For our first interview of the spring series we caught up with Jamie Schler who is the writer behind the blog Life’s a Feast as well as a regular contributor to Huffington Post. In addition Jamie is also a co-creator and writing instructor for the From Plate to Page workshops for food bloggers, writers, photographers. Her passions are dessert and writing.
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What was your favorite childhood dessert?
My dad made two things that I absolutely loved and still have very fond memories of. His Prune and Dried Apricot Compote. The fruit puffed up and became so tender and infused with sweetness and the gorgeous syrup that the cooking produced, one plump, luscious piece of fruit placed in your mouth would pop then melt on your tongue and disappear in an orgy of flavor. He also made fabulous saucer-sized choux puffs that he would fill with boxed pudding and serve with non-dairy whipped topping. Decadent and heavenly.
Sugar or sweetener and why?
Absolutely sugar! Never sweetener! First, I am allergic to fake sweeteners. Second, heavens! Only all natural, pure ingredients and if we afraid of putting on weight then simply eat less of it!
What was the first dessert dish you ever made?
7th grade Home Economics: we made an Apple Brown Betty and Cranberry Muffins! And I fell in love with baking. Sadly when I went to make those muffins at home for my family, instead of adding 3 tablespoons of Crisco (yes, that was the recipe) to the batter I added 3 cups! Oy did that spell disaster and it haunts me to this day still!
What is your favorite fruit?
Ah, in the winter I can eat tangerines by the bagful, summer it is peaches and nectarines. But for baking, it is always the apple! Apple pies, tarts, cakes are the only thing all 3 of my men love and ask for.
What do you love the most about your food-oriented profession?
I think that if I am honest with myself I would have to say that thanks to blogging about food I have discovered my true passion and talent which is writing. I have never done anything before that so exhilarates me and gives me such joy and completion. And I feel that I have finally found what I was meant to do.
Who is your biggest “foodie” role model?
For my career, the great Julia Child who discovered, as I have, her true passion and her true calling very late in life. For writing, the great and talented Ruth Reichl.
Do you prefer cooking classes or cookbooks?
Both, but I rarely have the chance to take a cooking class (although I used to be an interpreter at a French professional cooking school) so I guess I should say cookbooks which, I find, can be just as valuable a learning tool. And something you can take to bed with you.
Where was the most romantic place you have ever dined, and what did you eat?
A field in the middle of France with a picnic lunch my husband and I bought at a tiny village market: roasted chicken eaten with our fingers, cheese, bread, fruit and wine drunk out of the bottle. Gorgeous day with the man I love.
Name the number one dessert you can think of that is a surefire hit with any crowd.
Tiramisu, without a doubt. I have to also mention a small chocolate layer cake I make that drives people wild!
What got you to this point in your career?
Accident, passion, clever networking and all my time and energy.
Where do you hope to get to, hope to do, and hope to try food wise in the future?
Ah, I hope one day to write books! Foodwise, there is a fabulous and wonderful little restaurant in Rome that I dream of going back to eat at. I would also like to try my hand at learning to cook Basque food, which I find rather daunting.
If there was one dessert you could eat forever and never get sick of it what would it be?
Chocolate cake with mocha mascarpone frosting.
Is the kitchen a social place in your home?
Kitchens to me are always the social place, the focal point in any home but sadly the kitchen in the apartment we are now renting is far from conducive for this. My kitchen is more a therapy room, a place where, when baking and cooking, I can relieve stress and tension, focus my thoughts and think through my problems and everything going on in my life. It is where I am happy and find calmness, serenity and answers while preparing things from my heart to make those I love happy.
Fast food – Often, on occasion, or never.
Oh on occasion when we are really craving it, maybe once a year or so. Or on the road traveling.
Sit Down or Take Out food from a restaurant (not “fast food”)
Both and it all depends on our mood and what we are craving. But either way, whether take-out kabob or Chinese, a Michelin-starred restaurant or a family-style bistro the only thing that counts is the quality of the food and the ambiance. Both must be excellent.
What do you think about the Organic Food trend?
I don’t like trends at all, whether food, fashion or otherwise and I tend to stay away from them (or ignore them). After having lived in Europe for so many years where food is less a lifestyle choice than a way of life, eating healthy, organic and local is much more traditional and natural and we eat this way when we can. If not strictly organic (one cannot always find or even afford organic) then at least traceable, hormone and antibiotic free and untreated when possible. We are, though, very much into discovering organic wines.
What are your best tips for eating healthy (ingredients over practices)
Fresh, quality ingredients whether butter, cream, milk or meat, fruit or vegetables. Know where your ingredients come from and what is in them and always try to buy and eat all-natural products. As for fruit and vegetables, eat only what is in season and the closer to home it is grown the better. Balance your diet, fill it with lots of fruit and veg, eat in joy and moderation.
Please add any other thing that you think our readers would be interested in.
People tend to give desserts a bad rap: too sinful and decadent, dessert is something to feel guilty about when eating, something to eat in small doses or only on special occasions. And there are some who try and convince you that dessert is somehow better when it is filled with oats and nuts and dried fruits. I say bunk! Dessert should be a pleasure, the punctuation point at the end of a meal, something to be savored and enjoyed, to experience with all five senses, never felt guilty about. Simply serve delicately-sized portions, just enough to round off a meal, just enough to satisfy. “Healthy” desserts simply mean the best quality ingredients, fresh cream and eggs, high-grade chocolate, farm-fresh fruit. Dessert, like mealtimes, like life, should be unhurried, untroubled, enjoyed.