Special Sauce: Elise Bauer on Turning a Food Blog Into a Business

[Photograph: Courtesy of Simply Recipes. Misticanza photograph: Vicky Wasik]

At the end of part 1 of my Special Sauce interview with Elise Bauer, she had just described starting Simply Recipes in 2004 after coming home to live with her parents in Sacramento to recover from a serious case of chronic fatigue syndrome, and in this week's episode we pick up where we left off. At the outset, Elise says she was making enough money to splurge on movie tickets, but then things started to change. "The more content I added...the more we got picked up in search and the more traffic we got." And back then, as I can personally attest, more traffic meant more revenue.

But then, just as Simply Recipes was starting to take off, Elise suffered a relapse. Was it because she attempted the swim from Alcatraz to San Francisco again? "I didn't go back to Alcatraz but...I actually think it was hot yoga that got me into trouble...I spent the entire summer of 2005 in bed." It would take her another five years to fully recover. "I didn't go on a date for seven years," Elise says.

In addition to talking about her getting Simply Recipes off the ground, Elise and I got into a very lively discussion about the evolution of digital food media, particularly about the impact social media has had on the industry. "It used to be that if you had a blog, a good quality blog, people would then come visit your blog. Now you're expected to have your content show up where those people are, not the other way around," Elise says. "Social media's become a lot more important in terms of having a presence in the marketplace. It used to be it was 80% content, 20% marketing. Now I think it's 20% content, 80% marketing and marketing from social media."

Elise also offers up three important pieces of advice for anyone embarking on a digital food media adventure. But to hear what one of food blogging's true pioneers has to say about that, you're just going to have to listen to this week's episode of Special Sauce.

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Ed Levine: Welcome to Special Sauce, Serious Eats' podcast about food and life.

Elise Bauer: Social media's become a lot more important in terms of having a presence in the marketplace. It used to be it was 80% content, 20% marketing. Now I think it's 20% content, 80% marketing and marketing from social media.

EL: We are back with our first guest in our internet food geek series, Simply Recipes' Elise Bauer. So now you got this hobby Simply Recipes. You're getting link love from other people's blog rolls.

EB: Enough money to go see a movie, right?

EL: Right. Google's paying attention. You're still making in the high two figures every month. How did that change?

EB: The more content that I added, the more content that all of the food blogs added, all of us added to our sites, the more we got picked up in search and the more traffic we got. We also started getting attention from the larger media outlets. It wasn't necessarily positive attention actually.

EL: Yeah, I'm sure. They weren’t so thrilled to have you getting all this traffic.

EB: Well that and ... There's ... We're coming up against the professionals, right? We're the amateurs. We're doing what we're doing for love and we may or may not be testing our recipes. We may have a different sense of taste than other people do. There's a big Wild West out there of food bloggers.

EL: Right. But you were actually from the beginning quite rigorous.

EB: Yeah. I mean I tested everything and sometimes several times and yeah. So I had nothing else to do. Right? I wasn't working. I was home trying to get well.

EL: Yeah. You know it's weird about this testing and you're right, it is a Wild West out there. I mean now we have people like Stella Parks who tests every recipe. BraveTart, I'm talking about-

EB: Right.

EL: Who's our pastry wizard at Serious Eats. She tests everything 10 or 12 times.

EB: Bless her.

EL: So you're testing, you're getting some attention. You're still not making any money. You're having a great time, I assume.

EB: Yeah, and I'm learning. I mean Ed, the first year of living at home with my parents, they didn't really let me cook. They didn't. I didn't know what I was doing. I could watch and take notes and take pictures.

EL: Yeah.

EB: And I ... And by the way my mom, who does most of the cooking, she's very difficult to get a recipe out of. I mean I really had to watch over and over again, take lots and lots of notes because she is a woman who cooks by feel. And so if you ask her “how much salt did you put in”, she'll just say, "As much as it needed."

EL: So you're publishing these recipes, you're starting to get attention. You're still thinking of it as a hobby?

EB: Mm-hmm.

