It was when she got the meat saw out that things got really exciting.
Ninety odd necks craned forward to see a knife pushed between the ribs, making clean, straight cuts. The sound of the saw teeth grating against the spine echoed over the lapel mike. When the severed flesh was turned to the gaping crowd an audible sigh of appreciation was released, just heard over the many camera clicks.
It may sound like some macabre live version of a Dexter episode, but it’s not. No, this is how food bloggers have fun.
November 5 saw the second annual Eat Drink Blog conference descend on Sydney. From the opening breakfast of coffee, juice and pastries through to the last few stragglers downing drinks in the Cross, it was a day to create memories.
But the image that will stick in most heads is that of chef Nonie Dwyer, recently back from the temple of meat that is River Cottage in the UK, bent over a whole lamb carcass. Her master class on breaking down a beast introduced the room to the idea of deep fried lamb bacon, garnering her many tweeted marriage proposals in the process. And I’d be lying if I didn’t say one was from me.
This conference was really designed to do two things. Firstly, to help foster a real community, to bring people with the same interests together. From the significant upswing in activity on my twitter feed, I think it’s fair to say this succeeded.
A lot of has been written about how the internet creates virtual communities. Historically people have had to socialise with those who lived near them, but the wonders of the computer age have changed that. We now can choose friends (of a sort) not by who lives next to us, but rather by who loves what we love, even if they are a country or a world away.
But we still love to see people face to face, and we need a place to meet new friends to sustain this community. That’s what these conferences are for, and they work beautifully.
Eat Drink Blog was also, at its base level, about trying teaching us something new. Partially it was trying to teach us how good the sponsors were, but it wouldn’t have worked without giving real lessons to take away.
So what did I learn? I learnt that I have to be a little bit careful when I’m saying I don’t like a restaurant, because I can potentially be sued. I learnt how some people manage to make some cash from this game. And I learnt that a pinch and a slap is an impressively effective way to knead dough.
Though arguably more useful than the things I learnt were the questions I asked myself about my own blog. In particular, how can I make it better?
In the coming weeks I will be making some changes to this blog along with my answers to this. There will be effort to connect with other bloggers, and with my readers. I will also endeavour to actually read my blogs before I post them, hopefully improving my writing.
What I probably won’t be doing is adding photos to my blog. There is something appealing about being the only blog at the conference to have no photographs. It’s a point of difference.
Plus, and this is probably a more important point, when it comes to photos, so many people are a lot better at it than I am, as you will see if you look at any other run down of this conference. In particular I really like those at Everybody Loves Ramen and 84th&3rd. But for me, when my dish comes to the table, I want to eat it. I’ll stick to my words.
One last question that I had to ask myself was whether I would accept a free meal. The conference finished with a very involved discussion of blogging ethics, led by Tammi Tasting Terroir and Canberra’s own Progressive Dinner Party, and it pushed these questions. General opinion was that it was ok, provided there was full and open disclosure, but I am not sure, for my personal standards, that is enough.
This conference was paid for entirely by sponsors, for which I am extremely grateful. But it is because of this that I have not reviewed the dinner at Kingsley’s Steak and Crabhouse, the breads and pastries from Brasserie Bread, or the lunch provided by Meat and Livestock Australia.
I don’t feel comfortable publicly giving my opinion on food that I haven’t paid for. If I say it is good, I don’t want people to wonder if I’m compromised. If it is bad, I don’t want to feel guilty about saying so.
Though, really, it’s a bit of a moot point at the moment. I’d have to get more readers first.
There aren’t many times in my life where I have been in a room with so many people who are as passionate as I am about one subject. It was an intoxicating experience. So thank you to the organisers, Trina (The Gourmet Forager), Jen (Jenius), Reem (I Am Obsessed With Food) and Simon (The Heart of Food).
Which leaves only one thing to ask. Where is next year’s conference being held?
And who’s bringing the saw?