On Fear and Marmalade (Project Food Blog Challenge #1)

19 09 2010

If you read a lot of food blogs, you’ve probably already seen a post or two about Project Food Blog.  In case you’re not already up to speed, it’s a massive contest sponsored by Foodbuzz.  Ten rounds of challenges will whittle the 2,000 contestants down to one Food Blog Star, who will win $10,000 and a feature on the Foodbuzz site for a year.  I’m throwing my hat in the ring, and the first challenge is to write a post about what defines me as a food blogger, and why I think I should win Project Food Blog.

Meyer lemon tree (very pretty, and the lemon flower is sweet...)

I started Croque-Camille when I moved to Paris in early 2008, wanting to eat my way through the City  of Lights and have a record of it all.  So far, the Parisian food adventures have ranged from greenmarkets to upscale pastry shops, from fabulous restaurants to home cooking, not to mention learning that they do, in fact, make good beer in France!  Two and a half years later, it’s still an adventure.

Another reason I started blogging was because I was interested in food writing, and wanted to try my hand and see how I liked it.  It turns out I do, as evidenced by the fact that I keep doing it despite acquiring a day job as a pâtissière in a French pastry shop.  I enjoy the work, but I’d love to make a living writing about food someday.  So why haven’t I written that cookbook yet?  To be brutally honest with myself: fear.  Fear of writer’s block, fear of the publication process, fear that someone else’s book is always going to be better, fear that no one will buy it or use it.  They say admitting it is the first step, so here I am, tackling the fear of unpopularity and the related fear of self-promotion.

I think I should win Project Food Blog because I am a unique voice on the blogging scene.  As a professional pastry chef, I work all day in a kitchen and still go home at night to cook and write about it.  My training has given me a wide base of knowledge, and I can write with authority on a number of food-related topics.  But that doesn’t mean I know it all.  I also have a nearly boundless enthusiasm for food, cooking, and eating.  I’m always on the lookout for new ingredients, better techniques, and am genuinely interested in the science of how cooking and baking work.  On Croque-Camille, I try to keep a good balance of recipes – both simple and showstoppers – interspersed with work stories (one of my most frequently asked questions is “what is it like to be a pastry chef in Paris?”), travel and dining experiences, and the occasional silliness.

Prepping the fruit for the marmalade

Speaking of conquering fears, there are very few cooking projects that give me pause.  Deep frying?  Love it.  Pie dough?  Piece of cake.  Baking with yeast?  You know it.  I’ve made jam before, but reading that marmalade strikes terror into the hearts of pastry chefs much more experienced than I made me hesitate.  How big or small should I cut the fruit?  Do I really need every molecule of pectin I can get?  What happens if I miss some seeds?  How do I know my jars are really sterilized?  What if it isn’t perfect and all that time and fruit is wasted?

Last month, during my summer vacation, I spent a week at my parents’ house.  They have a gorgeous Meyer lemon tree that produces more fruit than they know what to do with.  I wanted to help them preserve their bounty, and after much debate, I decided I would turn as much of it as I could into marmalade.

Lemon and his marmalade

Since I am a marmalade newbie, I followed a nice, straightforward recipe from Simply Recipes.   I dutifully chopped the lemons and saved the seeds and membranes to make pectin.  I boiled and stirred and boiled and stirred.  I carefully watched the temperature.  I did the frozen plate test, and nearly squealed with delight when the liquid finally jelled, just like it was supposed to.  I carefully ladled the hot marmalade into oven-sterilized jars (which is how I’m doing it from now on – no more messing around with tongs and boiling water) and set them on the counter to cool overnight.  And when I checked in the morning, the jars had sealed and the marmalade had set.  All of which is to say, it went off without a hitch, and now I may be hooked.  I can’t wait for citrus season to roll around so I can boil up more of those tangy-sweet, ever-so-slightly-bitter, jewel-toned jars of joy.  If that doesn’t teach me to face my fears head-on, I don’t know what will.

To illustrate how big these lemons are, that's a quart-size jar.

I hope you’ll stop by Foodbuzz’ Project Food Blog page and vote for me in the contest.  Voting opens at 6:00 am Pacific time on Monday, September 20th, and closes at 6:00 pm on Thursday the 23rd.

Originally published on Croque-Camille.

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26 responses

19 09 2010
onlinepastrychef

Yay! We’re in this together! Best of luck–I love your voice and your unique perspective. :)

19 09 2010
nererue

You’ll definitely get my vote! Although I’m not sure why marmalade should be such a scary prospect for anyone, especially someone who can make their own puff pastry. The one time I made it, also with Meyer lemons, I just charged right in, undaunted, and everything was fine.

20 09 2010
Wendy

I was reminded that we have some of said marmalade in the refrigerator. And I couldn’t help but try it on a toasted, buttered English muffin. Spectacular!

