A Summer Potluck, a Blogger’s Retreat & a Moment

Last weekend took place in a series of locations – the Pennsylvania countryside, other people’s kitchens, a barn, and Manhattan. It was an extraordinary time of hospitality, warmth, and laughter — and all with people I had never met before.

The main event was Big Summer Potluck, a gathering I had a hard time explaining to my friends and family here at home. Eyebrows were raised, especially when they heard that it was held in a barn, and that I was staying with a fellow food blogger in New Jersey whom I had never met.

Obviously, I survived four yellow cab rides in New York City, not to mention trekking my pregnant self around the streets on a bustling Friday. However, those adventures are not the focus of this post.

Instead of a recipe or a tutorial today, I’m going to give you a peek into an intimate food bloggers conference, because I know, like my friends and family, you’re already wondering what goes on there.

Photo by Maggy of Three Many Cooks

First of all, ‘conference’ is entirely the wrong word for last weekend’s event. Workshop? Close. Retreat? Better. I mean, I’ve been to a few conferences and they generally involve a massive exhibitor’s hall for conference sponsors, intense business card swapping, and (ahem) some seriously superior attitudes.

Those events have their value, but to admit that I am perfectly comfortable attending them would be a stretch. It’s more like I survive, rather than thrive. (Side note, we still got a swag bag at BSP, but didn’t have to deal with a sponsor’s hall. Oh and PS: I won a shiny red Kitchen Aid blender.)

Big Summer Potluck breaks the mold in many ways. Like I mentioned before – barn. That’s one word you don’t often hear in conjunction with a conference. Here are a few more: hay bales, homemade jam swap, garden breakfast, chicken coop.

Leave it to event co-ordinators and visionaries, Maggy and Erika, – the dream team behind BSP – to extract us from our urban settings and transplant us into the Pennsylvanian countryside. They had a lot of good moves after that too, such as getting super cool sponsors, providing plenty of gin and ice, and ordering up nothing but sunshine for the weekend. Way to go, girls.

Dinner al fresco.

Did I mention the event was gluten-free? A factor that, I’ll admit, had me squirming a little beforehand and scarfing toasted crumpets afterward.

However, during the potluck, I forgot all about the special diet menu as I was too busy breakfasting on Green Valley Organics yogurt with Pam Anderson’s mind-blowing granola, snacking on sour cream & onion PopChips, and rounding out a long day with the best vegetarian enchiladas I have ever eaten.

Finally, a food blogging conference with fabulous food!

Photo by Maggy of Three Many Cooks

Our keynote speakers shone, inspired, moved and motivated.

Thank you to Shauna, who reminded us to write from the heart, turn off our inner editor, and write to inspire. She also exhorted that writing is about connecting, not impressing, and that a handful of readers are more important than many visitors to our blogs. Amen.

Thank you Penny, for laying the foundation of great photography: Light, Composition, Color and Moment. It was absolutely riveting to hear you speak and I especially appreciated the nudge to look up from the camera more often and engage with the subject.

Pam and Justin, your frank fan-side chat was exactly what I needed to hear. You didn’t weave any fairy tales for us about what the publishing world is like, nor did you paint a bleak picture of what our potential future could hold. It was an exciting and interesting chat. Thanks for taking all of our questions, no matter how obvious the answers may have been.

Photo by Tracy of Sugarcrafter

Much was spoken of ‘moments’ by the keynote speakers, although my significant ‘moment’ of the weekend didn’t come until I was back home. I was struck by how many new relationships had formed and old friendships strengthened over the weekend. My #BSP2 twitter stream wasn’t merely trickling, it was gushing words of love, encouragement, support and camaraderie.

Community had been built. Not just because of my Skype pinging or the DM’s piling up, but something deeper had taken hold and I realized that we had connected in a powerful way over the course of those two days together.

The setting was beautiful, rustic, and serene – but the people far outshone it.

Shaina, my roomie, you are strong, beautiful and a great listening ear. Amber, your hospitality is five-star and James makes a mean spot of tea; thank you for everything. Jeanne and Tracy, I can’t remember the last time I laughed so hard as when I was with the two of you. Marisa, you’re adorable and can produce a seriously respectable pickle platter; I’m so glad we met!

