how i did (and didn’t) get to meet deb perelman.

this is how I feel right now.

This is basically how I felt yesterday.

I have a story for you. It’s not exactly the story I wanted to tell you (or rather, half of it isn’t, but i’m going to tell it to you anyway, because you’re my people, and that’s who we are. Grab a coffee and let’s have at it.

If you follow my posts/Facebook/Twitter/were within earshot of me this past Friday, you would know that I had a big day planned. Why? I was going to meet Deb Perelman of Smitten Kitchen. Not only did I have tickets to attend a luncheon event with Deb, but I had also had the honor of being invited to a local bloggers meet and greet with her later on that evening before an additional booksigning event. Needless to say, I was thrilled. I know this could fall into the category of “Things You Say to Famous Food Bloggers at Parties,” but Deb truly is the biggest blogger-related reason that I began doing this. You know as well as I do that there are a multitude of blogs out there, some good, some not so good. At one point, as I was weeding through recipe sites trying to teach myself about cooking, I found Smitten Kitchen. It was like a beacon of light in the darkness. Her site was beautiful – unflashy yet stunning – and I couldn’t tear myself away from her writing. I found myself reading post after post, clicking on links to catch up on her stories and see all the things she had made. I was, yes, smitten with Deb and the way she treated both food and words.

Fast forward five years, and I still count her as one of my favorite ever blogs. She made me feel, through her informal writing style and gorgeous photos and pitch-perfect recipes, like I could actually do this too. Would I be as good at it as she was? Maybe not, but for the first time, she made it look like so much fun to cook food and then talk about it. And she was helping me learn how to cook without failing, recipe by recipe, and I wanted to do that too. Add one newborn baby and a decision to stay home with her, and here we are.

So meeting her Friday was going to be a big highlight in my real life and blog life. I planned outfits, I scheduled the day. My sister flew in from Nashville to go to the luncheon with me. And then, I woke up. Not to reality, per se, but rather to some sneak attack snowstorm on Friday morning.

 People, we have had some snow this year. It’s been huge. St. Louis, if it is anything, is prepared for winter weather; I swear I have seen salt kiss the roads in mid-May because someone prank-called MODOT and said there were flurries on the way. So I don’t know what happened yesterday, but the snow took everyone by surprise. It was light, but it was serious, and we were not prepared. People drove to fast. By the time I turned on the news, they were showing what seemed to be the opening scenes from The Walking Dead. Cars were abandoned in ditches and on roads. No one was getting anywhere. I lost it.

 And then, it died down. Cars were cleared, the winter storm receded, and I adjusted my plans. We arrived 45 minutes early to the luncheon, went and had coffee, and walked in with time to spare. All my driving fears were eased. The lunch was incredible, Deb is easily the most likeable person you will ever hope to meet, should you be lucky enough to meet her. I took notes while she answered questions and I have so much to tell you about her take on food. She was radiant, not at all intimidating, and made everyone feel at home. The day was going great.

 We came back to the house, did a few things, and I set out to attend my big food blogger meet and greet. Not only would I be meeting Deb in a small group setting, but I would also be meeting more of my local food blogger friends in person for the first time. The few I met I barely got to speak to at the RFT Awards in January (which, FYI, if you meet me at an event where I may be asked to get on stage and say something, it’s never going to go well. You won’t be meeting “me” as much as you’ll be meeting “exceptionally anxious me”), so this was going to be a great chance to get to know everyone and talk Deb’s ear off at the same time. I was going to tell her how much she inspired me, and had even thought of a few non-stalkery ways to say that. I left over an hour early just to make sure I had time to spare.

But St. Louis weather had thrown down the gauntlet, and I had severely underestimated my opponent. I sat in accident after accident. Traffic was at a standstill. I had to move over a lane on three separate occasions to allow emergency vehicles through. The minutes I had to spare were sucked into a supermassive black hole. I was determined to make it, and even though I hate to be late, it didn’t matter, and I was really hoping she wouldn’t mind. I finally got to my destination 20 minutes late, parked my car in the first parking space I saw, and ran a few blocks to the bookstore. Yes, ran. I made it inside and managed to tell the man at the front desk that I was here for the blogger event.

