Waking Ideas Publishing - Culture & Critics Corner
Written By Danny Nicolas
The Honey Swamp is an upstart publishing outfit run by two friends Claire and Shelly. With a visible passion for food and ideas, these two women cook and bake food, take pictures, and write about the adventures in between. Earlier this month I sent them a short review of their site, and I was able to talk with them about their blog afterward.
THE HONEY SWAMP REVIEW:
The writing is enjoyable, accessible and has a distinct voice. The pictures are well composed, with affective tones and textures, and succeed in complementing the writing without distracting. The recipes are - as far as I can tell without cooking the dishes myself - pleasant and tasteful without going overboard for the sake of striking claim for a new found land. These are all well deserved traits of marketable and - more importantly - likable authorship. I intend to continue to read as often as it is published.
There’s no stopping this rootin’, tootin’ gang of culinary misfits. We’re so glad you’re here.
THE HONEY SWAMP INTERVIEW:
WHAT'S THE BACKSTORY BEHIND THE HONEY SWAMP?
It's a mixture of embarrassing things mixed with just enough good luck - we've both been in and out of school, and it's been hard for both of us to do a regular college type of deal --
Basically, we're old friends, we went away to college, and then found out that we sorta kinda accidentally dropped out at the same time.
We've always really enjoyed cooking together, us and another - our third comrade who is still in college - we used to cook a lot in high school--
You know what it was, for your birthday, I gave you a cookbook, and then you freaked out and decided to start a food blog
To be honest, Claire is the bulk of the talent
We've always liked looking at blogs, reading cookbooks, that sort of thing, and i guess it took enough of both of us having enough time and not being sure enough of what we wanted to do to put enough effort into it.
IF THIS TURNS INTO A BIG DEAL, WOULD YOU WANT TO DO THIS AS A FULL-TIME JOB?
We would both love to print something. We're very tactile people - it's a very pipe dream - We have no means to do that, right now all we can do is the website.
Shelly has a lot of experience with journalism and writing and she's great with words.
We do a lot of reading of other people's cookbooks - it'd be great.
WHAT TOOLS ARE YOU USING TO MAKE THIS WHOLE THING HAPPEN? ANYTHING SPECIAL THAT STANDS OUT?
We don't have really anything - we're pretty low tech, we make pie crust with our fingers, I can't think a way I'd like it better.
One of the contributions to why I wanted to document everything more solidly was that through an odd series of circumstances, I ended up with a super fancy camera. I really never considered myself a photographer, I've played with film cameras before but never really took an interest in it, but this camera just sorta fell into my lap. I didn't want it to go to waste. Finally Shelly made me bring it out and helped me learn how to use it. For a fancy camera, we're just barely scratching the surface of learning. It's a Canon rebel T3i with a 18-55mm lens.
We're so out of place in our lives, we're just kinda rambling, we cook in LA, we cook in carlsbad, we cook in utah, we were just in sacramento, and oakland. The main things we have that we can count on is Claire's camera, natural light, and our hands. And you know, farmers markets.
HOW DID YOU COME UP WITH THE NAME (THE HONEY SWAMP)?
It was a joke in our minds that it became a reality. A dream or an idea can only be followed through if it's been festering around long enough. It was a funny idea. I texted a friend one night, what should we call our food blog, if we had one? and she said, the honey swamp. I said that's a great name, I'm going to make it right now.
We like honey. It's a warning, we're kinda amateurs swamping around, but we're making it.
WHAT IS YOUR NORMAL PROCESS THAT GOES ON BEHIND THE SCENES BEFORE AN ARTICLE GOES UP ON THE SITE?
Usually, we're bored and find ourselves in a grocery store with a dollar in our pocket.
Sometimes I'll find myself taking photos of a lot of the things we make and eat. Some of the photos end up as part of posts on the blog.
HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT FARMERS MARKETS?
I don't think anyone is against them...
DID YOU READ THAT NEWS/RUMOR THAT SOME FOLKS WERE BUYING GROCERIES AT THE STORE AND BUNDLING THEM UP AND SELLING AT THE FARMERS MARKET FOR A PROFIT?
I've seen that myself too - If it's January and you see a mango at the farmers market - there's a lot of politics involved. It's true, people are going to be greedy wherever there is a market.
We try to emphasize seasonal ingredients, asking where food is from.
We tend to go to a lot of the same farmer's markets - I know a few of the venders and they've been around for a while.
It's hard to be really close to the farm when you're in downtown LA. There's always chances to get to know the vendors the process.
HAVE YOU BEEN TO THE BERRY FARM WAREHOUSE IN CARLSBAD? (Aviara Farms)
No, Carlsbad is really good for berries though. We'll have to check it out.
One time, we were in the armpit of california, we somehow took the wrong freeway in LA, we found this fruit stand, selling oranges of all kinds by the flat.
Yes, we're fans of Farmers Markets, definitely.
WHAT FOOD DID YOU HATE THE MOST AS A KID?
