When and why did you start the blog?
Big Girls, Small Kitchen was born on Friday, November 28, 2008, in the meditative wake of a Thanksgiving speech Phoebe received from her cousin, Sarna. In her turkey-haze, Phoebe remembered Sarna’s advice: if you don’t like your job, do something about it. Early the next day, Phoebe bought a domain name. Cara woke up, ate a slice of leftover pecan pie, and checked her email. “Blog,” read the subject of a message from Phoebe. A link to www.biggirlssmallkitchen.com was inside.
What’s your process for writing the blog?
The blog began as a place to document what was going on in our small kitchens, and for the most part it remains a space for Cara to share with you what she’s made for dinner parties, decadent breakfasts, and all-alone lunches.
Of course in order to serve you best, Cara also sometimes plans ahead. That’s why you’ll see brisket before Passover, not after, and sweet Strawberry shortcakes going live just in time for Mother’s Day.
In April 2012, Phoebe left Big Girls, Small Kitchen to pursue other paths. You can always catch up on her archives on BGSK here.
Who takes the pictures?
Cara takes all her own pictures with a Digital Canon Rebel 2000s, usually with a 50mm macro lens. The majority of the food pictures in our book were taken by Josh Shaub of Very Natural Photo, who also explained much about light, framing, and styling. Some were taken by Cara’s fiancé, Alex, who also lends us his expertise on cameras, lens cleaning, and keeping your arms steady in low light (though perhaps that last cannot be learned). The lifestyle pictures in the book, as well as those on the site that don’t look like facebook albums, were taken by the talented Allison Badea and styled by Sarah Lederman.
What’s your technique for taking nice food photos?
Light is the most crucial element when it comes to taking food photos, and daylight is the clear winner among the light sources. Move the food you’re photographing to the best lit part of your apartment or house. Take a few shots from different angles and look at them; this will help you identify which angle get the best light, and, therefore, which angle you should be shooting from. That’s when you’ll fall in love with random corners and surfaces where the light just seems to work magic on your pictures.
Most of all, your photos should look appetizing. If you don’t want to lick the screen of your digital camera, you haven’t gotten your money shot yet. Keep going. Certain dishes, like goopy enchiladas and greasy beef are just plain hard to take. Narrow your range of focus, center on something small and pretty, and let the rest of the photo be slightly blurry. Worse comes to worst, sprinkle some parsley on top and set your camera to focus on that.
And, of course, practice. BGSK’s photos are tons better now than when the site first started.
How do I style my food photos?
Even if you didn’t think you were into props, don’t underestimate the power of a pretty napkin or silver-serving spoon to improve your photo tenfold. Little extras can make a food photo pop. Put down a place setting. Pour a glass of milk, wine, or water. Capture the edge of a hand-painted bowl in the corner of your frame. Drape dishtowels or layer wood cutting boards beneath your plate. Filling out the frame—without overloading it—will make your photos look better.
Can I advertise on BGSK?
You can become a sponsor for BGSK in many different ways, from giveaways to advertising to supplying products for review. Check out the Work with BGSK page, then contact us at bgsk [at] biggirlssmallkitchen [dot] com with subject line “advertising” for more info.
How did you get a book deal?
Not long after Cara and Phoebe started the blog, it started getting some interest from literary agents. After that, the two initiated their own search for the perfect agent. At a meeting with Heather Schroder at ICM, something clicked. In the fall of 2009, Heather sold the BGSK book proposal to Harper Collins.
What does the book cover that the site doesn’t?
In The Small Kitchen: 100 Recipes from Our Year of Cooking in the Real World, was published by William Morrow Cookbooks in May 2011. It has 100 perfectly tested recipes, including more than fifty new recipes that have never been featured online, plus beautiful four-color photography. It also has many stories that take the reader through our “sophomore” year of cooking the real world. While the blog thus far has been more of a how-to by life example, the book is a comprehensive resource, with tips, tricks, and tales behind our cocktail parties, at-home diner dates, and lonely lunches, and all manner of kitchen disasters that our readers can identify with.
Wait—is your book a cookbook or a memoir?
Well, it’s both, really. You can read all about what to expect here.
Where can I buy your book?
It’s available at all major booksellers and on the web at places like Amazon.
Do you have a background in cooking?