Only to find out that this blogger event I spoke of was not where I was, but rather it was happening at their Downtown location.

People, i had no idea they had a Downtown location. Currently, I live in the suburbs of St. Louis,  but I used to live in the city, and this particular Left Bank Books was the only one I knew of. Ever. Because I live outside the city, the area I was in reasonably qualifies as “downtown” to me Also, this bookstore was only a few streets over from where the luncheon was held, so when I Google-mapped the location, this is the one which pulled up. It never occurred to me that there would be a different location to go to, and with the snow completely throwing me off my game, I never had the chance to call anything into question.

 I know the guy at the desk felt bad for me. You could see it in his face as he tried to deal with my shock and dismay. “The booksigning goes on until 10 pm,” he said; you could still go?” I don’t remember which words came out of my mouth, but I tried to play it cool as I explained that I had already had my book signed, and I was to attend a private meet and greet with Deb prior to the event. I gathered whatever was left of myself and walked out, with the guy softly shouting the address of the downtown location to my back.

 I made it to the sidewalk before I lost it. And friends, “lost it” is probably an understatement. It began with sniffles, followed by that sad hiccupy sound you make when you’re super trying to hold in the sadness. Then came the body-wracking sobs, full force, as I walked a few blocks, in that wretched snow, back to my poorly-parked car. I sat in my car for a full 10 minutes crying for all sorts of reasons. I had missed my chance to meet Deb. I looked like a fool who couldn’t figure out where she was supposed to be. I was so late, and the traffic was so dire, that I had zero chance of making the meet and greet.

 And all the local bloggers here – whom I don’t even know in person, by the way – were so nice about it. They saved me a seat when I tweeted that I would be late, they even followed up (presumably as I was dissolving in tears on the street) that there was still a seat waiting. They held my seat and they don’t even know me, people. Chances are quite a few of them (because I had to tell them what ultimately happened) think I am a bubble-brained, unreliable idiot now.

 Dear St. Louis food bloggers; this part is for you. Ask the others here; I swear I’m not like this. I can give you references. I get things done early, I plan well, I meet deadlines. I am not the person who is overly late to events only to find out she has traveled to the wrong location. I promise. Thank you all for being so very nice, and I can’t wait to meet all of you. Next time we plan something, I know Deb won’t be there, but I’m going to probably get their five hours early and just wait for the rest of you.

 Some of you may be wondering why I didn’t just head downtown, attend the event, and wait around until it ended to say hi to Deb and my fellow food compadres. Well, between the snow and the sobs, I looked like the Loch Ness Monster, and that wouldn’t have played well. Mostly, however, it was because I have only missed the Wee One’s bedtime tuck-in twice. She’s two and a half years old, and all she knew was that her mommy had errands to do, but that I was coming to get her that evening. When I promise her something, I keep that promise, and she trusts me. It was late enough, and honestly, all I wanted at that point was to feel those two chubby toddler arms around my neck.

 So my really awesome day went dead south, just like that. After the sobbing subsided, I realized that had I not had the tickets to the luncheon, I wouldn’t have seen her at all, and I was grateful I had been there. If there is a silver lining, it is that even had I not detoured into the wrong location, that traffic had been so horrific I would have never made it to the downtown location anyway. I spent the time equivalent of a drive to Paducah, Kentucky to ultimately do nothing, but I my car wasn’t stranded and I made it home safely, which is more than I can say for lots of people yesterday. Either way, I had a lot of time to think on the way home, and my day, though poorly ended, had been pretty good up until that point.