EL: What changed?

EB: I started to make more money. I mean just because I got more traffic and I got more traffic because I had more content. There was this time in around 2005, 2006 where things really began to take off.

EL: Yes. 2006, the year of Serious Eats.

EB: You started ... You guys started in 2005, right?

EL: Yeah. Actually we started Ed Levine Eats in 2005 and it became Serious Eats in 2006.

EB: Yeah. So that was about the time where the momentum shifted. You had a lot more sites coming on board. There was a lot more attention being paid to them, a lot more content was being generated and I also think what happened around 2008, there was the big recession.

EL: Right.

EB: And what happened with the big recession is people did not have money to go out to eat anymore and they started doing a lot more cooking at home.

EL: And so that helped sites like Simply Recipes?

EB: Mm-hmm. That helped anybody who had online recipes. So you really ... You saw momentum start to build 2005, 2006 where people are waking up to what a blog is. Back in 2005, 2006 there was a lot of “what's a blog,” right?

EL: I know. I experienced that first hand, believe me Elise.

EB: Right.

EL: So you were still making your money from Google AdSense?

EB: Mm-hmm.

EL: At what point did it go from a hobby to a startup?

EB: I think when I started making enough money to actually live on then I realized, well look at this, I only ... I had forget how many recipes I had at that point. A hundred, a couple hundred. I thought well if I just keep this up, this will just double. Right? Because recipes ... recipe sites are ... they're databases and you just keep adding to them and each one of those recipes, if it's ... if gets any popularity at all it makes money for you.

EL: Right.

EB: And at least that's what it was back then. Again, there was not ... there weren't a lot of people doing this, even then. Now, it's a completely different story.

EL: Yeah, for sure.

EB: Yeah.

EL: What path were you following? I assume you were blazing your own path.

EB: My own. We were all following our own path, Ed. Were you ...

EL: No, that was my problem, is that I didn't have a path to follow.

EB: Yeah. I mean-

EL: It would've been a lot easier.

EB: We were all trying to figure it out. We were trying to figure out what works. One of the things that I saw early on were a lot ... was that a lot of people were trying to be very, very fancy with their food and I wasn't. I really wanted to do regular American home cooking, because that is what I grew up with. I wanted to do it well with good ingredients, good cooking methods and because that's the food that was the comfort food that I loved. And I also thought this is really what people are looking for and I didn't have any pretenses about being a chef.

EL: Right.

EB: Right. So I really stuck to this American comfort food, not too complicated but real.

EL: But real and rigorously tested.

EB: And tested-

EL: Yeah.

EB: And good recipes that work and if they didn't work for some reason, I'd go back and make the recipe work for people.

EL: Right.

EB: I was like okay, this isn't working. Let me make it work.

EL: Right.

EB: Let me go back and do some-

EL: Sure.

EB: More testing on it.

EL: Which the internet allows you to do.

EB: Right.

EL: So we should explain that Google AdSense is a service that Google has, where they place ads on people's blogs or websites and you share in the revenue that they're gathering.

EB: Yes.

EL: There was one other company doing it right, back then, I forgot what the name ... Blog Ads. Right?

EB: Oh, yeah.

EL: Remember that? But anyway, that's what-

EB: Forgot about them.

EL: That's what ... So you were making your money from Google AdSense, another way that Google and then Facebook have come to dominate digital publishing. So you were making your money from Google AdSense and you were making enough money so that ... Like could you move out of your parents' place?

EB: Oh, I was still sick.

EL: You were still sick.

EB: Yeah. It took ... I lived with my parents for seven years.

EL: Wow.

EB: From 2003 until 2010. It took me that long to get better. I actually had a big relapse in 2005.

EL: Oh, God.

EB: So I ... Because I ... I was living at home for two years. I was trying to get better and then I started swimming and running and cycling again.

EL: And you went back to Alcatraz ... Don't tell me you went back to Alcatraz.

EB: I didn't go back to Alcatraz but I ... I think actually it was hot yoga that got me into trouble.

