Wednesday, June 13, 2018
About what makes a Culinary Chronicler, & more on the 1st ever #CulinaryChroniclers Conclave
What is a Chronicler? What is the Culinary Chroniclers Conclave? Do I qualify? Why I should be there? These are just some of the questions I’ve been inundated with since I put up my first update on the Culinary Chroniclers Conclave two days ago. I thought I would share some background.
The Culinary Chroniclers Conclave is a result of several things, self-introspection, industry watching and the need to be part of more conversations as a community.
On a personal level, it was a culmination of much self-introspection. The career of food writing found me by serendipity 16ish years ago. And I went on to discover Food Blogging, learn Food Styling, progress into consulting, and eventually open A Perfect Bite Consulting and APB Cook Studio. Then came the age of social media, disrupting the food industry unimaginably (in a good way!). No longer were writing, creating art, photography or video production the premise of the few who had the education or (often) expensive tools of trade required. With new technology, smartphones, Google. Facebook, Twitter, Youtube and instagram. (I stopped there but new platforms launch daily) careers in food were no longer limited. Anybody could do anything, and did! People quit corporate careers to become chefs, restaurateurs, food bloggers. Food businesses were hot startup ideas. Housewives became Home Chefs, SMEs and Youtube sensations. A world of opportunities opened up and a billion stories began to be told.
It was all wonderful and exciting as an industry! But is also brought some complications. For many, like me, it brought doubts, and questions, like how to stay relevant in this rapid evolution of mediums? I’ve traveled a long way from 2500 paid-by-the-word long form articles, to 240 word tweets, FB lives, social video, visual Insta Stories and hashtags on Twitter. But I often found it hard to describe who I was. What I did. And I wasn't alone, many friends and industry colleagues had traveled similar paths and were going through similar dilemmas.
Was I a Food writer? I was producing so much content for social media that I wrote far less than before (and traditional media offered very little space for the sort of writing I did). Was I a Food Blogger? I had honestly hesitated on this. One of my biggest pain points is blogger bashing (It’s become cool to abuse bloggers, so much so that ‘Food Blogger’ has become a bad word.) Like many fabulous blogger friends I found myself wanting to distance myself from the Label. Was I a Chef? I was often put in that box, but I was and am (proudly so) a cook. Teacher? Historian? Consultant? Yes, successfully so. Food stylist? I was not just one of these. I was a sum of all of them, part writer, part artist, part photographer, part video producer, all creator, all STORY-TELLER.
It was the subject of many conversations between my husband, Shekhar and me. And then we realized, in one of those epiphanic moments, that the one thing that resonated constantly was the term storytelling. In all my avatars, writer, blogger, cook, stylist, I am a storyteller. Many of the people I knew also fit this bracket. In fact we were more than just storytellers, we were chroniclers.
Storytelling is the greatest technology we, as humans have created. The basis for almost everything in society, from the way we interact, communicate, build, create, dream, live, love and fight to even how we eat. It is just that the mediums for telling stories keep evolving. Drawing and Oral traditions gave way to the written word, print gave way to the online space, visual imagery evolved from SLR photographs and video to digital and amazing phone cameras. With this evolution, our conversations must evolve too. Chronicles have been and can continue to be recorded by anyone, in any medium, anywhere and about anything. Including food.
What are we eating? How are we eating? Why we are eating as we do? How is food made? Where are we eating? Who makes our food? Who eats our food? Chronicles about food – let’s call them Culinary Chroniclers - often address these questions. And any of us that are documenting ingredients, their usage, traditional food knowledge, food traditions, cooking practices, recipes, cooking methods, local street food, restaurant trends, through writing and journalism, art, craft, literature and journalism, film and media, styling and photography are chronicling food. And culinary chronicling is essentially a way of sharing food with others, through various mediums.
Some, like me who love Asterix, might remember Asterix and the Golden Sickle? The second comic of the famous comic book series, by René Goscinny (stories) and Albert Uderzo (illustrations). For those who have not read it, the story is centered round Getafix the Druid and his Golden Sickle. Life is as normal in the Gaulish village where the series is set until disaster strikes and Getafix breaks his golden sickle. The tool that is intrinsic to cutting mistletoe for his legendary magic potion (that fuels the village in fighting off the Roman army). More importantly his golden sickle is his symbol of Druidry, a ticket without which he cannot attend the annual Conference of Druids, a gathering of the most learned druids in the world. The story is about getting Getafix a new sickle but it is the conference of druids that inspired the Culinary Chroniclers Conclave.
We are eating, reading, talking about, watching, even identifying ourselves with and through food and cooking more than ever, today. And to feed this ever growing consumption of food content are a very important segment of people. Those who document and chronicle food in myriad ways from being inspired by it in illustrations and creative writing to writing about it as journalists, critics and food writers, photographing, shooting and talking about it on various media channels, in print, through online publications and blogs, and social media platforms.
The Culinary Chroniclers Conclave aims to do just this by bringing together chroniclers to talk, share divergent perspectives, and work together to weave that new narrative. Because the stories of the past are the chronicles of the present and stories of today will be the chronicles of the future. And because good food and cooking is a collective requirement of our and future generations and our earth.
If you have read this far, let me tell you about the Culinary Chroniclers Conclave.
This is an initiative between Vikhroli Cucina, a property of the Godrej Group celebrating food. The Culinary Chroniclers Conclave aims to bridge the many streams dedicated to the art and craft of documenting and chronicling food. In its first edition, the conclave will focus on the streams of art and craft, literature and journalism, film and media and styling and photography. It will include a spectrum of offerings such as keynotes, discussions, lectures and masterclasses by celebrated experts in these fields who will share their perspectives on the past, present and future of chronicling food. The Conclave will also host unique exhibits and installations around Food Art, including a fantastic chocolate installation to serve as creative inspirations. The Conclave will culminate on a grand note with a felicitation ceremony to honour individuals and initiatives in the field of chronicling.
Block your Date! The Culinary Chroniclers Conclave will be held on Saturday, 30-June-2018, between 9:00 am - 7:30 pm, at the Auditorium, Godrej One, Vikhroli, Mumbai.More information on the Culinary Chroniclers Conclave.