September has always felt like a new beginning to me, even though the back to school buzz is a long a distant memory. It’s my favourite month, with fall slowly creeping into the air, pushing at the edge of the sunshine with its slowly advancing crispness. I start replacing the clothes hanging in my closet with the sweaters and pants I have stored away in a plastic box and make a list of the books I want to read by Christmas. I’m one of those unorganized organized people. I let my paper piles spin out of control, take months to file away bills and receipts and have books under the bed because I can’t find anywhere else to put them. But I still seek a semblance of order. I can’t start my day without a list, even on my day off. Reassessing my goals and priorities every once in a while helps me stay focused on the big picture and hone out some of the details–something I’m also not always very good with.
Back in early March, I wrote this post about my fifth blog anniversary. I was so amazed at myself for having blogged so long. Five years is eons in the lifespan of a blog. What’s more, it isn’t like me to stick to anything. But as I explained in that post, as a trained writer who has spent half a lifetime trying to get my writing out to an audience, blog technology has been a boon and something I could not have fathomed when I was doing an undergrad in Creative Writing and chipping away at an old IBM Selectric. But truth be told, I was flagging when I wrote that post. It had been my first in six weeks and a part of me just wanted to pack it in. Except for feeling like I should, I wasn’t sure why I was doing it anymore.
Then a couple of weeks later, The Food Network came calling. Or I should say Shaw Media, the corporation that runs the Food Network, as well as HGTV, Global, Slice, and a host of other channels in Canada. They were about to launch a rebranding of their site as well as a new blog network and wanted me to join. I wasn’t sure what that entailed at first, but I was thrilled they had noticed me.
Over the years, I have learned that readers of food blogs come to them for different things. Most are looking for a recipe, some identify with a certain blogger and her voice. Others are dedicated to a certain style of cooking or click in to see the photography. Often it’s the unique way a blogger blends all of these elements that keeps readers coming back for more. I know I certainly have my favourites-bloggers who blow me away by single-handedly doing what it used to take a whole team of people in publishing to do. There are a lot of amazing, prolific bloggers out there who are constantly developing content, posting new receipts several times a week. Sadly, I am not one of them.
Having a full-time job at the moment (as well as going to night school) means that I only have so many hours in the day. Over the last year or two, I have also been developing my own recipes. I spend a lot of time doing so, and on the shopping and cooking, the styling and photography the editing and file management, and then finally the writing, that it can take me at least ten hours (if not fifteen) to produce one blog post, if not more. There are many days when I would fall into bed exhausted after spending most of my weekend in my kitchen and home studio when I could have been out riding my bike or going to the movies with friends. Or eating at a restaurant with an attractive man instead of hunched over a mixing bowl, trying to figure out how many eggs to put in a crepe batter.
I’m not complaining. No one really does anything they don’t love if they don’t have to. I love everything about the process of getting each and every post up that you see here. If time were no object, you’d see a lot more. But I’m not someone who does things for the sake of doing them, no matter how enjoyable. I have never been a hobbyist. Everything that I have loved doing I have put my whole heart and soul into, but I’ve always needed to know the why behind it.
A few months ago I lost the why. Where it had once been so clear, it became scattered and unfocused. When I first started the blog, it was to get my writing out to a wider audience and as a storehouse of writing samples for the editors I was pitching. Now it’s largely a platform for my photography, and an arena where I can develop my skills. The thing is, what I have realized lately and only through my negotiations with Shaw Media, is that at its most elemental level, this blog is about connecting. I have credentials to back myself up as a writer. I have a photo portfolio website and could just pack it in here and start a blog with nothing but photographs. But something would be missing and that is the connection between me and you.
I know who my readers are. I know who keeps coming back and why they do. I feel loyal to them. They are in the kitchen beside me when I just want to throw a few things together and be done with it already. Instead, I pick up my measuring spoons and take careful and copious notes so they will know exactly how to make that strawberry tiramisu at home.
Which is why I am so thrilled to bring Gratinée to a wider audience through my association with the Food Network, who have been working really hard and have some exciting new things up their sleeve. I can’t wait to see how it all unfolds as it launches in the coming days and weeks. In the meantime, I’ll be busier than ever, producing more content than I have been.
Like this Blueberry Plum crumble. It’s gluten free, with more of a whole foods bent than the food you usually see on here. Gratinée certainly is a reflection of what I like to eat, but it’s certainly not what I eat every day–which definitely falls more in the domain of clean eating than comfort food. I use ingredients like almond meal and coconut sugar, but for the folks who want to stick by the standbys in the pantry, I also give you the regular way of making this classic dessert.
- 2 cups/380 grams blueberries
- 250 grams plums (about 10), halved
- 2/3 cup/150 grams coconut palm sugar (or brown sugar), divided
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1 cup/100 grams thick gluten free rolled oats
- 1/3 cup/35 grams almond meal or gluten free all-purpose “flour” or (regular flour)
- 1/3 cup/35 grams sliced almonds
- 3 ounces/75 grams butter, chilled and cut into pieces
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
- Preheat oven to 350F/180C degrees
- Combine blueberries and plums in a mixing bowl with 1/3 cup/75 grams coconut sugar and the lemon juice. Transfer to a 7-inch casserole, cast iron pan, or non-reactive baking pan.
- In a separate bowl, combine oats with the flour or almond meal, cinnamon, and nutmeg.
- Add butter and work into the flour with fingers until well combined; incorporate almonds.
- Spoon evenly over blueberries and plums.
- Bake for about 20-25 minutes, or until the topping is golden brown.
- Serve with generous scoops of vanilla bean ice cream or whipping cream.