Feeding the four million
We talk to Deb Perelman, creator of the food blog Smitten Kitchen.
Dishes on Deb Perelman’s blog are made even more enticing when they are accompanied by her own food photographs
If you find entertaining for more than four stressful, imagine the pressure of cooking for four million. Deb Perelman does just that every month.
New Yorker Perelman's blog, Smitten Kitchen, in which she describes her culinary life, started out as a way of sharing recipes. "I had always been a collector of recipes - the web's full of them. I wanted to find the very best versions, or at least recipes that work, and I love that on the web you can make something and share it the next day," she says.
Perelman started blogging five years ago, as a hobby, while working as a reporter for an IT magazine. Her first blog described all aspects of her life including her foodie experiments but, over time, her passion for food won out, resulting in Smitten Kitchen.
By 2008, income from the blog allowed her to give up full-time work and turn freelance. Smitten Kitchen's audience has grown a hundred-fold since the early days. She says the growth was organic. "I like to believe there's a democracy to the web and that if it's good, people will find it. I just cooked what I wanted and made myself available to answer questions." Recipes like oat and maple syrup scones, blood orange olive oil cake and baked potato soup must be popular to entice four million unique visits each month.
She says she is a self-taught cook who likes "to figure things out in the kitchen". When her cheese-hating son took a liking to the popular US snack, Pepperidge Farm Cheese Goldfish, she went home and worked out how to make her own healthy whole-wheat goldfish crackers. She goes on to say: "My readers make made me feel like I'm going into the kitchen with a cheering squad". It is obviously a mutual appreciation, as her popularity has earned Perelman the food bloggers' jackpot - a book deal, with food publishing giant Knopf.
Intriguingly named recipes like latke redux, Hello Dolly bars and key lime meltaways are introduced on the back of tales as diverse as a romantic trip to Aruba, tidying her messy wardrobes and her infatuation with America's Deep South. All are written in an informal, chatty style and combined with her luscious food photographs. You want to sit down with her for a gossip over a pumpkin swirl brownie.
She grew up in a Jewish home and likes traditional Jewish food but only ate "some brisket once in a while", although her "Mom makes a great sweet kugel". Nonetheless, the blog does feature a Jewish and a Passover section with no fewer than 17 flour-less dessert ideas. She claims her mother married her father to get her hands on his auntie's cream cheese noodle kugel recipe (it has featured on the blog in a guest post from her mother).
Perelman has decided that her book (due to be published in autumn 2012) will include 85-90 per cent new recipes. The demands of recipe writing combined with life as mother to a toddler means that blogging now "takes any time I have", which was previously at least three times a week and is now "twice if I'm lucky". Enough to satiate her hungry millions - until they have her book in their hands.