Many Wesleyan students consider themselves “foodies”—they appreciate eating good meals, exploring new, exciting flavors, and preparing tasty dishes for their friends and family. Only a few, however, have created blogs to document their culinary adventures, featuring cooking instructions for their readers alongside photos of the final products.
Carina Kurban ’14 of the Four Corners blog described the process she went through to begin documenting her gastronomic explorations.
“Before May [of 2011], the only things I could make were an awesome quesadilla and delicious hot chocolate, and I knew the perfect cereal-to-milk ratio,” Kurban said. “My dad, on the other hand, has always been a gourmet chef. His favorite thing is to design and execute 12-course meals.”
Most of the dishes Kurban would eat at home were multicultural, combining aspects of her family’s various and numerous ethnicities—Italian, Lebanese, Palestinian, Chinese, and Trinidadian. When she became more interested in cooking last summer, her dad worked alongside her in the kitchen, helping her to prepare healthy fusion meals.
Kurban explained, “I would often post pictures of foods that I had made on Facebook and most of the time people would say, ‘I want your recipe!’”
After several requests, Kurban finally decided this spring break to create her own food blog. She features a variety of dishes and recipes, often with stories to accompany them.
“They’re mainly the foods that get the most ‘likes’ on Facebook,” she said. “Or if someone specifically asks for a recipe, I’ll make sure to put that in first.”
Besides writing about “food, art, travel, and recovery,” Kurban also adds several non-cooking “do-it-yourself” projects she’s undertaken, such as making fashion accessories, various kinds of jewelry, and colorful pieces of clothing.
Another new food blog—recently prepared and fresh out of the oven—is The Hungry Dino, created by Andrew Ribner ’14 just this past winter break. Ribner’s site serves as a way to combine two of his passions: photography and baking.
Although Ribner has had a camera around his neck ever since middle school, it wasn’t until high school that he began cooking seriously.
“I started out with a cookie phase, because that’s what everyone starts out with, along with boxed brownies,” Ribner said. “Then I had a bar phase. I made a lot of lemon bars. Currently, I’m in a cake phase.”
There seem to be two themes to most of the cake recipes he puts on the blog: they contain some combination of chocolate and peanut butter, and they take the greater part of 12 hours to complete.
“Generally, the more involved and difficult the recipe is, the more I enjoy it,” Ribner said.
There are usually so many steps, in fact, that by the time the cake is finished, Ribner says he almost doesn’t want to take a bite.
Ribner also writes stories about restaurants he has visited, along with photos and reviews of what he and his friends ordered. Sometimes he finds a dish that he wants to cook himself and posts an adaptation of the recipe on his site. Luckily for Ribner, he always has willing guinea pigs for his modified recipes—he lives in 202 Washington, home to gastronomic inclined Full House.
Baking seems to be a popular trend for many food blogs. Hannah Monk ’12 is another student whose blog consists mostly of cakes.
“I started baking my senior year of high school because it was always my grandma’s policy that whenever the cookie jar was empty, you had to refill it,” Monk said. “We carried that tradition into our house, and I was the only one who really had any interest or talent in it.”
When Monk got to college, the dorm kitchens made it difficult for her bake often, but she was determined that students receive cakes on their birthdays. Finally, during her sophomore year, she began storing cooking supplies under her bed and used them to make more complicated desserts.
Her blog didn’t kick off, however, until she got back from her junior semester abroad.
“I started thinking about my senior thesis as I was making a cake for my friend,” Monk said. “I found it so therapeutic to frost and decorate for two hours.”
Monk then asked herself: why not link baking and psychology in her thesis? From there, Monk started blogging about her experiments in the kitchen, with birthday cakes becoming her specialty. Her website is now called Chocolate-Covered Therapy.
“When I make a cake, I picture something that I like about the person—I try to think about how I can express them through food. I love how creative you can be with the flavors, shapes, and colors.”
Most of the entries on Monk’s blog include a picture of every step in the recipe, culminating in a photo of the finished product.
Although all bloggers document their culinary inquiries, not all of them pick their recipes. Unlike the previous three bloggers, Carolyn Cohen ’12 doesn’t get to choose the ingredients with which she cooks. Instead, someone (a reader, friend, or family member) presents Cohen with two foods they think could never work well together. She then sets about creating a dish that will prove them wrong on her blog, Munchie Mashups.
“My favorite thing to cook is food that’s surprising and unexpected, such as salty desserts or fruity savory dishes,” Cohen said. “I’m really inspired by a lot of professional chefs such as Thomas Keller, Wylie Dufresne, and Heston Blumenthal, who all work with strange combinations, textures, and flavors.”
Some examples of the unusual recipes featured on her site are Fruit Loop-crusted fried chicken, cracked peppercorn “rutabagels,” mini banana cream pies with a bacon crust, and butternut squash soft tacos with mole-inspired chocolate sauce.
Most of Cohen’s knowledge about cooking comes from an apprenticeship she had two summers ago at Piperade, an upscale restaurant in San Francisco that specializes in Basque food. Since then, she’s become confident enough in her abilities that she no longer follows recipes word for word but rather takes bits and pieces from several different sources and ties them all together in her own unique dish.
Another senior at Wesleyan—Will Levitt, has written about his love of food on multiple blogs, though his culinary career didn’t begin online.
“I’ve been cooking since I was really little,” Levitt said. “In seventh grade, a friend and I started a catering business that we ran throughout high school. We cooked for all different types of parties, and through that I was able to work in a couple of restaurants during the summer.”
He started writing his first blog during his semester abroad in Bologna, Italy. He wanted people to see pictures of the delicious foods he was eating, so he created a site called Mangia Questo Bologna (“Eat This Bologna”) to feature the images.
When he returned to Wesleyan, he started a second blog called Dorm Room Dinner, which posts simple recipes that are easy for college students to make, along with recipes that are variations of classic meals. More recently, Levitt has decided to add new elements to his site, including funny videos about the food he prepares and ten-question interviews with well-known bloggers, restaurateurs, and chefs in the food world (referred to as the “Table Talk” portion of his blog).
Last summer, Levitt also interned at the cooking sites Serious Eats and Food52. He currently works at and contributes to the Edible Nutmeg Magazine and contributes to Serious Eats; Big Girls, Small Kitchen: College; and The Wesleyan Argus.
These five students all update their food blogs on a regular basis, so when you are feeling a little peckish, or when Usdan and Summerfields don’t strike your fancy, check out their delicious do-it-yourself recipes for new and exciting dishes.