This Thanksgiving, Really Thankful for Virtual Friends

By Edward M. Bury, APR (aka The PRDude)

As time ticks off on Thanksgiving 2014, I can reflect and be thankful for many things this last weekend of November. Yes, there’s health, family, work and our home.

(Must also make a special shout out to my sister-in-law’s outstanding herb dinner rolls served Thursday as part of an outstanding Thanksgiving meal.)

And of course, friends.

But thanks to our brave new digital world, I have friends beyond those who I’ve met in person and enjoyed time in each others presence.  I’m referring to virtual friends.

Hey, for many of us adults, virtual friends also are important.

Hey, for many of us adults, virtual friends also are important.

I trust those of us who have embraced digital communications have “friends” or people (hopefully not robots) they communicate with regularly. These virtual friends — rest assured I won’t try to fabricate and use some silly made up word like “virtuends” — can be f0ound through social media or perhaps through a common interest.

Here are two of my virtual friends. I’ll just use their first names to protect their privacy.

  • Debbie, who’s retired, loves football and starts most days with an uplifting Facebook post. She also is fond of a gourmet blend of coffee, participates in an online radio show and is always quick to respond to my Facebook commentary with a positive message. How we became virtual friends: Through a now defunct social media site.
  • Elena is a communications professional, a very good and
    Wonder what my virtual friends would like for the holidays?

    Wonder what my virtual friends would like for the holidays?

    successful one. She’s earned industry honors, writes fiction, manages on of the most popular communications blogs and is a leader within her market. I’ve been honored to serve as a an unpaid “consultant” for one of Elena’s recent works of fiction. How we became virtual friends: I contributed content to Elena’s blog.

Things can be fleeting in life, especially in the virtual world.  But I hope my virtual friends will be around for a long, long time.

Better yet, I hope someday we’ll get to be friends the old-fashioned way — in person.

Reflections on Food and TV Chefs This Thanksgiving Week

By Edward M. Bury, APR, aka The PRDude

As chronicled in this post last August, The PRDude likes food.  Well, really, who doesn’t?  And, for a while in the late 1980s, I held the position of vice president for a boutique Chicago public relations firm that specialized in restaurants.  (As you could imagine, there were great fringe benefits: Lots of great lunches and dinners cooked by leading chefs.)  I managed campaigns designed to build awareness for new restaurants and campaigns designed to drive patrons to revisit existing restaurants.

This was an era when the term “celebrity chef” was still not quite part of our lexicon or popular culture.  What’s more, the phrase “foodie” was still not coined.

Today, of course, a growing segment of the population is obsessed with all things food, a development that launched an entire TV network devoted to food, competitive food programs and the rise of the so-called celebrity chef.  There even are programs where the host eats bugs and other odd stuff and one where a man “challenges” food — to see if he could consume more than should be humanly possible in a single sitting.

Let’s recognize that the networks air programs where — gasp! — a chef gives instructions on how to cook.  You know, a show that offers recipes, technique and insight on ingredients and nutrition.  A few decades back, there were programs like this, and they featured passionate cooks who taught you how to prepare and love food, but without the preponderance of F-bombs, kitchen tantrums and shoulder-to-wrist tattoos.

Two of my favorites:

1.  Jeff Smith, who cooked as “The Frugal Gourmet.”

Jeff Smith, The Frugal Gourmet

2.  Keith Floyd, who hosted “Floyd on Food.”

Both men have passed on to that Big Kitchen in the Sky.  Both, I think, would have hung up their aprons after watching some of the potty-mouthed, tough guy, renegade prince and princesses that populate “Top Chef,” “Hell’s Kitchen” and some of the other popular programs aired today.

Smith, a cordial, bespectacled ordained minister, had a gentle way of educating the viewer on how to prepare simple dishes made in his TV kitchen at WTTW studios in Chicago.  His mantra: “Frugal does not mean cheap. It means you use everything.” Watch this video on his recipe for preparing peas and egg soup to get an idea of what the Frug was all about.

Keith Floyd, Floyd on Food.

From the opposite end of the menu we have Floyd, a brash Englishman who cooked in kitchens in Briton and on the continent, as well as on the galley of a fishing boat.  Floyd’s mantra:  “Let’s let that cook while I take time for a little slurp,” a reference to his practice of cooking with a nice glass of red wine nearby.  Here, Floyd offers some thoughts on cooking meat.

Both men were entertaining, informative and captivating.  I learned how to cook and cultivated a liking for different kinds of food by watching their programs.  With many of today’s food-related shows, I only learn that chefs like to swear a lot.

This Thursday, those of us who are fortunate will join family and friends for Thanksgiving, a true American holiday, one dominated by food.  I’ll join family for what I’m sure will be a wonderful afternoon of conversation, wine, and of course — food.  I plan to make soup from the turkey carcass, as I have the past several years.

Rest assured: I’d rather have Jeff Smith or Keith Floyd in the kitchen next to me than any of the “celebrities” who call themselves chefs today.  Swearing is not an ingredient that adds much to the flavor of your dish.

Your turn: Wh0’s your favorite TV chef?

The Way We Once Communicated About Our Lives

While rummaging through some boxes in the basement, I came across copies of a holiday newsletter we created in 1998.  It was a collaborative effort: My better half is the art director, and she completed the design and layout, including our images manipulated through PhotoShop.  I wrote the copy.

We touched upon interesting activities, trips, events and recollections from each month.   It announced the new public relations job I started, the one I lost this September  Not sure if we published future “year-in-review” communications to stuff into Christmas cards.  Possibly an abbreviated version for a year or two.  More than likely, it took up too much time at a busy time of the year.

Of course, in 1998 interactive online communication was in its relative infancy. The blogosphere might have been in existence, but I trust only true technology students — okay, the geeks — published blogs.  The term “blog” was not a common part of our daily lives.  A “blogger?”  What’s that?  After all, who would read these online chronicles and random thoughts.

The little newsletter we produced was something tangible, printed on laser paper.  But we trust most recipients discarded the piece, along with holiday cards and wrapping paper, shortly after receiving it.  It went to a few dozen family members and friends.   Some recipients commented on the content and applauded us for our creativity, for remembering what brought meaning and enjoyment to our lives.  The trips and visits, the baseball games and concerts — these events that shaped our lives are surely forgotten by those on our holiday card list.

As I write this, there are thousands of other bloggers (a term I still can’t come to terms with; subject for a future post) posting communications on important stuff happening in the world, or what took place in their immediate world.  Yet, unlike our holiday newsletter, those messages will live on for a long, long time and can be absorbed by anyone with a computer, access to the Internet and willingness to search and read comments from a stranger.

The final paragraph of that 1998 newsletter from a Chicago couple had these thoughts.  They are appropriate today, Thanksgiving Day:

“Just one more thought.  A special thanks to those who gave.  To those who offered a helping hand when there was work to do. To those who listened when we had to talk about what caused trouble that day. To those who shared when were we lacking.  To those who made us laugh when we were about to cry. Especially to those who reached within to offer something of themselves.”