I’m so excited about writing this week’s interview because she’s such a special person to me. I doubt she knows the impact she makes on new food writers/bloggers but it’s really profound.
Sometimes, just following a new blogger on Twitter or making a comment on a new post is really more than we have time for with our busy lives, but that’s where Jamie shines. She takes that extra step to make new people feel welcome. She did it for me and I know I’m nothing special, so I suspect she does it for lots of new writers.
Jamie learned to cook by necessity as cooking was not one of the things her mother enjoyed. I think the word woeful was used in regard to her mother’s meals. As soon as she was tall enough to reach the countertop she began her journey to the cooking mastery she has achieved.
She learned a lot from her older brother as well as her husband who are both adventurous and talented cooks.
Then… it’s time to get all envious over this one — she worked as a translator in Paris at a professional cooking school for 4 years. Just thinking about that gets me all goosebumpy. Wouldn’t that be a fantastic way to learn to cook AND get paid for it?
In 2008 her husband and her son asked her to start a food blog and did all the background work to set up Life’s a Feast for her. She’s pretty sure they just wanted her to have someone else to listen to all her food stories, but I suspect they thought her food was so good it should be shared.
If you aren’t familiar with Jamie’s writing, please take a few minutes to click on the link to her blog and read a few posts. You’ll find a lot more than “here’s my recipe.” I love her photos of France, her funny photos to go along with her writing and then there’s that amazing food.
About a year after her blog began, she realized that writing about food gave her more pleasure than anything else had. She discovered she has a real talent for writing and that cooking was a prelude to writing about it. Writing is her real passion and food is her love.
My blog has evolved somewhat and I spend a huge amount of time writing and working to improve my writing as well as my knowledge of food and the cultures that interest me.
Jamie works very hard doing what she loves — following her passion: her blog, creating Food Blogger Connect with 2 other bloggers, creating From Plate to Page workshop with 3 very talented bloggers, teaching and speaking about food writing as well as being asked to lead workshops and to speak on both writing and food & culture at conferences around the world. All this work has certainly led to her increased visibility and people both inside and outside the blogging world are reading her words and getting to know her writing.
Even the Huffington Post thought she had a lot to say about food and asked her to write for them. She’s now known as a professional food writer, having moved up from food blogger. She’s begun submitting articles to food magazines and publications, that means she’s being judged by a very tough crowd and is doing very well.
She’s also a regular recipe contributor to The Rambling Epicure, De Glazen Vork, Gospel Roads Magazine as well as presenting at workshops and events around the world.
Jamie’s multi-cultural home and her kitchen are the source and inspiration for her recipes and her writing. She’s also the co-creator of From Plate to Page with Meeta from What’s For Lunch, Honey, Jeanne of Cook Sister! and Ilva of Lucullian Delights. They provide food photography and food writing workshops for people like me who need all the help they can get.
The Space Coast of Florida is where her life began but she’s lived in France for 25 years with a small stint in Milan for 7 years. She’s married to a Frenchman and they have two sons. It’s funny, I moved to Australia to live with my Aussie from very close to the space coast in Florida. Foreign men may be stalking the area.
Before you think our friend Jamie is close to perfect, she hasn’t always loved everything on her plate. She was 26 before she had her first oyster in Paris and it took a few before she learned to love them.
Both Jamie and her dashing Frenchman both work from home so she must juggle cooking, styling, photo work and writing with caring for her family who think she’s always available. I no longer have children at home but I know how it is when you work from home, people think you’re available all the time because “you’re at home.” Jamie says she has a real problem pulling away when she’s really into what she’s doing and I can relate to that. She admits to being less than organized so squeezing in her writing time can be difficult.
Her food heroes are Ruth Reichl and Molly O’Neill, two women driven by a passion for food and of course Julia Child, who like Jamie started her food career after the age of 40.
This is a bit romantic — I asked her where she would go to eat tonight if she could eat anywhere in the world.
If I could bring my husband I would go to New Orleans and eat gumbo, fried oyster po’boys, shrimp creole. A buffet of all the local specialties.
