Every now and again you run across a food blog that inspires you on every level – visually, verbally, intellectually and creatively. It doesn't happen often, but it does – like when I first discovered the wonderfully talented Marie through her principal gardening blog, 66 Square Feet . So I was understandably thrilled when she created a secondary blog especially for her food. Reading Marie's eloquent posts from New York City and Cape Town always make me feel as if I have been on a short holiday – so pack your bags and come on a little mini-break with me as we enter Marie's world on 66 Square Feet (The Food)
1. Where are you – in South Africa or out in the wide world?
Currently I live in New York with my French husband and Dominican cat. I spend time in South Africa every year and we are considering a move back…
2. How long have you been blogging?
I started 66 Square Feet, a blog about my small terrace, small apartment and New York life, in May 2007. Then last year I created 66 Square Feet (the Food) as a food-only adjunct to the main blog.
3. What do you enjoy the most about food or wine blogging?
Blogging is a wonderful way to communicate one's enthusiasm about the world immediately, and to an audience from all corners of it. I tend to focus on what is beautiful despite having an outlook which says that life is mostly pain. We know that, so why dwell on it?
What I did not anticipate when I started blogging was that some of the best things in my life would enter it through the cyberportal of my blog: my husband, good friends, and work.
4. Any downsides or frustrations?
Time, time time 🙂 It takes time.
5. What or who are your inspirations to cook, drink and write?
Where to begin?
If we are receptive or perceptive, every day that we live we see or taste or smell or touch something new that is added to our conscious or subconscious and comes out either in the kitchen or on the page, or through the camera.
A clear influence would be my mother, Maureen Viljoen, who gave me a fundamental reference point for very good food. So I grew up with a strong French provincial Elizabeth David influence (in Bloemfontein!). She also has a very good and critical eye for what looks good and how to make things beautiful.
My attraction to drinks perhaps comes from my father, Henri, who has always had a flair for showmanship and the shaking up of an old fashioned, Cary Grant-era cocktail. And he will appear after a long lunch with a bottle of dessert wine in one hand and a handful of small glasses in the other. There is something effortlessly graceful and generous in the gesture.
People: Bevan Christie and Mustafa Candan used to run and cook in Anatoli in Cape Town, in its good old days. I absorbed so much from them in my late teens and early twenties, after we became friends, that it became part of me. About how a thing ought to be done (perfectly, effortlessly, generously, casually). They live in Turkey now. Aside from my mother they are the best cooks I know.
And books. I see Raymond Blanc, the Roux Brothers, the brothers Troisgros, Paul Bocuse, Roger Verge, Marcella Hazan as my early teachers in technique, in my late teenage years. I read their books cover to cover and then cooked my way through substantial parts of them.
Good food writers and observers: MFK Fisher, Hemingway, remain inspirational. Mr Bourdain was great until he became really famous.
And interesting food people – local foragers, wine makers, butchers, gardeners – I am fascinated by why they do what they do, and love to hear their stories, photograph them and write about them, and learn from them.
6. Where and when do you like to blog?
I blog daily, usually at home, whenever I can.
7. What's your signature dish or favourite wine?
Friends know me best for bouillabaisse. But for me it's just roast chicken with potatoes under it, as a comfort food fallback, green salad with a perfect vinaigrette, and probably white wine at the moment: I love New Zealand Sauvignon blancs, finding them less astringent and puckery than many South African ones, but had the best rose of my life from Waterkloof in Somerset West this year, and am partial to Spanish Verdejo. But my tastes change often. Different mood, weather, different wine and food. And I love picnics. Can a picnic be a signature dish, or is it a signature past time?
In my next life I would like to be a picnic.
8. What other food or wine blogs do you read?
Voer – I love that it is in English and Afrikaans. It is very well written, idiosyncratic, and has a voice (voices) of its own. Last Night's Dinner was the first food blog I loved, and I still read it. It is based out of Rhode Island.
And I often drop in at Cooksister 🙂
I should read more but I don't have the time. There are so many very good ones.
9. Favourite restaurant?
Al di la, in Brooklyn, New York. Northern Italian, simple, delicious.
10. For my last meal on this planet I would order…
If I knew it was going to be a last meal I would be far too nervous to eat anything! The last thing I want to do when I am sad or upset is eat and drink. If the world is too much with me I do revert to a childhood meal of boiled eggs, toast with marmite and strong tea with sugar in it…
Rather ask me what I'd eat with people I like and who like to eat. The list would be endless, or very simple. Like a perfect baguette, thin ham and fresh butter. And a glass of something lekker.