A couple of weeks ago, I had the pleasure (true, true pleasure) of attending the second annual Big Summer Potluck. It was held near Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, the home of Pam Anderson (cookbook author extraordinaire and one of the Three Many Cooks), and Linden Hill Gardens. We were all in for a treat…a conference unlike anything I expected.
To be honest, I really didn’t know WHAT to expect. I assumed it to be a conference. I knew we had speakers. I knew there were sponsors. I knew there would be food and bloggers and lots of photos taken. I expected…conference. SEO talk and monetizing chat.
I was wrong.
On Friday night, we piled on a big yellow school bus (yep, really) with the windows down, our hair blowing, and headed out in the middle of God’s Country to Pam’s home. It was pretty amazing – a very modern version of a timber home. Contemporary, homey, earthy, artsy. Pretty much perfect. We were all carrying boxes – gluten free goodies, beer, wine, salads and the like. We were scoping each other out a bit, I think. it’s strange to see people you’ve never met but know from online. Otherworldly. We Twitter and comment and giggle (like, LOL) on Facebook, but to actually lay eyes on one another? It’s very difficult to explain. Especially for a girl like me, who finds it so hard to be social.
I am not social.
It’s not that I don’t want to be, it just seems as if I can’t be. I get panicky. I wonder what people think of me. IF they think of me. if they even see me. I worry I am not interesting enough to talk to, or if I am annoying you. If I am talking too much, not enough. if you wish I’d just move the hell on. So…yeah. These kinds of events make my stomach hurt.
Luckily, I had a couple of things going for me. One, I had already met a few bloggers there, like Lisa, of Jersey Girl Cooks, Maggie, of Three Many Cooks, and Gail, of One Tough Cookie, to name a few. I loved seeing all of them again! It also helped that I had the most awesome roommate – Paula, from Bell’Alimento. She is the quintessential Social Butterfly. We had met in person for about, oh, 6 minutes prior to becoming roomies…but Paula has taken it upon herself to draw me out of my cocoon. She calls me just about every day (if you know me, you know how painful this concept is – I don’t do phones),and gets me chatting. She pushed me in to the Potluckers and made me converse.
I thought I may choke.
Did you notice? I mean, those of you in attendance? Was it overwhelmingly obvious that I was on the verge of a mini-breakdown as we shared umpteen pounds of KerryGold??
I hope not. I would hate to let my roommate down.
But back to the Potluck.
We had a great evening of conversation and amazing Gluten-Free food (the entire weekend was gluten free, save for the Saturday Night Waffle House attack when we gluten junkies needed a fix) – and we even had a big lottery of doorprizes – I won a great blender from KitchenAid and Paula was a lucky winner of a year’s supply of KerryGold. So, pretty exciting!
After a good night’s sleep, we again boarded our big yellow bus and headed to Linden Hill Gardens where the rest of our event was to taken place. It is a giant nursery of sorts, with ponds and barns, cottages and wide open spaces. It was really quite beautiful…especially the barn where our sessions took place. Imagine a room of stunning views and antique benches, granary lofts and ladders, weathered boards and floating dust. It was charming in ways I can’t describe. But I would be lying if I said the setting was the draw, as it was not.
For me, that draw was Penny de los Santos.
While I thoroughly enjoyed the presentation given by Shauna (The Gluten Free Girl), and found inspiration in her humble words and touching stories, it is the two experiences (I know no other word to use) with Penny that have changed something inside of me.
Before the event, I knew OF Penny. I knew she was an amazing photographer. I knew she worked for Saveur (I’m a foodie, after all), and National Geographic. But I knew nothing else. No history. Nothing.
This woman is passion. Awkward in front of a crowd, but well spoken in ways you cannot fathom. Her stories spill from within her without hesitation, as they are not imagined, they are real. And with experience she paints pictures, her words dropping us into Mexican prisons and candlelit apartments. So vivid was her storytelling, and with such grace, that I was transported to these places. I had not seen the particular photos she described, but after the event, I Googled them.
I didn’t need to see them. I already knew them. I had seen them in my mind.
That is the mark of a great storyteller. Yes, she takes amazing photos, and emotions seep from them. You cannot mistake them for anything but greatness. But that lady is a gifted enchantress…rarely am I moved by speakers in this way. I wasn’t the only one, either…that barn was full of wet faces.
I hope someday I can say I know who I am HALF as much as Penny knows who SHE is.
Truth. It is inspiring to meet someone so in tune with themselves. So motivated to do good, to do right. To be a true person.
And THAT is what I took from Big Summer Potluck. No business cards were exchanged (yes, really – we all became friends, not business colleagues), and no advice on SEO strategy. Just a sense of finding purpose, and not being just ordinary.
Okay…now for what I TOOK to the Big Summer Potluck.
Cookies. and Brownie Mixes for everyone! Not just any Brownie Mix, though…Gluten Free Brownie Mix from Bob’s Red Mill.
I was lucky enough to have Bob’s Red Mill support me in my Gluten Free Big Summer Potluck experience, and they kindly sent enough brownie mix for me to hand out to everyone on Friday night. There were a LOT of happy Potluckers, let me tell you!
I also took a big batch of Gluten Free Chocolate Chunkers, made with more Bob’s product. I can’t say enough great things about their product line! I am NOT Gluten Free, but I understand it’s necessity. I can’t imagine having to find ways to eliminate such a huge food category (flour is in just about everything I eat!), so I am impressed that Bob’s has such quality gluten free products that I could use to accommodate the event. It’s important to try new things, I think…like Gluten Free. And talking on the phone.
And in person.
And Chocolate Chunk Cookies are a great way to break the ice.
Gluten Free Chocolate Chunkers
- 4 Tablespoons Unsalted Butter, frozen
- 4 tablespoons Salted Butter, frozen
- 2 1/4 cups Almond Flour (I used Bob’s Red Mill)
- 2 teaspoons Baking Powder
- 1 teaspoon Baking Soda
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
- 1 cup Light Brown Sugar
- 1/3 cup Sugar
- 2 large Eggs
- 1 tablespoon Vanilla Extract
- 12 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chunks (I used Scharffen Berger)
- In large mixing bowl add flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt, cut in cold butter with a pastry cutter until the mixture has small bits as well as some pieces around the size of peas. Add the sugars and stir well. Add in the vanilla and eggs and mix until dough forms, then mix in the chocolate chunks.
- Place the dough in the refrigerator for at least one hour.
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
- Pull out half of the dough from the refrigerator and shape into 8 large balls. Do not flatten. Make sure to leave plenty of room between them on the cookie sheet. Bake for 8 minutes, then turn the pan around and bake an additional 7 minutes, or until lightly browned. Allow to cool on pan for 10 minutes. Repeat with remaining dough.
A huge thank you to Bob’s Red Mill for their support, I loved representing you at the Potluck!