Tuesday, 6 October 2009

Where was Rita born?

Checking out a few things on my blogsite yesterday, it struck me how much the food blogging landscape has changed over the last four years since the world of blog first came into my life.

I owe the fact that Rita (and her blogsite) exists to a few things which were, at the time, impacting on my life. My oldest daughter, the veritable Nellie, (mother of legendary Eliza – she of Maccas Sandy Bay poo fame) started out her own food blog site which she named Breakfast in Hobart. I believe she in turn had started out her blog having read, with much interest and amusement, her sister-in-law’s Hobart food blog (Hobart Life, by Food Kitty). Both girl’s blogs are sites I genuinely regret are not still in existence, as between them, these two managed, with deft and unerring accuracy, to succinctly sum up many points about food and venues, and their pleasure or displeasure about the state of same.

Food Kitty in particular was at times quite acerbic in her descriptions or commentaries, and I often read blogs today, thinking whilst reading them, that FK would have gone straight for the jugular instead of skirting around the issue!

FK provided me with the fabulous experience of her cheese-making class (camembert) via her blog, amongst many other things. She also kept us appraised of her husband Mr Bok’s activities and opinions which I found most enlightening and entertaining!

FK pulled the pin quite suddenly one day, and deleted the whole site, so it was literally ‘here today, gone tomorrow’, with no accompanying explanation when you tried to get to the site. I think she did in fact publish a post on the day, explaining her intentions, but later that day the whole thing was gone.

Nellie has a lot less time for blogging these days as her family life is so hectic, so she has her blogsite languishing, on hold. Maybe she will resume blogging down the track, but I doubt it. I think blogging is a lifestyle choice.

The other reason the site exists is due to my work. On being appointed to a new role which focused on the future careers of young people aged 13-19, a main proportion of my job entailed “disseminating career-related information” to these young people. Taking my job seriously, and having been amongst this target group more than a few years ago, but remembering vividly how boring adults are, I researched thoroughly on the internet to find out ways I might successfully achieve this main aim and came up with a foreign word - ‘blogging’.

Having established the fact that this was one of a few methods I could in fact achieve this, I set about attempting to start a blog for career information dissemination. Easier said than done for an ‘oldie’! It seemed to take forever, and I stuffed it up so many times at work, so decided to take the problem home over the weekend, and fiddle around with it there, in peace and quiet.

At home, there was no way I wanted to bog down my home computer with career-related info, so I decided to mock up a blog and write about what I was on firm ground with – hospitality. My official job title at work was Regional Industry Career Adviser – or RICA, for short, and thus was born RITA.

Well – you know the rest……Rita survived, gaining more and more readers over the years, and daily receiving emails from restaurant owners and workers, diners and fellow bloggers. I have made some very firm friends as a result, and the blog has taken my life in a totally different direction to what it was before Rita existed.

And guess what? The work blog (which I started after establishing Rita) hasn’t really targeted the young people I set out to reach, but is HAS targeted their teachers and career advisers, so I suppose that’s success in a way.

When I started the Rita blog, Steve Cumper was at that time the Garrulous Gourmet food blogger. I was most amused when I subsequently found out the identity of this hitherto mythical GG, as I had had previous dealings with Steve in his capacity as exec chef at Peppermint Bay, which had involved him mostly ranting at me one day (in my capacity as Apprenticeship Centre staff) mercilessly about a certain training organization and their professionalism, or lack thereof! He blistered me with his verbal fire! To put it bluntly, I wasn’t a fan!

Next time I was down there at PB for work, I stumbled over him on my way into the bar one day. I knew who he was, and we had by then had many friendly exchanges on the blogs, (during which time I hadn’t let on I actually knew him) but he hadn’t as yet clapped eyes on the mythical Rita.

I greeted him in a friendly, happy way, calling him ‘Steve’ and acting as if I knew him – which I felt I DID, having read his words, thoughts and opinions on his blog daily. It was only after I added (seeing his obvious perplexed look, and enjoying that fleeting moment myself) that I was ‘Rita’, that he then understood the reason for my assumption of comradeship!

I was devastated when he abruptly closed down GG, but elated a short time later when FK emailed me with a hint to check out a new food blog site, which turned out to be The Gobbler, and whose writing and commentary style was so obviously Steve’s!

We are now established friends, and Steve’s is an opinion I respect more than anyone else’s I can think of. How strange to compare this with my first meeting with him!

Yes, I owe the world of blog a lot, and I thank you all.

(Pictured above is the Rita-family - Mum, Dad, and their six adult children lunching at Home Hill last Friday. This was a celebration of the fact the original family is still intact, and entirely appropriate given that we were all bought up in the Huon, and that Rosemary & Terry Bennett, owners of Home Hill, are family friends. My thanks go to JS for providing us all with the pictorial evidence, and I trust he will forgive my using this shot here.)

Posted on by Rita


TJ said...

