Suzie Ridler authors Suzie the Foodie, which is nominated in the Food & Drink category of the 2010 Canadian Weblog Awards.
I left the world of blogging for three months last year and tried to write my foodie book and felt so lost and alone. I missed the blogging community, their feedback, support, and comfort and, yes, even the mean comments I get now and then. My blog had been about a sacred life and, well, my life just no longer felt sacred. I followed the energy and found that I wanted with all my heart to be in the kitchen and write my foodie adventures and hope that someone would care and, maybe, just maybe, pick up a wooden spoon and make something themselves. That is the power of the blogging world. Day after day, people come and see me, a woman with a disabling illness on the brink of insanity from pain and exhaustion, pick up my wooden spoon and try again. If I can do it, they must know they can do it, too.
How did you arrive at being a foodie? Is it a passion from childhood, or have you come across it more recently?
Heck no! When I left university I did not know how to boil an egg. I did not grow up on my mama's knee in the kitchen. She shooed us out of there, and I went and played outside.
Food was a complete and utter mystery to me, and I was always so picky, nothing was good enough. Once I moved out on my own and moved from Toronto to Ottawa and lived with my future husband, who accidentally poisoned me a few times with his questionable cooking techniques, I realized if I wanted to survive I had to learn how to make food.
What a learning curve! I had no TV, no cookbooks, no internet. It was horrible! I had no natural ability for it, it was all trial and error, and I started to get easy cookbooks from my family as presents. I never thought I would like doing it. I wanted to, but I had no mentor. I was alone and learned everything the hard way. The great thing is, after a while, you can figure out how to make stuff up and take risks and figure out what you like and what you will hate FOREVER! When I realized I could make everything I wanted the way I wanted, well, that was so liberating! I could not even experience that in restaurants. I was hooked. Baking came later, living on a mountain in BC with no money and no way to get to a store, I realized, if I wanted cookies, I had to make them. I had never had homemade cookies before; my mom never baked. Well, there is no comparison between store-bought and homemade. Then we got The Food Network, and I became like Neo in the Matrix, absorbing EVERYTHING, and I went from being hooked to having a lifelong addiction to making everything in my kitchen.
Are there any dishes that you have yet to prepare that you would love to try your hand at?
I have still yet to find an authentic Pad Thai recipe that I love. I have had many recommendations thanks to a recent disappointment and think it is time to make it my own way based on all the recipes people have sent me. I love doing that, studying recipes, finding the commonalities, omitting what I am wary of and adding my personal touches. I am still on the hunt for that super moist homemade macaroni and cheese recipe, but I will find it. I always like a challenge.
If you could spend a week cooking with any one chef, who would it be?
Alton Brown. He is someone who wants to know every element of food, including the chemistry, which I have a passion for. When he makes a dish, he strives for perfection and authenticity, which I love! He is willing to wait all day if it means having the perfect dish, and I can relate to that. I am not interested in fast and easy dishes if it means compromising flavour and, honestly, he is one of the coolest foodies ever!
Food can be difficult to make look good in photographs, but you take beautiful images of the food you prepare. Do you have any tips for good food photography?
Oh thank you! That is so nice. OK, the key is natural light, of which my home gets almost zilch! I snuggle my food right up against my living room window to squeeze every ray of sunlight onto that dish. Do not think it is easy for me, it is very challenging. I suggest a point and shoot camera for the kitchen photos and a DSLR for the final "money" shots. I like my photographs to be real. This is really my kitchen, and, yes, I may move a dishrag out of the way, but I leave the mess where it is. Kitchen shots are the reality of the food making process. The final photo I spend more time and energy on, shooting at many different angles (while my poor back says, "Enough already!), and I always check the white balance. If you do not know what that is, go look at videos on Youtube, there are fantastic tutorials for visual people like me who find manuals daunting.
What are your must-reads?
I know the chefs very well from the shows and from their recipes have figured out whose palettes are similar to mine and who might be best to avoid. This is not a judgment call. Different people like different food flavours. I do not have a lot of energy to waste in the kitchen, nor do I have a lot of money to risk when it comes to food. I strive for perfection every time, and so I take on recipes from people I trust and then change them mercilessly!
If you were to impart knowledge to an aspiring blogger, what would you tell them?
Be yourself. The blogging world is for real people, and people are drawn to authenticity. Do not be afraid to share your mistakes. Celebrate your disasters. Conflict is fascinating. Tell your story. Even if it is pathetic and boring, you have a story. Take that tension, the problem, the issue, and try and do something with it. My life is a constant struggle against my physical challenges, and yet I pick up my wooden spoon and create something out of nothing. What can you make? What are you drawn to? Show us. Tell us. Find your story.