Friday, November 4, 2011


And by the way, everything in life is writable about if you have the outgoing guts to do it,
and the imagination to improvise.
The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.
- Sylvia Plath

Squeals of laughter resonate throughout the villa, bouncing off the heavy stone walls, boomeranging down the stairwell. Women clatter from floor to floor, trailing power cords and camera bags in their wake. Sweaters tugged closer to ward off the chill of this Old Grande Dame of a house as we settle in for the second From Plate to Page workshop.

Like a first day at camp, we gather around the long wooden table, sneaking barely perceptible glances at one another, feeling out, sensing personalities and expectations, eyes sliding from one face to the next, self-conscious in our own newness. Introductions made, we begin to know each other as only as women can do, ooohing at wedding photos, giggling at confessions, cheering and urging on, hesitations melting into avowals, admissions of passions, desires, obsessions; the gates to secret gardens slowly but surely opening to this adventure.

The warming Tuscan sun breaks through the autumn chill, luring us into the gardens of Il Salicone. We breathe in the charm of Italy and pinch ourselves, surprised to find ourselves in this ancient, storybook spot. Sixteen women, feeling somewhat like schoolgirls away at some imposing boarding school, have gathered together in the vineyards outside of Pistoia for this Plate to Page workshop. Twelve new participants, each fairly unknown to Meeta, Jeanne, Ilva and I, new acquaintances quickly becoming friends and colleagues, yesterday strangers, now confidants and collaborators. Working with our senses, writing, styling, tasting, breathing, immersing ourselves body and soul into the atmosphere and the food surely has an effect, breaking down barriers, pulling us close through these common, emotional, sensual bonds.

Sixteen women of all ages, all backgrounds, traveling from places far and wide, Canada and Holland, Britain and Italy, Germany, Malta, Brazil, Belgium, Norway and the United States, with cultures even more disparate, claiming bedrooms, sharing space and meals, simply enjoying each others company. Dinners loud, raucous affairs reverberating cheer, emphatically festive. Information passed along from mouth to ear like the juiciest gossip; women studiously huddled around computer screens or heads close together, peering through camera display screens, searching for the perfect image. Pensive expressions, studied faces breaking into unexpected, satisfied grins, chuckles harboring a good secret only to be divulged later as stories are read, photographs revealed to an expectant cast of characters.

Eager students, the cacophonous clacking on so many keyboards, twelve women anticipating, curious, daring to ask, wanting to understand, our art, our craft the foremost priority, the passion of each and all. Lunch al fresco Under the Tuscan Sun, served by voluptuous Nicoletta, exuding her Italian heritage, expounding passionately on the food and the wine, sixteen cameras capturing the moment, images seared into memories, frozen in cameras, impromptu, instantaneous, alive and vibrant or created in still life, heady with scents, textures, sounds. And captured in words, black on white, words voluptuous, luxurious, colorful, emotional, memories old and memories new.

6 months of meticulous planning, head scratching, head banging, tears and laughter, everything must be perfect. Each one of our participants must feel welcome, at home, comfortable enough to share her every thought, fear and whim. As our lovely Judith so perfectly captures and expresses:

Writing is solitary and there is certainly an appeal to being able to share fears and frustrations with others who tell tales through words and pictures. How much of my personal life should I reveal, must everything be 100% truthful and hot off the fire, how often must I blog, and how the hell do I adjust the white balance on my camera? Blogging is a new frontier for sharing and those of us who truly care about what we write push ourselves to do it better with every post.

We struggled, and worked through long hours, weeks and months endeavoring to create the perfect atmosphere, the ideal, consummate, program that would inspire each one to reach inside herself, think, search, feel… and be able to express herself as need be, freely, without fear or shame; the perfect creative environment that would inspire our participants to express their innermost thoughts and let loose their imaginations. And stimulating it was for each one of us, participants and instructors alike, and the words and images flowed like the Bisol Prosecco, sparkling, cool yet so warming, invigorating and exhilarating.

