A packed house of mostly ladies (and some gents) awaited the arrival of Deb Perelman, the beloved blogger from NYC behind the successful, prolific, best-friend-in-your-kitchen food blog, Smitten Kitchen. Deb was on a North American book tour to promote her very first cookbook, appropriately titled, Smitten Kitchen, when she stopped in Toronto for a Q&A and book signing for her fans. The Cookbook Store arranged the event and at first wanted to have it at the store (a small wine and cheese/cocktail thing) but soon realized that they needed a bigger space once Deb’s legion of fans began ringing them up wanting to come. The event grew and grew and here we all were at a large lecture hall at George Brown College’s Culinary School. By the way, the owner of the Cookbook Store said that Smitten Kitchen fans are the best fans she’s encountered in the 30-year history of the store.
As the event began, there was Deb waiting in the wings, getting ready to walk into the room and chat with us about her book and life and of course, her blog. I’ve been reading her blog every week for four years now. I realized how excited I was to hear her talk. She was just like I always imagined her to be (as far as I ccould see from her body language as she waited in the shadows about 50 feet away from me). I actually wanted to call over, “Hey you! It’s Ania! So good to see you!” Her blog is that genuinely friendly that you just think you’re friends with her (and she would think you are a stalker).
So, yes, she’s super friendly but why all the fuss about Smitten Kitchen? Deb’s been blogging trusted recipes and scrumptious photos on her blog Smitten Kitchen since 2006. She doesn’t do fussy dishes with pretentious ingredients. Deb told the crowd that night, “A good recipe can make any ingredient good.” She does uncontrived, honest food prepared attentively and with care. You know when you make a recipe from Smitten Kitchen that it will work.
So now Smitten Kitchen is a proper cookbook but the blog is still down-to-earth and of course, so is Deb. The cookbook has everything that Deb’s readers love about her blog - her chattiness, the never-fail and inspiring but totally doable recipes, and the yummy photos - but now there’s a whole slew of new recipes for food fans to dive right into. Deb said that majority of the 100+ recipes in her book were written (and tested and tested again) exclusively for this book. Deb likes to shop at her local farmers market and you can tell from some of the dishes she blogs about that she is buying fruit and vegetables at their seasonal peak. Her recipes are seasonal, but not militantly so. When she was writing this cookbook, she wanted to make sure that “it had legs.” That there is seasonality to the recipes but you don’t have to worry about not being able to cook something no matter what time of year the mood strikes.
After Deb chatted about how the blog and her cookbook came to be, the second half of the evening was about answering questions from her fans. What will she be cooking for the holidays? A dish from her book of course: Deb recommends the wild rice gratin with kale and onions recipe. She said it’s a great, savoury side dish (and also makes a great vegetarian main dish) and that it’s the ‘best thing in the book.’ However, it’s not the prettiest but don’t hold that against it. Another fan asked her how she maintained her joy of cooking. Even Deb admits that it’s fine to take a break if you’re feeling the drudgery. “Egg noodles are totally fine for dinner.” Deb offered advice on staying sane during hosting a dinner party (“don’t make everything from scratch”) and professed that she loved baking and cooking equally but that ‘baking provides you with favors because people will then do things for you.’
The night ended with Deb signing her cookbook for fans and meeting and chatting with them and patiently taking photos with everyone. Everyone there was happy for Deb’s success. I know I am. It couldn’t have happened to a nicer person.
Ania Krysa is a digital project manager at Shaw Media. When she’s not taking care of business at Shaw, she loves to share the inspiration behind what she cooks at home on her blog, Food Anthology.
by Ania Krysa