I have been following several food writers for years, many of them via their food blogs or books (or both). People who say blogs are killing books or newspapers are silly. Blogs aren’t killing anything. Lack of high-quality, relevant content are. I have purchased – paid cash money – for at least 6 books in the past few years from authors I first discovered through their blog, and half of those are cookbooks. This isn’t counting probably 15 more books I’ve purchased on the recommendation of bloggers I trust.
One of those three cookbooks is Gluten-Free Girl: How I Found the Food That Loves Me Back…And How You Can Too by Shauna James Ahern. I’ve been reading Shauna’s blog since a few months after she started writing in 2005. I was drawn to the site because of her gorgeous photos and lyrical writing style. She came across as an incredibly positive person, and I enjoyed her posts on a consistent basis.
I was drawn further into the content of her site because eating and cooking with whole, natural foods was something that was just then becoming important to me. I don’t have celiac disease or any other food allergies, but it didn’t stop me from enjoying her posts. It was just delicious food.
One recipe really struck my fancy, and making it has become an annual tradition for me. I have a few things I only make once or twice a year, and Shauna’s recipe for plum crumble is one of them. The original recipe is here. She wrote a retrospective of sorts in praise of plums here, and I even commented on that post about how much I loved her plum crumble.
Fast forward to 2007. I’m living in New York, Brooklyn to be precise, and a sparkly new Whole Foods has opened not too far from me in lower Manhattan. Not only that, but they have a shiny, gleaming kitchen where they host classes and cookbook signings. I had already purchased Shauna’s cookbook by the time I got the email announcement about the gluten-free cooking class and book signing her and her husband were doing. But I signed up anyway, because I wanted to meet her and see how she cooked.
It was a great time. I forget now what we learned to make, and since I can’t find the pictures, I may not recall in time to include it in this post. But it was delicious. I remember so many people at the class were ones who had just recently found out that they, or someone they loved, had celiac. Everyone was so earnest with their questions. It struck me even more then just how much a difference the quality of our food makes in the rest of our lives, and how writing about food and cooking together can be an educational, transformative experience.
It cemented my resolve to pursue my writing project. I told Shauna about the concept for Mouth of the Border that night, and she said that it sounded like something she couldn’t wait to read. Between her encouragement, and that of Matt Amendariz (who I met at another class at the same Whole Foods, this one on food photography), I knew I had something special.
But speaking of something special, let’s get back to that crumble (slideshow of my 2006 rendition of the plum dessert below).Vodpod videos no longer available.
When Shauna started using Twitter a few months back, I followed her, so I saw her tweet about needing helpers to test recipes for the cookbook she’s working on with her husband. I IMMEDIATELY emailed her, volunteering to help out however I could. She said she’d get back to all of us when the first batch of recipes were ready for testing.
Then a couple of things happened.
My friend Adam launched a blog with two of his friends, one of them a mutual friend named Emily Farris. Emily’s cookbook, Casserole Crazy is another one of the three cookbooks I bought specifically because of a blog/website. The blog they started together is called Fifty Bucks a Week, and it explores adventures in keeping their food costs under budget.
I was friends with Emily through Twitter and through Adam, but had never met her in real life before she moved from Brooklyn to Kansas City. So when she wrote that she was coming to visit New York, I told her I’d be happy to have her over for dinner and help keep her under budget while on her trip here.
A day after Emily accepted my dinner invitation, I got an email from Shauna saying they had recipes ready to be tested. On the list were a Blackberry Peach crumble recipe and a dish of beef tenderloin with balsamic onions. Remembering the amazing plum crumble, I snapped up this crumble recipe right away. I also thought the tenderloin would be a nice treat for Emily since that sort of dish would be outside the scope of her $50/week budget.
I can’t share the recipes with you here and now. They’re original recipes created by Shauna and Daniel (her husband, who is also a chef). But the good thing is you’ll be some of the first to know when they’re available in cookbook format because I’ll tell you so. You can see the pictures of the two dishes by clicking through to my photo set on Flickr below.Vodpod videos no longer available.
The dishes both came out delectable. Homey, satisfying and special enough to make you feel loved and cared for. The fancypants feel of the beef tenderloin with balsamic onions was balanced by the relative ease of nearly foolproof summer fruit cobbler. Emily and I both loved the food, and would barely change a thing.
For me, the moral of the story is that social media combined with my love of whole, tasty, natural food brought two women I admire close to me. Through Shauna and Emily’s websites, I discovered them and then bought their cookbooks. But it was the immediacy and “ambient awareness” of Twitter that brought the three of us together again as adventurers in food.
Wonders never cease.