I do this is for the community and I know that if I ever decided to stop blogging, I would still have some amazing friends from this community. For now, I just plod on – I am not sure what I want to come from all this but for now, I do it because I can’t not. If you get that. Which I am sure you do.

    • 2.1
      mj (merry gourmet)
      mj (merry gourmet) — January 24, 2011 @ 1:34 pm

      I totally get it.

  3. 3
    Jen @ My Kitchen Addiction — January 23, 2011 @ 9:37 pm

    Brilliant and beautiful post! You are absolutely blogging for the right reasons and that shows brightly through in everything you do. I love reading your site! Keep up the amazing work πŸ™‚

    • 3.1
      mj (merry gourmet)
      mj (merry gourmet) — January 24, 2011 @ 1:34 pm

      Thank you SO much, Jen. That means so much to me!

  4. 4
    Caneel — January 23, 2011 @ 9:38 pm

    This is a great post! I love the photos and information, and your feelings about blogging touch on mine in so many ways. I’m glad you had a good time!

  5. 5
    Lana @ Never Enough Thyme — January 23, 2011 @ 9:41 pm

    Wonderfully thoughtful post. This weekend was so full of learning and sharing and meeting and eating and everything that is wonderful about the food blogging community. It was such a pleasure to meet you and so many other bloggers that I previously knew only by their online personas. I hope this was only the first of many blogger get-togethers πŸ™‚

    • 5.1
      mj (merry gourmet)
      mj (merry gourmet) — January 24, 2011 @ 1:35 pm

      It was wonderful to finally meet you in person, too!

  6. 6
    Liz the Chef — January 23, 2011 @ 9:44 pm

    I’m into this new world after 27 years as a licensed clinical social worker, eaten up by child custody fights – I quit…And now I have a new “job”. Wonder what I would have done if I had not met up with the likes of you? I can still remember a year ago or so – let’s go forward πŸ™‚ Liz

  7. 7
    Winnie — January 23, 2011 @ 9:53 pm

    Terrific post, and I agree: you are blogging for all the right reasons πŸ™‚

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  9. 8
    WritingLeigh — January 23, 2011 @ 10:08 pm

    I’m so glad you know your “why”. I read an article recently about how many bloggers are closing their doors because they aren’t getting enough out of it. If it’s something you do for YOU, then the comments and sponsors don’t matter. I’m glad you discovered your voice because I live hearing it. β€’hugsβ€’

    • 8.1
      mj (merry gourmet)
      mj (merry gourmet) — January 24, 2011 @ 1:14 pm

      Aw, I love you!

  10. 9
    WritingLeigh — January 23, 2011 @ 10:10 pm

    I also LOVE hearing it. β€’grumblesβ€’ That’s what I get for commenting from my iPod.

  11. 10
    Barbara | VinoLuciStyle — January 23, 2011 @ 10:11 pm

    Thank you for sharing with us; I think answering that question can be difficult. Really, why do we do this? And we all have unique and personal reasons. I started many many years ago with a site that was just recipes and instructions and if I’m PERFECTLY honest…I was OK with that. Because I do it to share the food. I would seriously feed the world if I could and I’ve done a lot of that with friends and neighbors over the years but I know that first website was so that I could share recipes that I love with family, friends and neighbors…and ultimately strangers!

    That is still important to me and while I’m enjoying the foray into photography the truth is I could live without having to write a story. I can’t define why; is it because I work on the computer that sitting in the same space writing a blog post seems like an extension of work or is it more that I would much rather be cooking than spending that time writing? Probably a bit of both.

    • 10.1
      mj (merry gourmet)
      mj (merry gourmet) — January 24, 2011 @ 1:15 pm

      Barb – You’re right. The answer can be more difficult than it seems. And, sometimes, the answer is different one day to the next.

  12. 11
    Liren — January 23, 2011 @ 10:17 pm

    Love this post, MJ πŸ™‚ The question of “why I blog” and the answers that follow are what we need to remember, especially in those moments when you may feel a bit tired or start to feel a little burnt out from blogging. I’m so glad you had a great time at Food Blog South!

  13. 12
    Brian @ A Thought For Food — January 23, 2011 @ 10:46 pm

    Thank you so much for sharing this recap. First of all, you’re right. Florida is unusual. Every time I go down there I’m reminded of this. Sometimes that’s a good thing, though… right?

    These pictures are so wonderful and are a reminder of exactly why you do this. Because you’re thoughtful, talented, artistic.

  14. 13
    Lynda — January 23, 2011 @ 11:45 pm

    Thanks so much for a sharing a lovely post, MJ. I think your reasons are spot on.

  15. 14
    Taylor — January 23, 2011 @ 11:45 pm

    Great write up and great hanging out with you this weekend! I look forward to seeing your future posts! Good luck to your Gators next season, hopefully I can make it to a gator game! Take Care!
    – Taylor

    • 14.1
      mj (merry gourmet)
      mj (merry gourmet) — January 24, 2011 @ 1:16 pm

      Taylor – Thanks so much! We’ll show you around the Swamp anytime you’re this way. πŸ™‚

  16. 15
    Helene — January 23, 2011 @ 11:47 pm

    It was a treat meeting you this weekend MJ! Keep on rocking like you do πŸ™‚

  17. 16
    Tes — January 24, 2011 @ 3:11 am

    Thanks so much for sharing this. I love that you blog from your heart and not for other reasons. Always love to read more πŸ™‚

  18. 17
    Anita Menon — January 24, 2011 @ 5:18 am

    “So, no. I don’t do it because I want to see my name in lights.

