So here I go. It’s long. You’ve been warned.
What or who inspired you to start a blog?
This isn’t my first blog. I started writing my first official blog in 2007 when I studied abroad in Cannes. Later, I expanded to a different blog about traveling. Both of these blogs were to allow people to stay in touch with me, and
quite frankly weren’t that interesting for the average reader. In addition, I often found the blog themes to be limited – what I wanted to write didn’t fit -and I always felt that I would be better suited for a blog that didn’t have so many restrictions. I don’t know why exactly I started this blog, other than the fact that I wanted a space to put my thoughts that wasn’t attached to any one idea or to any other website. I wanted my own space in the Interwebs universe. I realized pretty quickly that I wanted to be writing about me, but I also wanted it to be beyond that; I wanted people to be entertained by it as well. I realized that no one had any interest in what I ate that day, where I went and who I talked to - they wanted a story, entertainment or a unique insight. And in fact, I found that kind of
writing to be more profound in helping me process the challenges in my own life. It’s still all about me.
Who is your foodie inspiration?
If I were going to pick someone that feels more accessible (but let’s face it, she’s still totally big time) I’d have to say Joy the Baker. If you’re into food and you haven’t read her, you’re missing out. There have been so many good things written about her unique voice, cozy photos and delightfully fresh ideas that you could probably write a book just about that. But the thing that I love about Joy the most is that she knows exactly who she is as a blogger. When you pop onto Joy’s site, you know how it’s going to feel and you know how it’s going to look. It’s almost like you’re in her apartment, sitting at her kitchen table, eating cupcakes and drinking tea. The cat is sitting next to you and after you walk along the beach, you and Joy are probably going to have bourbon and eat more cake. It’s that kind of good. I guess you could say that Joy has branded herself excellently and I’m inspired to reach that level of expertise in translating who I am not only on the page, but also on the rest of the site in my photography and web design. I’m complicated (who isn’t?) but I’d love to get to a place where I was self-aware
enough to effortlessly convey the things that I really love, too.
As for my foodie “mountaintop,” I couldn’t possibly love anyone the way I love Jacques Pépin. He makes excellence look effortless. He never, ever sacrifices the quality of food for speed or gimmicks and his knife skills are the most beautiful thing to behold. He’s classic and I love him.
Eric“the Ripper” Ripert because he’s working on throwing out the old convention that working in a kitchen mean you need to bring people down. And he’s fabulously French (do you see how not jaded I am about this, even after all my French strife?). Martha Stewart and Ina Garten for supporting the idea that eating and living wonderfully need not be for the most elite among us. I also love how authentic they are and how they never apologize for it. And of course, my one and only, Anthony Bourdain. I could go on and on about the way I respect and admire Tony. But mainly it’s because he’s a traveler with a conscience and one hell of a writer.
Your greasiest, batter-spattered food book is…
Nonexistent! I get most of my recipes from the internet and then compile them in a binder. If I’m looking for a recipe, I always check if Ina Garten has made it. She’s my go-to maven.
Tell us all about the best thing you have ever eaten in another country, where was it…what was it?
This is a toughie. This blog is not just about food, but also about the places that I’m traveling to, and to be honest, I’ve gotten to travel to many many wonderful, exotic and unique locales. I am fully aware of this extraordinary good fortune and the way it has change my life and allowed me to evolve as a person.
I couldn’t possibly fit it to just one meal. So let me give you a couple of distinct highlights (in no particular order):
Provence, France: During the spring of 2007, while I was studying in Cannes, my parents and I decided to spend my Spring Break traveling to Cinque Terre and Provence. By some strange bout of adventurousness (or insanity) we decided to make all of our hotel bookings on whim. We would be free as birds…. ahem. Or something. While I won’t go into the arguments for or against this traveling technique (or the challenges Ifaced at being the only one who spoke the language in rural France) we did end up in a few completely lovely and quaint corners of Provence. One such corner was a small restaurant with just a few tables inside. There was a roaring fireplace in the “dining room,” the husband was the front of the house, the wife, the chef. The menu was a prix fixe and limited. There are many things about that trip which fade into my memory, but I’ll never forget the wonderful, Provençal specialty soupe au pistou. It’s a warm vegetable soup with a dollop of provincial pesto to round out the flavors. Divinity. A specialty. Made in the region of its origin by an unknown French woman. The best.
