If you knew the culinary history of my childhood you would surely find it amusing that I write a food blog and make a living as a food writer. My parents, like many of the people they knew in the late 1970s, were two non-granola hippies who happily embraced the concepts of convenience and packaged food, “just add water” cooking, and The Happy Meal.
My Dad fondly remembers some of our most flavourful dinners as the ones that involved vegetables from a can and sauce from a packet, and to this day my Mom thinks it’s a shame that my sons have never had a bologna sandwich on white bread served with a side of Jello. I’m pretty sure that for the most part they wonder where my intense love of cooking from scratch came from.
I know, though. It was when I left for University that I discovered fascinating food facts that changed the course of my life forever. I was nearly 19 years old when I figured out that iceberg lettuce wasn’t the only variety of greens sold in the grocery store, and for the first time I was in charge of deciding what I wanted to eat, and where the food was going to come from. In residence, I lived with friends who hailed from across the globe, and while I thought I was in school to study history, it turns out I was actually getting a real food education for the first time in my life.
I shared this story on Saturday, at the first ever Food Bloggers of Canada Conference. I was speaking on a panel with food writing superstars, Aimée and Dan, on the subject of how to make money as a food writer. To be honest, I don’t know for certain that I’m qualified to give any kind of advice, but it was humbling, and an honour to be asked. I am so thankful to Mardi, Melissa, and Ethan, for the opportunity, and am still grinning after a weekend of learning, good food, and deep belly laughs with some of my favourite people.
My story continues like this: post University, I embarked on one of the biggest adventures of my life and took a job in the South of France. I lived in Monaco, and was hired by a French family to work with their children and teach them conversational English. The lady I worked for was cold, and career driven, but she knew more about food and entertaining than anyone I had ever met. She infected me with the food bug, and I spent my time there learning everything I could.
When I moved back to Toronto, I had come home with the idea that I would spend six months or so visiting my family, then return to Europe where I was going to live forever. I took a job in a coffee shop to earn some cash for my next overseas adventure, and while there I met a cute guy with a penchant for Irish cream coffee. Needless to say, I never moved back to France.
Life progressed, and we built a family. My love of food continued to develop, and I took coking classes at George Brown College to stimulate my mommy mind. When Jackson was five I began my first job in the food industry and started work as an event planter for a catering company. The job encompassed everything that I loved and was an excellent learning experience.
I stayed there for nearly five years, and as the boys continued to grow I knew I wanted to transition into something that would allow me to spend more time at home. I wasn’t interested in another desk job, and I started thinking about the possibilities of writing about food and entertaining.
I had no idea how to become a food writer so I took an evening food writing class. It was in that class that the teacher suggested we start a blog as a way to build up a portfolio for ourselves. I did, and launched Family Bites in January of 2010.
I was fortunate that through my blog I developed relationships with editors of websites and magazines and within a year and a half I was freelancing for a few different publications. When my freelance income was equal to half of my catering income, I quit my job to become a freelance writer.
Happily, it all worked out okay. I’ve been working from home since October 2011. I’m here for my boys who are rapidly approaching their teen years, and I’m so thankful that I spend my days writing about food, family dinners, and parties, the topics I’m most passionate about.
If you were at the conference this weekend, thank you for making it an amazing experience for me. If you have any questions about freelancing or are interested in pursuing that path for yourself, please feel free to get in touch. And to the people who kindly come by here every day, thank you, thank you, thank you. It’s because of you that I’m able to do what I do, and for that I am forever grateful.
I'm curious... are you working in your dream job? If so, was the path to get there difficult, and did you always know what you wanted to do?