1st July marks eleven years since my first blog post. Returning from The Break I wanted to recap my most positive experiences and happy blogging memories.
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times” – naturally there’ll be a follow up of 10 things that went eclair-shaped but reading some old posts has restored my enthusiasm for how much fun blogging from the heart really was.
I published solidly for 5-6 years. Then less for 2 years but usually weekly. Meanwhile the landscape evolved and eschewing the Google-chasing-‘Gram-bragging model I retreated to only publishing occasional social media posts. I kept thinking, “What would I want to leave behind?” and it wasn’t my Analytics.
Now I’ve started publishing again – and the shape of the new direction will emerge gradually – I thought I’d draw a line under my first decade (plus) by celebrating the best things that happened to me because of the blog. In no particular order they are…
1. Christmas in July
In pre-Covid times during the hottest part of summer, central London venues transformed into fake snow sprinkled winter wonderlands for the Media to plan their Christmas editions early. Over several dates various brands offered journalists (and online writers such as myself) mince pies and mulled wine at bauble decked jamborees to showcases their forthcoming festive eating and gifting ranges. Highlights would reliably be Waitrose, Lakeland and Aldi with events dotted over lovely venues such as Somerset House and Carlton House Terrace overlooking The Mall. Actually a word here about venues in general – one of the things I loved about PR events was visiting venues I’d not normally have opportunity to see and appreciating the stunning architecture and historical buildings we have in London. I might do a separate top ten of favourite event venues… But back to Christmas in July, these events were often a joyous Edina Monsoon-esque riot of groups of us hopping into black cabs around central London weighed down with goodie bags and being slightly tipsy in the middle of the day. Remind me again why I quit blogging please?!
2. Meeting Celebrity Chefs
Invitations to events with various food personalities were a frequent occurrence although the calibre ranged from meeting Bake Off runners up to minor TV presenters and established actors turning to their careers to cooking. But occasionally you’d get a chance to hang out with a genuine food hero. Glossing over who else turned out to be grouchy or sarcastic, I can happily report that Jamie Oliver delighted me the most being friendly and professional. At his book launch for “Jamie’s Comfort Food” in 2014, he presented as a warm party host who genuinely cared whether everyone had a great time rather than a limelight diva. What I particular love is that he was already signing someone else’s book but spotted Ren taking my photo and instantly turned to pose for this lovely picture. A true pro!
3. The Waitrose Summer Parties
Speaking of parties, an invite to the annual Waitrose summer party held each May used to be the highlight of the food blogging year. A surreal star studded event that graced the Evening Standard’s society pages, I repeatedly wondered why I was there but enjoyed the canapés and champagne nonetheless. Memorable moments included a private gig with Paloma Faith on the Natural History Museum staircase and an after hours tour of Kensington Palace.
4. Blogging Conferences
The inaugural Food Blogger Connect organised by Bethany Kehdy in 2009 introduced me to many people with whom I’m still firm friends – Kavita, Jeanne, Michelle, Solange, that was a good day! I attended maybe five out of six of the later editions but my favourite was at Battersea Arts Centre in 2014 where despite being “local” I opted to stay in a nearby hotel alongside other delegates from where we partied for three days of talks, tastings and tequila. Sadly the BAC burned down in a fire the following year just when FBC seemed to have found it’s optimum home.
5. The Miele Masterchef Food Blogger Cook Off
It didn’t go down well with Gregg and John that I’d never watched Masterchef (I know, I know, don’t judge me) so not realising there was a one hour format I merrily presented them with half cooked cake batter and some Nutella macarons at a Miele organised Masterchef event. The biggest success of the day was meeting Helen, Danny, Ireena and Mimi for the first time. Weirdly it was TEN YEARS AGO this month so we all look younger in the photos!
6. The Group Restaurant Reviews
“Oh wow you do you review restaurants?” is something I’ve heard said many times. No one ever believes what a mixed bag of fortune this task can be. I’ll elaborate how it can go wrong in my “worst experiences” post but my best experiences reviewing restaurant food were in a regular group of fellow bloggers who I often still see today. We even decided we’d rather eat together without the requirement to blog and now hold dinner parties or lunches in rotation instead. So the best thing I ever got out of reviewing restaurants wasn’t the food it was the company.
7. Cookery Classes
Now that Ted cooks with me I often remark that his experience in the kitchen is akin to mine attending branded cookery classes whereupon you arrive at the venue with all the ingredients prepped and someone else does all the washing up afterwards. My favourite cookery events over the years have included the Waitrose Cookery School macarons (Waitrose repeatedly excelled in their blogger outreach) and sessions organised by Great British Chefs at Cordon Bleu. Again these were experiences in locations and facilities I’d not normally experience everyday and they were often excellent learning opportunities too. Raymond Blanc telling me to “put some welly into it Mami” when whisking egg whites was a memorable example.
8. Expert Cake Decorating Lessons
Cake decorating is a vocational thing and to be successful you either need to be outstanding enough to charge top prices or averagely good but loving doing it for a pittance. I fall into neither camp but still benefited from personal tutorials from fabulous sugar crafters Peggy Porschen and Mich Turner MBE at their respective cake decorating studios.
9. The Gadgets
Oh the gadgets! Visitors to my kitchen often remark upon my kit (some of which I bought myself I hasten to add!!) and it was a definite perk when you got asked to review a new gadget. In hindsight trying out gadgets and reviewing them for YouTube was one of my favourite blogging activities I ought to have done more of. Not everything was a success, I was bemused by the steam oven and “one cup” hot water dispenser but other review items became household items I’d replace with my own cash in a heartbeat if they broke down. I won’t tempt fate saying which one was my favourite but Rachel Allen was an absolute darling at Cactus Studios (where they film Saturday Kitchen) and her gooey dulce de leche brownies became one of my favourite posts ever.
(One of my rare gadget videos filmed in 2014 during my more statuesque phase)
10. Filming With A TV Crew
Ok so we ended up on the cutting room floor – basically because we were too good – but recording an episode of a now defunct baking show whose name escapes me at Katie’s house was an absolute blast. The snag was we were due to make our team baked item all over again at the presenter’s house a week later and it was mid January mid snow storm. I was actually relieved when the producer broke it to us that our episode was dropped. Read about the saga in Four Ladies and A Croquembouche. But experiencing a proper television shoot on location was an amazing and hilarious experience.
You see it wasn’t all bad? Soon I will do a run down of the ten worst experiences that range from being truly tragic to darkly comic.
PS None of the above included travel, those occasions deserve a post of their own!