A fresh food writer in the online world has a hard time at the beginning. When I decided to create my own food paradise on the web I knew nobody. Nor did I have a clue about blogging but I was open to acquire the knowledge. I was excited but reluctant, if not shy, yet I was determined to fill my half full glass with the wisdom that I needed. Slowly I made some friends and secretly I was reading food blogs which seemed to have been created by half gods. One of these alluring and wisdom stuffed food blogs was Spicie Foodie.
One fine day, the person behind the magnificent food space crossed my way, the friendly Nancy Lopez-McHugh. Not literally but more while I was google plussing and looking out for some food enthusiasts. You have to know that at that time google+ was a deserted place, it had just been launched by google in 2011, hence it was easy in a way to get to know like minded folks. So there was Nancie’s picture, “Tacos al pastor“, and I was smitten by the ladies work! Slowly a conversation emerged and I ended up frequently checking out her blog and ogling her hot Mexican recipes.
Yes Nancy is originally Mexican and she grew up in a home where everyone could cook or bake except for herself. Her mother would urge her to learn the art of food preparation but she refused until she finally gave in and taught herself to cook a few years back. She explained that she has no formal culinary training and that she is still learning so much but one things she knows for sure that cooking will be forever a part of her life now (the story of my life!)
Currently she lives with her husband in the Czech Republic (Europe) so she is far from her native home. Food that takes her back in time, food that reminds her of her childhood can only be her mother’s red mole (Mexican stew dish) which is rather spicy then sweet. It’s the most unique mole she has ever had and she hasn’t had it in years. I understand how Nancy feels. Mama’s food is the best and mother lives on the other side of the world, it can be a torture.
Another thing that caught my eye when I stumbled upon Spicie Foodie was the blog name. What would our world look like without spices and herbs? I always wanted to know what Nancy’s favorite spices and herbs were. She thinks favorites between all the various spices are difficult to pick but she frequently tends to use garlic, chile and cumin. Her first herb choices are Cilantro and Basil because of the lovely scent they are emitting. Both herbs are commonly used in Mexican, Thai, Vietnamese and Indian cuisine which is quite convenient as well.
I am a little curious person (I am certainly not the only one here!) and after learning about Nancy’s cooking past, I wanted to know where she would suggest a new food blogger to start. Nancy replied…
Above all I think before someone becomes a food blogger they need to have a true passion for food. That doesn’t mean they need to be an expert, simply love cooking and talking about food. Photography has become a very important element of food blogging, so I also suggest having a decent camera to shoot photos. I know some new bloggers are intimidated because they don’t have the photography skills that seasoned bloggers and photographers do, but they shouldn’t be. With practice and time we can all improve our skills. It is very important to concentrate on one’s strong point, so if photography isn’t it then direct the energy to writing or recipe development. But I genuinely think that as long as you have a passion for cooking and sharing it then everything will fall into place. Oh yes, and be prepared for the long hours that food blogging requires!
Wise words. Food blogging certainly takes up time and one has to work hard to succeed! Nancy is the living proof of that. So according to the recent trends, Food photography has become more and more important. Yes it makes sense, we are all visual folks and of course we would always rather click on a pretty looking, perfectly styled image rather then a food bomb on a plate. Right?
So, how did Nancy master the art of photography?
The self taught food photographer explains that she improved her skills by reading, learning both from others and herself, putting that knowledge to use and most importantly by practicing. She confessed…
When I started shooting food photos it wasn’t like a magical thing where everything clicked right into place. In fact I look back at my earlier photos and blush from embarrassment.
Many of us seasoned food bloggers will nod in agreement. If you want to succeed you have to work hard and be open to learn new approaches and techniques. I asked Nancy if she could share a few photography tips with us and to my delight she counted out…
- It doesn’t matter what camera you own, just sit down with it and learn its menus and functions.
- Take some time to read manuals, online tutorials or photography books to learn the fundamentals of photography.
- Practice is so important and scheduling time for it is crucial.
I shouldn’t forget to mention that Nancy is a published Food Photography Author. Her ebook Yummy Pics was specially designed for Food Bloggers. You will find all the knowledge needed in the ebook to improve your food photography. She decided to undertake the project since over time she received so many questions regarding her photography. So Nancy knew she had to share the knowledge which she had accumulated. She revealed that completing the book required months and months of planning, writing, photographing and designing, but it was a great experience all around. The support and feedback has been wonderful and she couldn’t be happier about it.
These days we hear a lot about food photography props. I know Nancy has a nice collection of gorgeous props that she uses for her pictures. I personally struggle with space and so I ask myself how others organize themselves.Nancy stores many of the props along side other everyday food utensils. Her shooting backgrounds, cloths, and other miscellaneous styling tools and props are stacked in a small working space. I am all the more curious now to see Nancy in action!
- 2 oz or 60 g Mexican chocolate tablet, like Abuelita or Ibarra brands
- large pinch ground chile powder, adjust to taste
- ¾ cup or 120 g a.p. flour
- 1 tsp baking powder
- ½ tsp baking soda
- pinch of salt
- ¼ cup or 60 ml melted butter or sunflower oil
- ¼ cup or 60 g raw cane sugar
- ⅓ cup or 70 ml + 2 tbsp cold whole milk
- 1 medium egg
- small cake pan, 6′ in or 15 cm
- powdered sugar and berries for decorating
- Preheat oven to 175c or 350f, grease the pan and dust with flour. Roughly chop the chocolate. Place chocolate in a double boiler to melt. As the chocolate begins to melt add 1 tbsp of cold milk, mixing consistently until chocolate has completely melted and a smooth consistency has been achieved. Remove from heat, add chile powder mix and set aside.
- In a large bowl combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and set aside. Pour the remaining cold milk into the melted chocolate, mix until well combined. Next add the sugar and melted butter or oil, mixing until well incorporated. Use a whisk to beat in the egg, until lightly frothy.
- Pour the dry ingredients, flour mixture, into the wet chocolate ingredients. Fold in until combined, shouldn’t take too long. Pour the cake batter into the greased baking dish. Bake in center of oven for 30 minutes or until tester comes out clean. Allow to cool before placing on cake dish. Before dusting with powdered sugar make sure the cake is completely cooled. Dust with powdered sugar as desired and decorate with your favorite berries.
Nancy has got a couple of new projects going on, which will be introduced soon enough. One is a special series that she has been wanting to do since she had started blogging but only recently she got around to it. The second will involve photography…
…But I can’t give you more details than this right now. I’m super excited about both and can’t wait to officially announce them!