 I am in the middle of making something out of Deb’s book to share with you, along with all the things she talked about at our luncheon. You all were so fun to have with me (virtually) yesterday that I owed you, at the very least, a rundown of the day, good and bad. So many of you knew about my plans that I didn’t want to leave you hanging. My sister had to console me last night, and she is my best friend, so I’ll be spending the rest of the weekend with her, because I never feel like I get to see her enough. I will write an email to Deb which expresses, with any luck, my apologies for missing out on the meet and greet and my much-deserved worship of everything she does. I hope she understands; she seems like such a gracious person that I imagine she will. For sure I know she’ll understand about horrible days being instantly remedied by the arms of a sweet baby; this much I know. People, she’s every bit the awesome you think she is. I can’t wait to tell you.

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37 Comments on "how i did (and didn’t) get to meet deb perelman."

  1. Oh honey.

    Wanna go out for a beer?

  2. Sounds like you made the best of a not-so-great situation. I also find Deb’s story pretty amazing and inspirational. I wasn’t one of the StL bloggers at the event last night, but I do hope to attend a food-blogger event at some point here. It can be tricky with a little one, as I’m sure you understand!

    • shannon says:

      I tried to, Melissa; you know how you get to that point where you’d better start thinking about the good stuff before the bad stuff just makes you crazy? I was at that point. Certainly i didn’t need to cry in the streets (i’m such an adult, obviously) :) but it had been one of those things i was very much looking forward to. She’s so inspirational, i know! Even before the Wee One existed, the idea that just a regular home cook in a teeny kitchen could be such a sought-after blogger really excited me.
      and yes, i completely understand; little ones are the best, but they make the social life/meeting of people difficult. As she gets older, I try to do more things, but still complicated until they can watch themselves.

  3. Kimberly says:

    Yes, let’s go out for a beer … or two … or three!

    And we too missed meeting you at the event last night, but there will be another time … yes, probably without Deb … but there will be another time for us to get together … ‘cuz the St. Louis food bloggers love your blog, and we can’t wait to talk all about food and blogging with you!

    • shannon says:

      Thanks for making me feel better, Kim; seriously, all of you were so sweet about asking me to go, and saving me a spot, etc. I truly hope you had a great time (and I hope at least one of you has a blog post about it when i hit my google reader later today!) I’d love to hear all about it. I’ll hold you to that beer. :)
      I’m truly so excited to at some point meet all of you; you’ve been so welcoming and it’ll be fun to chat about all the talent flying around these parts. :)

  4. Amrita says:

    I’ve definitely done something like this before; ended up at the wrong location for something major and cried. It happens. And, incidentally, I actually live a block down from Left Bank Books, the Euclid one, so next time you’re there, we should meet up!
    I’m glad you got to meet Deb at the luncheon so it wasn’t a total loss–none of the bloggers at the meet-and-greet had been able to attend it.
    And I’m glad you got to tuck in your lil toddler :)
    Hope to meet you in real life soon!

    • shannon says:

      No way! Think of what you missed; here you were just meeting Deb Perelman downtown when you could have seen me running through the streets crying like a baby! :) Absolutely it’s a date; can’t wait to meet up.
      I was wondering if any of you were going or not; i know i tweeted about going and asked if anyone was also going, but i just figured mine got lost amidst all the other tweets in the universe. It was a fun event; and yes, i did totally scan the crowd to see if i saw anyone i knew from blogging.
      Like i just told Kim, i better see a blog post about your Deb meetup! i fully intend to live vicariously through you and hope someday she has a second cookbook so i have another chance at meeting her.

  5. Sigh. Perhaps it’s a long day of work that has caught up with me, but I basically cried throughout this entire post. I’ve been there – that feeling of complete and utter disappointment, and all the sadness that goes with it. I’ve spent some time crying in the car after school this year, and am entirely grateful that no one was there to see it. And I’d NEVER have attended any sort of event that involved other human beings afterward. Most especially the fabulous Deb Perelman. Cripes.

