Amelia’s blog has evolved as her cooking and life has changed over the years, and her readers have been along for every step of the journey. An essay Amelia wrote about her kitchen visit with her grandma won Best Culinary Essay in Saveur’s 2011 Food Blog Awards. In 2012, Bon Appétempt won in Saveur’s Best Humor Blog category. Amelia recently released her book, Bon Appetémpt: A Coming-of-Age Story (with Recipes!).
I am so excited to have Amelia Morris of Bon Appétempt here on the show today.
On How Her Blog Started:
It really started as an accident. I was house sitting for my friend, and they have a beautiful house, and I got the idea that I could have people over for Christmas day brunch, and I decided to make this cake from the cover of a Bon Appétit. I’d never made a cake from scratch before, and it was this towering chocolate peppermint cake. But I thought I could do it. I gave myself multiple days to do everything ahead of time, and I basically did do it except as I was putting the icing on the cake. The whole thing started to slide, and it fell over.
My husband and I had been taking pictures of the whole thing because we were so impressed that I was making this gigantic cake. So then we had pictures of the rise and fall.
Afterwards, I just kept looking at the pictures and I just kept thinking there needs to be a food blog where it’s like the home-cooked version versus the magazine version. I just thought I was the perfect candidate because I didn’t know how to cook and I thought, every time, each post would be a disaster. I know it will be really funny.
This was six years ago. At first, I really wanted to make fun of the perfection and food magazines and just how fake it was. My intention was to mix it up but it could be funny.
On Her Sense of Fearlessness in the Kitchen:
I’m afraid of a lot of things and there’s a lot of stuff I haven’t tried. I don’t know if I’m afraid, but I don’t want to maybe make such a giant mess.
When I first started the blog, I wasn’t afraid of making mistakes because, A: I thought it would be funnier if I made mistakes, and B: my self esteem wasn’t tied to the kitchen. If I messed up, it didn’t injure me in any way as opposed to my other endeavors where it hurt when I failed.
I did redo the original cake that started it all and made it successfully. It was beautiful, so that felt pretty good.
I tried to make a Martha Stewart bread wreath, and it’s basically bread in the shape of a wreath. And it was an epic failure. We have a video of it on the blog, and I broke a pan in the oven. Because when you bake it, you’re supposed to have a pan of water underneath.
That pan of water broke, and so the water started gushing out into the oven. And basically, the wreath still turned out; it was an edible piece of bread and everything.
I’m always surprised with Martha Stewart’s recipes like that where you just have pay such attention to detail to get it even close to what Martha Stewart has in her magazine.
On How Becoming a Parent Changed the Way She Cooks:
Oh my gosh. Well, I feel like this changes a lot; because at the beginning, you’re just getting used to everything. And I feel like even though they sleep a lot at the beginning, I just wasn’t in my normal routine.
I used to see recipes, be inspired, go to the store, come back, cook it that night. And I feel like at the beginning, that was not really an option. And now, he’s so mobile that he won’t even… If I’m in the kitchen, he’s running to the back of the house and I have to go see what he’s up to and all that stuff. So it’s changed a lot. I really do much more simple things and I do a lot of stuff I know by heart.
I try and do a lot of stuff while he’s eating dinner. He usually eats around five, so I’ll try and do chopping and any sort of prep work that I can do while he’s contained and he sits. And then he goes to bed around seven and then I finish cooking once he’s in bed.
There are so many good things you can make with not a lot of ingredients. I feel like that’s my go-to thing. I mean, we eat a lot of pasta around here and I do a lot of shortcuts, I guess, like I find myself recently buying mushrooms that are already sliced and cleaned, which I never used to do because I always think the person doing it isn’t doing a good job of cleaning it. And now, I’m just like, “Oh, well.”
My mum would always buy a rotisserie chicken and have it in the fridge, and I would never do that. I would just do it myself. And just this week, I bought a rotisserie chicken and I made a chicken pot pie, a version of chicken pot pie, and then I just pulled the meat off of it.
The answer to the question is I’m still figuring out how to have shortcuts; what shortcuts to come up with.
On Her Videos:
Basically, my husband went to film school and the book goes over our mutual struggles to find creative satisfaction.
He wanted to be a filmmaker, still wants to be a filmmaker, writer, and we both had day jobs not doing anything remotely creative. I think I just got really inspired to do a cooking show by watching cooking shows and just watching how staged they are.
I just don’t really understand why everything needs to be so perfect in cooking shows. They’re all in full makeup and no aprons. So I was really inspired to do a cooking show that was more real and where it would show me cleaning up and stuff like that, and Matt was excited to try shooting again which he hasn’t done since college.
On Her Book, Bon Appétempt: A Coming-of-Age Story (with Recipes!)
The book is basically my life’s story, but it’s pretty much about growing up and trying and failing. And the way it came about matters because I went to grad school for an MFA in Writing. And my thesis was a novel and I continued working on it after school.
So I sent a novel to a bunch of agents, and one of them got back to me and was like, “Yeah, I’ll read your novel,” but she’s on my bio about my food blog and she was like, “I’m really interested in Bon Appétempt.” A long story short, she really wanted me to work on a food memoir. I guess I never really thought of doing a food memoir up until that point.
So I was excited about it. I was totally excited about it even though she wasn’t interested in my novel. I was kind of excited at the prospect of my writing career finally getting off the ground a little bit. And so I just jumped on the opportunity and I was like, “Totally, I’ll do a food memoir,” and I started putting together a book proposal.
I love my blog for many reasons and it’s great. But I think that there is this pressure to post. And for a while, I had a schedule. I would post every Sunday night. And I just think that the quality of writing would often suffer because I was just like, “I’ve got to get the post up. I’ve got to get the post up.” And with the book, I could really take my time and I didn’t feel a sense of urgency. I felt like I could talk about things that I didn’t feel were appropriate for the blog. I could start at the very beginning of my life as opposed to what’s going on right now.
The Pressure Cooker:
Which food shows or cooking shows do you watch?
Top Chef. That’s it. Final answer.
What are some food blogs or food websites we have to know about?
Who do you follow on Pinterest, Instagram, or Facebook that make you happy?
What is the most unusual or treasured item in your kitchen?
Well, I have this magenta-colored skull. It’s small. It’s a scary-looking skull. His eyes are red glitter.
Name one ingredient you used to dislike but now you love.
There was a point in my life where I said I didn’t like pasta, and now it’s something we eat three times a week.
I was a young woman constantly on a diet and I convinced myself that I didn’t like pasta.
I just wouldn’t let myself eat it.
What are a few cookbooks that make your life better?
What song or album just makes you want to cook?
I love any sort of Van Morrison; that sort of realm of music.