03 October 2011

A Portrait of The Artist: The Hairy Peach



Are you hungry? I am sure when you start reading Meeling's interview for A Portrait of The Artist your mouth will quickly water and succumbing to the temptation you will find yourself rushing to the fridge to soothe your stomach! Meeling is a self-confessed foodie. She loves to cook and more importantly, she loves to eat. And you can feel that once you visit her blog The Hairy Peach where apart from an awesome graphic header you will find Meeling's take on recipes from the world of sensational eco-friendly food.

But wait, that is not all - Meeling is not only a food person, she has also been sewing for about 25 years. So, there you have it - a multi-talented blogger you will rarely meet! In her etsy shop, teabagz, you will find charming bags, purses and backpacks sewn from vintage fabrics, more precisely tea towels. Meeling takes care in sourcing and choosing the combination of fabrics that go in to each bag. It is a recycled or repurposed product, which makes them a great "green" product. 

Before you rush off to check out Meeling's awesome blog and etsy shop, take some time to get to know her, I know this interview will make you want to be friends with her, not only via Google Friend Connect!

Meeling and her husband at a cooking class

Tell us a bit about your background. How did your love for food grow?
I was born and raised in Canada. My grandparents emigrated from The Netherlands in the mid to late 1950's. I grew up in a single family home with just my Mom, so we spent a lot of time at my grandparents house. They lived about an hour outside the city in a very rural area, living on close to 3 acres, a lot of which was garden, including one of my favorites as a kids... fresh raspberries! We ate a lot of fresh vegetables in the summer and my grandma would do a lot of canning for the winter. They brought a lot of European traditions and food favorites with them. It wasn't unusual for us to eat cheese for breakfast on toast. I loved as a kid (and still do) gouda with caraway seeds. My grandma never used a recipe, and was a very good cook and an even better baker. Her homemade brown (wheat) bread was so good. That's one thing I still miss... I can smell and taste it, if I stop to think about it.

My grandfather was stationed in Indonesia during the war and must have grown to love nasi goreng, and my grandma could make it beautifully!! I loved that dish as a kid, the egg on the top always fascinated me. That's one dish I want to learn to make completely from scratch and have it taste as good as my grandmas. So far I can make a pretty mean Pad Thai! Thai and Indonesian cuisine are amongst my favorite foods.

A lot of food for me is memory... where were you when you ate it, who were you with... it's a powerful thing. It's also about family. We sit down almost every night and have dinner together as a family. It promotes conversation and unity, I feel very strongly about family dinners. It's a wonderful time to share things... I grew up that way, and I hope that my boys will continue that once they've moved on into their own families.



When did you decide to start a blog for your cooking passion?
It was actually my husband Chad that suggested it. I like to write, and I love food and cooking so he said why don't you start a food related blog. At first it was scary... it's putting yourself out there, sharing things you aren't sure anyone will read. But they did... and they keep coming back! Over this last year, I've made so many wonderful friends online in the blogging community, and learned so much. About the blogging world, people in general, about myself and the areas that I have confidence in. It's been a very rewarding year and I'm very glad that I started The Hairy Peach. 


How do you choose the products you use in your recipes?
That's a hard question to answer. I get inspiration from so many places. Sometimes I read an article in a cooking magazine and something catches my eye. There are days I go the grocery store or the farmers market and something just looks extra fresh and I know I want to incorporate it into my dinner.

For example, this morning at work I was drinking a Key Lime Juice Squeeze... delicious as a drink and for some reason I instantly thought what an awesome marinade component it would be for grilled chicken... maybe that sounds a little odd, but that's how my brain works. At times, I'm approached by a food company to try out a new product, fiddle around with a recipe or two and that's always fun too.

A lovely lunch in Rome, Italy last year
Does your mood affect your cooking? 
I love to cook. I truly enjoy the whole process, from start to finish. I find it relaxing, the chopping, the sautéing, the plating, seeing my family enjoy it. It makes me feel good. There are days when I'm extra tired or maybe we've got soccer practice or guitar lesson and there's no time, so then I opt for something easy. My husband and I love to just have a baguette, some cheese, maybe a few olives and a glass of wine. On those nights the boys "fend for themselves", they usually end up making boiled or scrambled eggs and toast. My kids love breakfast for dinner!

How do you deal with cooking mistakes?
You learn from them, laugh at them and hopefully don't make them again! One recently... I very quickly skimmed a recipe for a dipping sauce. I use recipes more for inspiration... I rarely follow one exactly, so I didn't go back to double check anything. I saw serrano chiles and the number 1... what I didn't see was it was 1 teaspoon not 1 whole serrano!!! Talk about tongue numbing! Funny now... not so much that night!


The best risotto ever at Trattoria Da Romano on the island of Burano, just outside Venice
How much of the food on your table is home grown? 
We live in the city and only have room for one small raised planted bed in the backyard. I wish there was room for more. We always do a Summer and Winter garden... living in California we are able to grow things year round. Right now we have 2 different heirloom tomatoes, and 1 grape tomato plant that is going absolutely crazy producing. We grow zucchini and spinach and I have all the herbs I can fit. I especially love having fresh basil and rosemary, I use those a lot. We also try to get produce from our local farmers markets whenever possible.

What is your day job and how much time a day do you spend cooking? 
I work with special needs preschoolers for our local school district, ages 3 & 4. I love my job!  It's challenging, but so rewarding. Nothing beats a hug and smile from one of those kids, it brightens your whole day. The nice thing working for the school district is that I'm never home late, and my days off coincide with my boys days off too, which I love  I cook dinner probably 5-6 nights a week and on the weekends we almost always make lunches and a big breakfast too. French toast is a favorite in our house. I'm probably in the kitchen on average close to 2 hours a day, sometimes a little less, sometimes more.



How has your cooking style evolved through the years? 
I've mellowed as I've gotten older, you get more comfortable in your own skin and I've done the same with cooking. I'm not scared to try anything when it comes to cooking, I trust my own judgement more and more as time passes. I've learned that plating and presentation are a huge part of cooking. We've all heard the phrase "you eat with your eye first" and it's very true. A beautifully presented plate can take something ordinary and turn it into extraordinary. Sure, I make flops every now and again, but if I didn't I wouldn't learn that certain things don't taste well together. I get excited with new foods and trying new tastes... it's enlightening.

If there is one thing you could change about cooking what would it be? 
I guess in general I don't like some of the direction that food shows on TV have taken. There seems to be a real trend of "excess". The more food the better, the larger the portion the better, to the point of gorging oneself. It's not appetizing in any way, and not healthy either. I'm not sure why that's happened but I don't care for it.

As for me personally and any changes I'd like to see... maybe one day I'll get the range of my dreams. The bright orange 48" Viking with 6 burners and a grill. How could you not be in a good mood cooking on a range like that! Oh well, a girl can dream right?? ;-)


Get in touch with Meeling:
Blog: http://thehairypeachblog.blogspot.com/
Etsy: http://www.etsy.com/shop/theteabagzlady

You can read more editions of A Portrait of The Artist here