EL: Got it.

EB: I just did something that pushed it too hard and then I had this relapse and I was even sicker than when I first moved home, and that was in 2005. I spent the entire summer of 2005 in bed.

EL: Oh, my God.

EB: Yeah, it was bad. So then it took another five years after that to get well.

EL: Right.

EB: So I was still home and the other thing that happened around 2005, 2006 was the ... was BlogHer.

EL: Right, which was an ad network. There were ad networks that were being launched so that small bloggers not supported by corporations could get ads for their sites and there was just a split in the revenue.

EB: Right. So Google AdSense was really what we would now call remnant ads. So they're the lowest paying of the ads back then and maybe still now. I don't know. But they were low-paying and BlogHer started as a conference for women bloggers. So women bloggers would have their voices more heard and then it evolved to also including its own community website and they had ad network. And so I got involved with them early on and advised them on how to approach food bloggers with their ad network. I became one of their premium websites for their ad network, gosh maybe 2006, 2007. Around then-

EL: And that really ... I assume that really sort of supercharged your revenue.

EB: Yeah.

EL: And so you ... All of a sudden, you were actually making-

EB: Money. I was still sick but I was making money.

EL: Money that you might have been making in San Francisco working for a tech start up.

EB: Right. Yeah.

EL: And you were publishing your mother's recipes for cheese enchiladas.

EB: And then pretty much anything else that I could come up with and I also ... Gosh. I think I kind of exhausted my parents' repertoire after a few years.

EL: Right.

EB: And I did ... I was eventually well enough to move out. I bought a house right down the street from my parents.

EL: I know.

EB: Yeah.

EL: I've been to that house-

EB: That's right.

EL: And I've been to their house.

EB: Yeah. That's right. You have. And so I moved out, moved down the street and then I hired Hank Shaw to help me develop recipes.

EL: And Hank Shaw is also a great food blogger who was a ...

EB: He was a 20 year veteran of political reporting who wanted to move into food and he was is a complete fanatic about food and hunting and-

EL: What's the name of his blog? I always forget.

EB: It's called Hunter Angler Gardener Cook.

EL: That's right. Hunter Angler Gardener Cook.

EB: And it's a James Beard award-winning website.

EL: Uh-huh.

EB: And he's an author with ... now I think his fourth book out now. He has Duck, Duck, Goose about ducks. Buck, Buck, Moose about venison and he just came with Pheasant, Quail, Cottontail about upland animals and small birds. So Hank is a real hunter.

EL: I assume you didn't hunt with Hank.

EB: I hired Hank. Hank worked with me for three years and we worked ... He'd come over a couple of times a week and we developed recipes together.

EL: Before we get too far away from your parents, there are two very, very important and pressing questions. Number one, was there a rev share with your parents? Did your parents get any of the money? And what were they charging you for rent?

EB: Oh, my gosh. You are gonna get me into so much trouble with my parents but maybe they'll never actually listen to this. No, there's no rev share. They were on my board of directors. They were just happy that they wouldn't have to support me for the rest of their life.

EL: Right.

EB: What does a parent want other than for their own children to be happy and successful? Right?

EL: Right.

EB: And mostly what a parent wants, is they don't wanna to support their kids for the rest of their lives. So here I am in my 40s moving home.

EL: Right.

EB: I came home because I can't take care of myself. They wanted me well and out of the house in any way. Like right? So, no they didn't get a rev share and they're just delighted that I'm not mooching off of them anymore.

EL: And it kinda worked out big time.

EB: Yeah, it worked out well. Worked out well.

EL: It did work out well.

EB: Yeah.

EL: So now you've got Hank, you're developing recipes that go beyond what you learned from your parents.

EB: Yes.

EL: You've got BlogHer selling your ads and when I was starting Serious Eats, like you were this legendary figure, like oh yeah, Elise Bauer man. She's got it all figured out and I was like I gotta talk to her. And I remember you came to our offices on 27th Street because you knew Alaina Browne-

EB: Yeah.

