Featured Food Blogger

Vanessa Blachen

Vanessa balchen 2

Vanessa is the author of What Geeks Eat

Where do you live and what is your family's origin?
I currently live in Madison, Wisconsin. I have no idea where my family originated. I always assumed that they landed in the Midwest and like an errant seed, sprouted in the rich fertile soil. My husband and I both grew up in Illinois and we met at SIU-C. When we graduated we headed west and settled in San Francisco. We lived there for six years and loved it and then bought a home further out in the Bay Area. My genius husband endured seven years of hellish commutes to Palo Alto before we called it quits and moved to Middleton. We are on the north side of Madison...Madison is like the Berkeley of the Midwest so we fit right in here.

What is your current occupation?
I work a part-time job as a writer, but when my kid's are out of school I'm a full-time mom. Right now I have the summer off and I'm hanging out, pretending to be a twelve year old kid again...it's great.

Where do you get your culinary inspiration from?
I'm inspired by the food raised and produced locally. Grass-fed beef, heritage Berkshire pork, pastured lamb and chickens...I've got it made with all these excellent choices in proteins. Then there's the cheese...goat cheese, raw milk cheese, 10 year old aged cheddar that will blow your socks off with flavor and nuance...the list of cheeses made here is huge!. The local vegetable farmers are proficient in extending the seasons with hoop houses and so by early May we are eating fresh local lettuces and by the first of December it's all gone. I do a lot of freezing and canning so we can eat local through the winter. Fruits are not as abundant as in California but the berries and apples are so fine that you just learn to wait for the best. Let's see...I've left out dairy...but we this is Wisconsin so not only is our milk locally sourced and bottled but it's usually delivered to our door too. The eggs are local and each and every egg is a different color, shape, size...real eggs with bright, saffron yellow yolks that just urge you to bake something fabulous. These are my sources of inspiration and often why my meals are so simple...it's really hard to improve on perfection.

Why did you start blogging?
I've always been a writer, by nature and by training, but I always forgot to write down my recipes. My husband would ask me to prepare something I made a week or two before and I'd look at him like he was crazy...I have a very bad memory. But then a year ago I became aware of food blogs. I know, how could I have been so unaware! At the same time I was wasting an hour or two a day playing video games and really not getting any better at killing aliens. That's when I decided to write a food blog. It's been a great way to record recipes, improve my photo and writing skills, plus I taught myself some basic html.

Whats your favorite thing about cooking?
I like the creativity involved. Typically I'll decide what to make, do some research to see how others have done it, could be via cookbooks or the web, and then I'll make it mine through adaptations to fit my ingredients, time and equipment constraints, etc. It's a great process that I just really love and find relaxing and entertaining.

Besides cooking what is something you like do on your spare time?
I read a lot...cookbooks, food writing, novels, mysteries, graphic novels, poetry...I have a wide range of interests. I love to tromp through the hills and prairies with my dog. I love to travel with my family. We usually plan our vacations around food. In 2008 we will travel to Montreal to eat at Au Pied de Cochon and to Toronto for Asian cuisine...also we need to work on speaking French so we can go to France in 2009.

Here are some of best recipes from the blog:

Muffin + Smoked Pork Jowl = Crack Muffin
Green Pizza Weekend Herb Blogging
Strawberry scones…again
Puerco Pibil
Braised beef short ribs…it’s all about the sauce