RENDER

feminist food + culture zine

Geeking Out at LA Cookie Con

Feminism, FoodAllison Sidhu

The LA Cookie Con and Sweets Show is an annual convention that celebrates all types of baking, pastry and confections. The West Coast's biggest gathering of its kind, the event features cooking and decorating demos, expert talks, and celebrity presentations and book signings, alongside booths showcasing the wares of hundreds of dessert vendors. RENDER Editor-in-Chief Allison Sidhu attended this year - check out her account of the sweet experience below! 

One of the coolest things about the second annual Los Angeles Cookie Con was this: it was dominated by women.

This may come as no surprise, but women-run businesses in the food industry are alive and well, on the rise, and here to stay in LA.

From orange spice cookies and purple yam macarons to dark chocolate toffee and spicy mango spun sugar, desserts of all types were featured at the conference, representing a diverse array of cuisines and cultures.

Alongside the many vendors’ booths, the two-day event also featured demonstrations, lectures, and celebrity appearances. Upon seeing the schedule a few weeks before the day that I would be attending, I knew who I wanted to see immediately: Rosanna Pansino.

Scoping out the seating area in front of the main stage about an hour before the appointed time, I distractedly watched a cake decorating demo with one eye, with my other eye on the clock. I quickly came to realize that nearly all of the seats were already filled, not by an eager audience of fondant fans (though there certainly was some overlap in the interests of the audience members from one scheduled event to the next), but rather, mostly by girls under the age of thirteen, ready to see the star and host of Nerdy Nummies in person.

For some, this was a public show of super fandom – many arrived with Pansino’s cookbook in hand, wearing Nerdy Nummies t-shirts made specially (or laundered carefully) for the occasion. Cheers and clapping from other audience members were nearly drowned out by the shrill squeals of glee and delight that poured forth from the mouths of these avid followers (and subscribers) as Rosanna took the stage.

The 4-foot-10, 30-year-old star has over 5 million subscribed viewers on YouTube, and over 1 billion total views.

If you haven’t already, I definitely recommend that you check out her channel right away. Weekly videos combine baking expertise with an eye for kawaii detail, and a passion for sci fi and video game culture, particularly Star Trek: Voyager.

The biggest takeaway from Pansino’s talk? Just do you. This particular portion was inspiring, to say the least, as she advised fans and audience members to be themselves, and live their passions.

Rather than wondering how to get started as a vlogger, she told us to just get out there and do it. To give an example of this from her own life, she told us a story: instead of caving to a manager’s advice to scrap the Star Trek themed videos from her show (due to a lower than usual view count), she stuck to her guns and continued producing the pieces that she wanted to make. Pansino also advocated for work-life balance in her talk, explaining that she spends an average of 70 hours a week making content for her YouTube channel, and that she rarely leaves the house as a result.

Some of my haul, after a day at LA Cookie Con.

Some of my haul, after a day at LA Cookie Con.

Pansino has an insatiable sweet tooth, and she tests and re-tests her baked goods until they are perfect (particularly a chocolate chip cookie recipe that she put together for her cookbook, which she said she continued to work at for a year, until she got it just right). Her family members are part of her team, in terms of product testing as well as everyday logistics and support. And it’s clear that she comes from a close-knit family—her sister and other loved ones are frequently featured in her videos. Despite a jam-packed schedule, Pansino seems to truly be doing what she loves.

In terms of the greatest challenge that the Nerdy Nummies host has encountered thus far in her career, she explained that she is dyslexic, and thus often finds long and complicated recipes particularly difficult to follow. As a result, she put together a cookbook with a presentation style that she would like to use herself, and that she felt would appeal to readers of all ages and levels of expertise.

Carefully coiffed and styled both in person and in her videos, Pansino is still real, and still figuring out how to navigate the world of 30-something adulthood (paired with the gaggles of 12-year-old girls that are seemingly trailing her these days wherever she goes). I can’t remember the exact context now that a little over a week has gone by, but in a particularly adorable and just naturally human moment (which I’m sure completely went over the heads of most audience members), a curse word was picked up by the microphone, only to be followed by a quick cover-up of “Oh, shoot! I meant shoot!” and brief (but palpable) embarrassment. I gotta say it – this made me love her even more. To anyone who has spent any significant amount of time in the kitchen (or in front of the camera), there’s gotta be a little swearing and venting, and a few honest moments, at least once in awhile.

Though I wanted nothing more than to ask Rosanna a question (despite my fear of speaking into a microphone to a crowd, which I usually manage to overcome), I chose not to put my hand up when we reached the Q&A portion of her talk, and here’s why: I didn’t want to steal that moment from any of the girls in the audience.

Not only were they fans, they were inspired by the presence of a true role model, and waited with eager excitement to ask their questions about whether Rosanna hoped to run a bakery of her own someday. You could practically see the wheels turning inside their heads, imagining their own future bakeries, down to the finest detail.

It’s true that at least one girl clammed up and proved unable to ask her question (like I said, can’t blame her there), but others asked about the video making process, her favorite recipe, and what she would be baking for her boyfriend on Valentine’s Day (a pizza, with heart-shaped pepperoni).

As for the topic of feminism, I didn’t get to ask Pansino whether she would describe herself as a feminist chef, but I look forward to doing so if I get the chance to conduct a one-on-one interview with the Youtube star and best-selling author someday in the future. We’re both based in LA… fingers crossed that she can squeeze me into her busy schedule!

As a loving sister and role model to little girls everywhere who daydream about cupcakes and cookies, and who hold these loves in their hearts right alongside Princess Peach and Zelda, I’m inclined to say Pansino is a Foodie Feminist with two capital F’s.