EL: Our general manager and you were just like ... you were the It Girl of food blogs 'cause you'd figured out a way to do what you love. You were technologically advanced and you had it all going on.

EB: Well maybe. No, I think ... You know Ed, maybe it looked that way but we were all trying to figure things out, and remember at that time, I was actually still sick. Anytime I took a trip, it took me days to recover.

EL: Wow.

EB: Yeah. That's the thing that people ... people don't realize is things like I didn't go on a date for seven years.

EL: Oh wow.

EB: Right? I could barely walk a 100 yards without being exhausted. If I actually had to do anything where I had to show up for a conference, it would wipe me out. I basically had to sleep for a couple days when I got home.

EL: Wow.

EB: Yeah. So I never felt like an It Girl. I always felt like it was a struggle to just stay positive-

EL: Yeah.

EB: Because of my physical situation.

EL: Did being sick affect what you were cooking and what you were posting about?

EB: No.

EL: I like that. I like that about you. You didn't let being sick stop you from eating the things that you loved.

EB: Yeah. I mean we grew up ... Fortunately, I grew up in a family where they ate well ... We've always eaten well in terms of well balanced meals. We don't eat the same thing twice. If we have chicken one day, we'll have beef or beans the next day. When I was a kid, we only had dessert once a month. So dessert was a special thing.

EL: Once a month?

EB: Not a daily thing.

EL: That's child abuse.

EB: To some people, yeah. But to me, that's normal.

EL: You ate dessert once a month?

EB: Yeah, yeah. Dessert was once a month. It was a special thing.

EL: Like in your house was ... Like in my house when my mother wouldn't give use dessert, she'd say, "There's fruit." It's like who wanted fruit?

EB: In my house Ed, sugar was poison.

EL: Oh, my God!

EB: No, seriously that's ... It's like we were brought up with, "Remember sugar is poison." And not like it was bad poison. It's just ... We all wanted ... No, we managed to put sugar in our breakfast cereal but we just didn't have ... we didn't have a lot of it. No, we had dessert once a month.

EL: Wow. So-

EB: And it's also ... They're empty calories and when you have no money ... My parents had six kids on a teacher's salary. They didn't have enough money to spend on empty calories.

EL: Right. Wow. So this community of full-time food bloggers making a living developed and it seemed like ... at least when I started talking to all of you, that it was a very tight-knit bunch. But people were very collaborative and were very willing to share information at that point. Like we were all just looking at the blue skies that were obviously ahead. I didn't get the sense that people were competitive with one another. It was sort of an informal collective. Has that changed?

EB: It has changed, but it's still a very supportive and collaborative community and we still learn from each other and help each other. It's kind of weird because we're competing with each and at the same time, we're learning from each other and helping each other out, and it's sort of you scratch my back, I'll scratch your back. So I think what has happened over the years is early on, we would just share with everybody and now there are more private groups of people who help each other and there's a logic to that too because I've had people ... I've had people out of the blue write to me to say, "Please tell me everything that you did to become successful. I wanna be just like you." And ... Right?

EL: And you said, "Sure. Come on over."

EB: Yeah. Sure. Like stranger, let me stop everything I'm doing right now to spend the next several hours writing a book of what I did so I can give it to you, who I don't know so you can then go and compete against me. It's like-

EL: What?

EB: Right. It's like no and ... So I think what's happened, you really work through finding your own tribe, finding the people that you love hanging out with and learning from and you can support each other. And we still come from a position of life is abundant, this market is abundant, there is plenty of room for everybody here. There are also more competitive currents going on that are strong and unavoidable.

EL: Right. And do you feel that those competitive currents mean that the whole notion of making a living as a food blogger is being threatened by market forces?

EB: I think it's a lot harder right now to start a food blog. I think the bar keeps getting higher and higher in terms of what you need to do to stand out, to be noticed and recognized and to build a following. It's not impossible. It's just hard.

EL: Yeah.

