With Thanksgiving, the holiday for all lovers of food, family, and friends just a few weeks away (I was apparently in denial when I wrote this–it’s next week), I wanted to talk about community for a second.
If you know me well, you know I’m generally happy, and quite good at, being the observer, the analyzer, the reporter. It takes me a while to warm up to people, being outgoing does not come naturally to me (there’s some irony that I’ve found myself writing in such a public way here and in my day job). Yes, I was that kid who sat at the lunch table at a new school with her nose buried in a book for a year listening to the conversations around me before figuring out where I fit. Thankfully I’ve gotten better at balancing my introvert/extrovert tendencies since then, but it’s still something that requires a conscious effort.
That said, the best thing this blog has given me is a topic that I can’t help but want to talk about. It’s become a built-in conversation starter to meet and talk with fellow writers, cooks, bakers, photographers, and just people who love to eat and talk about food. Lately, between the Chicago Food Swap and Chicago Food Bloggers, I’ve been to some great events and met amazing new people equally passionate about food. It’s been beyond fun.
Earlier this month, I got to attend my second Chicago Food Swap and found myself starting conversations about the beautiful food other folks brought, being greeted by name by more than a few people, making new friends, and just generally being excited about being in the same room with so many like-minded people. Plus I got some awesome treats!
(If you’ve never been to a swap, it’s kind of organized chaos with food–you bring a bunch of homemade goodies, spend the first hour checking out what everyone else brought and the second hour swapping. I brought about 8 containers each of muhammara, cranberry conserve, pickled cranberries, and “autumn in a jar” conserve, and came home with more than I even remember. I wish I had thought to ask for recipes for everything! And yes, I’m sharing the wealth. Yes, I’m getting back to exercising…soon. And next time I’m limiting myself to two sweets.)
This is what I came home with:
- Ginger honey
- Lingonberry donut holes (there was a real name for these but I forgot it)
- Pecan maple butter
- Bulgogi kimbap (Korean version of sushi with marinated and cooked beef)
- Pork dumplings
- Corn salsa
- Apple jelly
- Apple cranberry ginger chutney
- Honey pickles
- Curried apple chutney
- Green tomato relish
- Pumpkin caramel
- Peanut butter chocolate fudge
- Kombucha starter
- Two kinds of pumpkin cheesecake
- Cranberry almond quickbread
- Pumpkin chocolate quickbread
- Hot chocolate mix (and a mug!)
- Fresh arugula
- Wheatberry salad
- Pumpkin spice syrup
- Dried herbs
The same sentiment applies to the Chicago Food Bloggers meetup back in September. I mentioned it briefly, but there’s something special about a community of people who love food, love to talk about food, love to make food gathered together to learn, cook, eat. There too I found myself welcomed by name with open arms (though it always helps when you bring food to a foodie event) and nearly talking myself hoarse, wishing the event lasted longer. I can’t wait for the next one!
So cheers, a toast! A festive little drink in thanks for the people I’ve met, friends I’ve made, and the community I’ve found!
Thanks to Mike Kostyo for the pictures from the Chicago Food Bloggers event!
Cranberry Gin Cocktail
Makes one strong drink. If you prefer something slightly less strong, I included an alternative at the end.
1 ounce gin
1 1/2 ounces brandy-based orange liqueur (I used Gran Torres, but Grand Marnier can be substituted)
1 1/2 ounce pickled cranberry syrup, plus a few berries for garnish
1 tablespoon turbinado sugar
1 tablespoon white sugar
1 teaspoon orange zest, grated
1 orange, sliced in half
Chill a cocktail glass (martini glass if you want to look fancy). In a small bowl, rub together sugars and orange zest until fragrant; spread over a small plate and set aside.
In a cocktail shaker, combine gin, Gran Torres, cranberry syrup, and 3 to 4 ice cubes. Shake about 30 seconds or until mixture is well chilled.
Moisten the rim of a glass with the sliced orange and dip in the orange sugar. Strain cocktail into the glass, and garnish with a pickled cranberry or two. Alternatively, use a double old fashioned glass, pour over ice, and top with seltzer.