Canadians are happy when we’re eating, or talking about food. I got to do this recently, (the talking about food part) with Suzie Ridler, aka Suzie the Foodie, about how she got her start writing for Canada’s Food Network.
Me: How did you get your start with food?
Suzie: Very reluctantly and out of desperation. When I moved away from home I hardly knew anything about making food and my future-husband was hopeless in the kitchen so it was learn to cook or live on mac and cheese forever. No thanks!
Me: How did you get to be a food writer?
Suzie: I have a degree in English and creative writing but the world of fiction no longer inspired me and I think writing poetry on demand for a crappy professor killed my inner poet. Food is where my interest was, and I love talking about it so I just started writing about it and people seemed to enjoy my food, and stories.
Me: You relocated for personal reasons, how did that impact you’re choices involving your career/passions?
Suzie: When I moved from British Columbia to Nova Scotia, I had no idea how different my life was going to be. I had moved a lot but this move was shocking. I lived my life outside out west, and here, well, with all the snow and cold that we get I am now stuck inside for almost half the year. As a result, I got bored out of my mind and turned to the kitchen for inspiration. As a result I started to take my interest in food more seriously and now I am a food writer and photographer for Food Network Canada.
Me: Who do you say have been your most influential “celebrity” chef role models?
Suzie: No doubt Anna Olson from her show Sugar meant the most to me. What a fantastic teacher she is and always so enthusiastic about food. She taught me many rules of baking and where you can “switch it up” when it comes to sweets. Cooking is great but baking is so much fun, oh how I miss that show.
Me: What was the first recipe you mastered?
Suzie: It took me forever to figure out how to bake a pie. I did not have the Food Network when I first started baking so I had to get books out of the library and figure out the science behind baking a pie before I could make what my husband calls a “real” pie—he comes from a family of bakers, I do not. In fact until I made my own “real” pie I did not know the joys of a truly flaky crust. After that, everything else seemed easy.
Me: What recipe still gives you the most grief when you try it?
Suzie: Believe it or not, the simple recipes drive me the most crazy. They never seem to have enough flavor and bore me. I would much rather spend hours making something with complex and fabulous flavors than put something together with a drizzle of olive oil and squeeze of lemon and want to cry because it is so boring.
Me: It has been said that food is connected to emotions, do you agree?
Suzie: I suppose so. I was never a big indulger of food so I do not have a strong emotional connection to food that some people have but I do love how food can take us back in time to happier days. To this day every time I make my family’s crab dip I remember all the parties we have had, all the family holidays we have spent together.
Me: There has been a rise in the last few years in the foodie community, do you think that is completely to do with the recent string of movies in the genre or do you think there has been another underlining element?
Suzie: Food seems to have become fashionable which I find totally bizarre. Food elitists in particular puzzle and annoy me. Food is not a trend, it is part of our everyday lives. I do like that it has gotten a little more respect now than it used to and I of course love foodie movies and novels. It definitely is not a trend for me though. When I started people thought I was lame for wanting to bake cookies. I am in it for the long haul.
Me: What is involved in a “test kitchen”? And do you test for anyone (celebrity chef) or just the magazine/Food Network in general?
Suzie: I do love to try recipes and one of the reasons I pick Food Network people is I know their styles of cooking and baking and there are some I am more inclined to like than others. I use my own money to pay for these dishes and I have very little energy thanks to my fibromyalgia so I want there to be more chances of success than failure. When I test a recipe I do try and stick to it as much as possible but I do change things to accommodate the ingredients I have and my own personal tastes. I am definitely open to other people’s recipes but I am extremely picky, unforgiving and brutally honest. That is why I usually take on the heavy hitters, they can take it! I hate to disappoint people by hating a recipe, but it happens.
Me: What does food represent to you?
Suzie: Food represents creativity, health, nourishment, and joy to me. I think it is medicine for the body and soul. Some people take medicine. I would rather eat blueberries. It lets me play in the kitchen, helps keep me moving, and really lets me connect with the earth. It gives me great joy to share food with people, as well as my stories. We all eat. Food helps us connect. It is communal whether you are sharing a plate of veggies and dip at a party or reading about my kitchen disasters nodding your head because you have also done something just as stupid as I did. We laugh and cry through our meals together. Sometimes we eat alone. I do that a lot. Every time I make a meal I am taking care of at least me. Food is love.
Me: Which foodie movies and/or books are you’re personal favorite?
Suzie: It is definitely not considered a foodie book but The Probable Future by Alice Hoffman is partially set in a diner/coffee shop where you can buy home-baked pies to go with your coffee. I loved that idea and realized just how rare it was that people even get to eat these treats when you go out any more because they are all massed produced. I love the idea of baking treats every day in a small town for people you care about in an old-fashioned eating establishment. There was something so charming and homey about that story, it is one of my favorites of all time for a lot of reasons, and beautifully written.