|Name: Michael Natkin
Name of blog: Herbivoracious
Location: Seattle, WA
Year blog founded: 2007 What was the inspiration for the name of your blog?
I launched the blog with the name “The Vegetarian Foodie,” but I never really liked the word foodie so I almost immediately started searching for a better idea. I even asked my early readers to pitch in, but didn’t come up with anything until one day a friend sent me a text message with the single word, “Herbivoracious,” and I knew that was it. Unfortunately, although I do love vegetables and I’m quite voracious, the name is really hard to communicate. I always have business cards with me because no one is ever going to remember it or guess how to spell it correctly!
Oh, man, that’s a tough question! I’ve published about 250 recipes over the past 3½ years. If I have to pick just one, how about Vietnamese Vermicelli (Bun) with Ginger Grapefruit Sauce? I love the bun noodle bowls at Vietnamese restaurants, but the sauce that comes on the side isn’t vegetarian. So my wife and I got in the habit of ordering a mango-tofu salad and pouring the extra dressing from that onto our bun. That inspired this recipe, which has its own citrusy and sweet sauce. With the tender noodles, pan-seared tofu, crispy shallot rings, and pickled salad of carrot and daikon, you have a big variety of flavors and textures that I just love. What is the first meal you ever cooked?
Sounds funny for a vegetarian, but it was probably meat loaf! My mom was a good, straightforward cook and loved to teach me and my brother how to work in the kitchen. I remember that weird feeling of kneading together moistened bread, eggs, ketchup and ground beef like it was yesterday. Sadly, mom passed away from cancer far too young, at age 42, when I was only 18. Some of my happiest memories from her last year were cooking meals for her, especially when she was trying a macrobiotic diet. I know that meant a lot to her even though she was probably too weak to enjoy the food. If you had to blog about one ingredient every day for a year, what food it be?
A good cook should be able to conjure a near endless variety of dishes from any ingredient. Eggs would be a good choice, since they serve a hundred purposes and have very complex properties. You can never know everything about cooking with them. But I think I’ll go a little contrarian and say asparagus. It is so fundamentally delicious when simply steamed and served with good butter. I enjoy the challenge of manipulating it in a way that shows respect to the natural greatness. I will never eat:
Meat. Or fish. What is your favorite restaurant and what do you order there?
My favorite restaurant is always the one I haven’t gotten to try yet! I’m a big fan of modernist cooking, especially when it is playful and intellectual, but not stuffy and self important. The focus needs to be on using those techniques to make the food more delicious. So I’m looking forward to the opportunity to try WD-50 and Alinea for example. Last year we ate at Jose Andres’ Bazaar in Los Angeles and I loved the whole surreal, theatrical experience. I’m also a big fan of restaurants that know how maximize the flavor of a few simple ingredients treated with respect. Seattle’s Tilth (Maria Hines), and The Walrus and the Carpenter (Renee Erickson), are two great examples. At Walrus I had a celery root salad with pomegranate molasses that was both straightforward and surprising. What other blogs, food or otherwise, do you read regularly?
I’ve got at least 100 blogs in my reader, but here are a few of my favorites: I always read Ideas In Food because Alex and Aki are prolifically creative, and nice folks too. Diane Jacobs’ Will Write For Food is mandatory for all of us who, um, write about food. I’m also a big fan of Playing With Fire and Water, Orangette, Eggbeater, Cooking Issues, and Like a Strawberry Milk. And if you are in Seattle, you’ve got to follow Keren Brown’s Frantic Foodie – she’s always got the scoop and also runs fantastic local food events. When you’re not blogging about food or cooking, what other activities do you do?
Well, I’m writing a cookbook for Harvard Common Press, which is due out in the fall of 2012, so that is taking most of my spare time right now! I also like to ski, play basketball and golf, and shoot pool. My wife and I love to travel, and we have two young kids so we are are really looking forward to showing them around the world. Is there a food you used to hate, but now love?
I’ve always eaten and enjoyed just about everything vegetarian. I even like slimy natto miso. I still have a tough time with parsnips, but they are growing on me! The only thing I’ve tried that I probably wouldn’t try again is fermented bean curd. It smells and tastes like month-old sweaty socks… If you were trapped on a desert island with only five ingredients, what would you pick?
I’m not going to try to be too strategic about this, figuring out which foods I can get the most uses out of. I’m a rice guy, so that will be my staple. I’m going to need tofu and pinto beans. Hmm. So that leaves me one vegetable and one fruit. Ok: asparagus and mangoes. Done. See? I like to be decisive. What is your current food fix?
I’m loving learning about Korean foods. You have to do a little looking to find tasty vegetarian kimchi, but it is out there. Kimchi fried rice is my new favorite late night snack, and I’ve been putting kimchi, kochujang and ssamjang on everything lately.