And we in turn thank you Rita for your blog... a daily ritual of many I am sure... not only for information, but a giggle, or a rant or recommendation, or more importantly, for another opinion other than our own... which may in fact be a better/wiser/more informed opinion (or not!).

here's to you Rita and Hobart Food for Thought...


nutsdeb said...

Thank you for your background blog... I've been reading for around 2 years now and I've noticed that my choice of food has expanded with my reading of your site. For example, whereas in the past a souvlaki may have sufficed I know have for lunch in front of me roasted vegetable salad with pork and pistachio terrine and lavosh bread. I decided the cost was pretty much the same but the taste could not compare. You have opened my eyes to trying new and different food and hunting down the best local produce. Boks bacon is divine and I won't have Coles again! Thank you Rita.

steve said...

Hi Rita. That story made me laugh about how we first met! I still stand by what I said about that training agency though!
I like many of your copious audience, read your blog fisrt thing every day. You have a great way of conveying your opinions respectfully & with much empathy, the very model of dignity & as such your loyal readers are legion in number.

Victor said...

Rita - great story - metamorphosis of your life as a food blogger. Thank you for sharing. I always read your blog and with great interest because one can tell that you do it with passion and for the good of the small community here in Tasmania. Cheers!

Christina said...

Oh Gosh Rita, you frightened me to death. I thought I was reading your swan song at first.
My first reaction was, "oh no please don't leave me!!!".

Thank goodness it was just reflection on your part.
Your site is also the first thing I check when I sit at my computer every morning. What would I do without you?!!!!!

I too would like to thank you for opening up my eyes to new experiences, new people, new flavours, new discussions,and in a few cases new friends.
Thank you for inviting me to dine with you on occassion, every one I have enjoyed immensely.
I truly hope you are enjoying your family reunion. I know you will be.
But please don't scare me like that again.

Rita said...

Hi TJ - great to hear from you again. I trust you are well? Please let me know when your baby arrives. Thank you for your comments, and keep reading....
Nutsdeb - ditto to you - I'm proud of your gastronomic progress, and to know that there is just ONE person in Hobart who I have turned around from their previous diet of souvlaki to the lunch you had today is amazing, and it was all worth it!
Steve - my friend - what can I say to you? Thanks for your generous words about my writing style.
Victor - glad you now know where Rita has emerged from - the swamps of the Huon!
Christina - interesting you should say that you thought it was my swansong. My Nellie also said the same to me today, and, truth be told, it could well have been. It occured to me as I wrote it that it read that way.
I'm not sure exactly where I am at the moment, so am using this time off work as a deep thinking time, analysing if I think I have anything more to contribute to what I've already voiced over the past 4 years on this blog.

I could continue to waffle, but, as Victor pointed out, my passion is the reason I do what I do. I need to feel passionate about the subject in order to write convincingly. The jury's still out as to whether or not the passion is still there.
But - I too have loved the times we've eaten together, and it was you I was principally talking about when I wrote that I'd made great friends out of the blog. I thank you so much for that.

Anyway - we will see....

Anonymous said...

Yes I agree with Christina, I too feared that yhis was a pre-blog epitaph. But it was lovely to read how it all began for you.
You know there has not been an industry coleague that I have spoken to who is not aware of your blog and countless have called it essential reading. You have in your four years my dear become a respected institution. Hope you never give it up as I feel you are only on the brink of what you will become.
Lovely photo, reflects what food is about, family, friends, chinwagging and enjoyment. foods an excuse, a vehicle if you like, but thats my opinion.
Knowing your Dad's a foodie and artist, I wonder if he liked the plates at Holm hill LOL.

Take care Rica.


Rita said...

Hi Cartouche - and I still am in the dark as to who the hell you are!! You are obviously determined not to reveal who Cartouche really is!
Thanks for your words too - I am truly touched by by the comments to this post today.

Anonymous said...

Very little has happened in the world of Tasmanian Hospitality that Rita hasn't been involved in - or blogged about. I thoroughly enjoy reading your blog. I know of several drysdale teachers who use this to keep themselves up to date with industry news. Don't lose that passion, because every night I take a look at your blog.... And I love it. Accurate, Honest, and often funny, no one else could replace such an informative and interesting site. Thanks Rita.

sir grumpy said...

Piss off then, see if we care! Only kidding Rita. We care. I think all writers (and that is what you are, call it blogging, whatever) get tired.
Maybe the trick is to go slower. Have a holiday. Don't feel compelled to write at a pace you believe we demand.
Silence is golden when used to revitalise and regroup.
Curl up with good books (foodie and non-foodie), realise we all value your great site and foresight.
Shrug off the naysayers and remember old friends will be reading and not always responding but appreciating your input.
We've never met, I don't REALLY know you, but somehow I really do.
And as far as I am concerned that's a bloody good thing. Really thanks, Rita.
One of your online family, Sir Grumpy.

Rita said...

Thanks Anon - glad to hear you check in each night. I love that thought.
Sir G - why do I expect exactly that response from you! Telling me to piss off! seriously, I knw exatly what you mean by saying that you feel you know me, as a result of reading my blog - because that's exactly what I feel about everyone I 'converse' with online. And you actually know me extremely well, as who I am is expressed here on the blog, and my readers would know me way better than many friends, and possibly family.
I regard you, and all my readers as friends and family, so you're correct - much as it pains me to say so...

