Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Introducing Feride- The Goddess of Azeri cuisine.




As promised, here is the chat with Feride, a cool girl from Baku that I met via blogging and became virtual friends with. Hope you enjoy; and don't forget to buy her book when she gets it published! I tried to keep it casual. Imagine sipping chay from samovar, like in the picture above, asking her all sorts of questions....




Q: Of course, let’s start from the beginning, as it is a good place to start. Where did the idea of your food blog come from? Have you always been a good cook? Who taught you?

A: The idea to blog came to me 4 years ago when I also had a spontaneous and crazy idea to write a cookbook on Azerbaijani cuisine. There was no extensive English language resource on Azerbaijani food and I decided to venture into the untapped.  I tend to think that I can handle more than I actually can, so the two projects started and stuck with me, for which I am happy as I love them both! I wanted to share my love for food with people out there, and also let the world know that there is a country named Azerbaijan where food is amazing. 

I rarely cooked back in Azerbaijan. All the cooking was done by my mom and she even packed lunch for work for me when I was well into my twenties. This is rather normal in Azerbaijan where typically the young are spoiled with homemade food  and are forced to learn only after they marry. The same applied to me. In my case it was even more difficult as I moved overseas. I brought with me my recipe notebook (I've been fascinated with recipes and collected them since I was about 13 but rarely cooked with them) and began to experiment, I called my mom, my sister, my aunt asking for more recipes, tips and hints. I slowly honed my skills and learned by making mistakes and a big mess in the kitchen.  I am still a student in learning. There is a lot to learn. 

Q: You are originally from Baku. Can you tell us where in the USA you live now, how you ended up there; and what foods did you discover in the US that you did not know about back in Baku that you really like now? What is your American favourite?  Also, what do you miss the most (food wise) from Azerbaijan? 

A: I live in the city of Long Beach (county of Los Angeles), California. where I ended up after marrying - my husband worked in the U.S. My American favorite is hot chicken wing, barbecue, and apple pie for the dessert.  What I miss from Baku? I guess the taste of foods - I can easily find substitutes for most ingredients, but some are simply more flavorful there. I particularly like Azerbaijani lamb and country raised chicken. I miss bazars, I miss tea around samovar in the lush green countryside, and I miss chats around big and hospitable Azerbaijani tables. 

Q: What is the ultimate goal of your blogging? I know you are trying to get your book out there. What is the next big project, after the book and your TV program

A: My ultimate goal of blogging is just to share my love for anything food related. I’ve always loved food and to me, the best part of enjoying it is when it is shared, whether around a table, or virtually by means of recipes.  I think part of my love for food is posted online with every single recipe. My book is a different project. Of course, my blog helped me spread the word about the book and this is great. I have tons of other project ideas cooking in my head and I will tell you more about them after they have cooked completely.

Q: Do you find food sexy? Clearly, some people do. Think the erotic food play in the 9& 1/2 weeks. And don’t even get me started on Nigella Lawson. Also, do you believe in the aphrodisiac power of certain foods, say, oysters?
 
A: Let me begin by saying that I cannot relate the word “sexy” to food at all. To me, the two words simply to not belong together. As to aphrodisiac power of some foods, I am certainly no expert in this and do not apply these powers into my cooking, but I read that it is real, and as the name suggests, the belief came with ancient Greeks.   

Q: What would be your most romantic dinner?
 
A: A dinner definitely not cooked by me! Perhaps a surprise dinner, regardless of place.

Q: Besides the Azeri dishes, of course, what national cuisine is your favourite and why?

A: I love to experiment with different cuisines. Because we are a Turkish-Azerbaijani family, I cook from both cuisines equally. I love Turkish cuisine  - it is immensely vast if I can say so, so varied, different, colourful, healthy, delicious. I also love Thai cuisine for its exotic flavours. But I also love many other cuisines, because they all have something delicious to offer. 

Q: Our (Azeri) national cuisine is not particularly healthy, don’t you think? We use an awful lot of butter, fat and salt. You look very slim in your photos! Unless those are cleverly photo-shopped, you must eat very healthily. How do you manage that? What would be your typical breakfast, lunch and dinner? 

A: We do love butter, don’t we! But I think it is up to a cook to control the amount of fat that goes into his or her plate and the young are more conscious about their fat intake. I keep relative slim only because I exercise. I put on weight easily as I have a grand appetite that is not easy to control. I wouldn’t say I am extremely health conscious and that I count calories, but I do try to cook healthy as much as I can. I am not a breakfast person, which is not something to be proud of. On a typical day my breakfast would include a cup of black tea with a small slice of toast slathered with jam and that is pretty much it.  My lunch is usually quick as I work – a bowl of soup that I made early in the morning or the night before, or a sandwich or a salad that I fix on the go. Dinner is a family tradition and it can range from light or substantial depending on the cook’s availability and mood.

