Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Cyberfeasts & Foodstocks

How did more than 100 people, most of whom have never met in person, manage to publish a cookbook together? When you have an online community with all of the talent needed, the recipes to include, the cooking techniques and knowledge to impart, the willing recipe testers, and the determination to work together to produce something wonderful, it can be done!

The International Foodwine Discussion List began in 1993 when Elliot Parker at Central Michigan University, decided to start a listserve and invite his food and wine-loving friends to join the conversation. As Elliot puts it in his note to new list members, “FOODWINE is for serious, but not pedantic, discussion of food, beverages, and related concerns. Consider the list as a discussion around a very large table among people who like to discuss food: the talk may become passionate and even off-topic sometimes, but always returns to the food. People drop in and drop out. And with a group like this, down-home and common food of all areas is as much a part of the conversation as gourmet food."

Members of the List, usually numbering about 160 at any given time, live in many parts of the world-- the U.S. and Canada mostly, but also Portugal, France, Italy, Australia. We work in many professions --we are librarians, chefs, food writers, editors, computer and IT professionals, caterers, and personal chefs. And a bookseller, of course. [grin]

In late 2003, when I was still a newish member to the Foodwine List, lurking in the shadows and learning how to cook, they produced their first cookbook, Cyberfeasts & Foodstocks. The title comes from two phrases coined by the members: Cyberfeasts happen when members agree to cook the same or similar recipes in their own homes at a given time, and then post feedback and results to the List. A Foodstock is when Foodwinos get to meet in person in real time and space, and enjoy a meal or food experience together. (Think "Woodstock," but with good food.) Since I live here in northern California, which is a food and wine mecca of sorts, I have been lucky enough to Foodstock with several list members who have journeyed here from as far away as Australia.

The first Cyberfeasts & Foodstocks was mostly sold and circulated among the list members, their family and friends. The foreward for that first book was written by Bob Pastorio of Virginia, a chef, restaurateur, food writer, radio host, and raconteur, and one of our earliest and most prolific list members. Joanne Schweik, who had edited other cookbooks before, was the guiding force and editorial leader. The group raised funds, tested recipes, and produced a few hundred copies on the 10th anniversary of the founding of the List. Foodwino Pat Belanger in Canada, passed a copy of Cyberfeasts & Foodstocks to the food editor of the Toronto Star newspaper, who declared it "the best cookbook of 2004."

But we weren't done yet. Buoyed by the great reception of the first book, and knowing we had so many more beloved recipes and tips to offer, in 2006 the Foodwine List decided to produce a second one. More than 400 recipes were nominated for inclusion, and recipe testing took about 18 months. During this time, we lost Bob Pastorio to a sudden and severe illness, but carried on, determined to finish, and to dedicate the new book to the generous and talented chef.

I took over as lead editor, with many other list members working as chapter editors, culling recipes which did not pass Testing, editing and compiling them into our book. Foodwino Denny Arar of San Francisco (a former editor at PC World) took on the layout, with talented artist Lyn Belisle of San Antonio designing our covers and chapter openings. [In the It's-A-Small-World-Department, Lyn happens to be the mother of Rick Riordan, the marvelous author of the Tres Navarre mystery novels, and the wonderful Percy Jackson book series for young readers.]

Denny and I got Cyberfeasts & Foodstocks: Second Helpings completed and printed in December 2010. And Book Passage asked me to offer the book for sale at the store, and to come and tell people our story at one of their author events.

To my great delight, the members of the Foodwine List were so thrilled to be offered an event at Book Passage, that 10 of them are coming from far and wide to attend on February 19th! We are calling it, the Great Book Passage Foodstock, and will be cooking foods from our book to offer, and telling our stories (we have so many!). And to further our celebration of the book, the Foodwinos who cannot attend in person, will be cooking from Cyberfeasts & Foodstocks: Second Helpings at home with family or friends that night. The worldwide community that is the International Foodwine Discussion List, will all celebrate together.

If you are interested in learning more about the International Foodwine Discussion List or becoming a member, please click here. And we hope you will come and meet some of us at Book Passage on Saturday, February 19th at 7pm. We can promise you good food! :-)

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