Food blogs are common these days, and everyone’s a critic. That’s why the woman behind eatbhm.com—Birmingham’s new online source for restaurant reviews—is no stranger to the question, “What makes you think you can do this?” She’s no professional writer, nor does she have culinary training, but Angie—who uses only her first name in order to preserve her anonymity and review restaurants in her own quiet way—believes that the answer to that question is simple. “Everyone eats,” she says.
“It’s not about food, it’s about the relationships that we have with food.”
Drawing on her own experiences and unique perspectives on food, Angie kicked off eatbhm. com in June with a review of one of her favorite local spots in English Village, the Continental Bakery.
Angie modeled eatbhm.com after eatjackson.com, a similar site in Jackson, Miss.
According to Angie, the Jackson site was started by a foodie and small business marketer who wanted to use social networking technologies, including blogs and Twitter, to get new people through the doors of locally owned eateries in Jackson. “He noticed that so many companies were using [Twitter] to just bark out stuff at you, but it’s really a conversation,” Angie says. Gathering support from local restaurants, the Jackson site uses giveaways to Twitter followers, giving people more incentive to visit those restaurants, and also features endearing personal anecdotes as part of its restaurant reviews.
In May, Angie contacted the person who started eatjackson.com—who also chooses to remain largely anonymous—and was given permission to start eatbhm.com as a sister site. Inspired by the site in Jackson, Angie is working to incorporate the use of customer giveaways for her Twitter followers and is using personal anecdotes as part of her restaurant reviews. She felt that she had a “similar candor” and appreciated the way that eatjackson.com’s founder used social media to “give really honest opinions about places.”
Birmingham has been Angie’s home for a while now, but it took going away and coming back to give her a real sense of the sweet life that is possible in the Magic City. A Samford University graduate, Angie left Birmingham to seek an interior design degree in Mississippi. Her journey led her to Georgia and Texas. Some unexpected circumstances and an untimely death in the family brought her back to Birmingham in 2003.
Life in Birmingham outside of Samford’s gates had its allure, and she also has family in the area.
“The universe was just pointing me in this direction,” she says. Using her education, Angie began teaching interior design classes in a program at the University of Montevallo that is being phased out. “I fell in love with teaching, and that’s what I’ve done, and now I just want to talk about food,” she says.
Angie’s diversified interests lead her to declare herself as somewhat of a “split personality.” However, there are commonalities between the two. “Food is just a part of all relationships that we have,” she says. “Because of my design background, I’m fascinated by relationships that people have with space and food, other people, and how all of those things come together to make our lives more interesting.”
Growing up in the sweet-tea-steeped South, Angie understands how family members often speak to each other through the language of food.
“I totally appreciate creating food—a chef as an artist,” she says. “But I also appreciate the fact that someone simply prepares food because they love someone. It’s very simple.”
There is something very relatable about the comfort that home-style foods can bring.
Someone’s sick? Bring a casserole. A baby is born? Nothing says “welcome home” like a freshly baked loaf of bread. We often use food to communicate. That’s why Angie always says that “food is love.”
After her grandfather was diagnosed with and died from pancreatic cancer, Angie began to realize that, in the name of love, unhealthy dietary choices can be ignored or glossed over, slipping through the gaps in a balanced diet with the help of a little butter. “I grew up around some really unhealthy attitudes toward food,” she recalls. “Every other thing on the table was fried. That was just what we ate. It wasn’t really a topic of conversation, and it was just not polite to say [anything about it]. I never felt comfortable. But now I can talk about it.”
Her grandfather’s death was a catalyst for Angie and her father to begin making conscious choices about food. Quite unintentionally, she has shed 60 pounds in the process of becoming more aware about what she eats. She has cut down on processed foods and focused on locally produced foods as often as possible.
While she does enjoy fine dining and edgy new dishes, they are not her proverbial bread and butter. “Really fresh food from a garden, roasted with a little bit of sea salt, is just as heavenly as something that’s taken hours and hours to prepare,” she says. “To say I’m a foodie automatically isolates me from part of the population. Like ‘eatjackson’ says, I’m not a foodie, I’m an eatie.”
Cory Bordonaro writes about food and other topics for Birmingham Weekly. Send your comments to email@example.com.