"You a food blogger?"
The question came at me like a bolt of lightning. It stunned me like one, too. That is not the sort of question I ever expected to hear, even though at that moment I was standing at the counter in a local seafood shack. I was wearing a fedora, casual batik shirt and shorts. My trusty Nikon film camera was slung over my shoulder. The fellow that asked the question was looking at my hat and at the camera.
"I see you got one of those old-school cameras there."
I sputtered, I stammered a bit, feeling terribly self-conscious. I managed a weak-sounding "No, no, I just have the camera in case I see something interesting, and I'm just out for lunch, heard you guys have really good fried catfish sandwiches."
The man smiled and went back to the kitchen. I placed my order---a "Po' Jack" sandwich with a side of fried okra---and went to get my drink. My ears were burning with low-grade embarrassment and confusion. Here was a golden opportunity to declare myself, announce some intention, open up some new writing territory...and I sort of flubbed it.
Long-time readers, and probably many other folks, know that I write about food frequently here. It is a topic never far from my mind, it never seems to get old and it is a subject with infinite possibility. I suppose if I had more confidence in myself, I would have responded loud and clear "Yes, sir, I am. I'm here to learn the ways of the fried fish sammitch, show me what you got!" I could have easily made a new friend and possibly gotten a kitchen tour, or at least a sample.
Instead, I got confused and anxious and did no such thing. I took my drink to the table to await my order, turning his question over and over in my mind. It bothered me, but why?
The answer, or at least the start of one, came to me as I was tucking in to the sandwich. It bothered me because I was momentarily flustered in public---anathema to me---and it made me ask the deeper question of: If am I not a food blogger, then what kind of blogger am I?
I write about Stuff and Things (of which Food is a subset), even the Fiction and the Poetry. I've written about death and depression and light and love. I can barely begin to answer the "What?" question. And that begs a different, deeper question: What kind of writer am I?
That question sat firmly on top of my head while I ate, like a monkey that decided it wanted to be my hat. It kept picking at me, and thwacking my skull with bony little fingers. I knew I wasn't going to answer that question during lunch, so I accepted the thwacking and concentrated on enjoying the sandwich.
The sandwich, ladies and gentlemen, was excellent. Top notch. World-class, I might say. It was simple, it was crispy-tasty, it was served right. It was, in fact, the best damn fried catfish sandwich I have had in what seems like decades. The counter lady and the fellow who questioned me---turns out he was the manager/head chef/fish guru, name of Walter---both asked me if I enjoyed the meal.
I did. Very much. I told them in no uncertain terms what I thought. I ended up having a nice chat with Walter, and told them I would be back. He let me know about some of the other specialties they make and told me a little bit about what they do, where they get their fish. They seemed pleased that I was interested, and I could hear some pride in his voice when he talked about it. We shook hands, and I left to go about the rest of my day.
I still hadn't figured out a way to let them know that I do write about food, and their food was such that I would love to write about it. Which, of course, I just did. And I will go back. At least now they know me, and maybe we can have some more good conversations, talk some shop.
Now, if I could just figure out what kind of writer I am...