Meeting Deb Perelman, aka Smitten Kitchen

On Thursday I had the pleasure of meeting Deb Perelman, writer of the food blog Smitten Kitchen. It’s one of my favorite food blogs, and the one I’ve followed most consistently over the years. Her recipes are spot-on. There’s no other way to describe them. I consider them the best of the best. If I’m ever uncertain about where to look for a recipe, I go to Smitten Kitchen. For something like pie crust, or  mac and cheese, she has the best recipes. They work flawlessly and there’s never anything stale about them. You can tell that she’s passionate about good tasting food.

Another thing I love about Deb is that her recipes are exciting. They’re consistent and they’re standbys, but they’re also experimental at times. Like this bacon, egg and leek breakfast risotto, banana bread crepe cake with butterscotch or these whole wheat raspberry ricotta scones. I could go on…

When I heard that a Smitten Kitchen cookbook was coming out I was overjoyed. It’s nice to be able to find her recipes with a few keystrokes, but there’s something about pulling a cookbook from a bookshelf that makes cooking more of an experience. To promote the Smitten Kitchen Cookbook, Deb has been traveling the west coast on a book tour.

I initially learned that Deb would be in Seattle at Book Larder in Fremont on Wednesday. Being a ticketed event, it was sold out by the time I heard about it. Their website explained that the store would open for additional guests for a book signing after the event. I planned to go, but ended up choosing not to. I was skeptical about waiting in line, and was sad I wouldn’t be able to hear her speak. At the last minute, I found out that an additional book tour stop had been added at the University Bookstore for the following morning.

On Thursday morning I was excited to get to the event. Stacks of the cookbook sat near the registers at the bookstore. After buying my copy, I headed up the stairs to the event area. It was packed! For such a last minute event, I was happy to see it busy. The University Bookstore staff arranged a table of coffee and breakfast items from recipes in the book. I got a few things and waited for the talk to start.

When Deb got there the Q&A started! She answered questions about her cooking style, inspiration, and things like how to best utilize a small kitchen.

On her inspiration for the site she said,

“I’ve always liked to cook and I’ve always liked to tinker and fiddle, but I didn’t get very serious about it. I think like a lot of young people I liked to bake and do things that won favors and influenced people, which baking has a tendency to do.

But I didn’t get much more serious about cooking until I was an adult, and I, like many adults got tired of eating out all the time, or just ordering food in, or just throwing together a grilled cheese sandwich. And that was when I kind of really kind of tapped into this excitement I always had about cooking, and sort of fussing, and I remember when I started, very early on, realizing that as somebody who loved to cook and knew how I liked food I felt frustrated that I didn’t have these go-to recipes for things.

Let’s say you’re like, man I could really go for some whole wheat pancakes today. But does anyone ever say that? They’re like, no, I could really go for some creme brulee french toast today. And then to not even know how to make it, and then to have to go through this roulette where you Google, and then you’re like, well, that might work. And then you make it, and it takes an hour, and the recipe’s okay. And it’s not great, and you’ve just wasted your time, and your energy and your money on this roulette and I didn’t want to do that. I wanted to create a space where hopefully things could be your go-to recipe for things, or at least my go-to recipes.”

After the Q&A we had the chance to have our books signed by Deb. She was so warm and nice to talk to. I mentioned I’d been a reader for years, and told her how much I love the site. I also let her know that I had made her pancetta, white bean and chard pot pies the night before. To make them vegetarian I used Morning Star veggie bacon in place of the pancetta. It was so much fun to talk with Deb herself about it.

Seeing Deb talk and meeting her was an amazing experience. It’s so rare that we get the opportunity to meet people that have inspired us.


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