Meet Alumni Mary-Denise Smith, Crossing the Pond at #FBC15!

Meet Mary-Denise Smith, (@crumbsnrubble) behind Crumbs on the Table and MD Word Smith – a cherished FBC Alumni crossing the pond time and time again from the USA to take part in all of what FBC has to offer! Read more about her thoughts on food, blogging and favourites bits; if you are attending #FBC15 you’re sure to get a big welcome from her!

 MD Wordsmith at FBC5 Food Blogger ConnectAs a cherished FBC Alumni, what have you most enjoyed and learned from former FBC conferences? Have there been any significant changes or developments to your career/blog since and why is FBC an event you like to come back to?
I reveled in the great friendly spirit at FBC, and I loved watching folks from wildly different experience come together over/about food. FBC is the founding stone of my career as a copyeditor/proofreader for food bloggers. I came to my first FBC to hear Diane Jacob speak, and to take her writers workshop, a groundbreaking event for me. I come back for the smiles, the joy, the warmth, the sharing.
Is blogging your full time job? If not, what is your day job?
Blogging is not my full time job, it is a small component of my job as a copyeditor and proofreader for food bloggers. I think food bloggers are amazingly generous folks, astonishingly creative and adventurous, and exists to aid and abet those efforts.
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What first motivated you to blog and how has blogging changed your life?
At first, I tried to blog about food like I saw everyone else doing it, and that didn’t go well. I do love to connect people with each other and with ideas, which certainly is a motivation for blogging! Growing my personal blog Crumbs On The Table (rubble in the kitchen sink) continues to celebrate food bloggers stellar creativity and enthusiasm for their work.
What’s your signature dish?
A 16th century chopped salad that uses everything from spinach to lettuce to every herb in the garden to almonds to currants to olives to Demerara sugar, swimming in olive oil and a thick Balsamic vinegar. It is never the same twice!
As a returning FBC alumni, have you stayed in touch with any bloggers and industry folk you met at previous FBC’s? Which other bloggers do you follow most closely?
I never miss a post from Dianne Jacob, Ceri Jones, or David Lebovitz . I read them word for word, to see how things are done. There are (nameless) others I follow closely to see how it is NOT done!
How do you shop for food – supermarkets, farmer market, local shops, online etc?
I shop in my local co-op grocery store and farmers markets.

dks burgerFor me, the ultimate food heaven and hell is …
Food heaven = good friends, good food, good wine (a barbeque is usually involved). Food hell = the American supermarket Safeway.

What would be your last meal on earth?
Last meal? Either a plain roast chicken with a sensuous salad or a big ol’ hamburger, rare please, w’ blue cheese and mushrooms.

If you had to eat one country’s traditional dish for a year, what would it be?
Would it be too jingoistic to say a year of American-style hamburgers would be just fine? Yes? Then, substitute very good English meat pies.

What’s the most unusual restaurant you have ever eaten at?
Best restaurant ever was the old Chownings Tavern at Colonial Williamsburg – their bar food couldn’t be beat.

Have supper clubs now had their day or is this just the start of bigger things to come? 
In one guise or another, supper clubs will always be with us and that is a good thing!

What food, travel, lifestyle or tech trends are you looking forward to seeing snowball in 2015?
I got tired of the sweet, girly pastel blog templates after the second one, and if every auto-play slide show/video were to blow up right now, it wouldn’t be too soon.

What are your thoughts on the decline of supermarkets and the future of our grocery shopping habits?
And if every Tesco, Walmart, Safeway and other mega-corp grocery store were to find its doors frozen shut tomorrow morning, I’d feel sorry for the employees scrambling for new jobs, but nothing else.

Does the proliferation of food programmes on TV aid or hinder your quest to develop and sustain a food blog?  In what way?
Most food shows on TV now are not about food, they are about titillation over “feuds” and artificial competition. Irrelevant to the max.

What are your thoughts on vlogging?
Vlogging is like writing, it’s all in the creativity/skill of the maker and the interests of the viewer.

Celebrity chefs who use their profile for the greater good or to make us all eat healthily – is that a good thing or an annoying publicity stunt?
Celebrity chefs are celebrities because their PR flunkies say they are. If they parlay their marketability for real social good, hoorah for them! But what happens when they get tired/fired? The social program goes pffft and children are hungry again while “chef” goes on to the next money making adventure.

You’re given the opportunity to cook for anyone – dead or alive, real or fictional, chef, celebrity, royalty, public figure – anyone! Who would it be and why? What would you make them?
Food Blog Cookbooks by Dianne JacobI think I’d like to cook a simple dinner for Elizabeth I, or for MFK Fisher. I’d like to cook one more meal for my mom – roast chicken and baked potatoes and a green salad.

How many cookbooks do you own?
I just counted 193 cookbooks on the shelves. That does not include books in transit or scattered about the house.
What attributes make a good cookbook for you? What cookbooks have you added to your collection recently? Which cookbook do you return to time and time again?
Well written is paramount – introductory material, headnotes, process instructions. Grab me, engage me, make my mouth water, and make the ingredient lists accurate. A good example is “Mrs. Wheelbarrow’s Practical Pantry”. I tend to have current (expensive) cookbooks on almost permanent loan from the library.

I buy older cookbooks and books about food. I like to read about food as much as I like to prepare and eat it – much less fattening! Desert island cookbooks? Joy of Cooking, Around My French Table.

Cuisinart-Olives-FBC11-Sponsor-BloggersDo you have a favourite kitchen tool or appliance – either a new addition or a trusted old favourite?
Desert Island cooking tools? My cast iron skillets and Dutch oven, my favorite old knife and wooden spoon, and the Weber BBQ. Desert Island that has electricity? The Cuisinart, the microwave and the rotisserie attachment for the Weber!

What’s on your wish-list right now?
I want a pressure canner, a bottomless book allowance, any class Ivan Day and Cathy Barrow wish to teach, a charcuterie tutorial at Camont, and days and days at the Ballymaloe Lit Fest. Doubtless, there are more.

PracticalPantryTo achieve a successful blog what comes first – the dishes, the styling, the photography or the words?
A great food blog is easy and fun to look at and navigate, quick to load with no pop-up pleas to subscribe or follow, no auto slide shows or videos, and for all the gods sake, no auto loading sound! Good writing from the heart, sound recipes that are not just copycats of whatever is “trending”. Photography that shows decent technical command of the camera, the food, the software and a healthy dose of wit and unwillingness to follow the latest styling fad (just what does a limp rag draped across a dusty slab of splintery old wood tell me about the food? Huh?). Writing is paramount. There were no photos in Samuel Pepys, Elizabeth David’s or MFK Fisher’s early works.
What other influences or interests would you say make for a great food blog – travel, fashion, tech, lifestyle? How is your lifestyle shaped by food? How is your lifestyle shaped by blogging? Does blogging shape your approach to food and what you eat now?

My life “style” is shaped by local, ethically, sustainably and organically produced food and other products. My life, my approach to food, and the politics of food shape my blog.


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