Cristina Sciarra's interview
We interviewed Cristina Sciarra!
Visit the blog: The Roaming Kitchen.
Hello Cristina Sciarra, so tell us...
When did you begin your blog, and what inspired you to start it?
I started the blog three years ago, in June of 2011, one year out of culinary school (I attended Le Cordon Bleu in Paris) and halfway through an MFA in Fiction Writing in New York. I was writing my own recipes and more, the stories surrounding each recipe. I wanted space to work out and record the best of these before they flitted out of my head and were forgotten. The blog was (and remains) half a personal, seasonal record for myself, and half an opportunity to share my work with others.
What are your culinary influences?
I’m influenced most by the season. I usually bike to the farmers’ market with no real plan, root around, buy what looks best, and then figure out what to do with my purchases on the way home. The two and a half years I lived in Europe were also instrumental—I got into the habit of shopping for fresh, whole foods everyday from vendors I knew personally. Similarly, time spent with my fiancé’s family on the western coast of France has been an education in slow food, quality ingredients, and the pleasure of gathering around a table. Inspiration also comes from cookbooks, food magazines, food blogs, Instagram, and restaurants.
What inspires your creative writing?
That’s difficult to pinpoint. I studied Poetry in college, and that work often had a tenuous biographical bent. In graduate school I switched disciplines to Fiction; I’m not sure where those ideas came from—a line or scene or character would appear in my mind, and I felt compelled to put it on paper and expand it. I write Creative Non-Fiction on the site, which I suppose in a combination of the two. It’s inspired by what’s happening in my life, both in and out of the kitchen. The connecting link, and the constant, is the act of writing.
What is your earliest food memory?
When I was little, my family spent summers down the shore in a town called Spring Lake where there is, to this day, an ice cream parlor called Hoffman’s. It has a gray and yellow awning, and the shop smells like fresh waffle cones and the faint dairy sweetness of churned cream. The walls are covered in framed collages—yellowing, multi-generational photos of regulars to the location. My order was consistent: vanilla soft serve with rainbow sprinkles, which I ate slowly, meticulously. Afterward, I’d fill a Dixie cup full of chilly water from a fountain so tall I could only reach it on tiptoes. Is there anything better than cold water when you are thirsty? Or, for that matter, rainbow sprinkles?
What was your most memorable meal?
Maybe the first really fancy dinner I had with my now fiancé, at a restaurant called Moo in Barcelona. We were young—twenty-three? I wore a lacy, long-sleeved black dress that I loved and impractical heels. The restaurant was intimidatingly modern: black and white and glass and blonde wood, and the floor in the dining room was carpeted, so that the many waiters moved around us like hushed dancers, pouring wine and replacing silverware. I remember a cigar of wood pigeon cannelloni that tasted like fall, and a steaming glass pitcher of buttery soup, poured theatrically at the table into a yawning bowl of geometric vegetables. There was also a single langoustine each; bold against the slate board it was served on, made playful by the nutcracker it came with. After dinner we took glasses of cheap cava up to the roof of our hotel, just he and I; we were silly in love. But this is a question I could answer several times over: the compilation of simple meals I’ve eaten with my fiancé’s family on their terrace in June under the leaf-dappled arbor; the corner table at Eleven Madison Park where we drank not cava but real champagne, two nights before he proposed.
Do you have a secret ingredient, a product you use a lot that is unexpected or that helps you save time?
These ingredients aren’t secret, but they allow me to make a meal out of almost nothing: lemons, olive oil (a basic one for cooking plus a fancy finishing), vinegar (sherry and champagne for everyday plus special ones collected on trips, like aged balsamic and cognac), sea salt, good eggs, homemade chicken stock, and whatever herbs are in season. As for short cuts: puff pastry from the freezer section (making it once in culinary school was enough; Dufour is a good brand), good canned beans, good tomato sauce (I buy mine at the farmers’ market from Central Valley Farm), and frozen pizza dough (from my local shop). My mandoline saves me a lot of time, too.
Is there any dish, ingredient or type of food you refuse to cook? Or anything that you refuse to eat?
I will cook anything; I enjoy the challenge of attempting something new. That said, I’m pretty choosy about where I source ingredients, particularly meat, fish, and dairy, and I buy produce from the farmers’ market whenever possible. It’s important to me to support passionate, environmentally responsible food makers who treat their workers fairly. As for eating, I will try anything, often more than once.
Do you have a favourite foodie destination?
New York, Seattle, Spain, France.
My worst food flop was...
I tend to make little mistakes quite often. Sometimes this is simply due to not paying attention, but cooking is also an endless learning process. My biggest flop concerns bean cooking; I wrote about it here (https://food52.com/blog/4910-raw-beans-a-tragedy-a-love-story). (I finally conquered beans this winter.)
Thank you Cristina Sciarra for answering our questions and see you soon!
Published by Rachel - 07/17/2014
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