Wednesday, June 20, 2012

MM Interview: Fat Girl Kitchen

I am really excited to introduce to you to Jenapher, from Fat Girl Kitchen.  I met her on Facebook through a mutual friend and I just adore her blog. She is laugh-out-loud, entertaining and the girl knows how to cook and write!  I asked her to be apart of a series of interviews I plan on posting this year and she graciously agreed to be my first!  Aside from writing her "crack me up" blog, she self-published her very own cookbook, which is available to purchase!

Question - What do you get when you combine 4 cups of the efficient semi-homemade styling of Sandra Lee, 3 helpings of the artery clogging, butter drenched, down-home cooking of Paula Deen, 2 pounds of the Mr. Wizard-esque geekiness of Alton Brown, 1/4 tbsp of the inspirational insight of Oprah Winfrey, and a dash of Seinfeld-like social commentary?

Answer - You get Fat Girl Food.

My mom is Hispanic and my dad is Yugoslavian/Danish, so clearly I grew up in a home with a deep love of food, broad cultural roots and I first learned to cook at my mom’s elbow. I grew up in the lazy/privileged/instant-gratification generation, so college was a great opportunity for me to really develop my own unique culinary skills - and by that, I mean figure out how to make food that tastes great, doesn't break the bank, comes together quickly, and stores well.

Then I ran across an episode of Alton Brown’s Good Eats and my life changed. Alton intended Good Eats to be part Julia Child, part Monty Python, and part Mr. Wizard. I grew up on all those shows, and for the first time I started learning about the science behind the food I loved to make and had been cooking all my life.

Something else that’s been going on my whole life is my weight. Though I have pictures of me as a skinny little girl, in living memory I’ve always been the size I am - which is supersized. I spent a long time hating everything about myself. Then I was lucky enough to have a best friend (Marty) and to fall in love with my amazing husband who taught me that, while I’m not perfect, I’m pretty flippin’ awesome. Most importantly, they taught me that I’m worthy of love.

What inspired Fat Girl Kitchen? Well, for years, friends and family had told me that I needed to write a cookbook, but I always felt that cooking was more of a ‘hobby’ for me, you know? People asked for my recipes often enough, at parties/potlucks/etc, that if I brought a dish I almost always brought 7-10 recipe cards printed out.  

Fat Hubby, though, is the single biggest reason that we published Fat Girl Food. Originally, it was just intended to be a Christmas gift for friends and family. As we were editing it, though, and received critical reviews of individual recipes from friends & family, Ryan kept saying, “We need to sell this. This is an awesome book. Jena, I don’t even like to cook, and not only do I enjoy reading this book, I feel it’s made me a better cook".

We looked into submitting it to publishing houses, but the terms were not enticing– no creative control, no input on marketing, no nothing, & maybe a $0.10-0.20 royalty on each book. Fat Hubby and I run a print shop (it’s our day job), Ryan has 15 years’ experience in marketing (especially in online marketing), I do basic graphic design, and it just seemed silly to outsource/give up control over all of that. So we did it ourselves, and I’m SO glad we did!

What are some of your favorite cookbooks? I love, love, LOVE Alton Brown’s I’m Just Here for the Food: Food + Heat = Cooking. His cookbook is the only that included ‘handwritten’ notes from the author in the margins. I loved that concept so much, I used it in Fat Girl Food. I’m not stingy; I’ll give props where props are due.

I also love the Southern Living Cookbook, that’s my cold-rainy-day-cuddle-up cookbook, without a doubt. Not a go-to source for diet food but a great resource for classic comfort food.

Even though it’s not technically a cookbook, I adore Alton Brown’s Gear for Your Kitchen. I haven’t always had the beautiful, big kitchen I have now, and Alton gives lots of great pointers about how to make any kitchen of any size work for you.

I also just got Paula Deen’s Southern Cooking Bible and while I’m only a few pages into it, I can just tell I’m gonna love it, too. It’s not that much of a stretch, you know? We have culinary minds (and tummies) of a similar bent.
Got any favorite cooking shows? If you only ever watch one cooking show, every episode of every season, watch Alton Brown’s Good Eats. Most other shows are just video recipe cards – not so with Good Eats. If you watch it, not only will you have fun whether you want to or not, there is no way you will not become a better cook. Alton is really good at explaining the science of cooking in an easy-to-understand way, and is a master at explaining how THIS science relates to THAT science, and why this process is good for these types of foods, etc. Plus, he’s geeky – and I’m always down with that!

If you knew tomorrow was your last day on earth, what would your last three meals be? That entirely depends on if I have to cook or not. I love cooking, but (especially being 6 months pregnant) it really takes it out of me. But, assuming someone else is cooking for me on my last day, I’d want a mess of my mama’s pan fried chicken, some Welfare Casserole, a plain hot dog, some sliced cucumbers and cauliflower florets dipped in my Semi-Homemade Ranch, a big bowl of Schwann’s Sweet-n-Salty Ice Cream, and a hunk of bone marrow. No "meals", just let me graze all day long.

Top three favorite restaurants?  Wicked Spoon at the Cosmopolitan (Las Vegas, NV). All-you-can-eat 5 star dining for $30? How could I NOT?

Culinary Dropouts (Scottsdale, AZ). An eclectic, funky, indy-coffeehouse vibe with food that is mouth-slappingly innovative AND foodgasmically delicious? Worth the drive, every time.

Claim Jumper. I know, “Gasp – a chain?” I’ve got two words for you, my friend –Brontosaurus Ribs. I think they call them ‘beef’ ribs, but when they bring out that huge platter of yard-long ribs, TELL me you don’t immediately think of when Fred Flintstone gets his car flipped by the poor placement of dino ribs. SOLD!

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