Creativity is a highfalutin word for the work I have to do between now and Tuesday.
- Ray Kroc

Our group, Friday morning strangers, by that same afternoon had found the rhythm, channeling our common bonds and passions to not only be able to work together in perfect harmony and unity but to open up completely and become friends. The rest of that weekend lost in the Tuscan vineyards, nestled cozily amongst her lush rolling hillsides, was beautiful creative symbiosis; each member of this fantastic group felt less alone, part of a family, finally understanding that we as bloggers are all trying to find the same balance between craft and life, yearning to express our innermost thoughts and tentatively, then boldly trying to let loose our emotions, imaginations and creativity. From Plate to Page allowed for growth, understanding, comfort in the realm of writing and photography, our art, our craft, our passion.

Our Plate to Page Tuscany participants, this group of stunning, generous, funny and talented women made the workshop and the weekend truly harmonious, memorable and successful… and they will stay friends, colleagues and inspiration for always.

Judith of Aroma Cucina
Marta of Princess Misia Recipes
Kate of Serendipity
Valentina of A Wee Bit of Sugar
Lynn of sacatomato
Alexandra of Ombranelportico
Elizabeth of Roast Duck and a Big Gooey Cake
Hayley of The Delectable Diary of Hayley Harland
Olivia of Eatmania
Heidi who writes for Xmagazine
Robin of What About the Food?
Denise of The Little Things

And a huge, immense thank you to our sponsors, whose products will surely inspire each of us in the kitchen and find their way one by one onto our blogs…. Plate to Page was only made better by your generosity.

Taste of Home
Zwilling J.A. Henckels
Sunchowder’s Emporia
Peppadew International
Bisol Prosecco
Matcha Factory
Riso Gallo (your boxes of instant risotto were left in Italy with a very happy son)

With a special shout out to the wonderful and amazing Sarah of Taste of Home, Sven of Smaromi, Hadley of FarSide Marketing and Tracey both with Gourmelli, Wendy of Sunchowder and Tess from Food Matters ….

Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes.
Art is knowing which ones to keep.
- Scott Adams


Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

How exciting! A lovely destination and event. Thanks for sharing your impressions with us.



Eliz said...

Love this post Jamie! Not only captures the entire wknd with writing that gives me shivers of delight, but also reminds me of all of the wonderful knowledge you so generously shared. Thks for an inspired and inspiring workshop. The P2P team is awesome!

Elizabeth xo

Jeanne said...

Oh what a lovely weekend it was - the villa truly was like something out of a movie! And yes, the first day was exacly as you describe, all of us being cautious and feeling out where we might make connections - but by Sunday it was as if we had all knownn each other for years! (I mean, for goodness' sake, we'd sung BeeGees songs together!!) A lovely post full of great memories :)

Astrid and the kitties Kashim, Othello and Salome said...

You found wonderful words again and after reading your post I can feel the spirit of P2P again when I close my eyes it's even like it was yesterday when we met at our first day in Weimar!

It's a very special spirit you 4 create when you when you plan and organize theses workshops.
One can't really describe it - One must have been part of it to know it all!

Farmgirl Gourmet said...

Gorgeous post Jamie. Love it. So exciting!!!


Meeta K. Wolff said...

Ahh I think this is always the best part -- coming back and reliving the weekend through everyone's blog posts! I love the very first by Sylvia Plath - I have that pasted to my little writing book and look at it every time I feel writers block coming around! Loved being with you this weekend and look forward to planning the next one P2P UK here we come!

WiseMóna said...

How beautiful Jamie. You always capture the essence of where, when and who so beautifully. I can tell you all had a beautiful experience (again) as I am sure you will continue to do every time. Well done on getting the nod from Jamie Oliver. Very well earned. xx

Vibey @ Yumbo McGillicutty said...

Beautiful. Just beautiful.

tasteofbeirut said...

How wonderful to be able to gather all these interesting people under one roof and in Tuscany, no less! This sounds like such an inspiring time and i hope that next time, I could be a part of it.

Deeba PAB said...

