An imaginery interview between Ella, a bored writer for an imaginary publication and Kat, food blogger extraordinaire and the brains and beauty behind Spatula, Spoon and Saturday, who is entirely not imaginery although her ego might have been slightly unduly inflated for the purpose of this interview (let’s face it, who doesn’t love to be interviewed)
Ella: So Kat, why did you decide to call your blog Spatula, Spoon and Saturday?
Kat: Well, Ella, I love alliterations. And I used to be really busy and only cook on Saturdays. So you see, I thought it was totally clever to combine all of that.
E: So, you mean, you don’t think it’s clever now?
K: No, not really. The name is too long and it’s a pain in the arse to remember. It took me about a year to learn my own blog’s name It’s very awkward going to meet other food bloggers and stumble on your blog’s name because you couldn’t remember the damn name. Plus it made the domain name really long. It’s I believe is what’s known as ‘branding fail.’ But you know, I didn’t realise that my personal food blog is supposed to have branding.
E: So what are you writing on this personal food blog?
K: Well, it’s 2011. It’s a bit naive to maintain that it’s a personal thing anymore. Fact of the matter is – I wrote it so my mum, who lives in Thailand, could see what I was eating. Because she couldn’t keep up with all the ‘exotic’ food I keep talking about. So I took pictures of them and wrote blog posts about them. Now there are other people who read it too. So it’s gone past that personal stage. Now I write a journal of my cooking and dabbled in a bit of restaurant reviews.
E: Are you a food critic then?
K: Of course I am. I have a good internet connection, a blog and I eat. That makes me a food critic. I can even type 75 words a minute. Bonus.
E: Surely, that’s not true.
K: Yes, really. I can type pretty fast. I used to be a programmer. Want me to show you?
E: No, I mean the bit about where anyone can be a food critic.
K: Why not? I have opinions about what I eat and I have a channel to broadcast those opinions.
E: But you’re not a qualified food critic. Having a food blog is not the same as having a journalism degree or having work experience in a commercial kitchen.
K: No. But why should I have a journalism degree or have worked in a commercial kitchen to appreciate food? More importantly, why do I need to be ‘qualified’? I write it as I see it – with my own prejudice and bias. Everyone who reads a blog knows that it’s a blog – it is not the bloody Michelin Guide. People can read what I write and work out whether I am someone they should pay attention to or not. It’s that simple. I have nothing to prove. Maybe I’m wrong to say it’s not personal because it is to a certain extent. It is an ego trip, if you will. I write about the actual meal – I write about why we go to that restaurant, how we get there and what my experience is. I write about how my day is and what’s happening in my life. I like reading blogs because they have a person behind it. Not some journalist who has to stick to a word count and company policy.
E: So how do you make sure that your review is unbiased then?
K: The same way I do with everything else in life. I think about what I want to write. I read through it and make sure it’s fair. It is not unbiased. That’s not possible. I don’t go back to the same restaurant over and over to make sure they’re consistent. I write it from a customer’s prospective. I have shelled out some good hard-earned money for this meal. Was it what I wanted? Was I happy about the meal? It’s as simple as that. To be fair I try to write about it as if the restaurateur asks me for a feedback, it’s something I am happy to say to their face. I judge it the way a customer will judge it – because I am the customer. I don’t care what goes on in the kitchen. I don’t care if it’s a really busy day and your staff all contracted chicken pox and didn’t show up. That’s not my problem as a customer.
E: So what about when you don’t have to pay for the food then? Can you still be objective?
K: Look, it’s rare that I don’t have to pay for the food. It really is. I wish I get more free food. I am a strong believer that free food often tastes best. But it has nothing to do with the actual taste but rather the expectation. That’s no different than having your date pay for your food. Doesn’t mean the taste changes. Sometimes I go along to some events which I may bring back pictures, food porn if you will, but they won’t be reviews. More like ‘hey look what I ate!’
E: So, tell me a bit about yourself. What do you do professionally?
K: Right now I’m on maternity leave from my professional job. I look after my little 8-month old baby girl who demands a lot of attention. But I will go back to work in December 2011. Just in time for the Christmas party actually. There will definitely be free flashy food there.
E: Oh congratulations. So how do you fit in your blogging with a baby to look after?
K: I just blog instead of doing other house stuff I’m supposed to be doing. You know, such as baby proofing the house. I don’t actually spend that much time blogging really. Like I said I type fast. I don’t photoshop my pictures. I don’t do anything fancy with my blog so each post takes about half an hour at the most – unless I really ramble on a bit. It’s online socialising on Facebook and Twitter that takes up more of my time. But then I can do that with the baby on my lap.
