Thursday, October 14

Nine Things I Learned at the BlogHer Food '10 Conference

I recently returned from BlogHer Food '10 where, as expected, I met fabulous new friends, connected with fabulous old friends, and ate fabulous food. A few unexpected things happened too.

Here are nine things I learned at BlogHer Food '10:

1. While attending an informative session on food styling, an attendee asked, "What can I do to make brown, gloppy food like beef stew look good?" The panelists' collective reply: Nothing. After the laughter subsided, Tami Hardeman of Running With Tweezers offered this advice: Surround ugly food with pretty props: a colorful bowl, a funky spoon, or a textured napkin. Never underestimate the power of sprinkled parsley.

Dorie Greenspan, Susan Russo, and Elise Bauer at BlogHer Food '10
Dorie Greenspan, Susan Russo, and Elise Bauer

2. Next time you're creatively stymied, stop everything and go for a walk. That's what baking goddess Dorie Greenspan does when she needs to spark her creativity. "It works every time!" she told me.

3. David Leite of Leite's Culinaria told us it's OK to say "no." Working for free or for minimal payment isn't furthering bloggers' careers. Say "no," and most times, they'll come back with a better offer.

Susan Russo, Ree Drummond, and Garrett McCord  at BlogHer Food '10
Susan Russo, Ree Drummond, and Garrett McCord

4. The dazzlingly down-to-earth Pioneer Woman, Ree Drummond, reminded her audience that you can't be everything to everybody. Choose the media that best suits your talents: Are you a word wizard? Write. Do you come alive in front of the camera? Do video. Do you have great interviewing skills? Hello, podcasts.

5. The talented and beautiful Anupy Singla, author of The Indian Slow Cooker, understands that many home cooks are intimidated by Indian spices and cooking. So she created spice packets, small bundles of 5 essential Indian spices, that will get anyone cooking Indian. Demystify something for people, and they will love you. They'll also buy your book.

6. Diane of the darling White on Rice couple told bloggers that "Great food photography isn't about fancy gear; it's about light." She encouraged us to walk around our homes to find the best sources of natural light for food photography, even if it's in the bedroom, or --  GASP! -- the bathroom.

7. Smile. Say hello. To everyone. Wear comfortable shoes. Know when to walk away from the Scharffen Berger table.

Ben, Tara, Cheryl Sternman Rule, and Katie Goodman at BlogHer Food '10
Lunching with Ben Rhau, Tara Dahill, Cheryl Sternman Rule, and Katie Goodman.

8. Katie Goodman of Good Life Eats, who has a mega-watt smile, taught me to always carry a WISP, a single use mini toothbrush, in my purse. When you're on a panel after lunch, like I was, you want people to remember what you said, not what you ate.

9. The food gods appreciate irony. While at BlogHer Food '10, I received a call from my doctor informing me that I tested positive for celiac disease. Not only can I no longer eat pasta and pizza, but I also have to change my Twitter bio, which currently reads, "I eat gluten."

Here are more posts about BlogHer Food '10 you might enjoy:
Revelations: Fed Up With Lunch
Guide to Conference Etiquette: 5 Second Rule
BlogHer Food: The Love Fest: Will Write for Food
Memorable Moments from BlogHer Food '10: Panini Happy
Defining Success: Dine and Dish
BlogHer Food 2010 in San Francisco: The Italian Dish
Want more? Check out Liveblog at


Alanna Kellogg said...

Aiii Susan, lots of BlogHer lessons but oh my, celiac? Big hugs --

Strawberry CAKE said...

Susan, again, so great to meet you. It was a great weekend wasn't it?! Almost too much for me to process. So sorry to hear about your celiac disease, that is a bummer, but I have to admit it made me giggle that you actually had it right out there that You eat it and now you can't. Irony. Life. Interesting. Hang in there. At least you know of some great blogs you can go to right?

Kathy - Panini Happy said...

Oh my goodness, Susan! I had to read that last "learning" a few times to be sure I read it right. I guess in a way it's good news insofar as you can start on the road to feeling better. Wow. And you know plenty of folks to help with eating gluten-free.

Great conference recap - looking forward to meeting up again soon!

Alison St. Sure said...

Hi Susan,
I didn't get a chance to meet you at BlogHer, but after reading this post, I warmly welcome you to the world of gluten-free living! If you need any help, please let me know -- there are a lot of emotions that you may be feeling right now (people don't usually expect this!) I'm here if you need someone to talk you through it.
~ Alison

Wendy said...