EB: And truthfully, it's always been hard. It's always been a lot of work but if I did now what I did 15 years ago to start Simply Recipes, if I put up the same content and the same quality website, I would go nowhere.

EL: Yeah. Yeah.

EB: So when you think about it-

EL: Sure.

EB: The video, the photography, the writing, the recipes have to be really good because it's sort of the fittest survive. I mean the people with the best content are getting the most attention. So it is a lot harder right now.

EL: And if you were starting out today, would you actually start a blog or would start an Instagram feed? Like what would you do if you were Elise Bauer starting Simply Recipes in 2018? What would that be?

EB: I think it would have to depend on what is it that you really love. Where are your skill sets and where do you want to devote your attention, because if you really love photography and you're a natural artist when it comes to photography, then I would go long in Instagram. If you are great on camera or if you love visual storytelling and love video and love editing and putting together a story on video, I would go long in video. And when I say long, it's like we have to do all of the stuff we do well, but where you're really going to focus your effort so you can be the best at it. And because you can develop an Instagram following with hundreds of thousands if not millions of followers-

EL: Yeah.

EB: And they take gorgeous photographers and they can use Instagram then as a way to bring attention to their work and to their blog.

EL: Right. So the blog essentially becomes just the center of what is a multiple digital media play. Right? It's-

EB: Or maybe can do an Instagram only.

EL: Yeah.

EB: I mean it could be that you would be able to make enough money off of only doing Instagram and then being able to monetize that through corporate sponsorships.

EL: Yeah. It's-

EB: So that's a possibility as well. I mean I think the feedfeed was sort of like that, right?

EL: Yep. The feedfeed aggregates other people's Instagram feeds and then they sell those impressions and give the Instagrammers I assume ... I hope they give them some money. I don't know. What role does social media play?

EB: It's really important. It used to be that if you had a blog, a good quality blog, people would then come visit your blog. Now you're expected to have your content show up where those people are, not the other way around. They wanna see you in their Facebook feed. They wanna see you in their Instagram feed and they don't ... and they wanna find out about your content where they are so then they can go visit you. But don't expect them to just come visit you for the heck of it. So social media has become a lot more important in terms of having a presence in the marketplace. It used to be it was 80% content, 20% marketing. Now I think it's 20% content, 80% marketing.

EL: Wow.

EB: And marketing from social media. Yeah.

EL: That's insane.

EB: I know it is.

EL: What a beautiful, succinct way to put it and it's actually a scary, scary, notion to me because I started Serious Eats ... I just wanted to share food enthusiasms with the world and create a place where they could get a recipe, they could get a restaurant recommendation and I was a marketing guy. I knew how to market. I worked ... Like I marketed mouthwash, I marketed hemorrhoid medicine. But the idea that if you were starting today, your focus is ... should 80% be on marketing and 20% on content, I don't know how we can say that we've arrived at a very positive, creative place when it comes to food blogging.

EB: It's different.

EL: Yeah.

EB: But some people are doing it really well. Some people really love the social interaction and love getting the word out there about their stuff. I personally have a harder time with it. I don't ... I did ... That doesn't come naturally to me.

EL: Yeah. So I mean the incredible thing is how many things you have to do. Right? I mean I just was a writer. I wasn't a photographer, I knew how to produce video 'cause I'd had that in my background. I didn't know anything about social media 'cause there was no such thing as social media basically when I started. When you started, there was no such thing as social media either.

EB: Right.

EL: So it's really ... If you had to give three pieces of advice to an aspiring food content creator? What would they be?

EB: Oh my gosh and you're putting me on the spot.

EL: I know. It's okay.

EB: Okay. So number one-

EL: It's the final question, so it's important.

EB: Get a decent camera with a couple decent lenses and learn how to use it.

EL: Okay.

EB: Learn how to take photos because if you can't take a good picture, you're never gonna go anywhere. That's number one. Number two, find your tribe. So find people who are also early on in their food blogging careers and connect with them, and you can do that through going to food blogging conferences or ... Actually you should go ... Go to food blogging conferences, maybe that's number three. To do like ... To find your tribe, go to food blogging conferences and-

EL: That's all number two.

