Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Heartfelt Reflections on Year One

I am in a particularly reflective mood.

It was a year ago today that I started this blog.  I had been itching to get back into food blogging after my move to Pittsburgh just six months prior, and I figured a photo-centric blog would also be a great excuse to practice my quickly-deteriorating photography skills.  So I took the plunge, bought a domain name, and started plugging away.  I was skeptical about my ability to keep up with my blog, as I am a pretty busy person generally with a busy full time job and hobbies other than eating and blogging (believe it or not!).  But when I'm home at night winding down for bed, I open my browser, and I play with pictures and I write.  And there is just something about writing - and writing about things you love - that is so soothing and peaceful.  I used to work, work, work, all the time - and don't get me wrong, I love my work - but blogging has given me some sense of balance in my life. It's been one of the reasons that has kept me going.

I often stress that I am no food expert or critic.  I'm just an average girl exploring her new hometown through its food scene and learning to cook one simple meal at a time.  And I am humbled by all that I have had the opportunity to learn in the past year.  I learned that not all eggplant, beer, and coffee are evil. ;)  I explored new areas of town I had never been through its food offerings.  I learned to grow my own herbs and experiment with homemade ice cream flavors.  I learned to cook with ingredients I had never cooked with before.  I tried new foods like epazote and pandan ice cream.  I learned to eat deep fried shrimp heads, eyeballs and all.  I learned new photography tricks (mostly from the Taylor Takes a Taste blog) and taught myself Adobe Lightroom, and in the process have seen improvements in my photography.  There is still much more to learn, but through the first year of this blog, I felt like I have already expanded my horizons in a number of ways.

But mostly, I learned to appreciate the people who are the heart and soul of the local Pittsburgh food scene. I had an awakening during a conversation with Mike Witherel, owner of Coffee Buddha, not long before Christmas when I asked him what his plans were for the holiday. He said he planned to close for the day and finally take a day off - the first day off he would have since opening his shop in July.  I like to think of myself as a busy person, but I'm certainly not as busy as Mike.  Then I meet folks like Arturo Vizzuett, owner of Cinco de Mayo Salsas, who spends hours on end cooking up delicious Mexican salsas and selling them at the Pittsburgh Public Market.  These and many other local folks work tirelessly, day in and day out, for nothing but the love of what they do, and it makes me so appreciative of their product all the more.

It is precisely because of this deep appreciation I have for these local folks that I have unwittingly begun to use my blog as a vehicle to support the small businesses in town as well as local events that are important in my mind (such as a tote bag drive).  I suppose you could say I've become something of an advocate for local small businesses. This didn't started out as a conscious decision on my part, but slowly I've noticed myself becoming more passionate about helping my favorite businesses in the one way that I can.  It is certainly not the focus of this blog, and I have no way to tracking how far these attempts have reached, but at the very least I know of cases where people have visited (and loved!) places like Coffee Buddha, Bite Bistro, and Smoke BBQ Taqueria directly as a result of having read about them in my blog.  The fact that my blog is doing its part, however small, to contribute to local businesses is, well, pretty darn cool.  This blog has allowed me to connect with my local community in ways that I never would have imagined.

Another unintended personal benefit that this blog has afforded me is the opportunity to have met some really cool people in Pittsburgh through blogger events and Twitter.  Natives might not realize this, but Pittsburgh truly has some of the friendliest and most welcoming people around.  Some of these folks have become good friends of mine, and I can't begin to express how much I appreciate them reaching out to a newbie and including me in their social network.  Pittsburgh, and the people who make it great, have been another force that has inspired me to keep blogging.

Last but not least, there are the readers - you - many of whom I don't know in person.  I know a few of you are loyal followers (thanks guys!) and others happen to stumble upon my blog from time to time, but each and every one of you has made this little project of mine all the more worthwhile.  I started this blog for me, not really expecting anyone else to read it, but the fact that you enjoy what I'm doing means a lot to me.  It is yet another huge reason that I keep up with this blog, and having fun while I'm at it.

Before I end this post, I thought it would be fitting to include a picture.  As I was considering which photo to post, it dawned on me that, despite the name of this blog, I have never posted (or even created) an actual photo collage, so I put one together using some of my favorite photos from Year One.  Call it a Food Collage food collage. ;)

Food collage
Food Collage, Year One

Thank you so much for reading.

Photos featured in the food collage: Olio Fresca Pasta, Burgh'ers, Turkey Pesto Sandwich, Shiitake and Sweet Pea Risotto, Coffee Buddha, Chicken Satay Stir-Fry with Orange Scented Jasmine Rice, Habitat, Basil Ice Cream, Bite Bistro, Pure Cafe, Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams' Macaroons, Chocolate Chip Banana Bread