    I do it because I must.”

    Fantastic post. Often, answering the most basic questions, can make us ponder for days. You sure answered some of my own.

    • 17.1
      mj (merry gourmet)
      mj (merry gourmet) — January 24, 2011 @ 1:18 pm

      Thank you so much, Anita.

  19. 18
    Macaroni Mama — January 24, 2011 @ 7:38 am

    Your photos are an excellent recap of your trip AND what wonderful comments your food blogging friends made on this post. I’m proud of you. Now I need to get “my writing voice” back.

    • 18.1
      mj (merry gourmet)
      mj (merry gourmet) — January 24, 2011 @ 1:18 pm

      Aw, thanks, Mom. I love you.

  20. 19
    Jen — January 24, 2011 @ 7:59 am

    Enjoyed this post and I enjoy the blog. I have been threatening to get more into cooking for years and that part is slowly becomming more alive- this blog has helped.

  21. 20
    Lael Hazan @educatedpalate — January 24, 2011 @ 8:19 am

    Thank you for sharing your experiences of Food Blog South. I had wished to go and it was fun to live vicariously through you. I also appreciated your thoughts about “why” you blog. Great insight. I too blog because I enjoy writing. I also am enjoying learning about the camera; however, it hasn’t yet become a reciprocal relationship. I do have goals for the next year.

  22. 21
    Eftychia — January 24, 2011 @ 8:28 am

    Thank you for sharing this experience with us. Thank you for blogging. Nice work!!

  23. 22
    Woody The Roaster — January 24, 2011 @ 8:36 am

    Beautiful pictures and words. Thank you for the mention and here’s looking forward to FoodBlogSouth 2012!

  24. 23
    SMITH BITES — January 24, 2011 @ 8:52 am

    You’re doing this for all the right reasons, MJ – all of those things you’ve listed are worthy of your time and energy. Blogging IS a ton of work but at the end of the day, I always ask myself, ‘would I still be doing this if only one person read my blog?’ Most days the answer is ‘yes!’ for the same reasons. Can’t wait to meet you IRL!

    • 23.1
      mj (merry gourmet)
      mj (merry gourmet) — January 24, 2011 @ 1:19 pm

      I’m so looking forward to meeting you, too!

  25. 24
    Paula - bell'alimento — January 24, 2011 @ 10:28 am

    I couldn’t have said it better myself. I <3 food people! And I LOVED getting the opportunity to FINALLY meet you. You rawk {you know why tee hee ; ) } Can't wait to see you again in May xoxo MWAH MWAH MWAH!

    • 24.1
      mj (merry gourmet)
      mj (merry gourmet) — January 24, 2011 @ 1:20 pm

      *HUGS* to you Paula! It was SO great to meet you finally. *MWAH* right back!

  26. 25
    Eat Jackson — January 24, 2011 @ 10:53 am

    For those of us who couldn’t make it… It was great to get such a nice recap. You ended up with some of the best pictures of the weekend that we’ve seen!

  27. 26
    Kate @ Savour Fare — January 24, 2011 @ 2:45 pm

    Great recap, and something I struggle with as well. It’s hard when so many things aimed to food bloggers are about “finding your niche” “Pitching the Book”, “Getting the Gig” etc. But it’s easy to forget why we got into this into the first place, which had nothing to do about fameseeking and everything to do with loving food.

  28. 27
    Cook in a Bar — January 24, 2011 @ 5:30 pm

    Nice post…thanks for sharing your experience with us.

  29. 28
    JulieD — January 24, 2011 @ 5:34 pm

    Great post! Wish I was there too! Can’t wait until we finally meet in person. FBF Atlanta was so fun so I can imagine how good the food and the people were at FBS. For me food blogging is all about the food and eating it! πŸ™‚

  30. 29
    Liz the Chef — January 24, 2011 @ 6:25 pm

    Thanks for a great post – I’m still a newbie to all this but agree with your main points. Blogging feels like a job or mission or some such thing…

  31. 30
    DessertForTwo — January 25, 2011 @ 5:02 pm

    Lovely recap!

    I was asking myself the same question throughout the conference. I decided that I also enjoy the creative expression. If it leads to nothing, I am perfectly content with that.

    Great meeting you πŸ™‚

  32. 31
    Megan — January 26, 2011 @ 9:21 am

    So many times I wonder why I do it and then I’ll get a sweet e-mail saying thank you, that I helped make someone a better cook. The truth be told, I think my blog makes me a better cook! It has taken me outside my comfort zone and treated me to ingredients I might have otherwise missed out on. Lovely post! I love going to these foodie conferences!

  33. 32
    Aggie — January 28, 2011 @ 9:36 pm

    Wonderful Post! I so wished I could have joined you all that weekend. Sounds like a fantastic time. I agree, it’s not about seeing your name in lights…for me, it’s the dream job that’s not a job, I feel so lucky to have stumbled into food blogging almost 3!!! years ago…it has changed me.

  34. 33
    Alison @ Ingredients, Inc. — February 3, 2011 @ 2:57 pm

    Great post and fantastic photos! I am so glad you came and enjoyed it. I hope to see you again very soon!

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