Friday, May 08, 2009

what would you attempt to do if you knew you could not fail?

Essentially, I am a private person. There are times when I blabber like a mad woman, but overall, I am honestly, pretty shy. When I created this blog to share recipes with family and friends, I first kept it private and only provided the URL to a chosen few.

I had been participating in recipe sites and on message boards relating to food for some time. I had been reading and drooling over the posts of professional food bloggers and while I liked what I was doing, I didn't see my writing as anything comparable to those who were really in the know. Who was I to write about food? I am just a girl stuck out in the middle of the prairie without even a grocery store in this small town. What do I have to contribute? Sure, people were asking for my recipes, but I am not cooking gourmet meals. My meals are made up of what I find available and usually what can be thrown together quickly and easily because my attention span is so short.

Gradually, as I made more posts, and tentatively shared more thoughts and recipes, I became more in tune with a belief that I have always had. Good food is different things to different people. We come from diverse backgrounds, lifestyles, and experiences. Our knowledge levels, ambitions, available time, energy, and even ingredients vary. We are going to like different things, and that is perfectly OK. I didn't have to please everyone. As long as I liked what was On My Plate, that was good enough.

Truly, I think it was criticism that I most feared. People can be critical; people can be cruel. The Internet offers a prime breeding ground for that. There is a veil behind which to hide. While you might not tell your neighbor that her chocolate cake tastes like bat barf, there wouldn't be a second thought to posting that comment on some one's blog. The kid gloves come off when there is an illusion of anonymity.

But, anonymity can also allow the freedom to open up and explore real passions. My blog has made me want to eat better, discover new things, and play with my food. I want to share my experiences for what they are, good or bad. I want to share my food through the recipes and photos in this virtual kind of dinner party. I learned that I don't mind inviting the world into my home to see what is On My Plate.

Still, when the area CBS affiliate (Keloland) approached me about doing one of their Eye On Keloland human interest segments, I instantly crawled back into my shell. My mind was screaming in panic. All of those self-doubts and insecurities were crashing back. Me? On television? Talking about food and my blog? Cooking? I am no Rachael Ray. I will never be The Next Food Network Star, and quite honestly, sometimes I get stage fright just standing in front of a class while subbing. Yikes!

I had a mile long list of silly reasons why I couldn't do it.
  • My knife skills suck.
  • The wallpaper is peeling in my office/den.
  • The paint in my kitchen is ugly.
  • The pups bark too loudly.
  • Aside from my awesome new stove, my other equipment is rinky-dink.
  • My computer skills are minimal.
  • My blog isn't very good.
  • I have nothing to wear.
  • I have nothing to say.
  • I have nothing to cook.
But, sifting through all of these false excuses, it was fear holding me back. It is one thing to be a dork from a town of 350 people writing a food blog under the cover of a goofy moniker. It is quite another to reveal yourself on one of the major networks and talk about it for everyone to see and hear. Whatever little amount of privacy I may have would be shattered if I accepted these few moments in the spotlight. In short, I felt as if I would be a target. Everyone with computer access within a 300 mile radius of my small town would be aware of the opportunity to read my thoughts and poke fun. People would laugh. Everyone would know how dumb I am. There would be no escaping it.

I almost didn't escape these thoughts. I almost let myself be my own worst critic and turn down the Keloland offer. However, after chatting with some very good and honest friends, I knew that I had to put on my big girl panties and get over myself. I couldn't let my little voices of fear rule my life. What did I want for the future? Would I be old and wondering "what if?" Or would I be old and laughing about the dumb thing that I did but enjoyed? I had to be willing to be the dork that I am and not worry about everyone else. I had to take the opportunity.

Committed to the interview, I next had to find the perfect recipe to prepare under the scrutiny of the camera. I wanted something easy. Even with the interview date a couple of weeks away, I was already a bundle of nerves and knew that I needed to be able to work without thinking. I didn't want anything that could create too much mess or seemed like one of the horrors that Sandra Lee might prepare. I debated soups and sandwiches, appetizers, desserts, and even egg rolls and enchiladas. A poll was created on Facebook asking my friends what they would like to see me prepare if they were to sit and visit with me in the kitchen while I cooked. Countless recipes were considered and rejected, but I kept coming back to the Pasta with Smoked Sausage in Tomato Cream Sauce that I had recently prepared and posted. But as I said, that was already posted. Didn't I have to do something new to add to the blog?

