This post is the second half of a two-part series. Didn’t read the first part? It’s right here!
Sometimes I try to figure out why I keep writing this blog, putting myself out there in what feels like a very public way. It’s a food blog, yes, in the sense that I talk about food and recipes and cooking a lot. But it’s also more than a food blog. It’s a blog about me and the way I interact with the world. As the title suggests, it’s about life and love. Those topics are so enormous that it can seem like a daunting task, trying to write in such a way as to capture some whisper of truth or wisdom. Sometimes it feels much safer to write about oatmeal or cabbage.
My friend Ammie encouraged me to go beyond the food, to put myself out there in a bigger and bolder way. She should know something about putting one’s self out there; I maintain that she is one of the most incredible writers I’ve ever read, and her stuff just keeps getting better. Still, even with encouragement, being vulnerable in public is scary. It can be embarrassing too, as I’ve proven to myself with a pair of posts that I can’t even read now because they’re so…I don’t know. Awkward and weird, like I’m trying too hard. Perhaps because I was. I wanted to keep following the narrative thread of how one finds comfort and peace in an imperfect relationship, with an imperfect yet wonderful and kind person. I wanted to better understand how to take responsibility for my own happiness even as I confess that my happiness is connected to other people.
Is that not the ultimate paradox for the modern person? We’re supposed to be happy on our own, without a romantic partner, but deep down inside, many of us long for romance and connection. But then we fear that we’ll have to sacrifice too much for that romance, to the point where we feel like we’ve lost ourselves. It’s no wonder that I spent the better part of my twenties feeling lost and confused: I did not know how to resolve all of these conflicting ideas.
I got really, really lucky when Matt came into my life because he’s got his act together. That meant that I could be the messy, uncertain one in our relationship, and I like to think I’ve done justice to that role. For his part, Matt has been very gracious about the mistakes I’ve made and the way I’ve pushed against boundaries, real or imaginary. He has consistently been my biggest cheerleader and my best listener, and his influence in my life is easy to see. I doubt that I would have stayed in the lab after my difficult years in graduate school. I also doubt that I would have come to the decision to embrace the unpredicted challenges and opportunities that this blog and my writing life would bring to me.
It was Matt who pointed out to me that the material benefits to blogging are, to be quite frank, not worth that much money. Up until now, I have been very uncomfortable with the idea of blogging to make money. I’m not sure I even want to make money from Life, Love, and Food, though I did receive four pounds of peanut butter and a really great knife, which I’ll tell you more about in a moment. I realized that if and when I received offers because of this blog, I could decide at that time if I was interested. I hated the idea of being a blog whore, someone who is obviously getting paid to convince her readers to buy stuff. Whoring goes against the spirit of this blog. I give it up for free!
So I decided to be open to opportunities, open but picky. The picky part was Kath’s suggestion, whom I e-mailed a long time ago. I asked her how she navigates all the offers she gets through KERF, and her answer was spot-on: she looks for offers that fit the spirit and theme of her blog, and she makes no promises. She remains in control of her writing and her opinions. I like that.
A few months ago, I got the best offer a control freak could want: $60 toward any item from CSN’s on-line stores, then write a review about the item you chose. The timing was perfect because I was already dreaming about buying a Santoku knife, and CSN’s cookware.com sells a great selection of Santoku knives in a wide range of prices. I picked out this beauty, a J.A. Henckels knife to match the rest of my set.
This knife is awesome. It’s big and sharp, yet lightweight enough that it doesn’t strain my hands. I have small hands, and sometimes chef’s knives feel heavy and overwhelming. But this Santoku knife is just right: all the power of a chef’s knife with a sleek design that makes it easier for small hands to wield. The straight edge of this knife works well for me too, as I am an up-and-down chopper. This knife doesn’t cut things—it glides through them as though tough vegetables were butter. I might be exaggerating a tiny bit, but it really is a pleasure to cook with my new knife.
There’s more to the story too. When I placed my order for the knife, I got confused, as I often do. I didn’t fill out the on-line form correctly—I missed the spot where I was supposed to enter the code for the gift certificate. Without fully intending to do so, I ordered the knife without using my gift certificate at all. I panicked a little bit and contacted Caitlin, my CSN person. The very next day, she wrote back to me and together we straightened out the whole mess. Just a few days after that, I received my shiny new knife.
I was really impressed with the way Caitlin handled my mistake. She was a total pro, kind and speedy, and not once did she make me feel like a moron. There’s nothing worse than a store that makes you feel bad for not being the ideal customer. I would buy something from a CSN store just for the great customer service. In fact, I did buy something else from cookware.com, and the whole process was flawless. And that purchase, a gift for a loved one, is making its recipient happy in the kitchen, which is what I care about most.
Recently, Caitlin contacted me again, asking if I wanted to host a giveaway or something similar on behalf of CSN Stores. I wrote back, saying that I felt like I ought to let more time pass, or else I risked diluting the qualities of this blog that make it unique. But now I’ll pose the question to you, dear readers. Would you like the chance to win a prize from CSN Stores? After all, a giveaway is really about making YOU happy. What do you think?
Happy cooking, friends, and thank you, as always, for reading.