EB: That's all number two. Okay.

EL: I'm not gonna let you off the hook.

EB: Because those are the people that you're gonna learn from, those are people who are gonna pay attention to you. You're gonna need to pay attention to them too. You wanna be part of that community that can be incredibly helpful. And number three is, do what makes you happy. If it feels too burdensome, you are not gonna wanna do it. It's not gonna be fun and you're gonna burn out.

EL: Yeah.

EB: And I think you have to find something in it that gives you juice, there needs to be juice in it for you.

EL: Yeah.

EB: Otherwise, you're just gonna run out.

EL: Yeah. And you have to figure out what you can say that will add to the conversation-

EB: Yeah.

EL: Online about food that other people aren't doing.

EB: Right. That's another thing. It's like what is it about what you're doing that is unique and actually I wouldn't ... And I wanna ... would frame that in a positive way because you can still be ... Maybe you're sparkling on camera. I mean maybe you're a deep and thoughtful writer. You know ... You-

EL: Yeah, I mean look at ... That's the way Serious Eats was built. I ... I consider myself a reasonably deep and thoughtful writer and that's what I look for. I look for writers with a distinctive point of view, with the same kind of democratic voice that I had that could really add something and that really loved to go deep. Like I know I was fighting internet standard wisdom, which was that everything has to be short but that's just not what I did.

EB: Right. And look at what a fantastic website Serious Eats is and what a tremendous resource it is to all of us out here cooking from home.

EL: Yeah.

EB: And professional cooks as well.

EL: Sure.

EB: Everyone looks to Serious Eats as a resource.

EL: Yep.

EB: Why? Because you've gone long. You've gone into the details.

EL: Yep. It's true. All right. It really wasn't the last question even, so I actually lied 'cause now it's time for the Special Sauce All You Can Answer Buffet. And you have up to 30 seconds I would say to answer each question, but I wouldn't take any longer. So who's at your last supper? No family allowed and I know you'd want your parents there and you have a lovely boyfriend, but none of them can come. I'd like four people.

EB: M.F.K. Fisher.

EL: Okay. That takes care of the food writing thing.

EB: Oh my gosh, she's just such a fabulous writer. Right.

EL: All right.

EB: Thomas Jefferson.

EL: Thomas Jefferson, I like this.

EB: Yep. Joan of Arc.

EL: Joan of Arc? I like this. Joan of Arc, Thomas Jefferson and M.F.K. Fisher. One more person and then you have an awesome table.

EB: Barack Obama.

EL: All right. I like it.

EB: Or no, not Barack. Michelle.

EL: Michelle Obama.

EB: I want Michelle Obama.

EL: All right.

EB: Yeah. Michelle.

EL: Perfect.

EB: Yeah. That would rock my life, she's great.

EL: What are you eating?

EB: Oh my gosh. Let me think.

EL: You could do the Joan of Arc thing and have steak. But I don't know if we wanna there.

EB: No, no, no, no, no. With all of those, it would have to be some fabulous meal. I think it would ... maybe venison-

EL: Okay.

EB: And I really love fresh salads.

EL: Okay.

EB: I make … I mean I love Mediterranean food-

EL: Okay.

EB: But I also really, really like the area of Provence. So things with endive and chicory and olives and ...

EL: So a beautiful salad-

EB: Anything with anchovies.

EL: Okay.

EB: But I'd have to think. I mean trying to do ... Like trying to come up with a menu in 30 seconds is hard.

EL: All right.

EB: Come on Ed.

EL: And what would you have for dessert?

EB: What would I have for dessert? Strawberry shortcake.

EL: But the real strawberry shortcake, made with a biscuit and all that.

EB: Yeah. No, homemade-

EL: Yeah.

EB: Homemade buttermilk biscuits or ... or just butter biscuits.

EL: Got it.

EB: And strawberries macerated in sugar with maybe just like a little bit of cognac.

