BISCUIT FESTIVAL + BLACKBERRY FARM

If you’ve spent any amount of time at The Factory you know a thing or two about biscuits. There’s at least a dozen different recipes in the Alabama Chanin library, and Natalie can make some of the most flakey mouthwatering creations you’ve ever tasted with no measuring cup in sight, all while wrangling a six year old.

My grandmother had similar powers, but they must skip two generations as I haven’t quite mastered the technique. However, what I lack in skill, I make up for in appreciation. So when the opportunity to attend the International Biscuit Festival and Southern Food Writing Conference presented itself, my heart nearly leapt out of my chest. Storytelling, biscuits, Blackberry Farm = “Yes, Please”.

Not only was I being asked to travel to a beautiful destination, I would be traveling alone. Before you cry for me, remember, I am the mother of a toddler, a woman who hadn’t slept through the night in over a year. The six-hour drive into the mountains listening to a steady stream of This American Life  was the start to an amazing weekend.

Knoxville wasn’t the city I remembered; the area surrounding the conference was picturesque, with galleries, boutiques, and bistros in every direction I wandered.

But there wasn’t a much time for exploring with a full roster of food and lectures scheduled throughout the weekend.  The next couple of days were filled with incredible speakers, a wealth of information and, needless to say, countless biscuits.

I found myself laughing out-loud and even tearing up on occasion as I listened to the beautiful stories, words of wisdom, and the razor wit of an incredible line-up of speakers. The words of Barbara Swell still make me smile. She completely captivated me with tales of Appalachia, the incredible number of books she and her husband publish, and the hand-written or forgotten community cookbooks she rescues. It was a delight to watch Nathalie Dupree and Cynthia Graubart (you can find their celebrated “Southern Biscuits” in our store) and their candid discussion about the time and energy a well-written cook book requires. But as much as anything, I enjoyed the company of other biscuit lovers.

Throw in a six-course dinner at Blackberry Farm, a “field trip” to Cruze Dairy Farm, and the early morning I spent scouring the local Goodwill, and I would call it pretty much a dream weekend. Although I did discover that solitude is wildly overrated- I missed my little family like crazy.

I would call this event a must for aspiring cookbook authors, food bloggers, and freelancers. Although I don’t really fit into any of the categories above I’m still looking forward to next year’s fest (May 16-19, 2013). There’s just something about biscuits and stories in the mountains that’s hard to beat.

I am so thankful for the generosity of Christiana Roussel (Food Blogger and one of the hardworking Biscuit Fest organizers), the kind words supplied by Lynn Leishman (Food Editor at Haute Pink Birmingham), John Craig for his amazing job as “Biscuit Boss” and, of course, Natalie and my Alabama Chanin Family for allowing me to attend this great event and call it “work.”

-June

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