Great post. Utter bummer about the celiac disease though. As a carb lover, my heart goes out to you. xx

Valerie @ City|Life|Eats said...

Hugs on the celiac diagnosis. I remember wondering why you had I eat gluten in your twitter bio and assumed that perhaps you had thought you could not eat it and then found out you could. I am so sorry to hear it is the opposite.

While I tested negative for celiac's, an arduous elimination diet showed gluten was the reason behind my joint pain and at least some of my digestive distress. I first worked with eliminating it 18 months ago, did several reintroductions/attempts to eat non-wheat grains/other approaches, and then finally gave up and went 100% gluten-free in April, complete with banning gluten from our kitchen (my husband occasionally eats gluten-containing products at home, but he is very careful of crumbs etc, and stays away from the kitchen), cleaning out every crumb in every drawer etc. Honestly, it has made a huge difference. The joint pain is gone, the stomach distress is far improved, and on top of that, I am no longer losing hair (which my doctors thought was related to some thyroid problems, but which thyroid medication did not help, while going gluten-free did!)

So, while I am so so so sorry to read the diagnosis, it really does get better. And please feel free to stop by my blog if you want some gluten-free inspiration :)

Tasty Eats At Home said...

Nice way to sum up what I imagine was a whirlwind of a time! And just so I know, when exactly IS the right time to walk away from the Scharffen Berger table? This is very important!
And my heart goes out to you with your new celiac diagnosis. It's certainly a game changer! Lots of hugs. And if you have questions - anything at all - let me know! I'll do my best to help. You do have the advantage of having a lot of gluten-free bloggy friends. There are some blogs out there that are a wealth of information for the newly diagnosed. And you have a gift in the kitchen - that gives you a definite advantage!

Kristen said...

2 conferences together now and I haven't had the chance to spend nearly enough time with you!! Great recap!
I can't wait to read the stories in your book. So happy for you!

Joanne said...

So much to process in this one post! I loved your recap and your nine things. I met PW at blogher and fell kind of in love. I was already kind of in love but still.

I'm sorry to hear about the celiac's but with all of your cooking abilities and inventiveness, I'm sure you will prevail!

Kalyn Denny said...

Great post. You have such a flair in everything you write. Sorry to hear about the celiac diagnosis, but I know you will make the best of it.

Andrea Meyers said...

Susan, I have a feeling you will deal with the celiac diagnosis in an amazing way. Hugs to you...

FabFrugalFood said...

Agreed with Strawberry CaKE - the resources you have to deal with it now are just getting better and better all the time! Though not celiac, I went GF for my daughter 2 years ago and it seemed like a huge adjustment at the time, but now it's just second nature and I don't feel deprived at all. Pick up GFG's new book if you haven't already!

Anyway, I'm sure greater experts than I can help you out much more. :O)

Excellent wrap-up!

Cheryl Arkison said...

Sucks about the celiac, but it certainly won't mean giving up pizza and pasta! The gluten-free bloggers out there are incredible these days. There never was a better time to be diagnosed.

marla {family fresh cooking} said...

Excellent wrap post Susan. Meeting you was certainly a highlight of my BlogHer experience. I cannot believe you got that call from your Dr. at the conference. Crazy huh?!
Great tips you share with us. I do hope my teeth were clean for my panel. Geesh.
psst-stop on by my place to leave a link with this re-cap- -if u wish :)

Helene said...

It was great seeing you again Susan! I loved reading your post!
Sorry to hear about the no gluten but being celiac is just fine. You'll see. We eat pizza, pasta, bread, etc...even desserts :)
Call on your celiac friends (like myself) to help out.

Michelle (What's Cooking) said...

Excellent recap! Aah yes - I have been caught trying to photograph food in the bathtub! Time to get some alligator clips and a piece of foam core for more lighting options! It was wonderful to see you and I loved dinner at Contigo. The food was delicious but the company was even better! I can't wait to see you in Austin, if not before. xoxoxo

Amber @Bluebonnets & Brownies said...

I wish I'd realized you were there! We've tweeted plenty, but never met. I'm so sorry about the celiac, but some of my bestest friends are gluten-free (@fourchickens, @sensitivepantry) and have taught me that celiac is not a life sentence to bad food.