EL: And what are you listening to? What's the music at this last supper?

EB: I ... Oh, gosh with those guys?

EL: Yeah.

EB: That's a really good question. You know what? I probably would put on Ella really low in the background because I want conversation to be-

EL: That's good. So-

EB: I want the dinner to be about conversation and not music.

EL: So Ella, like Ella by herself or Ella and Louis? Like are we talking You Say Either and I Say Either? You know I mean?

EB: Something not too distracting.

EL: Okay. All right. All right. That's fair.

EB: Yeah, so not too distracting, just a little background.

EL: All right.

EB: If it's me cleaning up in the kitchen afterwards, it'll be Ed Sheeran really loud.

EL: Wow. I like it.

EB: Or Bruno Mars. But that's not good dinner music.

EL: Do you have guilty pleasures? I mean given that you only had dessert once a month, didn't you ... What did you-

EB: I don't know if I can talk about my guilty pleasures.

EL: You have to. I'm telling you, your parents ... We'll do a special edition for your parents.

EB: Okay. Good.

EL: So what are your guilty pleasures?

EB: I'm a really, really good Catholic girl, Ed.

EL: Food wise. Food wise.

EB: So my guilty pleasure is something like chocolate.

EL: Chocolate.

EB: It's not that guilty.

EL: Yeah, that's not very guilty.

EB: I'm sorry.

EL: Like I need Ring Dings or Devil Dogs-

EB: Butterfinger. I'll do-

EL: Butterfingers are good.

EB: I think I ... Probably my guilty pleasure is something like Cheetos or Butterfinger. I mean the things that as a scratch cook that only like ... that cook seasonally-

EL: Yeah.

EB: And cooks from her garden. If I really wanna splurge, I'll go buy a bag of Doritos.

EL: And what ... This is a very, very important question I'm about to ask you. It is a seasonal food, what is your position on Mallomars?

EB: On what?

EL: See you don't even know and it's a seasonal food, Miss “I only had dessert once a month in Sacramento.” Mallomars is a chocolate marshmallow graham cracker cookie.

EB: Oh. Chocolate marshmallow graham ... It sort of sounds like a s'more cookie.

EL: It's a little ... I bet it was inspired by a s'more, but it is a seasonal cookie. It's only available in the cooler months.

EB: Oh, I have never heard of it.

EL: Wow.

EB: Now I have to go look that up.

EL: You really have led a sheltered ... Well you only had dessert once a month. You were sick. I'm gonna give you a pass on that.

EB: Okay. Thank you.

EL: I'll send you a box. So give me three books that have influenced your life.

EB: Oh, let's see. Confederacy of Dunces.

EL: I love that book, John Kennedy Toole.

EB: Yes.

EL: Anybody who's never read that, they should go right now and get it.

EB: It's a book I read over and over again.

EL: Okay.

EB: Because anytime I need something to make me laugh, I read that.

EL: Okay.

EB: I also believe it or not have read Harry Potter, the entire series 10 times.

EL: Oh, my God! That's insane.

EB: 10 times, yep.

EL: All right. Harry Potter, Confederacy of Dunces, one more 'cause Harry Potter only counts once.

EB: Then Lord of the Rings. What can I say? LTR, yeah.

EL: All right. I like that. It's just been declared Elise Bauer Day all over the world. What's happening on that day?

EB: Oh my gosh, Ed. You are killing me here. I guess redheads around the world get like a free muffin at a bakery or a free beer at a bar.

EL: Wait. Redheads only get a free muffin or a beer at the bar?

EB: Yes. Yeah, there you go.

EL: That's all that's happening on Elise Bauer Day?

EB: And you can call it Elise Bauer and Melissa Clarke Day. For those of us who've got red hair and are proud of it.

EL: All right. I like that. Well thank you so much for sharing your special sauce with us, Elise Bauer.

EB: Thank you so much for having me, Ed Levine.

EL: If you wanna know what to cook tonight for dinner, log on to Simply Recipes. So long Serious Eaters. We'll see you next time.