I'm baaaaaack. After a self-imposed hiatus. Partially brought on by a particularly ugly bout of H1N1 (won't call it swine flu, love me some pork) and a mini-anxiety attack at the thought this blog might actually be getting publicity! (i.e., ending up on television).
Yes, I admit it. I'm afraid of success. It's all fine and good when you're clacking away in the wee hours to create something just for yourself, but when suddenly people are reading the thing, and offering suggestions, it becomes a whole other animal. You're suddenly pressured to PRODUCE. To PERFORM. I found myself eating at restaurant after restaurant, then shelving the reviews (I'm a master of procrastination). I'd turn around and it was 3 weeks later. Not good.
Another thing happens when people find out you review restaurants. Something I had not anticipated. People start throwing recommendations at you faster than one of those tennis ball machines Andre Agassi just called "the Devil" in his memoir. "You should eat HERE, you oughta try the free-range (insert protein) with the yuzu shiso vinaigrette reduction HERE - it has the most AMAZING flavor profile! Why haven't you eaten HERE yet? I can't believe you haven't gone HERE!" I'll admit right HERE, it makes me want to head for zee hills.
The pressure built to the point where I did exactly that. Stopped writing. Too much pressure and I shut down. Then ol' H1N1 kicked in and debilitated me to where I couldn't get out of bed without it seeming like I'd ingested three Ambien and suddenly had the urge to audition for "So You Think You Can Dance Your Ass Off With the Stars!"
In a way, it was a blessing. While I was lying around, feeling like two tons of crap in a one pound bag, I had some time to think. What do I want out of this thing I've created? The reviews had begun to be not so much fun. A chore. To not write about some great new restaurant the SECOND it opened felt wrong, like I was cheating the owner because god knows, restaurateurs around here need all the help they can get. I was rushing the reviews - putting out writing I knew was subpar and all because I felt like I had to make this internal self-imposed deadline of at least 2-3 reviews a week.
Which is not how I write AT ALL. Any of you out there in blog land who have followed me for any length of time know I'm more long-winded than Dickens (without that lovely perk of getting paid by the word). I like to talk. I like to write. I like to get it all out there - which for me was getting increasingly more difficult. It's hard to fit in a "nuts and bolts" review of a place when you're suddenly going off on a tangent, waxing poetic about how this particular bowl of Vietnamese pho reminds you of the first time you had it back in college - with your ex who was obnoxiously fond of the Mekons and wore nothing but those Israeli army boots you could only buy in Exile down on Grace Street.
You get the idea.
But this kind of tangent jumping is what made me want to get into food writing in the first place. It's what I'm passionate about. The way a meal can take you to another time, another place. The first time I read Ernest Hemingway's account of eating oysters and sipping ice cold Chablis in Paris (A Moveable Feast) I was hooked. Food writing RAWKED. I felt like I had discovered a hidden goldmine of good literature nobody else knew about. I've since learned there's a reason for that - it's "hidden" because food writing doesn't sell. Unless you're a died-in-the-wool-foodie-slash-writer like me you're not going to pick up the Best Food Writing 2008 anthology the day it appears on the shelves of your local Barnes and Noble. You're not going to think M.F.K. Fischer is god. You're not going to carry around Jacques Pepin's autobiography like it's a bible. You're not going to stalk the blogs of people like Michael Ruhlman or Molly Wizenberg (Orangette) praying some little fairy gnome of food writing will wave their magic wand so you can magically write like them. It just ain't happenin...
But it's what I want to do. More than anything I want to create stories. About food and the journey it's taken me on. Stories about how the food of Charlottesville and other places can sometimes transport me to other times in my life and remind me of things I'd forgotten. How sometimes when you dine out the event becomes a story in itself. Something memorable enough to record and reflect on.
Now let's get one thing clear - I ain't gonna be cookin' my way through any Julia Child book, or recreating nitrogen ice cream (a là Ferran Adria) in hopes of a book deal. But I will relate stories. Food stories connected to Charlottesville, and to what I'm continually discovering every day about our exciting food scene. I feel fortunate to be here now. There's a lot of good stuff going on. Very good stuff. But we're capable of more. Of better. Much better. I feel like we're on the verge of greatness and need one little push to get us there. Maybe I'll be here to record it. Or maybe I'll just tell stories.
Thanks for indulging me. It feels good to get this rant off my chest. I hope you'll stay with me for the rest of the journey. I'll still be offering "News You Can Use" on the Facebook page at least once a day, but from now on I'll be turning over the review thing to the fine folks over at Mas to Millers and Cville to Go. They're doing great work. Right here, I'll stick with what I love. Good stories about food. About Charlottesville. With a review swirled in like a ribbon in one of those yummy marble brownies my Nana used to make. Because to me, the story's the thing. Even in food, the story's the thing...