One comment on the brown food - at Big Summer Potluck, the food stylist there, Melissa, said that brown food looks best on off-white, cream, or tan crockery. Since learning that, I've had much better luck with my brown food.

Anonymous said...

I guess I'll have to add you to the gluten-free blogger count I kept adding to on Twitter while at BlogHer Food. That makes 27 of us there. You really were tempting the gluten gods with that bio. Wish we could have met, too.

Unknown said...

Great recap! Loved meeting you. Hope to hang out next year sometime!

Flavorstitch said...

It's so fascinating to read other view points and lessons learned at BlogHer. This is especially useful since I wanted to be in three places at once most of the time.

Maria said...

It was great to see you at BlogHer food. I really enjoyed your panel.

Mardi Michels said...

What a GREAT writeup of BlogHer. I *almost* felt like I was there!

Katie @ goodLife {eats} said...

LOL at the WISP mention!!! Lunch was so fun. :) Sorry to hear about the Celiac, but looking on the brightside - there is no better time to go gluten-free than now. So many amazing resources! We thought Logan might have to go gluten-free earlier this year. It turned out that his test came back negative, but just knowing there were real people with doable solutions out there made it so much less stressful to go through the possibility. *hugs*

Susan from Food Blogga said...

alanna-Yup. Irony is alive and well.

strawberrycake-Oh, so great meeting you too! Thanks for the kind words. I'm glad you giggled. ;)

kathy-Seriously. Looking forward to seeing you too. Will plan an SD foodie meet-up!

alison-How remarkably kind of you. Thank you so much.

wendy-I LOVE carbs.

valerie-Thank you for sharing your story with me. I am overwhelmed by the generosity and kindness that GF people have shown me. I too had many symptoms that were attributed to other causes, but now it looks like it was celiac all along. I'm optimistic that I'll be feeling better too. I'm so happy to hear you're doing better. I truly am.

teah-Oh, thank you! I feel better already. :) And, yes, I'll be visiting those GF blogs a lot more often now!

kristen-I know. I was so disappointed. You're one of those people whom I have liked online for so long and have yet to really connect with in person.

joanne-I'm glad you enjoyed it. Thanks so much!

kalyn-Thanks! I really appreciate that.

andrea-That's sweet of you to say. :)

fabfrugalfood-Thanks for the recommendations. I'll be checking out a lot of GF blogs and books.

cheryl-GF pizza may be the first dish I learn!

Susan from Food Blogga said...

helene-Thank you so much for the encouragement. I will definitely be asking my GF friends for help!

michelle-I bought my clips at Home Depot yesterday! Now for the white and black boards....

amber-Thanks for the blog recommendations. I'll follow them on Twitter. Great tip about the beige cloth too. Thanks!

wendyGK-I know. I really wish we could have met too. I heard wonderful things about you.

mrsq-Absolutely! Definitely in San Diego if not sooner!

flavorstitch-I know what you mean. I wanted to attend all three sessions during my own panel!

maria-It's always lovely seeing you.

mardi-Yay! I'm happy to hear it.

K Allrich said...

Susan! Welcome to living gluten-free living (and there will be pasta!). I hope you'll consider me a resource- please let me know if I can help. xox Karina

Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

You must have had a great time in SF! Very helpful. The first four are so true...



MomtoChase said...

I am so looking forward to seeing what you will do with the new medical condition. My son has been struggling with this since he was born, and I am always following blogs for creative ways to go gluten free. It will be a huge adjustment - good luck, and hope that you start to feel better!

Lauren said...

Susan, it was so lovely to meet you there! I loved reading through your post - there were so many wonderful people there with so much to share. Even though it may be a shock, congrats on being diagnosed. It will be more than worth it :). Plus, even just on this post, you have a handful of us (myself included) that will help with whatever you're struggling with. Getting the gluten out gave me so much more than just a new way of baking. Hope you feel better soon!

Jacqueline Meldrum said...

Well that sucks (not the conference), but I know you will rise to the challenge :)

The Diva on a Diet said...

Hi, Susan! What a great recap and your pics are lovely too. So many smiling faces.

Really great to meet you this weekend. I hope our paths will cross again too - I'd like to continue our cookbook conversation.

