Summer camp isn’t something you usually get to experience after the age of ten. The instant friendships, gabbing over mutual obsessions, laughing until there are tears welling in your eyes… Mixed with days of classes on the very things that light a fire in your heart and mind… Followed by nights of staying up late, singing karaoke, sharing stories, and then starting it all over again at the dawn’s early light. And yet, last week, well past the age of ten, I relived those summer camp days at Vida Vegan Con.
Vida Vegan Con, as I’ve talked about here before and you’ve no doubt seen scattered all across the vegan blogosphere for the past week, is a conference for vegan bloggers. A niche within a niche, it’s amazing that hundreds of people across the globe want to travel to Portland to immerse themselves in the vegan food mecca to connect with bloggers they’ve only known virtually, to meet the cookbook authors who have inspired them in their kitchens, and to make instant friendships that feel somehow old.
Being at a conference with other likeminded people whose compassion for animals has led them to similar places made the world feel very small. The smiles, the waves, the feeling of community made my heart swell.
It made me think about how cookbook authors are like musicians in many ways. Just as a song that you hear at a particular period of your life can resonate very deeply and become a part of your own story, a recipe fills an intimate part of our lives. Whether it’s the cranberry sauce that you make every Thanksgiving, or your favorite chocolate chip cookies that are your fail-proof go-to for any event, whether it’s the well worn cookbooks that guided you in your early days of veganism when you didn’t know tempeh from Tempe, or the meals that made small town living taste exotic. These recipes and cookbooks fill cherished parts of our lives – from quiet dinners with a spouse or partner to yearly holiday traditions that become a part of one’s own family history.
When we share our own recipes, it’s sharing a personal part of our families too – the foods we eat, the things we like, the ways we fuel those we love the most in the world… Sharing recipes is something that has been done since the beginning of human history. In some ways, it’s the way that we describe our very particular worlds – what’s in season, what are our preferences, what is growing in our own towns. Food gives a glimpse into our own lives.
Meeting other bloggers and cookbook authors, who share these things in these same ways, many of whom I already knew the names of their cats or dogs or favorite travel destinations, was really special. There’s something very validating about shared connections. We are from all over the globe, but we have these values in common.
As much as I enjoyed the classes and will take away so many useful ways to improve my own work, the biggest take away was this – we are all more alike than we are different, and while our ways of connecting in this century are very different from the ways of our ancestors, it doesn’t make it any less moving.
Best of all, nothing feels as good as laughing until it hurts.