May 26, 2009
Meet the Food Bloggers: Orangette
Seattle's finest Molly Wizenberg gave up a doctorate to become a humble home-cooking scribe
8. Blog: Orangette
What inspires you to write a food blog?
When I started Orangette I had just decided to quit a Ph.D. in cultural anthropology and didn't know what to do with myself. The only thing I knew was that, whatever I did, it had to involve food and writing.
I come from a family of avid home cooks and have loved to write ever since I was a kid, and here I was, in my mid-twenties, at a crossroads of sorts, trying to find a way to go after what I loved. A journalist friend of mine suggested that I start a blog. He said that it would help hold me accountable to my interest in writing: it would force me to sit down and work at it, even when it felt difficult. So I started Orangette. At first I didn't know what on earth I was doing, or what on earth I was trying to do, but I just kept going, writing about food and the stories that come with it, and almost five years later, I'm still at it.
What sort of posting really gets your readers excited (good or bad)?
Well, I tend to post about home cooking, and almost every post has a recipe, and the ones that tend to get people excited are, surprisingly, the simplest. I am still getting grateful e-mails about my husband's chickpea salad, a recipe I posted over two years ago! It has only five ingredients, and it's dead simple, but for a quick, tasty lunch, it's very hard to beat. I used to worry when I posted simple recipes like that, imagining my readers chuckling under their breath or, worse yet, getting so bored that they would nod off before the end of the post. But I don't worry so much anymore. When you've got good ingredients, and when you combine them thoughtfully, you don't need to do much more. I think there are a lot of us who feel that way.
Which cookbook can you not do without and which chef is your hero/heroine?
The chefs I admire most are not necessarily the ones who do the flashiest, most innovative work, but rather the ones who are more like craftspeople, the ones who work hard to achieve a humble vision, to make simple, beautiful food without pretense.
The first person who comes to mind is Domenico DeMarco, owner of Di Fara Pizza in Brooklyn, New York. He has been standing in front of his oven for more than 40 years, making every single - uncannily delicious - pizza that he sells.
Another person who comes to mind is Jean-Pierre Xiradakis, chef-owner of La Tupina, in Bordeaux. Today, he is something of a celebrity, with his own TV show, books and whatnot, but when he first opened La Tupina, he was in his early 20s, and did everything himself. He not only stood at the hearth and cooked, but he also waited tables, seated guests, and mopped the floor. All these years later, that passion - that love, you could really say - is still obvious when you walk into La Tupina.
Share a seasonal recipe with us?
A recent favourite in our house is boiled kale with a fried egg and toast. It doesn't sound like much, but it delivers.
Tell us something about food from your part of the world?
Seattle has fantastic food. In the summer, there is a farmers' market every day of the week, and two of them are year-round, braving even the nastiest months of winter. We have so much terrific local produce: wild mushrooms, raspberries, blackberries, marionberries, huckleberries, cherries, wild watercress, hazelnuts, all kinds of things. And, of course, being on the water, we have great seafood. This is a big salmon town.
What would you eat for your last supper?
Oh, that's tough. Maybe a cheese pizza from Di Fara, and then a scoop of black raspberry chip ice cream from Graeter's (an ice-cream company in Cincinnati, Ohio). That combination would be hard to beat.
Which other food blogs do you read regularly?
The Wednesday Chef is always a favorite. Luisa Weiss, who writes it, has a warm, smart voice and a great eye for recipes.