Interview 2009 is a blog project organized by A Free Man (a Missouri alumnus now living in Australia). He assigned bloggers to come up with questions for other bloggers who would then post their answers on their own site. It’s a way for bloggers to get to know each other a little better. Our questions come from Alice, of 10,000 Monkeys and a Camera.
To get us started, I’ll ask a few questions for those who might be new to your blog, and then move on to talking about food. Where are you and why are you there?
Michael and I are in a town called Columbia, studying journalism at the University of Missouri.
Why do you blog?
Blogging is great for expressing a passion and building relationships with people who are passionate about the same thing. Plus, we’re journalists. We like to learn, and we feel compelled to share that information. When we find a great recipe, learn a new technique or talk to someone really interesting, we want to tell others about it.
Is this your first blog?
I had a travel blog, Cross-World Puzzle, while I was abroad in Sydney. Michael and I have both done some blogging for journalism classes, too. I did a few political posts for MyFox St. Louis and tried my hand at liveblogging during a few Missouri football games this year. Michael had a photo blog.
He Cooks, She Cooks hasn’t been around for very long. How do you imagine it might evolve over time?
We’d like to do more interviews since we have that journalism background. Also, it’s really fun to get to know people in the food world and share what we learn. The blog will also evolve at the end of the semester when Michael and I graduate. Right now neither of us has a definite plan, but we probably won’t have as much free time as we do now, and we won’t be seeing each other every night for dinner. Whatever we end up doing, we’ll still be cooking and eating, so we’ll still be posting.
Can you point us to your best post and best photo so far?
I think it was the story about James Beard Award semifinalist Mike Odette. Spending time with Mike in the kitchen was a great experience, and he is incredibly gracious. It was fun to write about him, and I think Michael did a nice job matching photos to my story. Michael also did a great audio slideshow about Mike.
One of my favorite food photos is of the goat meatball pita. Every time I see it, I want to lean into my computer screen and take a bite.
Who are your top three favorite fellow food bloggers?
The first food blog I read was Smitten Kitchen after hearing about it in an LA Times article. I loved the pictures, the recipes and the writing style. Deb also has a life I would love to lead. I actually had the pleasure of meeting her and getting career advice two years ago. It’s still my favorite blog to read word-for-word each post.
Another favorite is Not Quite Nigella, which I started reading when I was in Sydney because Lorraine does a lot of restaurant reviews. I still read it though because she has some great recipes and fun photos. Very stylish presentation.
I have to give the No. 3 spot to Bitchin Camero, which I only found a few months ago. All the recipes have huge flavors, and the best part is Mel comes up with most of them herself. She has a really great understanding of ingredients, tastes and textures. Her andouille-stuffed poblano pepper idea was just incredible. We made it here.
What is your basic philosophy of food?
Food should be an experience, and it’s best when it’s shared.
What motivates you to cook?
The fact that we’re always hungry…
Do you have a signature dish?
Not really. Our friends know we rarely make the same thing twice.
Were you an adventurous eater as a child? How do you think the food on your family’s table influenced what you eat today?
My family taught me to be a good eater. My mom cooked most nights, and my dad loved to make special meals or use up the leftovers and improvise lunch on occaasion. I grew up in Los Angeles, so I had exposure to many types of food. We traveled a lot as a family, too. Now I cook several kinds of cuisine: Latin, Indian, African, Asian, Middle Eastern…
Michael was never too picky either. He was taught: if it’s in front of you, you eat it. Now he likes most everything.
A lot of people these days grow up without knowing anything about making their own food. If a young person with no experience in the kitchen were interested in learning to cook, where do you suggest he or she should start?
Referring to my last answer, I think before you can make your own food, you have to know about ingredients and flavors and what you like. You must love food in order to properly cook it. Some people can’t imagine making their own food because they think they only like certain things (My roommate knows I’m talking about her here). Turmeric or cardamom might sound scary if you’ve never had Indian food, but once you start trying things, you open up your cooking possibilities.
Then, start by following recipes and eventually get comfortable enough to experiment. Michael thinks it’s really important to learn basic techniques first. Learn to chop an onion without cutting your finger off. Learn to roast a chicken, cook a steak, make a sauce. He’s been studying with Rouxbe videos.
