Suzanne Perazzini, creator of the food blog Strands Of My Life is the latest food lover to answer nine FAQs from yours truly. Passionate about food and travel, she took a break from creating inventive recipes (many of them free of sugar, gluten, or dairy) to tell us about her creative process and share her thoughts on how chefs and cooks can keep their creations relevant in the face of increasing culinary globalization, as well as other topics certain to interest anyone who loves to see food and cooking approached with creativity.
Flavorful World: Tell us about the inspiration/creative process behind how your most recently crafted recipe came to be.
Suzanne Perazzini: When I create a recipe, I have a focus, whether it be gluten-free, dairy-free, sugar-free or simply a plate of simple appetizers. Then I do my research, usually online but also through some of the many cooking books I own and I start to assemble some ideas of how it will come together. The result is usually a conglomeration of many learned elements, which I then amalgamate into a cohesive whole. At that point the experimenting starts and doesn’t stop until I have something worthy of being put on www.strandsofmylife.com.
FW: In what country has your most memorable food-related experience taken place? What made it so memorable?
SP: I have had some pretty good meals in New Zealand but I would have to say Italy because of the length of time I have spent there and my familiarity with the cuisine. When you have a meal with family and friends over there, the experience is not just about the food but about the people and the atmosphere that is created by their passion for life. There is much talk about what one is eating, where the ingredients came from and how it was prepared. This makes it a complete food experience.
FW: French cook Philéas Gilbert is credited with the quote “Cooking is as old as the world, but it must also remain, always, as modern as fashion.” What do you think has been the most effective means of keeping your cooking modern?
SP: Surfing the net and looking at the really good food photo sites and clicking through to see what other bloggers are doing is a way to keep abreast of any trends. Having said that, many others are doing the same thing and so there is a sameness about many food blogs and it becomes boring to see yet another pumpkin puree recipe around Thanksgiving, for example. I also tend to see exactly the same recipes on several blogs with a few tweaks. Again, that becomes boring. And I’m not saying I haven’t done the same thing – I see a great recipe and duplicate it with my own touches, always giving credit to the original, of course. But more and more I am finding my own groove, which these days is simple appetizers to go with our Friday and Saturday pre-dinner glass of wine and sugar-free baking. The latter is a challenge but an exciting one. As for the former, I find it hard to find anything on the net that is worth duplicating so I usually create my own ideas for those.
FW: Tell us about the best restaurant meal you’ve ever eaten within a 10-mile radius of your place of residence. What made it so?
SP: We don’t eat out very often because we both enjoy cooking and eating in so I can’t answer that but I can tell you that when we return to visit family in Italy, we always eat superbly well because they know the best restaurants – places you would never find on your own as a tourist.
FW: The holiday season has begun, inciting in many people the fear of putting on extra pounds from overindulgence in celebrational meals at family gatherings. Does this concern factor into your ingredient selection when you create new Fall/Winter recipes? If yes, how so? If not, why not?
SP: Absolutely, hence my focus on sugar-free baking. Running a food blog is quite dangerous for the weight, full stop, not just at the holiday season. But it is amazing how you can create alternatives that are just as satisfying without adding huge amounts of sugar and fat. It is an ongoing series of experiments and the successful ones end up on my blog.
FW: What is the single most important food- and/or cooking-related thing that living in multiple geographic locales has taught you?
SP: To experiment, not just with other cuisines but also with combining them to create something new. I guess that is called fusion cooking but it’s not as simple as it might seem because combining flavours is a science. I have a completely open mind where experimentation is concerned but I do think that some chefs get too carried away with their attempts to be different and this whole deconstruction of food fad is a little over the top. Why mess with something great?
FW: As global cuisines continue to gain popularity beyond their countries of origin, what do you feel is the most important thing a kitchen professional can do, apart from visiting and undergoing extensive culinary study in each locale of interest, to keep one’s cooking relevant to that increasing diversity?
SP: I think chefs can specialise and then the need to be totally up-to-date on other cuisines is not necessary. But If they are going to attempt another cuisine, then visiting the country is essential. Only there will you find the genuine article because chefs cooking outside their own country will find the need to modify the classics to fit into the new environment. So if you think that the Vietnamese restaurant down the road in authentic, think again – they will have adapted the recipes to be more palatable to the local clientele.
FW: Excluding the name of any of your pre-existing blogs, websites, or print/online personas, tell us what name you would give to your memoir about your culinary exploits.
SP: I haven’t given this any thought at all because my food blogging days are still in the initial stage as I explore the various different roads to take. I started with fast dinners because that’s what I have to do every working night but now appetizers and sugar-free baking is coming to the fore. Once I have found a more permanent direction, I will be able to answer this. Interesting question though.
FW: When you aren’t cooking and/or eating delicious foods, how do you most enjoy spending your time?
SP: Online, looking at other blogs and websites and learning about the business of blogging. When time allows in my working life, I travel. I have visited or lived in more than 40 countries and there are plenty more to go. It has been a lifelong passion.
*Note to readers: Swept up in the foodie wanderlust that this interview inspires? Catch more of Suzanne’s musings, recipes, food photos, and general kitchen kickassery at her site, Strands of My Life, ‘Like’ its Facebook page, or follow her Tweets. She’s also LinkedIn and on Google+, so there’s really no excuse for you to miss a moment of anything she’s creating. Bon voyage!