20 09 2010
ashandlewplus2

Thank you for sharing you life with us. I am loving reading about everyone’s life during this foodbuzz challenge. I posted my FBC blog yesterday. Check it out and let me know what you think.
Ashlee
http://ashandlewplus2.com/2010/09/18/project-food-blog-ready-set-blog/

20 09 2010
Hannah

You know, I *have* come across many posts on this subject, but you’re the only one I’ve been motivated to vote for. I’m annoyed, though, because its 12pm on the 20th here… and yet I still can’t vote :P

I’m going to be behind you 100%, darlin’! Just think of all the obscure artisan chocolate you could buy [for me] with $10 000 :D

20 09 2010
Ann

You definitely have my vote, too, Camille! Vote early and often!!!

20 09 2010
Jeanne

I’m so happy to discover your blog through Project Food Blog! This is an excellent entry!

20 09 2010
croquecamille

Jenni – Goody! And thanks, you, too!

nererue – I often think that knowing less about the project you’re about to tackle makes it less daunting. I have a bad habit of overpreparing. :)

Mom – So glad you’re enjoying it!

Ashlee – Thanks, and good luck to you!

Hannah – If I do win, I’d be delighted to send you many bars of chocolate-geek chocolate. (Keep that in mind, and tell your friends!) :)

Ann – Thank you, and amen!

Jeanne – Nice to meet you, too! And thanks!

20 09 2010
aubrey

wow! A pastry chef! That is so great you and your husband decided to move there. What does he do?
My boyrfriend is also in culinary school. We always talk about moving to Europe to work. Hmmm you may be quite the inspiration to move!

20 09 2010
LauraTurtle

Tried to vote for you Camille, but it wouldn’t let me. :( I’ll try again later. Now that you’ve tackled marmalade are you ready to try a cookbook? Because I really want to buy it, but I can’t til you write it. :) Seriously, my favorite blogs are yours and Wil Wheaton’s – you should really do a book his sell like crazy.

20 09 2010
Anne

Bon courage…I voted!

21 09 2010
Deborah Dowd

I like your voice, and though I rebel against voting for someone in such a food Mecca, I loved your post! You have a vote from me!

21 09 2010
Ellie

Only just discovered your blog last week, and have been devouring your previous posts. Jumped over to Foodbuzz and voted for you.

21 09 2010
croquecamille

Aubrey – My husband works as a scientific researcher. Our jobs are shockingly similar in a lot of ways!

LauraTurtle – With encouragement like that, I should really get cracking!

Anne – Merci!

Deborah – Thank you so much! Don’t hate me for where I live. :)

Ellie – Glad to hear it, and thank you!

21 09 2010
hungry dog

You’ve got my vote, of course! I like this post, it’s always nice to get a little backstory on the person behind the blog.

21 09 2010
Amelia from Z Tasty Life

I like your entry. Making marmelade is a Christmas tradition in my family.
I voted you.

22 09 2010
Charlene

Camille. The photos are great art and I really enjoy your writing. I look forward to more.

22 09 2010
May Ling Wu

I love your honnesty! I will vote for you :)

22 09 2010
Magic of Spice-Alisha

You have a wonderful site and this is a great post…happy to vote :)

23 09 2010
Nate @ House of Annie

You got my vote!

Come check out our PFB post:

http://www.foodbuzz.com/project_food_blog/challenges/1/view/391

Cheers and aloha.

23 09 2010
newlywed

Good luck!

23 09 2010
Life on Nanchang Lu

Hi Camille,
Now, I blame you entirely, I was planning on casting my remaining 356 votes tonight but here I am, stuck on your blog for the last hour and time-a-tickin’. Never mind, I enjoyed it immensely, marmalade and all!

Cheers,
Fiona

23 09 2010
croquecamille

hungry dog – Thanks! I try to share things that I’d like to know about other people, and home that I don’t go on too long! :)

Amelia – Sounds like a great tradition, right in the middle of citrus season! Thank you for your vote!

Charlene – I’m happy to hear that. My husband deserves credit for these photos, which I absolutely love. Glad you found me!

May Ling Wu – Thank you!

Alisha – What a nice compliment!

Nate – Thanks! I’ll hop on over now.

newlywed – Thanks for the well wishes!

Fiona – My apologies. :) I’m so pleased that you found my blog enjoyable. Hope to see you back here again soon!

23 09 2010
Amy

Congratulations on the marmalade success. :) Canning is fun once you get the hang of it!

Thank you so much for stopping by! I love meeting so many new people with this PFB stuff. You’ve got my vote.

Mine’s at http://www.foodbuzz.com/project_food_blog/challenges/1/view/649 — vote please!

Sorry to promote, but the whole advancing thing is very nervewracking! Good luck to everyone!

23 09 2010
Sam

Every time the Seville orange season comes around I plan to make marmalade but I’ve still never done it! I guess I have a fear of marmalade too, I can do jam no problem, I do it every year but marmalade I never have.

I’ll be voting for you, your blog is brilliant!

24 09 2010
croquecamille

Amy – Thanks for your vote and the marmalade encouragement! Good luck to you, too!

Sam – Having done it once now, I can assure you there’s nothing to fear. :)




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