Turkey: Chef Mustafa. The power went out. We feasted. It was exactly as it was meant to be, a perfect moment in time.
I certainly hope you go to Southeast Asia some day and when you do, I hope you go to Thailand. You probably will. And when you’re there, you are going to see street vendors on the side of the road. They’ll have big, boiling pots of broth, noodles, meats and varying light greens as accoutrement. Eat there. Please. Go up to the woman, pick the type of each thing you want, watch her throw it into the boiling pot and right into the plastic bowl sitting next to her. She’ll give you utensils. Sit on the tiny plastic stools next to the other people who are eating on the side of the road. It doesn’t matter that it’s 85 degrees and 70% humidity. This soup is special. It’s delicious. It’s what people eat and you’ll never forget it.
What is the one kitchen gadget you would ask Santa for this year (money no object, of course):
Gosh, I don’t know. A Cuisinart stand mixer would be interesting, but I kind of enjoy my hand mixer for most of the things I make. I’m not big on gadgets, but I’d love to start working with gum paste and fondant, so maybe tools for that.
Who taught you how to cook?
I’ve watched my mom cook forever. She taught me how to bake cookies and I owe my perfectionist tendencies
for measuring to her. She also taught me the importance of technique. In baking, it’s only worth the time, money, calories and energy if it’s going to be good. Why settle for less than your personal best?
My Aunt Zana taught me how to pipe frosting. Every year we have a lamb cake for Easter. It is a 3D lamb, ornately
decorated in various colors of piped icing. It’s a long and tedious process that culminates in a tradition that makes us all smile. My Aunt has passed down the tradition of making and piping the cake to both my brother, the Scientist, and I. She taught me how to hold the bag, how to apply pressure, how to use color gels. But mostly she taught me to love and value the aesthetic of the food you make. Making things beautiful can be underrated in a time where speed is king. But life is short and it’s nice to put care into these things.
Finally, the Bee. My mom’s BFF. For all the recipe following and perfectionist traits I have, the Bee has taught me the value in trusting one’s instincts in the kitchen. She makes sauces and vinaigrettes fearlessly and always with most wonderful results. She trusts her gut and anyone who’s ever tried to learn to cook knows that it’s the most important quality to becoming a great cook.
I’m coming to your house for dinner. What’s your signature dish?
I don’t have a house. Or a signature dish. So this question is entirely theoretical. It depends on the season, but I’d probably make beef stew and mashed potatoes. They’re hearty and delicious and something that I wouldn’t have to fuss over, which is important, because I’d much rather be having a cocktail with you, than slaving over the stove. I
might also make Salmon Salade Niçoise by Ina Garten because it’s so so good.
What is your guilty food pleasure?
No guilt. But I do love me some Queso Nacho cheese sauce. How delightfully gross is that?
Reveal something about yourself that others would be surprised to learn.
Most people are surprised to learn that I’m allergic to avocado. Mainly because avocado seems like the most benign food in the world. I developed the allergy in college and haven’t eaten any (not even guacamole with lime and salt tortilla chips from Chipotle, which may be the best thing in the world) since at least 2008. Maybe even longer. It’s a sad existence I lead.
So there you have it. I’ve never done this before, though I kind of feel like I’ve missed the point and not tagged enough people who are actually on the Internet.
So now I’m supposed to tag people:
I’m going to tag Emiglia, my dear friend and food writer (for realsies) who hangs her hat at Tomato Kumato. I hope she does it because she’s so freakin’smart and interesting.
My darling Kelly at Unenthused and Unemployed in Orange County, because she’s so damn funny, it makes me want to kick in the air just thinking about her. *kick*
Stacy at The Sleepy Peach. Stacy is a beautiful writer who, I believe, is writing one of the great blogs about the challenges and triumphs of our generation. She’s a real writer.