Rita II said...

Dear Rita
I come late to this thread and like others originally feared it might be your swansong. I greatly admire your dedication and sheer hard work in keep this blog going, and I agree with Sir G - if you need a break, then just do it. But what I really wanted to say was, along with other readers, that although we have never met (and my original attraction to your blog was that I really am called Rita!), I have come to value your commitment to your readers as a real friendship. Remember when you emailed me to warn about a possibly hostile reception at Infusions? It wasn't me (there must be a third Rita) but I was really touched that you would bother to contact someone you didn't even know. I have learned so much from your blog and wish you well in whatever the future may hold for you.

Anonymous said...

I'm a daily reader and a friend and please don't desert us Rita. I not only enjoy reading your blog site but I also enjoy reading the other sites you link us to. Sharing good food and a nice bottle of wine with friends(along with great service) is the ultimate in socialising and we often need you to steer us in the right direction. Keep on keeping on.


Anon2 said...

Foodies Alert! - Joanna Savill interviewed by Margaret Throsby now on ABC FM . Download later if you miss it!

Anonymous said...

We need to have a get-together of people who read this blog! :)

Stephen Estcourt said...

Rita as you know this is all very new to me but one thing that has struck me is the respect that food bloggers have for each other and for their opinions.
You are a shining example.
I envy you your obviously very well deserved following.
All the best.

Anonymous said...

You mentioned Home Hill Rita. Sorry to be a party pooper but mine & others experiences there have been to be honest dreadful.
I know Mrs Bennet is not shy in criticising other establishments but I can recommend that she get her own house in order before opining on the apparent shortfalls of other places.
That advice should also be heeded by a few other serial-complainers out there who know who they are.
You'll get your much envied publicity & reputation when you do something that attracts it. You've been here a while now & still haven't done anything remarkable but you continue to snipe at the success of others?
How very sad you must be.

Rita said...

Hi Rita II - now the cat's out of the bag re my warning to you about a possible negative Infusion reception! But that's who I am, and knowing what I knew at the time, I couldn't let you go in there without prior warning of possible aggro against you just because you had booked in the name of Rita (and I knew the booking wasn't mine)! Thanks for what you said.
J - thanks, and I'm glad you're still checking in, even though I'm on leave. Hope you're keeping them honest. See you at the Quiz Night?
Anon2 - sorry I missed it but will do as you recommend. We should catch up soon - nearly time for that Xmas lunch again?
Anon 1.38 - a great idea, and I'll be there like a shot, depending on where it is held! But - spending my work life organising people to attend various things like this, I baulk at organising this particular function!
Stephen - thanks for your words. I look forward to our lunch and getting to know you better.
Anon 7.34 - Thanks for the tactful way you phrased that comment. I totally understand where you are coming from, and obviously won't comment on our experience at Home Hill. If I had issues with anything there, I would say it directly to Rosemary in a caring but honest way, and leave it at that. I'm sorry that, from your comment, others have had a bad time there, but, like everything else in life, it's up to all of us to make our own decisions.
Life is change, and things change and evolve constantly. That's why I prefer to give places a few chances before I decide I can't darken their doorsteps again.
I agree about the serial complainers, and they too are part of life. Yes, they'll always be around, complaining. We who generally look at life with the 'glass half full' mentality (as opposed to the 'glass half empty' people) ususally learn to work around these complainers, but I agree it doesn't make it any easier to deal with them!

Snuva said...

Noticed who SBS Food's latest 'Featured Foodie' is?

sir grumpy said...

You're right Rita. One visit isn't enough to give a place a fair go. That's not to say you can't tell of that initial disappointment or pleasure.
I stopped going to a sandy Bay place because it seemed to go off. For a couple of ywears I avoided it. Them in a rush, me and the missus decided to give it a go again.
It was great...because the ownership had changed without publicity.
So, you see how easy it could have been for us to go on saying the place was rubbish, when in fact it has been revamped. It bow gets us in once a week at least!

Jiminy Cricket said...

"Eliza – she of Maccas Sandy Bay poo fame"

I just revisited that anecdote, and couldn't help noticing you neglected to mention that Eliza was merely following her grandmother's example. Did you and your sister ever jump out of the car, drop your dacks and relieve yourselves in the street, much to your father's embarrassment?

Rita said...

Jiminy - you are obviously the holder of insider information - but slightly erroneous!
Yes - along with my sister, at age 2 (my sister) & 3 (me) we relieved ourselves in Sandy Bay Rd, in the gutter, outside what is now Bay Leaf Restaurant! However we were doing as directed by our mother, and being children who always did exactly as we were instructed, naturally we did. Being so young, and from the country, we had no qualms about peeing in the gutter when the need was so intense, and no toilet was close to hand!

jess said...
This comment has been removed by the author.