Very sorry about the Celiac diagnosis, but one good thing is the strong and wonderful GF blogging community. They kind of adopted me at the BlogHer Food lunch last year and they are such a fantastic, supportive group. Lots of good info out there and I know you'll make the best of it.

Looking forward to keeping up with you here on your blog. Cheers!

Deadly Vanilla Sunshine said...

I'm with Wendy, I'll surely miss your wonderful carby Italian recipes but I know that with your creativity and the gluten-free alternatives, you'll be back to sharing an even better way to cook and eat soon. Congrats on the books, by the way! Something tells me the "recipes every man should know" is going to grace my holiday gift list this year.

Eve Fox said...

Great post, Susan! That is a super bummer on the celiac disease though - so sorry to hear about it.

Sunnie said...

Susan, love the format and the commentary. Thanks for sharing and for the inspiration!

Sunnie said...

Susan, love the format and the commentary. Thanks for sharing and for the inspiration!

Anonymous said...

Loved reading your Blogher sum up and the tips.
My heart goes out to you, after being diagnosed with CD. It was a life changing for me because I depended on gluten foods so much. Now I live a life free of pain! There are an abundant amount of resources also. You can do it! :)

Lynda - TasteFood said...

Thanks for recap, Susan. I still wish we had had a moment to connect. So sorry to hear about the celiac - luckily you are in a community that can share a lot of wisdom on it. And knowing you, you'll soon be one of the sages.

Unknown said...

Boo on the celiac. Still, you have a community that will take very good care of you and has proven time and again that you can eat amazing food. =)

It was so awesome to see you at BHF! Hope to see you again soon so we can actually catch up without a few hundred people around!

tinuviel said...

Wow you snuck that shocker in there! I'm sorry for your loss and/or whatever discomfort you've had to endure this far...but I'm sure you'll have a wonderful time experimenting and discovering gluten-free food.
Have been silently reading here for months, and I love your blog...much love.

GF Gidget said...

Great post! I learned something just from reading it!
I'm sorry about the celiac diagnosis. On the bright side, at least you know and can do something proactive about it. I'm looking forward to many more blog posts and mouthwatering recipes!

Cookie Madness -- said...

Celiac?? Susan, that's really sad. However, if anyone can manage that disease you can. At least you have a handle on what's been causing issues for you. Glad you had fun at BlogHer. Looks like it was a celeb filled event!

Anna@Tallgrass Kitchen said...

Are you lunching at Taylor's Automatic Refresher in the photo? Love that place!

I know you'll make the best out of the celiac's!

Johanna GGG said...

great post - so much good advice and food for thought

Sorry to hear about the celiac diagnosis - though I am sure you will find (and share) lots of great ideas.

You will probably already in touch with some great gf bloggers. I am not a celiac but I have celiacs in my family so I wrote a post about it this year that you might like - Advice for Gluten Free beginners and kids.

The Italian Dish said...

Susan, it was so nice to finally meet you at the conference. I just can't believe your celiac disease diagnosis! I guess there's never been a better time to go gluten-free, though, with all the gluten-free products and cookbooks out. Maybe you will post about your new cooking methods? Take care!

Abby said...

Ack! Celiac?! I know you'll be okay, however, because of the plethora of amazing gluten-free bloggers on the Web!

Great post!

Srivalli said...

Susan, it was wonderful meeting you. So sorry to hear about no gluten, but I am sure you will find solutions to that too..

Ben said...

Well, I was certainly surprised to scroll down this post and see myself staring back! It was really nice to meet you, Susan. I enjoyed chatting with you on the way to the Ferry Building. Thanks for being so welcoming.

And, so sorry to hear about your diagnosis. It must be quite jarring. I'm glad that it's something you can have a sense of humor about, and as many have said, there have been far worse times to be diagnosed with this disease. I think point #1 I took away from the conference was an awareness about celiac disease and the strong community that exists among gluten-free cooks and writers. Wish you the best.

Jane @WiseEats said...

Susan, glad the doctor was able to diagnose celiac. I know you will see it only as an opportunity to expand your food world. Can't wait to see :)

The Curious Baker said...

wow celiac disease! I'm not sure if you remember but one of the first recipes I gluten-freed came from your website. You'll be an expert in no time! Pop over and have a browse if you need any help/recipes :)

tami said...


It was so nice to finally MEET you after all this time. Loved your BlogHer post! Here's to not letting it be another year before our paths cross again :)


- Tami