I’ve had this post on my to-do lists for weeks but kept putting it off, partially due to post-holidays exhaustion followed by a trip to Big Bend this past weekend, but mostly because my focus here at Small Comforts Kitchen is shifting in ways that have been challenging for me to articulate up until now.
On the whole, I’ve been so thrilled by the response to the work I’ve done here in 2017. Through this work, I’ve discovered new favorite bloggers, connected with some really lovely and supportive people both in Austin and in the Instagram community, and become more and more confident in my skills as an amateur baker and photographer over the past year.
But, I don’t have thousands of followers or a wide readership. Not yet, anyway. Part of that is my own fault — I’ve had trouble keeping to a consistent posting schedule. Part of that is because c’mon, I only started the blog in May! But part of it is because…
I don’t actually feel that invested in gaining an online/social media following.
Don’t misunderstand me: there are some LOVELY things about the Instagram community in particular. And if my goal is to get super delicious gluten-free recipes out into the world, then having a significant social media following certainly helps. Yet more and more, the people whose work I’m most interested in reading/eating are people who are successful and wonderful by so many measures, but not necessarily prolific on social media. They’re Jessica Smith of Different Blend Bakery in upstate New York, whose dinner rolls are the actual best gluten-free bread I have ever had in my entire life. They’re Emily Rees Nunn of The Comfort Food Diaries, whose book I and so many others I adore. They’re Dressler Parsons of the site Bitter Butter, whose articles on puff pastry are among the most fascinating things I’ve read this year.
As I’ve come more and more to understand what success can look like, I’ve shifted away from the idea of being food blogger and more toward…something undefined. Maybe it’s culinary school. Maybe it’s continuing to pitch food articles and becoming a bonafide food journalist (I have an article forthcoming in September 2018 that I cannot WAIT to tell you more about!). Maybe it’s going to graduate school in Boston and becoming a food historian. Maybe it’s a reality I haven’t even imagined yet.
Food blogging and achieving one or more of these things are by no means mutually exclusive. Alanna Taylor-Tobin, Stella Parks, Katherine Hysmith, Molly Yeh, and so many more folks who inspire me all are examples of food writers whose work I love AND who have massive social media followings.
But for me personally, moving forward means detaching myself from the social media hamster wheel to some extent. It’s not good for my sanity; it’s not good for my creativity. Enough.
I’ve been choosing a word every year for going on three years. This word helps me frame my intentions for the coming year rather than making specific goals or resolutions, which I either fail to complete or are no longer relevant by the end of the year. In 2016, the word was “compassion.” Within a month of selecting that word, I ended a long and toxic relationship, practiced more compassion toward myself than I had in years by quitting my job as a yoga teacher and ending my freelance proofreader side-hustle, and fell in love with the most compassionate man I have ever met. In 2017, my word was “purpose.” I spent the early part of 2017 plunged into grief and depression over our country’s election, and then somewhere amidst the total aimlessness, I found my way back to cooking and my heart and soul. My purpose, though still fairly amorphous, felt clearer for the first time in my adult life.
So in 2018, my word is forward. Keep going. I don’t know entirely toward what, but that’s okay. I’m trusting my path to reveal itself.
As my goals for myself shift, my concept of what I want this blog to be is shifting, too. Really, not much will change as far as recipes: I’ll continue posting only recipes that I feel truly add something meaningful to the gluten-free conversation. This might mean a new recipe every week! Or it might mean every other month. But I want to start doing a few new things, too, with the goal of turning this blog into a resource for anyone with celiac disease or gluten intolerance. Together, we can sift through the misinformation about what gluten-free can taste like and move forward toward better gluten-free cooking and baking.
Here are the other kinds of content you can expect in 2018:
Gluten-Free Cookbook Club: Monthly features on a gluten-free cookbook that I’ve cooked from that month and, when possible, interviews with the authors. The majority of the revelatory info about gluten-free baking that I’ve found is not on the Internet. It’s in books and magazines, and right now I don’t know of another site that is regularly pointing readers to reliable cookbooks. I’m also trying to cook MORE from other bloggers/cookbook authors and make slightly fewer of my own recipes this year so I can continue learning and growing my skillset. This also will likely play a part in my personal goal to bake more frequently with friends in 2018 (shout out to Jessica and Rosalee, my #tarttrio gals).
Travel Guides + Occasional Restaurant/Bakery Features: I LOVED writing the piece on Chicago, and I’ve had one in drafts on Portland for a while now. I also have plans to reach out to several bakery owners to interview them on their favorite gluten-free baking tips. These kinds of posts are really important to me personally. One of the hardest things about being gluten-free is that so many g-free restaurant lists are either super outdated, or are limited primarily to places that happen to offer gluten-free bread. In reality there are so many places that may not have a “GF” marking on the menu but can and will safely accommodate you. Y’all, your options extend far beyond a half-assed salad or sandwich option. I promise. Information = power, etc.
More Recipes Posted Directly to Instagram: This has less to do with my gluten-free goals and more to do with being authentic to myself as a home cook, which I feel is key if I’m going to continue engaging with social media at all. I don’t always have time to rigorously test and write out recipes, but I do frequently make new dishes by combining whatever random frozen + pantry items I have and synthesizing them into a recipe-ish thing. In cases where my instructions are not super rigorous, or where I acknowledge that the ingredients I’ve used are purely ones of convenience, I’ll post directly to Instagram so that you can cook along with me, but in a more chill way. Here’s one from today:
More Content NOT On My Blog that Has NOTHING to do with Gluten-Free Baking: Look, I love gluten-free food and if you ask me about flour blends I will not shut up for at least twenty minutes. But do I always want to talk about whether or not what I’m eating is gluten-free? EFF NO. Do you know how exhausting it is to explain myself to ev-er-y single person who finds out I have celiac? Please know that I super appreciate your interest and that I genuinely love how much people care about not making me ill and please continue to ask me questions when you have them, but as much as gluten-free food is my passion and calling, it is only one tiny aspect of my wide and varied interests that relate to food. I’m also super interested in food history, slow food, cheesemaking, farmsteading, the relationship between cultural appropriation and food..okay I’ll stop listing things now.
The point is, I want to learn and write and converse about food in so many ways, not just the ways that it affects my personal health and lifestyle. In 2017 I crossed a major milestone by, as I mentioned earlier, pitching a (relatively major) food publication and landing a contract for a feature article. And, in my other life as a nonprofit manager, I’m also going to be moderating a panel of food writers for the Writers’ League of Texas, tentatively scheduled for March. I plan to do much, much more of that kind of work in 2018.
And finally, and perhaps most importantly, I’m changing this blog’s tagline: No more “incidentally gluten-free.” From here on out, we are gluten-free, and we are not fucking apologizing for it.
If you’ve made it this far into this post, thanks for sticking with me. I’m so excited for the year to come, and I’m so grateful to have you along for the ride with me. Here’s to moving forward in 2018.