    I’m glad you are safe. I’m sad that you missed your/our blogging idol. I know more awesomeness awaits you.

    xox

    • shannon says:

      i’ll say this: exhausted or not, the best friends you have are the ones who cry with you when they see/hear/read what sad things happen to their friends. That you weeped your way through my post makes me sad (because i don’t like to make you cry) and happy (because you and i big friends, and it means a lot to me). I had the same reaction a few times with some of those early baking school updates from you, because i could feel that sort of overwhelming frustration and fear of failure; it’s so hard when you just want to do everything right!
      as always, you have a knack for making me feel much, much better. not joking. now i’m tearing up. this is so bad.

      xox

  6. Kate says:

    Oh Shannon! (My mom and I sat with you at the luncheon!) I’m so sorry you missed the meet and greet. But my favorite part was your promise to your little girl. And Deb will of course understand! I’m bummed for you, but way to look on the bright side. I look forward to reading more of your blog!

    • shannon says:

      Hi Kate! I was hoping you’d comment because I wanted to tell you we had such a great time sitting with you and your mom at the luncheon. I knew at some point they would start sitting people together (since it was sold out) and I’m really happy it was the two of you. I want to know more about this whole instagram cooking thing you do; i know we were busy doing more important things like meeting an incredible food blogger and eating equally incredible food, but i keep thinking about it and i think it’s a great idea.
      Thank you for making me feel better; everyone has been super supportive about my debacle; such proof that we have a great food community here! I look forward to chatting with you too. And who knows? maybe we end up at another food event together. :)

  7. Ashley says:

    Oh not! What a crazy rotten turn of events! And that’s what it is, just rotten timing and luck. But you are entirely right in your perspective (and a lot more collected than I’d be!) – you traveled safely, you saw Deb already, and Wee One is most important. Hooray to you, for perseverance and for wisdom! You’ll win next time, that’s for sure!

    I turn into a splotchy lobster puffy-faced mess with any form of crying. So I know what you mean. It sucks. You totally deserve a drink. And a cupcake.

    • shannon says:

      I know!!! just such a weird weather day, and such an unfortunate like, series of things that went so right and then went so wrong; i should have known something would mess the plans up at some point. the weather here was really crazy; and i drive so far to get to our downtown that i basically cross over 2 major highway intersections, which are the “happy points” for accidents. I SHOULD HAVE JUST STAYED DOWTOWN. :) But yes, i am safe, the Wee One got to bed and had no idea her mom had a crappy night, and i’m just hoping that i can put together an email to Deb containing equal parts apologies and admiration. and have it not be 23,498 words long. :)
      OMG me tooooooo. i’m just super thankful it was dark outside as i was sobbing my way down the side or the two dog-walkers i passed would have called the cops. :) a drink and a cupcake (or a few) were definitely in order.

  8. Emma says:

    Oh dear, now that I see how important SK is to you, I feel a bit bummy for stating that I think it’s only mediocrely-good. Anything that can motivate you to such emotional heights is clearly in possession of some true pizzazz.

    Wee One matters most; there will always be another chance to meet Deb. Crazy that your sister flew in from Nashville for this! You guys live such ritzy glitzy lives! ;)

    • shannon says:

      emma: you should know me well enough to never feel bad about your opinions; the thing is, i completely GET your opinion on her, and certainly there’s probably plenty of people who feel the same way. She just struck a chord in me that got my ball rolling. i was thinking of an example during my reply to your chocolate bundt comment that’s a decent example of why i love her.
      when i was desperately learning how to cook/bake, and only making things that turned out edible maybe 1% of the time, she made a lime olive oil cake with blackberry sauce. it sounded so interesting to me! i had never put those flavors together, and wth was olive oil cake (that’s what i thought at the time) anyway? i made the recipe. it was PERFECT, easy, with bright flavors and incredible texture. AND i used that cake as a way of experimenting with other fruit/citrus combos i hadn’t thought of. I think by now i have made that dang simple loaf cake maybe 287 times, each time different, each time incredible. moral of story? I had zero, probably negative, confidence in myself. things like that cake made me love her not only for the cake, but because she gave me confidence, and sort of helped me believe in myself with cooking by giving me recipes that didn’t blow to bits in my hands. If there’s a reason i love her the most, it’s because somehow she was my teacher without even knowing she was helping me. And here we are, years later, talking on my own food blog, and i feel a certain Lion King song coming on… ;)
      OMG GLITZY i love you so much. Nashville is 5 hours away, and ever since she went to college there almost 15 years ago, we’ve made it a point to make the drive frequently. Southwest Airlines must have caught wind of this and the increasing fuel prices, and typically their nonstop tickets from here to there are less expensive than making the drive to and fro.
      this is probably not a good time to tell you that the Wee One and i are flying to florida for a week and a half next week just because i want to help mom with a project, see my grandparents, and eat ice cream at the beach while sandcastles are constructed.

