In 2007, while visiting my friend Mav, she suggested that I start a blog. “What would I blog about?” I questioned. “Food, of course” she replied. Before I left the comfort of her Maine apartment, the name Whipped had popped into my head and I had begun searching the blogosphere to get my feet wet.
I clicked here and there, drawn in by photos, personable voices and recipes. So many delectable recipes. Some of my early favorites and regular reads were Pinch My Salt, Orangette, and The Wednesday Chef. It was such a new phenomenon to form a relationship with someone you never met. Sometimes e-mails were exchanged, we added links to each other’s sites and occasionally I wondered if we would ever meet in person.
I’ve always had a particular affinity for Luisa who writes the blog The Wednesday Chef. As her many followers agree, Luisa’s honest, conversational voice is easy to read. She has a way of expressing and exploring her vulnerabilities that contradictorily leads you to admire her strength. There are some similarities in our lives that always led me to believe we were kindred spirits.
For the past months, I have anxiously awaited Luisa’s new book, My Berlin Kitchen. I was fortunate to receive an advance copy. For a week, I was short on sleep, staying up late to fit in just one or two more chapters.
In her new memoir, Luisa’s approachable style is intact but I think that her writing is even better. She guides us through the chapters of her life, sharing an unusual multi-cultural childhood and the story of a heart-swelling romance. In between, you’ll find heartache, triumph, sadness and discovery. At the end of each chapter, Luisa treats the reader to a recipe that is closely tied to the writing.
Truly, I can’t remember a book that I’ve read in recent years that gave me such warm feelings. Somehow, her stories make you feel hopeful and positive about the human condition, even with its hurdles and heartache. I wrote to Luisa to congratulate her and share my excitement about her book. She was gracious enough to entertain some of my interview questions:
Breakfast is my favorite meal of the day. In your book, you don’t talk much about your breakfast preferences. Does it change depending on what country you are in?
It does change! When I’m in the States, I eat cereal, because no one does cereal better than Americans do. Grape Nuts, Cheerios, Autumn Harvest, oh man, I love a good bowl of cold cereal. It’s one of the things I miss the most, foodwise, about living in the US. In Italy, I follow my mother’s lead and eat cookies for breakfast, dipped in my hot cup of tea. I don’t love cookies for breakfast – I can never shake the niggling feeling that I’ve started the day off on the wrong foot, but it’s only a few times a year, so I try to live a little. In Germany, it’s a few slices of dark, seeded bread with butter and honey or jam. And a bowl of nice, sour yogurt. Delicious.
Which cooking tool do you have the biggest love affair with? You know, the one that feels almost sensual in your hands, the one with which you couldn’t barely live without.
I edited a few of Alton Brown’s cookbooks in my old job and as a thank you after finishing one of them, Alton sent me a Santoku knife from his knife line. I’d never used a Santoku before, I thought they were sort of a “trendy” knife that I wouldn’t have much use for, but, boy, was I in for a surprise. The knife has become the most important thing in my kitchen, along with a square lipped plastic cutting board that I’m obsessed with. The knife is the perfect size for my small hands, is incredibly sharp, has a wonderful warm wooden handle, chops and slices and dices like a dream. It really feels like an extension of my hands when I use it. No other knife comes close.
You speak three languages fluently? Or, more? What language do you speak with your husband?
I actually speak four: English, German, Italian, and French. My husband and I speak German together, though he’s always telling me to speak more English with him, which I rarely do. Old habits die hard, I guess. But I’m in charge of teaching our son English, so now that Hugo’s around, I do speak a lot more English at home.
You grew up stretched between different cultures and countries. Have you thought about how you will expose your son to all of his rich heritage while offering him the sense of home and wholeness that you missed?
I have thought about it a lot, actually! First of all, I hope his dad and I stay together, as I think that being happy parents is the most important part of providing stability and happiness for a child. Beyond that, I think it’s just a matter of making him realize through our actions every day that he is adored and beloved by us, whether we’re home in our apartment in Berlin or at my mother’s house in Italy or visiting my dad in the States. He’ll obviously be a well-traveled kid, but I hope he never associates the sadness that I feel when I travel – I want him to feel limitless excitement when he gets to the airport, not the sort of stomach-churning anxiety that I’ve never been able to shake, even all these years later.
What do you crave when you are sick? Your ultimate comfort food.
I don’t have much of an appetite when I’m sick! A bowl of Cheerios with cold milk will usually do – but now that I can’t have those anymore, it’s a bowl of pastina in broth. That’s what my mother used to make me when I was sick as a kid.
Would you rather give up cheese or chocolate for the rest of your life?
Man, that’s a hard question! I can’t imagine never putting Parmigiano on my spaghetti again. But I think I eat a piece of chocolate almost every day. So. Cheese? Gah! No! Chocolate? Eep!