The italics and boldness are my own doing. After all the years they’ve been together, she doesn’t want to go anywhere without him. That says a lot about who she is, don’t you think?
She’s most proud of a recipe she’s created that has gotten more attention than others. It’s a local speciality of Nantes, where she lives — la Fouace Nantaise.
The fouace really tested her knowledge and understanding of yeast baking, maybe the first real test and she succeeded! Maybe the Far Breton as well. Her husband said it was absolutely perfect and it is a dessert she particularly loves.
These recipes certainly make me drool and wish I was that clever every day but then Jamie makes me feel better (as she always does) by admitting that homemade pizza is her go-to meal when the family is hungry.
When I asked what advice she could give to a new food writer or blogger it’s:
Read, read and read some more; expand your speaking vocabulary which will eventually find its way into your writing. Then take your time to hone your skills, understand your strengths and weaknesses and find your own style and voice; don’t try and sound this way or that; if it isn’t your natural voice it will show. Try and get professional critique and advice and listen to both the positive and negative and use that to evolve. As you get more confident, never stop being humble, never stop evolving.
She’s married to a cook who leaves everything behind him – a tornado of dirty dishes, pots and pans and it drives her crazy. As a result she’s a clean as she goes cook because she knows what a job it will be at the end. I am married to a man who thinks stacking the dishes in the sink is doing all the cleaning up.
I know, didn’t I say up above that her mother wasn’t the world’s best cook? I looked at that a bit funny too but there IS an explanation.
On a recent trip back home, she was rooting through her mom’s kitchen cupboards as she usually does, looking for anything that could slip unnoticed into her suitcase to bring back to France. She came across her mother’s old, battered copy of Our Favorite Recipes, a compilation of family recipes put together by the Sisterhood of Temple Beth Sholom in Satellite Beach, Florida. These are recipes written down and submitted by her mom and her fellow synagogue sisters in the 1960s. And her mother, the woman who hated to cook, was Chairman of the Cookbook Committee!
I stumbled across all of her mom’s recipes, memories of flavors, odors, tastes bouncing around in my head, and there, on page 12, staring back at me, was her recipe for Veal Scallopini, one of the few dishes she made that I just loved.
Here is her recipe, with a few minor changes she’s made, awash in wonderful memories.
- 4 veal cutlets, 1 per person, not too thin (about ¼ inches thick or so)
- ½ cup (65 g) flour seasoned with salt, a generous grinding of black pepper and ½ tsp paprika
- Margarine and olive oil for sautéeing
- 8 ½ oz (250 g) white mushrooms, trimmed, cleaned and sliced
- 1 – 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 5 oz (140 g) tomato paste
- 1 ¾ cups (425 ml) water
- 2 tsp sugar
- ½ tsp salt
- Generous grinding of black pepper or to taste
- 1 bay leaf (optional)
- ½ tsp dried thyme
- 3 whole cloves
- ½ cup (125 ml) dry white wine
- Rinse the veal cutlets and pat dry with paper towels. Dredge in the seasoned flour, shake off excess flour and place on a clean plate.
- Heat a large skillet and melt about a tablespoon each of the margarine and oil until bubbling. When the oil is hot, dredge the veal cutlets once again in the flour, shake off the excess and brown the veal over medium-high heat until browned on both sides. Remove from the skillet and reserve on the plate.
- Combine the tomato paste, water, sugar, salt and pepper, bay, thyme and cloves in a bowl and stir until the tomato paste is blended completely in.
- Add a bit more margarine and oil to the skillet and sauté the mushrooms with the garlic for just a few minutes until soft and lightly browned, stirring often.
- Return the browned veal to the skillet and push to bury in the mushrooms. Slowly pour the tomato liquid with the spices and herbs over the veal and mushrooms and bring to a boil, scraping up the brown bits stuck to the bottom of the skillet. Lower heat and simmer for 25 minutes, stirring often. Add the white wine to the skillet, stir, bring up to a rolling boil. Lower the heat once again to a simmer and cook for an additional 5 minutes to allow the alcohol to burn off and the sauce to thicken.
- Serve over fresh pasta, preferably homemade.