Off to the Greenbrier

In a few hours I’ll be getting on a plane, headed for the five-day Greenbrier Symposium for Professional Food Writers. This is significant for a few reasons:

  1. Although in my corporate life I flew four or five times a year and considered myself a packing and airport-navigating pro, since I left that life in 2002 I’ve only flown three times. This will be trip number four. Things have changed in ways I can barely imagine.
  2. Since Harry was born in 2006, I haven’t spent more than one night away from him. If you’re a parent, I’m pretty sure you can imagine what I’m feeling: Wheeeeee! Four nights of uninterrupted sleep! Four days without sitting on the floor to play Wall-e and Eve! A dozen meals I don’t have to prepare, or wonder if junior will eat! But that’s mixed with tremendous guilt because I’m missing his first full week of big-boy school. I will not be packing his first-ever school lunches. On some level, this is breaking my heart.
  3. That last sentence probably makes you wonder why I’m going. It’s simple: I received the tremendous honor of a scholarship, based on an excerpt from Parents Need to Eat Too, my cookbook. Veteran food writer Fred Thompson endowed a scholarship to “be awarded to a food writer whose work is noted for particular excellence in clarity and balance.” And this year, that writer is me. If you could’ve heard the shrieks when I got the phone call, you’d have thought Ed McMahon was at the door. I’ve wanted to attend Greenbrier for years but it’s a bit beyond my reach financially; I only applied because I’d kick myself if I didn’t even try. “Gobsmacked” barely scratches the surface of my reaction to actually winning one. Fred Thompson will be at the symposium so I’ll get to thank him in person, and I think that may be the thing I’m most looking forward to.
  4. That, and finally meeting Molly in person.

Several food writers I know have been to Greenbrier, and all agree it’s an immensely valuable experience. I’m disappointed that none of them will be there this year—I won’t know a soul when I arrive, and even though people who’ve met me might say that I’m confident and outgoing, the truth is I’m going to have to force myself to attend the social events. Visions of high school abound, and I’m quite convinced that I’ll get there and learn that everyone already knows each other, that there’s an In Crowd that I’ll never be part of. If you only knew the I’m-a-fraud messages that play in my head…

But I don’t want to sign off on that negative note. The chance to spend five days with other food writers, talking about food, writing, and career development, is ridiculously thrilling to me. And four nights of delicious solitude: heaven. Plus, don’t tell anyone, but the Greenbrier has a spa.

Ed McMahon’s got nothing on Fred Thompson.