Other times, of course, planning is important and pays off and shows that you’re a good grown-up and all.
Mostly, in this crazy, beautiful life of mine, I toss things together. And most of the time, in this glorious jumble of living, everything turns out okay. So I’m sitting here at 11pm, with this weekend’s BlogHer Food conference swimming around in my head, and I just want to toss it all together into a salad that you can share with me, full of flavor and joy and tang.
This post resisted planning, and so it has been tossed together, but with love and joy and a not inconsiderable amount of happy exhaustion.
I wish you could’ve been there, so that we could be talking about it to each other, instead of you hearing it from me.
So there’s Liz, my friend who works at BlogHer, keeping her eye out for volunteer opportunities at BlogHer Food for her low-income friend (that’s me), and there’s me assuming I’ll try to go next year or something.
And then she doesn’t go to BlogHer Food and I do, to liveblog in her stead (oddly, the transcripts aren’t up yet, but I’m sure they will be), in exchange for my ticket (THANK YOU, BlogHer!) and a bajillion things happen, only a few of which my brain feels up to telling you about right now.
Like the way if you don’t have a hotel room, the bathroom is the quietest place to hide out at the Intercontinental, and you can stay in there a long time, but generally, you can’t get cell reception in there, so no one gets to read the tweets you think about composing on the toilet.
Or how the recharge lounge disappoints by being about recharging laptops, not people, but still turns out to be the second-quietest place to grab a minute, even though they will get a little hurt if you don’t want to drink their soda, but mainly because they really are trying to be friendly and do their jobs.
There was a LOT of free food there. Even a lot of free REAL food, which sort of surprised me. I was easily able to get fruit and yogurt for breakfast; and fish and good bread and butter for lunch. And my first tastes of lots of decadent things, like pavlova and panna cotta. The sponsors really went all out, which, because I am who I am, felt really down-the-rabbit-hole to me. I almost felt guilty for taking the free stuff, too, since not only was I on a scholarship of sorts, but I don’t do product reviews on my blog, and I’m not looking for sponsor synergy to grow my brand, or whatever.
Speaking of branding, I did, several times, want to tell people “I am not a brand; I’m a writer! I don’t want to grow my brand; I want to expand my consciousness!” Rest assured that I know how obnoxious that sounds, so I mostly kept that to myself.
And before you get the idea that I was some bastion of anticommercialism in a sea of monacle-wearing SEO barons, I have to say that every single speaker–
Let me give that its own line: Every. Single. Speaker.
Every single speaker that I heard, in the five panels I attended, spoke about blogging (or writing, or taking photos) from the heart, living authentically, changing the world, being real, doing what you love, living your dream, and yes, putting money last.
These, much to my delight, are my people. I just didn’t know it before last Friday. Not until we were, and I hope you’ll forgive me, tossed together.
There are quotes, too, some of which are even better out of context:
“Michael eats life well.” Some friend of Michael’s said that; sorry I didn’t catch a name, but that’s a good one.
“You want to make it a warm precision.” (Shauna Ahern)
“For me, cooking is such a beautiful sensory experience. Tell the story of how the dish got made. If you close your eyes and think about how that fantastic dinner happens, it’s kind of magic. There’s a kind of alchemy and beauty. If you use that as a guide, it will help you.” (Shauna again)
and so many more.
There’s something that may need its own post, about how what looks to some people like cliquishness is, to my mind, as one who’s rarely in those “cliques”, really just people (re)connecting with people, heart to writerly heart, in an atmosphere where there’s truly just not enough time to connect with everyone.
Those of us who are introverts, or new, or socially awkward, were, and I can’t emphasize this enough, welcomed at every turn, but that didn’t make us old pals with the people who were excited about being there to see their old pals. That doesn’t make them cliquish. It makes them happy to see their old pals, and human enough to have limited energy for including new people. Try looking at it that way for a bit; you may find that you, as I did, will feel a kind of warmfuzzy about the community of women (and a few men; and homos! Maybe you had to be there) that comes together around the love of sharing food writing with the world.
After the whole thing was over, I went home, poured out a mountain of schwag on the kitchen table (it looked a lot like this), and took hours to wind down. And then the next morning, I did something nearly inconceivable to me: I got up, cooked rice salad, and headed out again to socialize with strangers. The pod people had clearly taken over.
I originally intended to take my wheatberry salad, but then the post-BHF picnic merged with the Gluten-free Girl meetup, so I switched to an organic brown-and-wild-rice blend that looked good at The Berkeley Bowl. Again, it’s all about going with the flow, and tossing stuff in.
Kind of like this salad itself.
Promise me you won’t ask me for quantities. Just toss it together. It’s gonna be okay.
Wild Rice Salad
Every last ingredient in here is optional. If you don’t have a brown-and-wild-rice blend, as I used for this weekend’s potluck, for heaven’s sake, use wheatberries, or white rice, or barley, or whatever you have. And go on down the list like that. Toss it together, then — and this is vital! — taste it. If it’s good, stop. If it needs tweaking, tweak something. Then taste it again. It’ll be great.
Green onions, sliced thinly
Onion, diced fairly finely
A carrot or carrots, grated
Marinated roasted tomatoes (more about those below)
Fresh mint, chopped very finely
Fresh parsley, ditto, curly is fine, use flat leaf if you prefer
Fresh garlic, also very finely chopped
Good olive oil
Vinegar or fresh lemon juice (I used a vinegar blend I made of 1 part balsamic, 1 part red wine, 1 part white, and 2 parts rice wine. Don’t know why I like it, but it makes a good all-purpose vinegar without being too wimpy)
Salt and pepper (I used fleur de sel because I was feeling fancy)
Cheese, optional (I used shredded pecorino)
Other optional add-ins: other chopped/grated veggies, kept pretty small; olives of any type; feta cheese
I usually mix the veggies together first, then add enough rice that it looks about right, and then dress the salad a bit at a time until it tastes right. That’s it. Rice salad. Long ago in the far away hippy days, this started as a bastardization of Vegetarian Epicure‘s rice salad, I think, but I don’t remember its being anything like this, so maybe not.
Marinated roasted tomatoes
These days, I have a good source for these, store-bought, but they’re easy as hell to make, so you should try this at least once. Quarter some roma or plum tomatoes. Toss with a little olive oil and salt. Roast at 400F in a single layer on a cookie sheet (I line mine with silicone-coated parchment paper for ease of cleanup), stirring every 15-20 minutes, until the tomatoes collapse, lose a lot of their moisture, and start to caramelize but don’t burn. Cool until you’re able to handle them, then toss with olive oil, salt, a touch of vinegar, some minced or pressed garlic, a little basil if you have it handy, and a pinch of sugar, optional. Keeps in the fridge for a few days. Eats like candy, though, so it doesn’t usually last that long around here.