      • Emma says:

        Girl, it’s the perfect time to tell me you’re flying to Florida! I was just jonesing for some more of your beachy Instagrams, how. did. you. know?!

        Umm, will you send me a postcard? :D I’ll send you one from Clayton Lake!

        • shannon says:

          oh. my. sweet lord.
          i haven’t had the opportunity to send someone a postcard in DECADES. and we used to do it all the time as kids! I’m so totally going to send you a postcard, and on the condition that you send me one back.

          This should totally be a thing: i may hold the first annual “Send Me A Postcard And I’ll Send You One Back” blog day in the future. because i used to collect postcards when i was little, and i haven’t expanded my collection in forever.

          And i’ll be sure to beachy instagram your FACE OFF. i’m going at probably what’s considered the height of “snowbird” season (when everyone is so sick of cold weather that they’re down there to cheer up) so i’m going to completely act like a tourist.

  9. natalie says:

    the worst part of all of this is that now we have to find a new way to get her jacob to marry the wee one, maybe we can arrange a trip to nyc and have a “chance” meeting?

    • shannon says:

      i wonder how ‘chance’ meetings work in like, massively huge and crowded cities. I’m guessing it equates to camping out outside her apartment and eventually getting the authorities called on us? probably we would make a FABULOUS first impression.
      but can you imagine the cuteness in that twosome? CHEEKS EVERYWHERE.

  10. natalie says:

    Also I totally wrote/submitted a super long comment about how I teared up reading this and I felt so sad for you and that I would have probably sobbed in my car until I passed out from exhaustion but I guess WP decided that it was too melodramatic to post. Bummer. Oh well. We still love you <3

    • shannon says:

      i think the blog is adverse to deep depression. I’m surprised it let me write that post. :) aw, thank you. i can only imagine from our normal long talks how super long that comment really was. :)

  11. Awwww, I’m so sorry you missed something you were so excited about, Shannon! I’m glad you were able to at least see her once that day…and thankful that you weren’t one of the many accidents you passed on your way, because that would have been much much worse. I know you were looking forward to this so much but I promise there will be other similar opportunities in the future. At least you can say you’re the best mommy ever!! And for now you can just drown your sorrows in Smitten recipes :)

    • shannon says:

      aw, thank you Amy…it’s okay. Like the further I get away from the actual day, it feels better. I’m a big “in the moment” person and i will obsess the daylights out of something and overreact. it’s my thing. :) And it is a huge deal to me still; like it sucks a little b/c i’ve seen photos of the meet and greet a few times and it makes me sad, like i could have HAD MY PICTURE TAKEN WITH DEB! But it’s okay; maybe someday i’ll meet her again. Maybe if you run into her on the street you can tell her about me. :)
      Perspective is everything; and i kept seeing ambulances and cars in ditches all the way home, and it does change your attitude lots when you think that any of those could be you, and it wasn’t, so things are all good. I’d love to be the best mommy ever! She would probably disagree most days, but some days maybe not. I’ll be drowning myself in the cookbook this morning b/c i’m making everyone lunch here and sharing it with all of you tomorrow. i’m excited.

  12. *Hugs* I’m so sorry :( I was so excited for you! (And somewhat jealous of the boggers who were going to meet YOU.)

