Food blogging, a dessert contest and media literacy may sound like an unlikely combination for a benefit. In most cases, when I first mention Best Desserts: A Benefit for The LAMP, I get a few blank looks. Sure, it sounds tasty, but what does food blogging have to do with media literacy?
The answer is, a lot. Media literacy is as much about critically processing media as it is about celebrating and appreciating media, and one great thing about the Internet is that provides a number of outlets for people to explore their passions and share their expertise with the world. And in the midst of this sharing, horizons are expanded, creativity is sparked and friendships are made. Food bloggers are the epitome of all this. Perhaps out of necessity, people interested in food are usually also very open to trying new things, and are able to connect over recipes and food in ways that mystify other people. For example, I will never understand why my sister gets as excited as she does about making her own vanilla extract, but I do know that by connecting with other people online, she is able to get tips on how to do it and find the best sources for buying vanilla beans in bulk. Where else but on the Internet can someone so easily discover a subset of vanilla enthusiasts?
Critical thinking does play a part as well. Just because blogging and social media can enable people to position themselves as experts on something, it doesn’t mean that they actually are. If I wanted to, I could start a food blog, plagiarize recipes as my own and put up some mouth-watering photos of food that I actually purchased down the street. But someone who is media literate could look at my background and see that I have no experience whatsoever in the culinary arts, and with a little more digging could see if I stole recipes from epicurious.com. Just as we at The LAMP encourage people to think critically about who makes the news, people also need to think critically about what someone else recommends that you should be feeding yourself, your family and your friends.
Fear not that the chefs at Best Desserts are pretenders. Our co-host, Alejandra Ramos of Always Order Dessert, has made sure of that. Between them, you will find graduates of culinary schools, working chefs, food journalists and published writers. In most cases, though, the only way you can taste their cooking is if you visit their house–you cannot go to a restaurant and order mocha brownies made personally by Katy Atlas from Sugarlaws, seasonal strawberry cheesecake by Jen Bernstein of LocalAppetiteNY, chocolate chip cookies by Esther Chai of AmbitiousDelicious(ness), salty butterscotch chocolate chip cookies by Emily Hanhan from (non) adventures of an amateur, salted turtle cashew cupcakes by Anna Markow of VerySmallAnna or Asian rice crispy treats by Rachel Mount from BestPartoftheDay. And there is definitely no event other than Best Desserts where you can eat dessert and support The LAMP at the same time. Tickets are $20 online or $25 at the door, and also automatically put you in the running for some fantastic prizes (more later on our sponsors). So please come and join us for a celebration of food blogging, media literacy and The LAMP!