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[Illustration: Robyn Lee, but of course]

Even we at Serious Eats have a soft-mushy side every once in a while. In honor of Valentine's Day, Teachertalk suggested we ask our columnists to reflect on why they love writing their columns. We thought that was a brilliant idea! So we asked the gang, and heard back from quite a few.

Nick Kindelsperger, Dinner Tonight

"I love Dinner Tonight because it allows me to sample approachable, everyday food from all over the world. My wife loves it because it keeps me from attempting major, three-hour recipes on regular Tuesday nights."

Blake Royer, Dinner Tonight

"Writing Dinner Tonight ensures that I'm never in a rut in the kitchen. Because I can't repeat, just about everything I cook I've never attempted before; I'm constantly becoming a better, more diverse cook--and learning how much more there is to learn."

Caroline Russock, Cook the Book

"My favorite part about Cook the Book is the nearly daily visits from UPS and FedEx bringing newly released cookbooks. Also all of the recipe testing ensures that we almost never eat the same meal twice!"

Liz Gutman, Serious Chocolate

"I love chocolate because...come on. It's chocolate. Aside from its long (not always pretty) history in human consumption, there's so much interesting stuff going on right now with flavors, techniques, and innovation; as well as awareness in responsible sourcing, traditional processing, and sustainability in production. I love knowing that I don't know everything about a subject, because that means I have a ton of interesting stuff to learn -- ditto chocolate.

I've been a fan of SE for years, and couldn't believe when I was approached (just about a year ago!) to be the chocolate columnist. I considered myself way underqualified, and questioned the wisdom of taking on a weekly assignment like this while running my business (which is more or less two full-time jobs smushed together). But to be a part of such an incredible, intelligent, talented, and passionate group of people is such a delight and an honor; and one of the best unexpected things to come out of the last year. Don't fire me, please!"

Erin Meister, Serious Coffee

"I love writing about coffee for people who are passionate about it almost as much as I love brewing the stuff for them -- and, okay, drinking a cup or two myself, while I'm at it. And though you might think a supercaffeinated column by a professional barista would contain more exclamation points than Serious Coffee normally does, I try to keep jittery punctuation to a minimum and let the coffee speak for itself."

Elizabeth Barbone, Gluten Free Tuesday

"I think of Serious Eats as a virtual potluck and each week I get to bring a gluten-free dish to the table! What I love about my column is that it sits alongside other fantastic columns. Too often recipes for "special" diets are put off to the side and only seen by those requiring the diet. Sites like Serious Eats are changing that. Because, really, at the end of the day, we all want to eat well—no matter what diet we're on."

Kumiko Mitarai, How To Tips and Tricks

"Knowing that I'm presenting my how-to posts to the Serious Eats audience forces me to re-examine each step of my process. It's selfish, but I love that it helps make me a better cook."

Josh Bousel, Grilling

"Writing weekly about grilling and barbecue feeds my carnivorous tendencies in ways that I never would have thought possible. With each rack of ribs, writing a column makes me think of tons more variations to try."

Lucy Baker, Mixed Review and Edible DIY

Mixed Review: "A lot of food lovers turn up their noses at baking mixes, which is such a shame. Some of my earliest and fondest kitchen memories are of stirring big bowls of Betty Crocker batter. The best boxed mixes save you tons of time and stress in the kitchen, and taste just as good as anything you'd make from scratch. I love testing fancy gourmet mixes, like the Ad Hoc Fried Chicken Kit, and also finding supermarket gems, like Trader Joe's Cornbread Mix."

Edible DIY: "Kitchen crafts are the best kind of DIY project because you get to eat the results! Also, I love giving people homemade gifts. I think they're so much more meaningful than anything you can buy in a store. Since I started writing this column I've stopped bringing wine or beer to dinner parties like everyone else, and instead show up with a jar of vanilla-orange marmalade or a tin of spicy nut brittle. Hosts love me for it!"

Kerry Saretsky, French in a Flash and Secret Ingredient

French in a Flash: "French in a Flash is my two-year-old baby. Some people say the twos are terrible, but I'm still completely in love. It was my first column, ever, anywhere. And you never forget your first. Most of all, I love the nostalgia of it. I get to take all the stuff I grew up eating, and contort it something I want to eat now, a zillion years and miles away. Plus it's a great excuse to keep things like Camembert and puff pastry in the house, which under other circumstances might be a source of guilt. But hey, eating butterfat is my job!"

The Secret Ingredient: "Writing The Secret Ingredient each week is like living on a pirate ship hunting for buried treasure. Sometimes, I'm trolling international food aisles trying to find the most esoteric thing I can think of, and then have to figure out what on earth to do with it."

Liz Bomze, Hub Grub Boston correspondent

"A column where I get to eat all my favorite dishes around town and then gush about them to a bunch of food-obsessed people like myself? No brainer."

Leah Douglas, Food Policy and Serious Reads

Writing the Food Policy column gives me a great outlet for my often pent-up food nerdiness, and I love watching debates unfold amongst members of the community. The books I read for Serious Reads are amazing because they give me snapshots into the lives of fascinating foodies - and allow me to productively procrastinate my schoolwork!

Carolyn Cope, Crisper Whisperer

"The true satisfaction in writing The Crisper Whisperer is the opportunity to give back to the vegetable community—to help give underserved minorities like kohlrabi and beet greens a much-deserved seat at the table."