Cara grew up in a household that stressed the importance of home-cooked meals and family dinners. She would stand at her mother’s kitchen counter and help her mix ingredients for pancakes. She’s taken a few courses at ICE here and there. That’s where we learned to make focaccia, paratha, and perfect vinaigrettes. In college, Cara had a job as the sous-sous chef at the Harvard Faculty Club. Mainly, she peeled potatoes, trimmed string beans, and plated cookies. Later, she served as the co-chef for bi-weekly open house teas held on campus, spending her Thursdays and Fridays knee-deep in finger food. Cara also spent a few months as an intern in the kitchen of the Martha Stewart Show. But most of all, she prizes being a home cook.
How do you create your recipes?
Most of our recipes are inspired by the food itself. Sometimes it’s the sad spears of broccoli sitting in our fridge, other times it’s the gorgeous head of red cabbage on the farmers’ market counter. We also cook from cravings, whether for chocolate or for kale. Events also dictate what we make: if we’re having a big party, we’ll create a new one-dish meal; if an intimate dinner, we’ll fashion a special meal. Family recipes, passed on, take on new life in our kitchens as we tweak them to our tastes, and we’ve been known to put on our thinking caps and try to re-create a restaurant meal every now and then. Inspiration is everywhere, really, and we keep our eyes peeled for it. We do also read cookbooks for inspiration, but we’re hard pressed to remember the last time we cooked with a book open in the kitchen, actually following directions. We write down instructions and quantities as we cook, and we usually make a recipe at least twice before we post it on the blog.
What are the tools I need to cook your recipes?
Though we love improvisational cooking and bet that with your wits about you, you could make everything on BGSK with a pocket knife and a frying pan, our guide to outfitting your first (or any) kitchen can be found here.
Who designed your site?
The incredibly talented Laureen Moyal of Paper White Studio artfully spearheaded our re-design, from inspiration wall to launch. Social Ink did the development. You may remember our beloved old banner—that was created by Tom of Type Shape Color.
Do you have any advice for those starting a food and cooking blog?
Figure out your point of view at the beginning and stay true to it. We really took our time when we first started. Our first month included about two posts! But we spent a lot of energy talking about the different categories of posts that made sense, and most of the ones we decided on are the blog categories you see today. Miraculously, we’re still enthusiastic about them all. We keep our voice at the center of what we do, and in our writing on the web, for magazines, and in our book we always remain true to our experiences. People can smell inauthenticity from a mile away. We like to keep it real.
When I leave my email in the comments, what do you do with it?
Nothing. Unless you’re a giveaway winner, in which case we’ll email you. We respect our readers’ privacy one hundred percent. Same goes if you subscribe to our newsletter.
How do I subscribe to your newsletter?
Subscribe here. Our newsletter is a weekly recap of our blog posts and includes some subscriber-only features.
Can I write for BGSK?
I’m always looking for talented voices to share their stories from the twenty-something kitchen. You should to be able to take great photos and write a solid recipe. If you’ve got an idea, please contact bgsk [at] biggirlssmallkitchen [dot] com with subject line “contribute!”.
Do you have a recipe for ________?
The recipe index is sorted by main ingredient, season, holiday, meal, dietary restriction, and oh so much more. Use the search function to find what you’re looking for, or scroll through our archives if you’re not exactly sure what it is you’re craving. If you’ve got ideas for recipes you’d like to see featured, email BGSK.
Did I chop this right?
If you have a question about technique, ingredients, or tools in any of our recipes, the best way to get an answer is to leave your comment in the comments section of the post you’re referring to. We’ll answer there—so check back.
How do I cut into a sweet potato?
We swear, someone once asked us this. We were like, “um, you…cut into it?”
Whether you’re a total newbie or a curious cat, you’ll find common cooking queries, a slew of how-to’s, a glossary, and our sometimes irreverent “best of” lists in the Guides section of the site. Everything we know about cooking, from how to cut an onion to the best ways to get grease off your pans, can be found there.
Are you vegetarians?
No. We’re really omnivores or flexitarians, and we try our best to eat in a healthful, thoughtful way. Cara was a vegan for a while and was a vegetarian when BGSK was founded. Many close friends, however, are vegetarians, and in part as a result of eating with them, BGSK has a soft spot for tofu, eggplant parmesan, and hummus sandwiches. Vegetarian staples are also cheaper than meat—another reason they are great. In other words, you’ll find a lot of vegetarian and vegan recipes on the blog.
What do you think about local/organic/sustainable food?
It’s great. And when we can afford the $10 per pound tomatoes from the farmers’ market, we buy those. When we’re poorer than usual, we settle for some non-organic items from the supermarket and hope that mealy tomatoes are never among them.
What’s your go-to dish when you’re cooking just for yourself?
A Classic Grilled Cheese
What are your favorite recipes from the blog?
Inside Out Squash Ravioli Pasta