'The gates to secret gardens slowly but surely opening to this adventure.' ... just wonderful Jamie. You know how to tell a tale, and tell it so beautifully that I am left hanging onto every word! Well said and ever inspiring ... just beautiful, each shot, each word! xo

Jamie said...

@DeebaPAB We are all waiting for YOU to come and be a part of P2P!!

@TasteofBeirut We would love for you to come and be a part of P2P!

Ooooh wouldn't it be fab if the two of you talented women could attend? xo

Junglefrog said...

I always love reading about the P2P adventures once everyone is back and has gathered all their photos to tell the tales. Love your photos btw! It almost brings me back to that fantastic time we had in Weimar, in what seems like so long ago now! Lovely write up!

Ken⏐hungry rabbit said...

Beautifully written and congratulation on another successful Plate to Page experience.

Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella said...

What a gorgeous bunch of ladies you are! :D And Tuscany looks divine too ;)

Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella said...

What a gorgeous bunch of ladies you are! :D And Tuscany looks divine too ;)

Priscilla - She's Cookin' said...

Truly inspiring! Thanks for sharing the experience with us through your beautiful words.

Sylvie @ Gourmande in the Kitchen said...

Looks and sounds like it was truly a beautiful weekend for everyone involved. I absolutely love that photo of the four of you, it really captures the special bond you all have.

Rebecca from Chow and Chatter said...

wow what an awesome experience maybe one day I will attend proud of how far you have some Jamie from our meeting in Nantes you are one driven lady

Robin said...

"Our group, Friday morning strangers, by that same afternoon had found the rhythm, channeling our common bonds and passions to not only be able to work together in perfect harmony and unity but to open up completely and become friends."

It is a special, select set of persons that can create such an atmosphere. P2P Tuscany or anywhere in the world would not be the same without you. Each with a special gift, be it sensual wording, organization, inspired photography, and surprising wit. All encapuslated in the beauty that is you.

Wonderful post and memories.

Sarah, Maison Cupcake said...

What a hive of activity you all are, sounds like many new longstanding friendships formed. Must be so rewarding to watch everyone's blogs go from strength to strength after putting into practice your advice. Xx

Nuts about food said...

Looks like it was a great success and like you had a wonderful time. One day I hope to participate too!

Jen said...

what an amazing experience! and in tuscany, no less!

Barbara | Creative Culinary said...

You know I want to go to there. Wherever there is; though Tuscany would have been a great one. I fear I might not have returned home; I live to be that woman in that movie; well, except for the jilted lover part. :)

I can only imagine how inspiring it is to have a small group of dedicated writers all together in one place. Congrats to you and your peers for making this such a success.

Anh said...

I wish I lived closer to join you guys!

KG said...

lovely! wish i could join!

Cake Duchess said...

I would be thrilled to go to any
P2P event...but this one in bella italia had me really dreaming:) It sounds like it was a very memorable experience. I hope to join you all in a future P2P-soon!:)xx

Valentina said...

Oh,, I could swear I had commented here when I read the post as I love the way you write about the event. I felt inebriated by your words. And just love Plath's quote. Thank you for such a wonderful 3 days lovely.x

Jill Colonna said...

What an inspirational weekend - spending it with such a lovely group and all of the degustaziones? So much fun. Loved reading your descriptions and breathing in the Tuscan air. Hm. Sylvia Plath? She still gives me goose pimples (or bumps?)

Maris said...

Looks like a spectacular weekend. I can't wait to visit Italy some day.

Norah Homes said...

Very nice experience you've had. I am glad you have shared it. I would be happy to visit Italy some day, too!

Mairi @ Toast said...

Amazing...we just had our first food blogger conference here in NZ...met amazing people, I think it is something about people that love food :) Just all comes so naturally....wish we could have our next one in Tuscany!!

Fresh Local and Best said...

I am just enthralled that you gals created and hosted such a workshop. A lot of work and thought goes into developing such an event, which is why I'm not sure if I would ever have the guts to pursue such an venture but I totally admire you all for accomplishing From Plate to Page. I love the pictures and the quotes sprinkled throughout the post.

rehan said...

nice post
Good work


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