Syd Oland, Sunday Brunch and Sunday Supper

Sunday Brunch: "Brunch is the naughtiest meal, and writing the Sunday Brunch column is a great way to explore all possibilities of this late morning treat. Whether it's decadent food and a little daytime imbibing, or a simple egg on toast with a strong cup of tea; a nice brunch can be just about anything. It's all the possibilities that makes the Sunday Brunch column so much fun to write."

Sunday Supper: "Sunday Supper both ends the weekend and begins the week ahead; it should feel special but be comforting at the same time. When I write the Sunday Supper column I think about the meals my Mum made on Sundays, and then think about all the recipes I've always wanted to try but never seem to have time for. Cooking something that's a little different but still essentially soothing is what I love about writing the Sunday Supper column."

Donna Currie, aka dmbcurrie, Bread Baking and Slice: Pizza Protips

Bread Baking: "I love playing with bread dough and the bread baking column lets me be creative and come up with new ideas and try new ingredients. The best part, though, is when I get feedback from readers who have successfully made bread from my recipes."

Pizza Protips: "Writing Protips makes me take a second look at everything I do with dough. There are some things that I've done the same way for years, but I've forgotten (or maybe never knew) the science behind the method. Writing Protips sends me back to the science, which is always interesting."

Starter-Along: "The starter-along series was the coolest cooking adventure, ever. About halfway through I realized that there were people all over the world with new sourdough starters growing on their counters just because of that series. It made me feel like a proud mom and a mad scientist all at once."

James Boo, When Pigs Fly

"Telling people that I do freelance work as a rib tickler used to be creepy and inaccurate. Now it's just creepy."

Jessie Oleson, Cakespy

"As a Cakespy, or professional seeker of sweetness, writing for Serious Eats enables my curiosity and sugarlust in many ways--but for the sake of brevity I will name just two. First, it keeps me inspired in the kitchen, when approaching new recipes: instead of wondering would that work?, I have come to think instead, "let me find out!". Second, and of equal importance, it keeps me, my husband, and several of our closest friends very fat and happy to rejoice and indulge in the spoils of said experimentation."

John M. Edwards, Fast Food

"The McDonald hamburger make my artery strong, like Stalin!" - McBorat"

Will Gordon, Drinking the Bottom Shelf

"I love writing about my adventures along the bottom shelf because it adds a tiny shine of respectability to my otherwise tawdry hobby. Running spellcheck over a story about getting drunk in the bathroom at work makes the whole thing feel more legit."

Martin Johnson, Serious Cheese

"Both in my Joy of Cheese events and on the counter at Bedford Cheese Shop, I talk about cheese a lot, but Serious Cheese enables me to put the discussion of cheese into my native tongue, prose."

Laren Spirer, SENY: Meet & Eat

"Writing the Meet & Eat columns lets me learn more about the wonderful people behind the artisanal products we buy, the restaurants in which we dine, and the bars we frequent. It's always fascinating to learn how they were inspired to do what they do in the world of food and drink and what makes them unique."

Liz Clayton, SENY Coffee Chronicles

I love being forced (okay, forced sounds too cruel) weekly to seek out people in the city for whom coffee is legit, serious, exciting and flavorful, and who are continuing to expand the city's palates on what seemed for so long like a narrow little playing field. Drinking coffee is joyful in New York City, and I love seeking out the people and places who make it that way.

Sara Markel-Gonzalez, SENY: Queens correspondent

"I love exploring Queens through roundups (even if I haven't been able to go on any for a while) because I get to travel all over the borough by foot, bus and train and find new favorite foods. I always stumble upon something exciting simply by walking down a block that I've never been before."

Erin Jackson, San Diego correspondent

"I love writing for AHT because it gives me a bulletproof reason/excuse to research, daydream about, and ultimately eat a lot of burgers. Consequently, I've been spending more time on the dreaded elliptical machine, but as long as the eating is in service of the greater (burger) good, it's worth it.

Writing for Slice has been great because I get to showcase the best pies in San Diego and, I hope, counter the irksome belief that it isn't a good pizza town. The search for greatness has also brought me to areas I wouldn't otherwise explore and has introduced me to new styles of pizza. Day-old, reheated stuffed pizza now has a special place in my heart."

Tina Vasquez, Meet & Eat

"I love writing the Meet & Eat column because it enables me to speak to food personalities I've always admired from afar. It pushes me out of my comfort zone. I'm an incredibly shy person, not the type to approach anyone and tell them how much I love their food/show/cookbook/etc., so being able to speak to them one-on-one is both super exciting and super terrifying (in the best possible way)."

Krista Garcia, SENY: Fast Food International

"I love discovering foreign chain restaurants because a country's fast food--maligned as it may be--says a lot about a culture."

Denise Sakaki, Seattle correspondent

"Of course a great thing about writing and photographing food is being able to literally eat your subject matter -- very satisfying! But one of the best things about exploring different farmers markets for Market Scene or taking on some crazy, over-the-top burger for A Hamburger Today is the way it encourages discovery. It's easy to become comfortable in your favorite food behaviors, whether it's what you eat or where you get your food from, so writing about a totally new experience is very much a journey of body, mind and appetite."

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