I have been following Whitney Fisch, aka Jewhungry, for the past 6 months on instagram, and eventually started reading her blog as well. I love her fresh, kosher recipes and the stories she shares about being a mom and a middle school counselor at a day school in Miami. So when she and I finally got to catch up on the phone last week I was absolutely thrilled. Read more below to hear how she got into cooking (hint: it all started in Jerusalem!) and about an exciting Passover cookbook she has in the works.
Why did you start blogging?
I started blogging about three years ago, initially with my friend Jeremy, mostly about cultural Jewish stuff and some food. I was working all the time and I really needed an outlet that allowed me some escape from my busy work life. It didn’t start as a food blog, and I actually took some time off from blogging all together while I was pregnant because the smell of all food made me nauseous.
After my pregnancy, Jeremy and I, though still very close friends, decided he would focus on other writing opportunities so I ended up taking over the blog, and it organically took on a new direction: parenting stories, stories about being a social worker and a counselor as well as stories about growing up in the South and living in Miami. And of course, I was writing about what I was cooking and eating.
Have you always loved cooking?
No not even a little bit!
I tried so hard to cook after college. And I had some tragic mishaps along the way. For example, when I was 22 I tried to make potato salad, but it didn’t dawn on me that I had to boil the potatoes first. I tried to serve it at a backyard picnic…well, it was not successful.
It wasn’t until I moved to Jerusalem and I was a stone throw’s away from the shuk that I started experimenting with cooking. It happened that I also met my future husband at that time and he let me use him as a guinea pig for my cooking. There was actually one time he made roasted potatoes with onion soup mix – how “Ashkenazi mom” of him – and I thought it was a culinary revelation. This shows you how much I was food illiterate.
It was through being in Jerusalem, having the time to cook in the evenings and being so close such amazing, fresh food that I really started cooking.
Has living in Miami influenced your cooking?
Absolutely! I am influenced both in terms of taste and visually. The colors that I choose, props I use on the blog – everything. I use lime and cilantro in at least half my dishes – those flavors are so prevalent here.
And the weather here really influences my cooking. I am not making cholent, stews or heavy meats. It’s 85 degrees! So I want to eat fresh.
You didn’t always keep kosher. Is there anything you miss?
I wouldn’t say there is anything I miss per say. It is more about foods I am curious about that I have never eaten. For example, I want to try full-on French food. I read all of Julia Child’s books. And then I read all of Ruth Reichl’s books. So it’s more about what I am curious about eating more so that any single food that I miss.
What have you learned from blogging?
Early on I was advised by someone who told me I should write less, and I am glad I ignored that advice. I get amazing letters from people that read and really enjoy the stories I share.
So while I have continued writing, at some point I stopped doing complicated recipes and starting cooking more simple things, because that’s what I had time for and also those are popular with people. Sometimes people just want a good veggie chili recipe, etc.
What has been the best thing that has happened as a result of blogging?
Definitely the connections between people – the friends I have made online, especially with other bloggers. For example, I had a google hangout this morning with Amy Kritzer, Liz Rueven and The Patchke Princess talking about the Passover cookbook we are working on! I feel like we are supportive of one another, not competitive.
I have made so many friends through the internet and blogging including unexpected friends like The Rural Roost, who is neither kosher nor Jewish. But how exciting is it to connect with someone from Montana who I may not have ever met otherwise!
What advice do you have for someone else who wants to start a food blog?
Make sure you figure out your voice and where you want to go with blogging. Once you figure out your voice, you need to make sure you are connecting with other bloggers who share a similar focus as you. It helps build a community through like-minded bloggers.
What’s on the horizon for Jewhungry?
A lot!I am moving to Los Angeles where, among other things, I will be doing recipes and parent blogging for JkidLA. I am also working on a redesign for the blog and of course the Passover cookbook I mentioned.