I love cookbooks and I'm so excited to have Author, Blogger, Food Extraordinaire; Vanessa Barrington with us today! Check out her video and interview... One lucky reader will get a copy of her book soon! If you want to enter, just leave a comment below telling me why you want this book! You can enter as many times as you want... Vanessa will have Chronicle ship a book to our winner! The contest will be up for one week! We will announce our winner next Friday!
Here's a little more about Vanessa and her story!
Tell us a little about yourself and what you do!
I’m a freelance writer and blogger. I write a column called The Green Plate for Ecosalon.com, I also contribute to Civileats.com, and my local news source, Oaklandlocal.com. DIY Delicious was my first solo cookbook, but I co-authored Heirloom Beans and worked on both The Jimtown Store Cookbook and Fish Forever by Paul Johnson. Currently I consult with a variety of different sustainable food companies through HavenBMedia. We do communications and media relations at the intersection of food, environment, and community.
It seems you have had a lot of really cool jobs, can you tell us about them and how you got into what you are doing now?
The restaurant business has really given me so much. I started out waiting tables to put myself through college, but you see, I was a very reluctant business major. I realized I just loved food. I worked my way through every job you can do in a restaurant and then into catering. At some point along the way my gastronomic interest in food shifted to become an interest in how and by whom the food was grown and produced. At some point, fancy, trendy food just didn’t taste good anymore. It had to be seasonal, as local as possible, made or grown by real people nearby, fair to animals and workers, and not too fussy. It had to be real. That mindset is what led me both to working in sustainable food communications and to writing DIY Delicious and for the outlets I do.
What will we find in your book DIY Delicious?
You’ll find a variety of fun kitchen projects that can provide you with the building blocks for a well-stocked, eco-friendly kitchen. You’ll learn how to ferment sauerkraut, brew sodas, grow sourdough, culture all kinds of dairy products, and make everything from pickles to whole wheat tortillas to mustard. Processes are streamlined. Direction is clear and there are plenty of process photos to show you how it’s done. The book will help you use the products you make to put together quick, simple, healthy meals. You’ll learn how to use what you have on hand and not waste food. You’ll become more self-reliant and your confidence in the kitchen will increase. You’ll also learn a little about kitchen science, healthy eating, and sustainability. But most of all, I hope you’ll have fun!
How did you come to write this book?
It all started with a desire to make my own yogurt so I could stop buying so much plastic. But I’m a hacker and didn’t want to buy a special yogurt maker. I figured out how to do it without one. Then I got curious about learning how to make other things, like mustard, and tortillas, and cheese, and butter. So I started playing around. Over time all those projects took shape into a book, which I pitched to Chronicle Books. I’m so happy they liked the idea because they make such beautiful books.
It seems you are very fervent about food? Tell us about your passions!
My passion is really fresh, seasonal produce. Everything builds from there. I start with whatever I find at the farmer’s market and cook from there. I don’t eat tomatoes until they are peak. Ditto with peaches and strawberries. I eat a lot of kale and beets in the winter. It may sound constricting but as the seasons change, there’s always something new to be excited about. Right now, I’ve been eating a lot of artichokes and asparagus! I’m holding out until the strawberries are local, organic, and at their peak.
What’s one of your favorite things to make?
That depends on the season of course. And I don’t generally cook very complicated food. I like it simple, local, flavorful, and mostly vegetarian. I eat a lot of pasta and brown rice with whatever mélange of roasted or sauteed vegetables are in season. I love pasture raised local eggs. They taste so much better than the ones from the grocery store. I make omelets and frittatas with seasonal vegetables and local cheeses. I love to make authentic Mexican food like chili verde, chilaquiles, really good salsas, and tacos.
Any advice on doing DIY projects?
Don’t try to make everything at once. You might get discouraged. Start slowly with the things you’re most interested in and just have a good time. Don’t feel like you have to make everything from scratch. And also, trust yourself. Cooking is not an exact science. There are so many variables. So learn to trust your sense of smell, taste, and sight. From there you’ll start experimenting with your own recipes.
What’s next for you?
I’m playing around with another book idea that involves travel. Shhhh.
I also plan to continue to work on communicating to people about issues in the food system. I hope to inspire more people to be conscious eaters who think about animal welfare, sustainable agriculture, farmworker labor, and the struggles that farmers face. I want people to buy food based on a variety of considerations that go beyond taste or even “local”.
If you'd like to go ahead and order your copy, just click on the Chronicle's Books link to the right for 30% off your purchase!