Showing posts with label BlogHer. Show all posts
Showing posts with label BlogHer. Show all posts

04 August 2012

Introducing...Frugal French Fridays and BlogHer 2013

Blogging about food from my little corner of Wisconsin-almost-Michigan is a continual challenge. For one thing, our growing season is short and fresh, locally-grown produce is generally only available five months a year.

Since becoming a blogger and spending more time in France, I've come to appreciate the importance of fresh ingredients, something my chef father and my grandmother understood but somehow failed to thoroughly impart to me, perhaps because my mother, who brags about not caring about food, likes to open cans for supper. She was the spoiler.

Then I left Madison and the proximity of the legendary Dane County Farm Market. What culinary culture shock! When we moved back to our hometown in the mid-90s, there was not one restaurant that emphasized fresh and healthy. We'd plan an evening out, and drive around looking for a place that wasn't all steaks and burgers and fried stuff. And then go home and make popcorn.

Finally a restaurant specializing in fresh, from-scratch food opened in an old house near the harbor in the late 1990s: Apricot-chicken salad in pita pockets! Portabella mushroom sandwiches! Vegetable stir fries! Soon others began to add locally grown, fresh produce to their menus. Then came a French restaurant and bakery, and the chefs routinely visited local markets and farm stands. That was the Big Turning Point.

Within a year or two several young chefs trained at culinary institutes in larger cities came along and bingo! We were off. Now our community even has a winery.

At the same time, Farmer Lucy took a town with no farm market and through hard work and year-round determination, created an outdoor market from nothing. There was a tough year or two when the city kicked the farmers out of the park by charging them a weekly fee. Fortunately, a sympathetic local merchant loaned the growers his parking lot and the interior of his antiques mall in winter, and bingo again! We were cooking with locally=grown and raised food.

Now we're working to revive the other farm market in our community, which has its own challenges.

But our community is not based on food, so there are few local food makers to purchase additional items from. So I try to eat regionally.

Then there is my own blogger voice. It probably has limited appeal. I'm not a twenty- or even thirty-something blogger. I don't get fashionably snarky and I don't generally use the word "meh" to describe my lack of enthusiasm for something. I like to talk about my grandmother instead. Age has mellowed my sarcasm. I might not be that fun to read. (I do, I am proud to say, have some wonderful blogger friends who have been with me for six years now.)

Now that "rewirement" is so close I can touch it, it's time to take this whole blogging thing seriously. So I've been thinking a lot. And I'm ready to reveal one new change to French Kitchen in America.

Beginning September 1, my Friday post will focus on Frugal French. It might be a low-cost version of a French favorite. It might be a French provincial dish that doesn't cost much to prepare. It might be a dish I conjure up with seasonal ingredients. At any rate, it will be fun, and I invite you to join me for Friday Frugal French Fridays.

Meanwhile, because I want to win a pass to next year's BogHer conference, I'm telling you about this competition. For doing so, my name goes in the hat. Yours can, too.

30 July 2012

Why I am Still Enthusiastic About Blogging, BlogHer and So Much More

I've always been rather coy about my location and my identity. But after six years of blogging and after a gradual loosening of my self-imposed identity rules, I am ready to break free and participate more fully in the world of blogging. (I'm even hanging out at BlogHer again and entering a competition for a conference swag bag, which you can do right here.)

My name is Mary Johns, but nieces and nephews have always called me Mimi. I guess it's easier for a two-year old to say. Since my mother once suggested this would be a better nickname for me than the one given to me by my father, which was BooBoo, I've always felt an affinity for the name. We have a thing for double syllable nicknames in my family: BooBoo/Mimi, Bobo, Gigi, and PeeWee are my siblings.

All my life I've worked in publications and public relations, taught journalism and wrote for a newspaper (where I did a weekly food column for about three years). About five years ago I took a job leading a non-profit organizations, and in two months I will be happily retired. Rewired, I'm calling it, as I have lots of personal and community projects on my docket, including working with one of our local farm markers markets and helping preserve an historical building. I may even get paid for doing some writing again.

I'm coming out of the kitchen, so to speak, because earlier this summer, I created two new blogs that I hope will enable me to continue to promote my community, which is located about 50 miles north of Green Bay, Wis., (and we all know what Green Bay is famous for, don't we?) on the Wisconsin-Michigan border, and its food sources.

Our two-city, two-state community is in transition. We suffered greatly in late 2008 and early 2009: Unemployment was as high as 13-14 percent on either side of the state line. But thanks in part to expansion at the local shipyard and at other local industries, our economy is holding its own and has begun a slow and steady upward trajectory. We have many newcomers and much potential for many more newcomers. That's why I want to promote my community online.

In recent years, I've looked at my two home towns through new eyes. We are located on the bay of Green Bay, as well as the Menominee River. We have instant access to water, parks, waterfalls, legendary fishing and sailing. Yet we have remained authentic. There's not a lot of terribly cutesy for pretentious stuff here. But we are pretty cool sometimes.

I've seen an increase in young entrepreneurs who operate restaurants, a winery, photography studios, shops and service businesses. On any given summer night, you'll find a free concert, skateboarders, kayakers, sailboaters, bicyclists and others out and about, enjoying our location and the sense of community that I think has increased in recent years.

Frankly, it's easy to promote this community. Please take some time to read more about it on Marinette Menominee Daily Photo and Marinette Menominee Eat Local. The first blog is intended to give outsiders a taste of life here while the second is aims to build awareness for local farm markets and farm stands. Both are works in progress.

Currently, I am taking photos with a Nikon Cool Pix S4, which has traveled in my purse for more than six years now. Once I've got more time on my hands, I'll experiment with our Canon Digital Rebel, which should improve the quality of my photos. My husband, himself a former photographer and filmmaker, is retiring too, and I'll get him to make a photographer out of me yet!