I’ve been reading a lot lately about what people should (and shouldn’t) eat — and things like calories, essential fatty acids, methyl-mercury and GMOs — and I notice that Michael has been reading about the humane treatment of food animals. How much do issues like these influence your cooking?
We don’t worry much about our health when we cook because we always eat “real” food. Vegetables, grains, protein, fat. We’re not all-natural all the time, but we avoid MSG and artificial flavorings when possible. We always eat balanced meals — a little heavy on red meat sometimes, but that probably won’t change. It works for us.
We have been growing more aware of what big business meat suppliers do to their animals, and that is starting to change our buying habits. We get our meat from the Mizzou Meat Market on campus because it’s local and we’re confident the animals haven’t been mistreated. Plus, the difference is in the taste. In the poultry department, we try to buy organic/farm-raised chickens, which hopefully have better practices than producers like Tyson.
My favorite thing to cook is soup (I enjoyed reading about three soups on HCSC!) — it can come from just about any of the world’s cuisines, can be light or heavy, a side dish or a meal, spicy or plain, and can serve as comfort food, or even be medicinal. It’s also very forgiving, as exact measurements are not required. What is your favorite soup to prepare? To eat?
I don’t have a favorite, but I love to eat butternut squash soup. However, it is a pain to make…especially when you don’t have an immersion blender or a large enough food processor. (That was a messy day in the kitchen!) Michael’s favorite soup we made was a spiced red lentil soup.
Have you ever tried to grow your own food or flavors?
I had a very unsuccessful garden a few summers ago when an unidentified animal walked off with my bell pepper plant, ate the tops off my green bean plants, and destroyed my tomato plants from the bottom up.
What is the one spice you absolutely could not live without?
I love cumin and we use it all the time in Latin, Moroccan, Indian and other cuisines. But the only spice we really couldn’t cook without would probably be pepper. You can’t make anything savory without salt and pepper.
How much does the food you cook change with the seasons?
We ate a lot of soups, stews and roasts in the winter. Spring’s coming so we’re lightening up. It’s natural to want different things with the weather. Also, fresh tomatoes are just useless in January. Produce is better when you eat it in season.
What do you think is the most common misconception people have about home cooking?
That it’s difficult and not worth the time and effort. Good food is worth a little time and effort, but it often requires less than people think. There are so many easy dishes that taste better and are better for you than a frozen meal or fast food.
Imagine that a movie were made with the characters who inhabit your kitchen. What would that movie be called, and how would you cast the principal roles?
I was going to leave this question up to Michael until he cast Brad Pitt as himself. Everyone thinks Seth Rogen would do a good job portraying Michael. The deep voice, the goofiness, sometimes a little vulgar, but a good guy.
Michael suggested I be played by Jennifer Aniston. She has that strong-willed temperament and a sense of humor. Our friend Kat comes over for dinners a lot too, and she would without question be played by Mary Louise Parker. I guess the movie would be called He Cooks, She Cooks. It’s catchy enough for Hollywood and explains us well.
My daughter is a college student and loves to cook, so I asked her if she had a question for a student/food blogger and here is her response: “What do you think about the use of food as a weapon in the Cold War?” She’s currently in the throes of writing her departmental honors thesis, though, and her topic is “food as a weapon in the Cold War,” so feel free to ignore this question.
To that we say: cook love, not war.
And finally, it’s fantasy time: you get to take two trips — one international and one domestic — to your choice of the great cities of the world. You will fly in for the evening and enjoy a leisurely traditional meal of the local cuisine. What two destinations would you choose?
There are so many places we’d love to visit, but we’d have to take the domestic trip to the French Laundry in Napa Valley. It’s consistently ranked one of the best restaurants in the world.
As for the overseas dinner, Michael and I ultimately decided on visiting a ranch in South America, probably Argentina or Uruguay. After watching Anthony Bourdain’s episode about Uruguay, we almost decided to give up on all other post-grad plans and head south. Bourdain had some amazing-looking outdoor meals with ex-pats who wanted to live at a slower pace. They grilled meat over a giant fire, slow cooked some on a spit, and cooked a pumpkin underground. I’ve been to Buenos Aires a few times, and the grass-fed beef is several times better than what I’ve had in the States. I can only imagine how great that meat would be cooked on an outdoor parilla on a warm evening in the South American countryside.
That’s us. Thanks for the questions, Alice!