Q: I have a child who is quite fussy, sadly, in what she eats and still prefers fish fingers and pasta to a family shared meal. What do your children eat? Do you cook separately for them or do you all eat together? Having grown up in the US, do your kids prefer American food to Azeri dishes, or did you manage to introduce them to Azeri/Russian dishes?

A: I cannot imagine cooking separately for my kids. They, aged 8 and 4, eat whatever I cook for everybody. Take it or leave it- that’s how cruel their mom is. But of course, there are certain things that they do not like – eggplant, things too garlicky and other not so kid-appealing foods. They eat Azerbaijani, Turkish and American with equal gusto! J Ask them what their favourite food is, they will say dushbere (little dumplings soup) or yarpag dolmasi (stuffed grape leaves) and of course, they have to pick the most time consuming dishes for their already time-deprived mom to cook. But I don’t mind as I love both dishes too. 

Q: As a blogger, you must occasionally get nuisance comments. I would struggle to think that you could offend anyone with your beautiful recipes and photos, but still...do you ever get hate mail/comments/ blog trolls? Tell us more about those and how you chose to deal with them.

A: Feedback I receive on my recipes is largely positive. My readers are supportive of my blog and they are my source of encouragement. I do get very few negative comments here and there and by these I do not mean constructive criticism type of comments. I do not like rude people who just want to attack for no obvious reason, so I really have nothing to say to these people. I was a lot more sensitive to such in the beginning, but not any more. Generally speaking, I love my readers. I feel I am connected with them in some ways. If they didn’t read and use my recipes, I wouldn’t be blogging. It would be fun to meet them all in person one day. 

Q: Finally, tell us more about your book. What will it be like? 

A: The more I talk about my book, the more its publication is postponed! I am not sure when it will be eventually published.  It will be part culture, part history, part ethnography, part recipes, part my stories – a little bit of everything written with love to make one big whole that I hope readers will enjoy and appreciate.


14 comments:

  1. Wow! An incredible woman, indeed.
    It's amazing how people gather around food, no matter if they are Azeri, Peruvian or wherever.
    I enjoyed this post very much!

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  2. @Gabriela: Absolutely. Food and music have no boundaries.

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  3. Thank you for the opportunity, Scary! I am very honored. It was fun answering your questions. One day we should sip chai from samovar and chat - in real life!:)

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  4. Hi Feride, I saw your blog. What can I say... it is NOT a good idea to visit your blog at 10pm when one is trying to stay slim: everything looks incredibly delicious! :) Since you have kids, I was wondering if you could suggest a few kid-friendly no-hassle recipes (about 30 min or under). My son is a picky eater (he is 3 years old), and I know many kids are, so I was wondering if you have any suggestions. We live in the US (Houston). Thank you!

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  5. @Marianna: I think the comments are down/not working properly again. Very annoying. Feride replied to you but it did not come through. this is what she said:

    "I am thinking to post some kid recipe recipe on my blog from time to time. What exactly do your son your son like or dislike?"

    Let me know if your comment is not showing. Agrrr

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  6. Hi Scary and Feride, thanks for responding and forwarding the comments. He likes ground meat, pasta, chickpeas, green peas, beans, peanut butter, eggs, chicken. Does not eat much vegetables, unfortunately. Thank you!

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  7. I think Feride is great. By the way, she starts a new Azeri cooking column in AZ Magazine this month!

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  8. @Marianna: Not to get in Feride's way here, but have you heard of Annabel Karmel toddler book? It is quite popular here, in the UK and is full of kids meals that are delicious and very easy to make. I used it for my older child from birth onwards. The one way I made her eat something green (veggie) was AK's tomato and courgette pasta. You can make the tomato sauce and blend the courgettes in, so he won’t know they have been added. Of course that is still cooking for the kid separately. I know it is not ideal. But what can I say? Most of the UK kids don't like adult food and its flavours. We eat spicy stuff, and more complicated things...Today I hosted lunch for old Israeli friends; and between us we had 4 kids aged 4-9. None of them ate our food! They just had some potato mash and bread. :-)

    @Steve: Oh, so Feride is my colleague now! :-)

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  9. Hi Scary, I have not heard about Karmel, but thanks for mentioning her. Do you mean her book New Complete Baby and Toddler Meal Planner? I searched for her books and apparently she has several of those for kids of various ages. Working full-time and being the only cook in our family, I am not super crazy about the idea of cooking separately for our picky son, but if Karmel's recipes are as easy as you say they are, I should check her out. Besides, I need to feed him something anyway, right? PS. Sorry, I don't mean to turn your blog into a food blog, just thought I'd ask while we are on the subject :)

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  11. @Marianna: Yep, that's the one. There are some very tasty things there that you can eat, too. I loved the apple and chicken balls. very tasty.

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  12. @saket: If you want to advertise here, I will charge very little. :-)

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  13. Hi, I know Feride and I follow her blog admiringly.
    Have a nice day.

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  14. Hi
    I love your blog! I read it constantly.
    Keep up great work!
    Sincerely
    Zemfira

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