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An Interview With Kim Severson From Spoon Fed

We had the distinct pleasure of being able to interview Kim Severson, the author of Spoon Fed: How Eight Cooks Saved My Life. Here is what she had to share with us:

1. You started out in Alaska - what was it like growing up in the Great White North and how did that shape your tastes?

I was in Alaska for about seven years in the 1990s. It was a wild place to live, for sure. I was editing and writing for the Anchorage Daily News, and as a sidelight, I started doing restaurant reviews. I always joke that being the restaurant critic in Anchorage was like being the best ballerina in Lubbock. But I had some serious taste benchmarks there. I stood at a friend’s sink eating the meat from huge Alaska king crab legs that a crabber friend of hers had just caught. I learned how the flesh of different salmon species tastes. I foraged for the biggest morel mushrooms I have ever seen. And I learned a lot from the chefs there I wrote about. They were all very generous in letting me in their kitchens.

2. How did you get to be a food writer? Is it something that you pursued with gusto, or did it happen by chance?

As you can tell by the above answer, it was kind of by chance. I was hard news reporter who moved into feature writing and editing. Then, one day when I was having a “what am I going to do with my life moment,” a friend asked what I really wanted to do. I said be a full-time food writer. Through luck, a few professional connections and a handful of those food clips from Alaska, the food editor at the San Francisco Chronicle hired me to do food news full time. So I left Alaska and here I am.

3. Did you choose the eight chefs you interviewed for the book -- your heroes of the kitchen -- or did they choose you?

I guess, if one believes in this sort of thing, they chose me. All the women in the book were subjects of profiles I had written for the either the San Francisco Chronicle or the New York Times. As a writer, you are attracted to different subjects for different reasons. Looking back, I could see that I was attracted to all these cooks because they had something I needed to learn at the time.

4. What was the most challenging part of writing "Spoon Fed"? What was the most fun?

Finding the time was the hardest part. I mean, I had a full-time job and a baby. (Thank god for my partner, Katia, who was doing much of the at-home duties….) There was more than one morning when I woke up and thought, “OK, I’ll just give back the advance because I can’t do this.” It was pretty emotionally difficult writing. But that was also the reward. Every once in a while I would finish a section and re-read it and wonder how that ever came out of me. Any writer will tell you it’s that crazy process of creation that is rewarding. That, and being finished.

5. Being a food writer, you set a high bar for food. If you could describe the perfect meal, what would it be?

This is always such an impossible question. Sometimes the perfect meal is as simple a roast chicken with a really good salad or even just a bowl of cereal late at night. But I sure would want some cheese, some kind of impeccable pasta, a great piece of pork and whatever vegetables were exactly in season. And some killer dessert. I love dessert.

Kim is going to be in Boston on May 27, 2010 (Tomorrow!) with a 7PM event at Harvard Bookstore. Those of you who are interested in her book and live in the vicinity should come on by - you might also see one or two of the Daily Grommet team members there!

You can also pick up a copy of Spoon Fed here.

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