Thursday, September 2, 2010

International Food Blogger's Conference 2010 - The Sessions

IFBC held at the back of Theo Chocolate.
The 2010 International Food Blogging Conference took place at Theo Chocolate factory in the Fremont district of Seattle from August 27th - 29th. This was my first trip to the west coast. I loved Seattle, although personally I think the coffee shops downtown need to sell gluten free sandwiches along with their bagels and croissants! On Saturday morning we rode a bus over to the Theo Chocolate factory where we would attend sessions on food photography, food writing, law & ethics, specialized diets & blogging, how to write recipes, etc...

My trusty notebook used the first day of IFBC, I quickly learned my laptop would have been more appropriate for following tweets and adding my thoughts.
Udi's provided gluten free muffins for the morning sessions. If you haven't tried them, they are delicious (even though apparently that's an over-used flavor description that should never, ever be used on food blogs... oh well). The lemon muffins were my favorite! The muffins were light, tender, and full of that lovely sweet-tart flavor that reminded me of gluten-filled donuts. Yes. I would spend good money on these gluten free muffins.

POM Wonderful was also a sponsor of IFBC. I can't tell you how many bottles of pomegranate juice & tea I had at this conference. My body should be absolutely loaded with antioxidants. The tea was addicting and I loved the different flavors of tea infused with the juice. POM Wonderful provided a healthy alternative to the beers & wines that were also offered.

More pomegranate info: If you want to know how to open a pomegranate, I did a post about the process here. I also shared how to make pomegranate molasses here.

Lemons used in our writing exercise. The fragrance throughout the room was lovely and clean!
Speaking of lemon muffins, one session we attended was a writing workshop led by Kathleen Finn. The workshop focused on teaching us how to improve our writing skills and descriptive techniques. We had to think of ways to distinguish the taste and feel of a lemon along with the sound of a lemon being chopped -- without using the word lemony or citrus-y. It's harder than you might think. There were absolutely amazing writers in that room of food bloggers, and somehow funny sexual references in their sentences seemed to abound... you don't think a lemon is sexy?

Shauna James Ahern and Alex Jaimeson, Food Blogging for Specialized Diets. I love that they were both wearing red!
My favorite session of the entire conference was the panel on Food Blogging for Specialized Diets. Shauna James Ahern was the first panelist. She is author of the blog Gluten Free Girl, and the books "Gluten Free Girl: How I found the food that loves me back, and "Gluten Free Girl and the Chef." Joining Shauna was Alex Jamieson, a vegan holistic nutritionist and author of the books: "The Great American Detox Diet" and "Living Vegan for Dummies."

Shauna and Alex talked about the joys of writing about food. Some reasons discussed: food bloggers love the experience, they love to help people, and they want to share the joy they find in their kitchens. Shauna and Alex also shared the challenges that can come from working on a blog, why special diets seem to be increasingly more common, and how to make readers of all types of foods welcome to your blog.

A great point that Shauna made during this session was that no matter who you are and no matter what you can eat -- most people have at least one food that they avoid for health, taste, or ethical reasons. So really, we're all specialized food bloggers. We may not state it formally on our blog... but in general everybody has reasons for eating what they do.

Alex shared great stories about why she was a vegan (mostly for healthy reasons - the animal welfare/environmental ethics came later) and she shared her passion for helping people feel well. I loved Alex's enthusiasm for healthy food. The conversations between her & Shauna were engaging, fun, and exuberant! The joy shared by these two women simply radiated throughout the room!

Penny De Los Santos' first cover photograph for Saveur magazine shared during the photography session.
Another session that won people over at IFBC was the photography presentation by award-winning food photographer Penny De Los Santos. Penny was passionate about re-thinking photography. Penny taught that you can learn how to "make" a picture instead of taking one. I loved her incredible delivery & teaching style. I could have listened to Penny talk about the art and philosphy of photography for hours. I was deeply touched by Penny's reflections and intense love of knowing exactly the right moments to make a picture. Penny made me want to read the manual of my little, lowly "point-and-shoot" camera and actually made me believe that even I could make phenomenal pictures.

Melissa from Gluten Free For Good, beautifully summed up the photography session in her recent post on IFBC. If you would like more information on this session, please visit the IFBC website. (Penny's session will be available to view soon!)

Wendy of Celiacs in the House, accepting her Theo chocolate bar which held a ticket stating her prize for winning the photo contest. Go Wendy!
After the inspirational presentation from Penny, attendees were challenged with the task of "making" pictures during lunch on Sunday. I was absolutely BLOWN away by the quality photographs these food bloggers created. The photos were simply incredible. Beautiful. I can honestly say I'm not one of these bloggers! I love to write, I love to cook & bake, and I love creating recipes. But photography (at least at this point in time) is not one of my talents!

I think the highlight of this session for the attending gluten free bloggers was finding out that Wendy from Celiacs in the House won the photo contest. Wendy's award-winning photo was taken by her Canon Powershot SD1200 IS.We were all so proud of her for showing that you don't have to have the world's best camera or lighting equipment to make a beautiful picture. Along with learning photographic techniques, many people also have to develop the talent of being able to see beauty in unexpected places. Wendy... you have that gift!

Wowed by the port-a-potties of awesomeness...
Last but not least for today...

Ahhh... the port-a-potties. You know I love you to post this picture. The fancy-pants port-a-potties were the talk of the town at IFBC. Theo Chocolate factory didn't have enough restrooms for 350 food bloggers, so Zephyr Adventures (co-sponsor of IFBC) went out and found "The Royal (Portable) Restrooms", advertised as "a regal portable restroom experience." You just don't know what you were missing. Those port-a-potties of awesomeness had artwork on the walls, mirrors, a sink, soap dispensers, towels, a rug on the floor, and get this... individually-wrapped MINTS. Now mind you, there were a few food bloggers who were still a little put out at the thought of using port-a-potties throughout a 3 day food conference, but I have to say they certainly added something fun to talk about while waiting in line for food... or.... well... the port-a-potty.

If you attended IFBC this year, please share your comments on your experiences of the trip!

Tomorrow I'll share more highlights of IFBC and our first trip to Seattle!

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