Lately I’ve been struck again and again by the way seemingly solitary activities like blogging and tweeting have paved the way for real-life connections. The past two weeks have been filled with food-related adventures and discoveries, made possible largely by the community I’ve found myself a part of online.
The ball really got rolling at the DC Food Bloggers Happy Hour I attended at Indique Heights earlier this month. In addition to enjoying some devastatingly delicious half-priced cocktails like the Tamarind Margarita and Jaggery Martini, I got the chance to talk to several other bloggers and “food people” about their labors of love.
I met Lubos Brieda of SlovakCooking.com, whom I was curious to talk to about similarities between Slovak cuisine and the Russian dishes I’m more familiar with. He made the point that American cooks looking for ways to cook and eat more sustainably and waste less could learn a lot from their central and eastern European counterparts, who still learn these habits in the kitchen from childhood. I’d like to explore this thought further in a future post. In the meantime, I’ll also be keeping my eye on The Pickle Project, the efforts of two former Fulbrighters to document traditional Ukrainian foodways with a focus on sustainability, community, and change.
I also got acquainted with Asya Ollins, manager at The Brewer’s Art restaurant and microbrewery in Baltimore. I was already planning a trip up to Baltimore to visit a friend from college that weekend, so Asya encouraged us to stop by. Little did I know that Brewer’s Art is where my friend and her crew typically gather on weekends! After a fantastic dinner at The Helmand Afghani restaurant nearby (whose pumpkin in garlic-yogurt sauce will definitely be recreated in my kitchen soon), we headed over to the bar.
Asya was kind enough to give us a tour of the back rooms where they brew all their drafts in-house. (Six are on tap at any given time). We took the cargo elevator upstairs to see (and taste!) the malted barleys they use in each beer, peered into the huge tanks where the barley is mashed with water, and examined the fermentation and conditioning tanks where the real magic takes place. Unfortunately I had forgotten my camera in my travel bag so I have no pictures of the process, but I did get to taste the outcome: I opted for the Resurrection ale, a smooth, malty brew that’s simultaneously dark and fruity. Luscious!
I didn’t get a chance to chat with Sala Kannan of VeggieBelly.com, but sent her a message afterwards when I found her blog through Sandhya of Vegetarianirvana, another South Indian food blogger we’d both talked to at the event. Sala and I ended up meeting for lunch at Northside Social, my new favorite coffee shop/wine bar in Arlington. She graciously let me pick her brain about everything from her globe-spanning travels and gorgeous food photography to Web traffic-boosting tips and Mark Bittman gossip. Sala also got me excited about Karma Kitchen, a weekly Indian meal and “experiment in generosity” that she started in DC with a group of friends two years ago.
Last but certainly not least, an idle tweet I posted a few weeks ago about wanting to learn to like mussels prompted a response from Olga of Mango & Tomato, who generously offered to teach me how to cook them. She came over for a lesson and dinner last week, a bag of orange-zest brownies in hand. I’ll save the story of that evening and all the helpful tips she offered over the course of it for my next post.
For now, suffice it to say that while these serendipitous meetings and connections may seem like simple good fortune (“I happened to be in the right place at the right time,” I might remark), I think there’s more to it than that. It seems to me that when we pursue a passion for no other reason that because we find joy in that pursuit, and when we open ourselves to connections with others for the pure pleasure of their company and their unique perspective on that shared passion, we cannot help but discover the wealth of generosity, inspiration, and support that exists around us. Even as we sometimes lament the “loss of community” that the Internet Age has supposedly sped up intensely, let us not ignore the new, very rewarding real-life communities we can build through it.