E: Tell me about your cooking influence. Where did you learn to cook?
K: I taught myself to cook when I was in uni. My parents don’t cook and I spent a good chunk of my childhood in a boarding school so when I came to Australia for uni, it was either learn to cook or starve. So I bought food magazines and tried out a few things. Because I learned cooking here, in a very multi-cultural setting, my repertoire included really random things.
E: Being Thai, what do you think about Thai food in Melbourne?
K: Is that a leading question? Everyone knows Thai food is utterly rubbish in Melbourne – surely it doesn’t take a Thai to figure out that lacing every dish with ridiculous amount of sugar is just not the way a cuisine should work.
E: What do you think is the problem then?
K: I think Thai restaurants are not run by people who are passionate about food. They are run by people who are in the food business to make money, which is obviously a valid reason. There aren’t enough Thais living in Melbourne to drive the demand for decent Thai food like there is in Sydney. So when you go to a Thai restaurant and you order your chicken pad thai and it’s been flavoured with tomato sauce, you have noone to blame but yourself for accepting mediocre Thai food.
E: So how is a pad thai supposed to be made?
K: Not with chicken. Never with chicken. Or pork. Or beef. And what you get on Khao Sarn Road on your Jetstar holiday is not pad thai either. And no tomato sauce, goddamnit.
E: That’s not what I asked. I asked how it’s supposed to be made not how it’s not supposed to be made.
K: Right. Sorry. You start with soaking rice sticks in warm water so it’s slightly softened but not cooked. You heat up some oil, preferrably lard, fry some garlic, Asian shallots, a bit of salted Chinese radish, dried prawns, little bits of diced firm tofu. A bit of fresh prawns if you want to be fancy. Add your soaked noodles. Add a pad thai sauce which is a reduction of tamarind juice, fish sauce and palm sugar which incidentally is the base for the son-in-law eggs. Fry it a bit longer. Add an egg if you like but it’s entirely optional. Once the egg is cooked, add beansprouts and garlic chives. That’s it.
E: That’s it? No peanuts?
K: Well the peanuts are optional. You serve the pad thai with a wedge of lime, condiments of white sugar, chilli powder and crushed peanuts on the side. Also with a little side of beansprouts, banana flower and garlic chives – sort of like what you get with the Vietnamese pho. The idea is you decide what you want in your pad thai and flavour it accordingly.
E: So what’s the Next Big Thing in Thai cuisine?
K: Boat noodles. Well, I don’t actually give a damn what the Melbourne food scene decides what’s hip and trendy in Thai cuisine but if I have it my way, it would be boat noodles.
E: What the hell is that?
K: Oh, it’s a long story. Keep reading my blog and you’ll find out.
E: I don’t see a lot of Thai food on your blog.
K: Well no. I am very fussy about Thai food and I find that I don’t cook it very well because noone ever taught me how to and I can’t get proper ingredients. So I get disappointed and stop trying. We still some simple Thai food with packet stuff – which are actually perfectly fine – but you know I can’t really tell my reader to get the packet stuff because it’s not a very accessible ingredient. I do want to do something about this though. I LOVE Thai food and I feel the need to make it happen with all these limitations. So maybe one day this might be a Thai food blog, who know?
E: So other than Thai food, what do you like to eat?
K: Everything. I am a big believer in not eating the same thing over and over. Except pho. And dumplings. They are my two favourite things. But I like good traditional food – any cuisine. I am not a fan of fusion generally. I feel it disrespects hundreds of years of tradition – a national dish that had taken generations to perfect and suddenly you want to throw some random ingredients in because it’s trendy? I don’t think so. Well unless it’s bacon, then I’m okay with it.
E: How do you approach blog writing?
K: I write my blog exactly the way I want to see a food blog written. So it’s my favourite food blog because it’s tailored to my taste in food blog. I like nice pictures – I’m a big fan of food porn. I try to make the pictures look as good as possible. I like personal stories in a food blog so I add that in. I try to make recipes easy to read and follow. But yeah, mainly the food porn. I’m not a good photographer and I refuse to get an SLR. I like my point-and-shoot. But I do try my best to make the photos look as nice as possible. It’s not a food-for-thought type blog – there’s nothing deep or meaningful here. I can’t care less about the whole food blogging philosophy. I just write whatever I want to write.
E: Thank you for your time. I’m sure your blog will be the only place this interview gets published.
K: I know, right? (sad face)