I've always been pretty much a garbage disposal. I'm not picky, I do remember, I never really liked beans, any kind of beans. Mostly pork and beans at church social functions, didn't have really any kind of exposure to well prepared beans.
We both went vegetarian maybe 3 or 4 years ago, so now we're big on beans now.
HAVE YOU EVER HAD A DREAM ABOUT FOOD? NOT A 'OH I WISH' BUT AN ACTUAL DREAM.
Oh yeah all the time.
It's a pretty consistent occurrence in my life.
It's the best dream.
The best dreams are the food dreams.
I was dreaming about rhubarb, and then all spring we were searching for rhubarb, calling every store trying to find it. The dream was some sort of prophetic rhubarb inspiration.
Food is something we talk about fairly regularly. We talk about the function of food in every day life. No matter who you are or what you're doing, you're eating.
It's a simple affirmation of life - of living. We don't need a whole lot actually, we're pretty resilient creatures. The eating of food is one of the main things we need.
YEAH YOU CANT ESCAPE THE WHOLE EATING THING.
Our eating habits can reflect ourselves personally.
It can tell so many stories based on just based on one thing that goes in your mouth. A simple breakfast, cereal with milk, it can tell a lot about our culture, but also about the individual and the choices they've made.
The moment of eating can be a really emotional thing, even if it's a simple daily task. It's something that is as old as life is. It's cool that we get to participate in and recognize that so many people have been cooking for so long.
HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT FOOD BLOGGING IN EVOLUTION OF THE PUBLISHING INDUSTRY?
There are millions of food blogs out there. Almost everything you can think of has already been done or thought of. It's not like we're trying to break new ground or anything. It's just out there. People just like us are out there doing the same thing.
It's about the doing.
We just have to do it for ourselves.
An element of being able to keep going and keep having fun with it and being excited about it, is not immersing ourselves completely in that world. If we were too caught up with all the little minute details of commercial food photography or the business...
HOW IMPORTANT IS A PARTICULAR KITCHEN ?
I think a priority for us is the natural light. For us, food should be about the moment of eating and sharing something you've made with people you care about.
It's about the people you're eating it with.
Since we've been in so many kitchens it's not - we don't have a kitchen we go back to. It's not so much about the space but the people we're with.
No matter how big or small of a kitchen you have, it's just about being able to share the experience.
The most depressing meal I can think of in Film is the scene in Citizen Kane where the husband and wife are sitting at opposite ends of the huge long table.
WHAT FOOD DO YOU WANT TO MAKE IN THE FUTURE?
We have a google doc that we add all the time.
I go to bed reading cookbooks.
There's a lot on our wish list.
IN THE FUTURE WOULD YOU TRAVEL TO ANOTHER COUNTRY TO GET INGREDIENTS?
Traveling + Cooking, I don't know what you would want more than that.
I talk about cross country road trips and eating at every place we can on the way.
It would be awesome to have the funds to be able to travel and actually see the things that don't grow in America.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE VEGETABLE?
I don't think I have a favorite vegetable.
I eat about a pound of carrots every so often.
There's a lot of good stuff going on with Kale these days. and Zucchini.
I don't know if I'm used to thinking more seasonly or if my body actually craves things in season but in the winter I'm wanting more root vegetables I just get really excited about mashed potatoes and other things in season.
Shelly and I just can't wait for tomato season. There's this chocolate and zucchini blog. I just can't stop thinking about it.
People underestimate the tomato. There's a lot of things you can do with it.
I remember when I was in England, for breakfast every morning there would be a pan fried or roasted tomato slice, barely salted, roasted and sliced.
HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT BREAKFAST? THERE HASN'T REALLY BEEN ANY BREAKFAST MEALS ON THE HONEY SWAMP? IS THE BLOG DEDICATED TO LUNCH AND DINNER AND APPETIZERS OR WILL THERE BE BREAKFAST THINGS IN THE FUTURE?
First of all - we at the Honey Swamp, we do not discriminate.
I usually am not hungry before noon, it's hard to think of breakfast.
I love breakfast - I don't know why we haven't done more.
It's more that we don't think of anything in terms of mealtime, we just think of things to eat.
Half the stuff on the posts site are just things we concocted in the middle of the night. There not designed for any particular meal genre per say.
I feel like if you have a strict culture there are breakfast foods, lunch foods, dinner foods, but in America there are breakfast foods but everything else is just up in the air there's nothing really dedicated for the other meals.
I FEEL LIKE THERE'S A COMFORTING FAMILIARITY OF FOOD TRADITIONS THAT BRINGS PEOPLE BACK OUT OF MEALTIME CHAOS.
I like to have the option to have breakfast foods. I'm glad I don't feel any responsibility to adhere to any cultural mealtime traditions but it really is nice that they exist when you need them.
It's really nice to count on them.
Update: I've (finally) processed the audio of the full interview, so here it is:
Published on Monday, May 21st, 2012 at 4:38 am | Both comments and trackbacks are currently closed.