    Two chubby toddler around your neck is the perfect consolation for anything. Believe me, I know. And your little girl is lucky to have such a great mom!

    • shannon says:

      *hugs back* thank you, Faygie! And how nice is that to say to me…you’re going to make me tear up again, this time with happy tears. I swear one day I hope someone is crazy and asks me to do a cookbook, and when they do, I will do a book tour SOLEY for the purposes of meeting all of you. Like no joke I will get your addresses and come to the bookstores closest to you. I have a dear friend who lives somewhere nearish to where you are, and if i ever get out there to visit him, you and i are hanging out for SURE. I’ll bring the Wee One so she can play with your girls.
      I know you know; i’ve seen a photo or two of your little sweeties and i know they’re lucky to have you too. Something about them just makes you want to do everything right, right? and baby hugs of approval are the BEST.

  13. Brianne says:

    This is heartbreaking. I, too, would have sobbed in the streets if this had happened to me. But I would have been too afraid to leave the house in such inclement weather; snowy streets are one of my biggest fears. I’m so glad that you were able to attend the luncheon and get your book signed, though! And I’m happy for the Wee One, that her sweet Momma was able to tuck her in that night. My Smitten Kitchen book has been on the bookshelf since I brought it back to Maine after Christmas. You’ve inspired me to bust it out and finally start cooking from it. Let’s make some fun things together!! Hugs!

  14. Oh, Shannon, I’m so sorry. If only there were something I could do to make you feel better. Cookies, cupcakes, pie? Obviously, the only way I know how to make a person feel better is with food.

    • shannon says:

      Jennie, i know you feel bad for me. That’s always nice when someone can sympathize, so you already did make me feel better. Honestly, i suck at trying to make people feel better any other way than food. If i know someone’s hurting, or having a bad day, i’ll spend the entire day in the kitchen whipping up something to make them feel better. I get that. :)

  15. Oh, my sweet friend. What a terrible,awful, no good day. I am so glad you had chubby toddler arms to throw yourself into.

    I have to think that karma owes you one. I won’t be at ALL surprised if, by June, you win a date with Ryan Gossling.

    xo

    • shannon says:

      you just can’t beat toddler arms in crisis. Especially when they say “mommy, you need a hug.” YES, sweet baby, i do. :)

      I’m SO ENTIRELY ready for my karmic “hey, girl.” *c’mere Ryan Gosling*

  16. Monica says:

    I imagine Deb would be touched to know how much you wanted to be there. I feel for you but you did everything you could. I haven’t made a ton of her recipes but I love her writing and she’s one of those people I’d trust when it comes to food. I learned to make Italian tri-color cookies from her and I feel forever indebted to her because of it! Her lighter-than-air cake is another standout for me too. : )

    • shannon says:

      aw, thank you, Monica; I’m working on composing an email to her, and i hope i can adequately convey how much i regret not getting to hang out with her a little more. Your trust in her recipes is a good call: i’ve made I don’t know how many things of hers and i’ve never had one go south. I want to try those italian tri-color ones! I’m marking that and the lighter than air cake down as “to do’s” even if it’s just for myself.

  17. Some days just suck. Luckily, most days aren’t SOME days. And I love that picture of the hawk.

    • shannon says:

      I could not have said that ANY better. :) and thank you: he actually landed on a tree in our backyard and just sat there for ages, so i snapped a photo because he was HUGE and so close. Probably an omen. :)

  18. Hillarie says:

    Oh my Shannon….I’m so heart broken for you. :-( I know how much you wanted to have the perfect day. I can speak from experience that you are NOT that person regularly. Heaven knows you kept me organized and on time for everything while we worked together and that is a BIG accomplishment. However, I guess we are all that person at least once or twice in life. Sometimes things just don’t work out no matter much we painstakingly plan. I wish I could have stopped the snow for you or changed any one of the events that led to the bigger domino effect. No one deserves the perfect day more than you! Thank you for all you do and for the 13 years of friendship. I love you dear friend!

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