Megan, I wish we were neighbors, I could tell we’d be friends until we grew old; maybe we will anyway. Ethan, you are a true gentleman (#strongarmsandall); I so enjoyed all our chats and look forward to connecting again on home turf. Winnie, you are radiant. Paula and Susan, I bet the three of us would have a lot of fun together; stay in touch! Gail, you make me smile. Jen, you too!

Laura, I’m so glad we met and hope I didn’t freak you out with my birth stories; best of luck with little Anderson. Melissa, I so enjoyed our thought-provoking conversations; it was great to meet you! Amanda, you are a riot! Thanks for all the behind the scenes work you put in. And Jennie, I owe you a lot. We need to talk soon, girl.

To all the other wonderful Big summer Potluck attendees – until next year!

Photo by Ivory Hut

About Aimee

Cooking has always been Aimée's preferred recreational activity, creative outlet, and source of relaxation. After nearly ten years in the professional cooking industry, she went from restaurant to RSS by trading her tongs and clogs for cookie cutters and a laptop, serving as editor here at Simple Bites. Her first book, Brown Eggs and Jam Jars - Family Recipes from the Kitchen of Simple Bites, was published in February 2015.

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  1. It was great to finally meet and be an nternational representative from Canada with you. Your little snapshots brought me back again to the Anderson home and the barn, so thank you for that. This post totally captured everything wonderful about BSP and you’re right, as perfect as the setting was, it was you and everyone else that made it what it was.
    And my carrying services are always at your disposal.
    Can’t wait to visit Laval:) A bientot!

  2. Amazing recap Aimee!! A bloggers soirée in a perfect and unique setting 🙂

  3. What a great write up, Aimee! I wish that I could have been there, but traveling with you virtually made it almost as good:) So many of the bloggers who attended enjoyed their experience there that it makes me smile:) Making new friends and reaffirming old friendships is the best thing in the world!

  4. Wow, It really felt like being with you there!!! your writing is so creative. This one reminds me of one I had in Tuscany meeting so many great people from all over the world is so exciting 🙂 thanks for the ride !

  5. Oh Aimee, thanks for sharing about your time. This is one event I do not want to miss next year and would love to meet you in real life! Have a great weekend!!

  6. Nothing better than a potluck.

    I’ve been to Jersey and through Pennsylvania. Beautiful hilly scenery there.

  7. Thank you, Aimee, for making it feel like I was able to attend after all (though now I’m even more sad that I wasn’t…). Lovely post!

  8. Was so wonderful to meet you in person! You’re even more delightful than I imagined xoxo It WAS a fantastic UN-conference indeed : )

  9. Just reading your wonderful post helps a lot to understand how magic it was.
    The location looks great, the people even more.
    Thanks a lot to share that with all of us.

  10. Great recap Aimee! what a fabulous locale! Wish I had gone!

  11. That sounds like so much fun! Lucky you!

  12. Looks amazing. How did you get to be a part of this retreat?

  13. Beautiful, beautiful, Aimée. I wish ALL blog conferences—not just food ones—could be like that.

  14. wow! seems like you had so much fun there! great post!

  15. I’ve been behind in reading blogs for 3 weeks due to an internet outage (upgrades) and come to read this post, which is a lovely recounting of your wonderful gathering. However, what tickled me the most, was being surprised and delighted to read in the first paragraph that you and Danny are expecting again. Congratulations Aimee! Going to click on the link at pregnant and get really caught up 🙂

  16. Now THAT looks like the kind of “conference” I would want to go to!

  17. I haven’t laughed that hard in quite a while, either! I had so much fun hanging out with you, and of course the whole weekend was just as magical as you captured with your words. Lovely post! 🙂

  18. thanks for this, Aimee. about that table photo from Saturday night, I’m pretty sure Shaina was laughing at me when it was taken. oh wait, Shaina is still laughing at me.

  19. Lovely recap, Aimee. I enjoyed our discussion, too!

  20. So will you be sharing a recipe for the best vegetarian enchiladas you’ve ever had?!

  21. Amber | Bluebonnets & Brownies says

    It was a fantastic weekend, made only more fabulous by your feisty self. I’m kinda glad your flight got delayed, selfishly. It was so fun having dinner together before you left. Love ya!

  22. What an awesome retrest! Probably much more intimate than Blogher! Would love to do something like this, and of course the fact that food was involved…

  23. What a great weekend. 🙂 Hope to chat with you more next time! Love Paula’s “unconference” name.

  24. It was so wonderful to meet you in person! Lovely recap!

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