I obsessed about this for days until I finally relented to that fabulous pasta recipe. I chose it for the spur of the moment Tweet-Up because I could prepare it while sleep walking. If I were to have any chance of relaxing and enjoying my moment in the Eye on Keloland, I needed that ease. There is no rule that every post in my blog has to be about a new recipe.

With the recipe chosen, I tried to put the pending interview out of my mind as I was busy with work and social events. I did a little extra housework here and there, adding a little polish to hidden corners that had been ignored. I considered my wardrobe, but didn't really make a solid plan because the weather was fluctuating so wildly. I tried to go about my life as if I wasn't about to appear on TV talking about a blog that up until a year ago I had kept private, but slowly I let a few more people in on my secret.

I told this person and that person. People surprised me with overwhelming support. Many didn't know that I had a blog, and I had to explain blogging to some. But, overall, friends congratulated me and told me how excited they were for me. A few weren't, and I expected this and took it in stride. The negative pointed out how my personal thoughts would never be personal again (as if they really were after I posted on the Internet, anyway?), asked how I could do this to myself, and told me that it really was very dumb. I found that it didn't hurt so bad to hear it from others as I thought it might. Even though I was nervous as heck, I had already made up my mind. I was going to take a chance. Success or failure wasn't really the point.

It amazed me how the support came from everywhere. Friends with whom I chat about food daily were thrilled that I could show that everyday people with no professional food training or technical expertise could cook, photograph, and write about their food in a way that made others want to try the recipes. Comments on the various websites on which I participate and text messages poured in with good wishes. Friends rearranged their schedules to help me chose what to wear (although is yellow really my color?), help me do some panicked last minute cleaning, talk me down from the ledge where I almost repainted the ugly avocado walls of the kitchen, brought me fresh flowers to brighten my day and the table, and helped me build confidence in myself to go through with the interview.

On the appointed day, I rose early, shuttled my wildly barking pups off to the farm in order to ensure peace and quiet (although, I had no idea just how quiet the house was without the click of their nails on the hardwoods as they followed me around), showered, dressed, and did a few last minute chores. I logged online and joked about my nerves with a few close friends, and made a new blog post (Expecting Guests...yes, my "guest" was Keloland). My cell phone buzzed constantly with texts to bolster my confidence. I had to laugh out loud when one friend who was farming in a field north of my small town sent the report, "Spotted Keloland 10 miles north." How is that for neighborhood watch?

When we sat down to film the interview, I honestly can't tell you what I said. I know that I babbled. I know that I was stuffy with a sinus infection and allergies and was trying not to snuffle my nose. I know that it was over before it even seemed to start, and it was only then that I realized that I hadn't rechecked my hair or makeup before sitting down for the questions. Then, we were in the kitchen chatting while I started throwing together the simple menu that I had planned. I burned the onions, was awkward about tossing together the salad, and added too much pasta to the final dish. The reporter was easy to chat with though, and I continued to jabber like an idiot and hoped that editing was kind to me.

My meal of Pasta with Smoked Sausage and Tomato Cream Sauce, Spring Salad with Roasted Garlic Vinaigrette, a crusty loaf of Asiago Garlic Bread, and Brownie Cherry Cheesecake was shared off camera with the very friendly reporter. Again, I blathered on while we ate. (Really, I am shy, even if my mouth doesn't get it sometimes.) After our simple meal, there was just a little more filming of me attempting to blog, but my always so frustrating laptop kept freezing and stalling. I should have moved to the desktop, but that would have meant welcoming the camera into my office/den with the peeling wallpaper. Sometimes, I am too stubborn for my own good.

And, suddenly, it was all over. The camera was packed away, hands were shook in farewell, and the Keloland vehicle drove away. I was left alone in my too-quiet-with-the-pups-gone house, wondering what I had just done and how it was all going to appear to the outside world. Again, I was/am scared to death. But, I just keep reminding myself that it isn't about success or failure and the outside world. It is about what I like On My Plate, and always will be.

Let's just hope that I don't look too dumb when the segment airs on May 12th. :-)


  1. there is nothing about you, your cooking, your house, got blog or anything else that's dumb!! I can't wait to see the segment!

  2. I hope you enjoyed your "taste" of notariety.Life is about sampling, good bad or in between. We never know untilo we try!


  3. Personally, I think you did a superb job. Matter of fact you can consider me a new subscriber due to that KELO-land special. LOVE your blog and I think you will be teaching me some NEW things!!!! Wish my photography skills were as good as YOURS!!!!


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