For Beth Wallace Sachan, food is about more than staving off hunger. It’s about a lifestyle.
It’s also a bit of an obsession.
She’s always enjoyed experimenting with new restaurants and exotic foods whether down the street or around the world. But she didn’t stop there.
She gave recommendations to friends, lots of recommendations.
“When I’d travel, I was taking a lot of notes on different restaurants I’d gone to, and over the course of time, my husband encouraged me to think of some way to use all the information I’d put together to share with other people,” said the Trigg County native who now lives in Nashville.
Beth started to blog about her experiences as a way to share them with family and friends.
“If they traveled to some of the different places I’d been to, they could see where I’d gone and take recommendations on places to visit or just local restaurants that were around here.”
A trip to China rated an entire series of blog entries.
“I made sure that I was open to everything,” she said of that trip, with the specific request to forgo any dish containing dog, cat or horse. “I ate rattlesnake and sea cucumber, which, if you know what that is, it’s a very odd-looking, squishy sea creature that looks like a big caterpillar.”
She also started adding her own recipes in blog posts, complete with pictures from her own kitchen.
“After a couple of months, I guess people started sharing the blog with their friends, and it started to grow,” Beth said. “Before I knew it, there were people reading it in all different parts of the country where I didn’t know anyone.
“I started getting comments on my posts and realized there were strangers reading it.”
Beth Eats (www.eat-drink-smile.com) now has loyal readers across the United States and a few from other countries. She relies on Facebook and Twitter to promote her blog.
“Twitter is basically an instant messaging service where you can only use 140 characters, so you can send really quick snippets of information. It doesn’t take a lot of effort to put something out there.” Subscribers to Beth’s feed get alerts about new blog posts and recipes.
It was through her Twitter feed that she met a guy named Lance Paine. One of Beth’s tweets about chocolate started a two-way Twitter conversation between the two.
He turned out to be the executive vice president of Goo Goo Cluster, LLC, a subsidiary of Nashville’s Standard Candy Company.
“That candy has really good memories for me, and it has always been my mom’s favorite growing up,” Beth said.
Her enthusiasm for the candy piqued Paine’s interest, and he asked to meet her in person. Goo Goo Cluster is relaunching the nearly 100-year-old brand – the company was founded in 1912 – and Paine wanted to capitalize on the popularity of social media as a marketing tool.
“We’re looking to include bloggers who have high Klout scores (a measurement of influence derived from Facebook and Twitter),” Paine said in the March 2011 issue of Candy Industry magazine. “Take for example, Beth Eats; there are people that trust her implicitly.”
Beth was such a good fit, that after meeting her in person, Paine nixed his original idea of holding a contest to find a food blogger to represent the product at the Eat, Write, Retreat bloggers conference in Washington, DC, May 20-22.
“Once he saw how enthusiastic I was,” she said, “he just asked me if I’d like to go.”
Of course, she agreed. In exchange for talking about a product she already loves, Beth got an all-expense paid trip to DC for the conference.
The popularity of her blog, chosen last fall as the best food blog in Nashville by the Nashville Scene, has opened up other opportunities as well, including some freelance assignments. Public relations firms and restaurants have begun sending her invitations to attend events in the hopes of landing a coveted entry in her blog, and product samples have started to show up on her doorstep.
She’s always up front with a company soliciting her support of a product.
“I’m happy to try it out, but if I don’t like it, then I’m not going to mention it (on my blog),” she said. “I never write negative things, because I don’t believe in being a negative person, but at the same time, I’m not going to blog about something that I didn’t truly enjoy or believe in.”
Her rise in popularity has added a new dimension to Beth’s hobby.
“It’s hard because in the beginning it was all just things I stumbled upon and things I loved and was really passionate about.”
So, where will this lead Beth? In October, it will lead her back home to the Ham Festival, where she hopes to entice other Nashville food bloggers to join her for a foray into the culinary delights of festival food and world-famous Trigg County country ham.
Beyond that, who knows? Beth would like to someday create a business in which she can travel and write about food, but for now, she’s thrilled with her blog.
“I don’t understand why people love it so much,” she said, but people she’s met have said it’s because she’s so down to earth and not at all “snotty” about food.
“I write like I would talk to someone. I think part of it has to be being from a small town.”
Probably, but it also has to do with her enthusiasm for food, an enthusiasm that’s contagious.
“The best thing to me is that I’ve taken something that I’ve loved to do that’s always been a passion and a hobby and really turned it into more,” she said. “If nothing else, I have fun with it.”
That’s to be expected from someone who starts her blog page with this catchy tag: Beth eats. She drinks. And she smiles as much as possible.