Joy the Baker Cookbook Event
by Diana Davis, Walrus Contributor
Joy Wilson walked into Left Bank Books and shyly hid during her introduction, where it was announced that she had created a blog four years ago that the London Times had just cited as now among the “Top Fifty Blogs in the World.” It was then that she emerged to face the crowd—every chair, bench, table and stool were occupied – there were people sitting on the floor and standing four deep out into the sales aisles beyond. Joy began her talk by saying she would answer the most frequently asked question first:
From whom did she draw her inspiration to begin a successful culinary journey?
“First of all, I got it from my Dad. He worked the graveyard shift, from 4 p.m. to 4 a.m. so he did not spend evenings with us children. When he got home from work, he was invigorated and starving. So he would begin to bake. Then, he would come and awaken my sister and me enticing us with the promise of bakery treats if we would join in the kitchen fun. We would hop out of bed and share that special time where he taught us to bake and share with thoughtfulness his care and love.
My second inspiration was my Aunt Dee Dee. She was blind, which was to her only a minor inconvenience. She taught us to bake by using other senses such as how things smelled and felt, the smoothness of batters when rubbed between our fingertips and the textures of dough kneaded under our palms.
And finally, I am inspired by my readers. When I started out, I hoped to be able to gain 30 readers. There must be 100 people here today, and I am so overwhelmed that it is all I can do to keep from crying.” She brought bookmarks to hand out to readers and announced that she would take questions from the audience.
You’re a great baker, photographer and writer. How did you get so good at writing?
I went to school for English, then threw everything that I learned in the corner; I use commas irresponsibly and use way too many ellipsis. I write the way I talk; people tell me it works.
What’s your favorite color?
Navy blue with peach or coral accents.
How long did it take you to do the cookbook?
Six months to write it and photograph the dishes.
I like to brown butter in an ugly, black skillet, but then it’s hard to see. How do I tell when it’s done?
I love my cast iron skillet, and that’s what I use to brown butter. Use your nose. When the butter starts to smell nutty, take it off.
What are your favorite recipes in this Joy the Baker Cookbook?
Baked Chili Fries and the Vegan Pumpkin Bread.
Tell us about Thomas Keller and the Tucker Taylor at the French Laundry restaurant.
Thomas Keller is an out-of-this-world cook. He’s a perfect gentleman and has a fine restaurant called French Laundry. His head gardener, Tucker Taylor, is a miracle grower, so between the two of them, the restaurant presents fantastic food. They invited me….me!…into their test kitchens. I got to cook with them and felt exceedingly privileged.
What’s a typical day like for you?
I hop up and exercise, biking or running; next I go to the grocery store; then, I come home and cook a couple things and photograph them. After that, I spend quite a lot of time on the computer, and finally do a podcast or two.
Do you clean up your kitchen as you go or wait till the end.
I don’t like to clean up, so I wait until the end and do it only once.
Other than your family ties, what’s your background in the cooking area?
I was a baker in another person’s bakery for one year and worked as a cheese connoisseur for two years, a skill I learned from my friend, Rachel, who lives here in the CWE.
You have unique flavor combinations, what inspires you to create?
Colors inspire me. Looking at cookbooks from other writers inspire me. Eating in other people’s restaurants help me experience tastes that I never thought of putting together before, and that inspires me.
How do you create new recipes?
I start with what I know. For example, I have a basic biscuit recipe, 2 cups of flour, 1 teaspoon baking powder, ¼ cup soft shortening, ½ cup buttermilk. Then if I want to add a wet ingredient, I decide on how much buttermilk I have to subtract to make it work. I have been doing it for so long that I usually get the correct amounts on the first or second try.
What do you do with all the food you cook?
I feed myself and the cat, my parents, and my neighborhood. I keep a big freezer. Everyone knows that I allow others to raid it. We don’t throw away good food.
How far do you plan ahead to keep up with your blogging?
Only about a week ahead as far as actual planning, but I always have ideas floating around in my mind. I have no hubby or children, so I am not accountable to others. If I fall behind, I can stay up late to catch up.
You’ve done so well with your blog–any advice for new bloggers?
I follow a few rules:
- I never compare myself with other bloggers; there will always be someone better than I am, and comparisons only bring me down.
- I found a comfortable voice, and I always use it.
- I am consistent with my postings and with the kinds of things I post so people know that they can count on me.
How do you like St. Louis and its restaurants?
I love it. This is my first time here and Rachel and I ate at Duffs right across the street. That was very tasty. That’s the only place we’ve been. She has a lovely old three-story home a few blocks from here, so I am enjoying this first visit and looking forward to returning. Thanks for coming and buying my book—try the Baked Chili Fries!
For more information about Joy and her book, please visit her website and blog at http://joythebaker.com/.