My Seven Years of Chowhounding
November commemorates 7 years of me posting on Chowhound. While I was much more active in my 20s, I thought I'd relate as to how my life has changed for the better, and it's all thanks to this message board. Let me explain.
I had been stuck in a cubicle job in an LA suburb, and decided to take a pro-level cooking class as a hobby. There, I met lots of like-minded cooks, got the chance to more fully explore the city of Los Angeles, and most importantly, became fascinated with food writing. Jonathan Gold and Michael Ruhlman gave me inspiration.
An article in the NYTimes talked about Portland, Oregon, as an up and coming food destination. I decided to throw caution to the wind and quit my job and moved up there to pursue a career in food.
At around this time, a poster by the name of ErikM translated the menu of Jitlada. Erik and I became fast friends, as his brash attitude and my calm demeanor seemed to translate to fun times exploring food throughout LA.
Now, back to Portland. I had no friends, no family, no job even. But I had some savings so I figured I could endure it while I looked. Erik gave me one contact, another user on Chowhound by the name of ExtraMSG. I arrived in Portland, exchanged a few emails and met up with him.
ExtraMSG ran a local food message board (remember way back when CH didn't have a Portland section?) and through that message board, I made some of the best friends in the world. I became a food writer for the local alt weekly and was exactly all I imagined Portland to be. For two years I called Portland home, and I was happy with my new life. I became more involved with the bar and liquor scene, moreso than the restaurant and food scene, and befriended bartenders not only from Portland but from across the country.
I'm back in LA now, I have a different cubicle job, but I now have this rich and fulfilling hobby and wonderful new circle of friends thanks to this message board and the tiny online acquaintances that turned into deep real life friends.
I remember the weekend market at the Wat Thai temple.
I remember the taco stand at Cooper Tires on the corner of Fletcher and Larga.
I remember what a revelation it was to try Santouka, and meeting foodnerds like Rameniac and EatDrinkBeMerry and OishiiEats (back before they were married)
I remember being the first one at Jitlada after Erik's translation.
I remember visiting Little Saigon for the first time, and Koreatown for the first time and Torrance and the outer edges of the San Gabriel Valley
I remember wondering who would win a food fight among Brookhurst St, Pico Blvd, Sunset Blvd and Valley Blvd
I remember having drinks at the Hungry Cat when Matty was bartending there (before he went on to open The Varnish)
I remember being sheepishly embarassed to take photos of food, at a time when nobody did it.
I'm no longer writing professionally, but I do love tweeting and I certainly love exploring the city for the next hole in the wall. I bemoan how PR companies have perverted the foodie subculture into hype machines, but the fantastic part is that a city like Los Angeles is so big and so vast that there are still large pockets of the city untouched and unexplored, and if you do just a bit of extra travelling, LA is still quite a fun place to go Chowhounding.
This message board has gone through a lot of stylistic changes over the years but the LA board has always maintained a critical mass of knowledgable locals. That accumulated wisdom spans not only pages of text but also miles of travel for anything to go into plate or bowl or open hand. Chowhound made me really understand the importance of sharing this knowledge with strangers, but most of all, the importance of exploring and finding your own way. Thanks, CH.
Great story. I started posting around 2003 or thereabouts and feel like my life has similarly been transformed. I met my wife through a mutual love of travel (go www.hospitalityclub.org !) and one of our first dates was at the now defunct Tung Lai Shun in San Gabriel. When we met, she had already been traveling through the US on Greyhound for two months eating terrible Chinese food almost everywhere except Flushing Queens, and was impressed that I found a place that reminded her of food that she could find at home. To be honest, I had only a passing knowledge of the San Gabriel Valley and Chinese food (or anything Asian) at that time, and she helped me to unlock many of the more confounding aspects of Chinese food and culture. That led to a six month trip with her through Asia, which led to our being married, and spending much more time in Taiwan. Now I have no problems starting conversations in Mandarin with people (just returned from a trip to Philly Chinatown and love the shocked response I get from shopkeepers when I green them with even the simple greeting "ni hau"). So yes, Chowhound has enriched my life (directly and indirectly) in so many ways. And I do have some strong feelings about the "foodieism" that has become hip and trendy around us (for example, now I feel self conscious taking pictures of food because everyone does it... I can almost feel the people next to us rolling their eyes!) For us, it was and has always been just sort of something we did for ourselves, to keep a personal archive on flickr, documenting our lives and our food journeys together, not to share with millions of Facebook stranger-friends. But in the end, it's absolutely s a good thing that more people are interested in food, because it means the bar is raised for all of us... and it's forcing people out of their complacency to try new things. i.e. suddenly the crowd that would have been happy eating Doritos for the rest of their lives is open to eating kettle chips, for example. Baby steps of course, but it's a very good thing.
Loved this post. Came across it accidentally over here on the other coast, but I'm glad I did. Yours is a wonderful story. I, too, have a lot of "internet" friends. Not from Chowhound, as I'm not super active here, but from other online venues, message boards, blogs, etc, related to my different interests. Many of them, I've met in real life and there's one I let move in with me! (my SO and I met about five years ago on JDate! LOL! ) Most of them, I interact with more frequently and more satisfyingly than I do with "offline" friends. Anyway, thanks for posting this. All the best!
>>> Chowhound made me really understand the importance of sharing this knowledge with strangers, but most of all, the importance of exploring and finding your own way.
To me that sums up this site best, especiallly the last part.
Seriously, a year living in Guatemala would have been hell ... it sure was hot enough for it ... but the skills Chowhound gave me to go off on my own kept me endlessly amused and was an excellent way to become one with the locals. Everybody likes food.
While I am grateful that Chow keps this site alive, sometimes it just seems discouraging that the emphasis seems to be on eye candy headlines and tweetng, likeing, and other gimmicks. I understand this. However sometimes I wish the bean counters would just enjoy the beans and realize that it is the beans and other food that makes this site so important.
This site has the power to change lives, to put a spotlight on little businesss that are ignored because they have no celebrated chef and don't have a pr machine. In the end everyone learns something and eats better. That seems important to me.
Beautiful posts. I have been on the board for many years and I always enjoyed your posts. Your graciousness and sense of adventure came through very well. It was the LA board's loss when you moved to Portland. I used your site as a resource for my travels in the area.
Although I'm bummed for you that you're no longer doing the food gig full time in Portland, selfishly I'm happy to see you back on the LA board.
Thanks for the great post that to me embodies many of the great things that made me fall in love with CH when I first discovered it.
Great post, and appropriate for Thanksgiving. CH is like one big shared meal. As you are fortunate enough to make meaningful connections through it, you have experienced the warmth of breaking bread (or noodles) with other Chowhounds.