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The Best Bite of the Plum
Her blog, The Best Bite of the Plum, is where she celebrates the experience of eating, preparing, and sharing sustainable, seasonal meals.
Alexa is driven by her passion for food and the people who produce it, and can usually be found promoting healthy school food and farm to school efforts around the country, and browsing cookbooks and farmers’ markets for inspiration.
I am so excited to have Alexa Arnold of The Best Bite of the Plum joining me on the show today.
(*All photos below are Alexa’s.)
On Working in the Good Food Movement:
I’m really fortunate that my mom packed my lunch most days going to school, but there were a lot of kids who didn’t have that opportunity. Kids eat sometimes most of their daily calories in school. So the good food movement is trying to ensure that the food is healthy and nourishing.
On the Shift to Eating More Local:
I think so many people now understand the benefits of eating local and shortening the transportation between the food to their plates, keeping money in the local economy, and eating food when it’s at peak season. I think a lot of people are totally on board with that.
On Cooking What’s Local and Seasonal:
It’s okay to not be perfect and cook seasonally every time. Maybe you were just desperate for the tomatoes because it’s been a really long time. They’re not going to taste as good from the farmers’ market, but it’s okay to not be so strict about your values in terms of just only buying local.
On a Dish That’s Special to Her:
There’s a dish that’s on my blog, and it’s a Concorde Grape Focaccia. I’ve already talked a lot about tomatoes, but the thing that actually was a spark for me at a farmers market was the first time I had a locally grown grape. I’m not even sure what variety of grape it was. It was maybe a Concorde. But I took a bite of it in front of the farmer and was literally blown away by the taste. I was like, “Oh my gosh. If this is a grape, what have I been eating my whole life?”
Grape season is in September, October or maybe late August, but it’s my absolute favorite season. And so this dish is really special to me because it’s the epitome of things that inspired me. And the thought of putting grapes in bread was also really wacky to me at first. I was like, “That doesn’t make any sense.” But it’s awesome.
And traditionally, in Italy, during grape harvest season in September, they make this focaccia. The other wacky thing about it is, they often leave the seeds in the grapes. So, once it cooks and once it bakes, the seeds get a little softer and it’s this little crunch that at first can be shocking when you’re a person who doesn’t like seeds in your grapes, but then it’s kind of addicting and awesome.
That’s a dish that’s pretty special to me. It’s my favorite thing to make. I have a lot of frozen grape focaccia in my freezer because I made so much during grape season.
The Pressure Cooker:
Which food shows or cooking shows do you watch?
Well, I’m going to fail this question because I don’t really watch any, but I’ve been hearing amazing things about the Netflix series called Chef’s Table. I think that’s what it’s called. So that’s on my list to watch, so I’ll report back.
What are some food blogs or food websites we have to know about?
I think the one food blog that has really inspired me in a lot of ways is the blog, Happy Yolks. I’ve been following her for a really long time. I don’t know if she’s actually really blogging much anymore. Her writing is so beautiful and honest and vulnerable. And a lot of blogs that I go to, I go to also for the writing, not just for the recipes. And I think she just does such a beautiful job of pairing those.
I also follow Brooklyn Supper. I love her recipes because they’re simple, they’re seasonal. She’s based in Appalachia, I think, in Virginia. I’ve spent a lot of time in Appalachia and I know that there are a lot of people who are eager and hungry for really simple seasonal recipes with food that’s been grown there for a long time.
I’ll also mention my friend Katherine’s blog called Cook with What You Have. She’s based in Portland, Oregon. The name is perfect. She is the epitome of everything I want to be in a cook, which is a person who saves the scraps and the little bits and pieces and makes something really cool and beautiful out of them. And she also has a business where she teaches these awesome cooking classes about just that.
Those are some of my favorite blogs, among so many others.
Who do you follow on Pinterest, Instagram, or Facebook or Snapchat that make you happy?
I follow so many food bloggers on Instagram. That’s probably the main social media mode that I use. I love Baker Hands. She is this incredible baker who is also this incredible artist. And she makes this flower art on top of her loaves of bread. It’s amazing. It’s so beautiful. Dolly and Oatmeal, There She Cooks, Local Haven, The Roaming Kitchen, so many others. So many people that are doing just amazing things with food that are constantly inspiring me.
A lot of people that you’ve interviewed. I was looking through your list and was like, “Oh my gosh. I follow so many of these guys. They’re awesome.”
What is the most unusual or treasured item in your kitchen?
I live in New York City, and I have a very small kitchen. So I try to be very intentional with the kinds of tools that I keep in my kitchen. So I’m going to go with treasured, the most treasured item is probably my grandmother’s silver. She gave it to my husband and I as a gift for our wedding.
It’s a really lovely story about how she got this silver. My grandmother’s from rural eastern Kentucky, in the mountains of eastern Kentucky. She moved to Lexington, to the big city, and ended up working at the Capitol Building in Frankfurt, Kentucky. She was the secretary in the building.
And she had made it. She had really left her rural roots for the city, and one of the things she bought with her first paycheck was this beautiful set of silverware that she went home and gave to her mother. And so she gave that to me for my wedding. It’s my most prized possession that I own. It’s amazing. I use it in all of my posts on my blog, too.
Name one ingredient you used to dislike but now you love.
There are a lot of things. I feel like I’m constantly teaching myself to like new foods that I didn’t like before. But the thing that I will say that I really love now, is pickles. I despised pickles. I hated pickles. I was like a person who, you order a sandwich at a restaurant and a pickle touched your sandwich and you’re like, “Oh my God. I can’t eat that part of the sandwich.”
But then somehow, I just started really loving pickles and started making a lot of pickles myself. Probably prompted by a lot of those farmers at that market who were like, “This is what you have to do to save this produce.” Now I’m totally obsessed with pickles.
What are a few cookbooks that make your life better?
I think the Ottolenghi cookbooks, Plenty More and Jerusalem, they are so creative and difficult in some ways. So those really push me because I think a lot of the cooking I generally do for myself on a daily basis is something that’s just really simple. So cooking something out of all of those cookbooks always feels like a challenge to me and an accomplishment once I’ve made it.
I’d say those cookbooks are some of my favorites. I’ll also mention The Joy of Cooking, which my mother made pancakes from almost every weekend, growing up. So The Joy of Cooking has a special place in my heart.
What song or album just makes you want to cook?
My husband is the total music guy in our relationship, so I’m often all over the cooking and over in the kitchen, and he’s at the computer or at our record player, putting some tunes on. So I let him DJ most of the time. But I’m also really obsessed with Robyn and with Sia. Things that make me wanna dance and that I know all the words to make me super excited. So I’ll pick those.
On Keeping Posted with Alexa:
I probably post the most to Instagram. And then I’m on Facebook too but I use that a little less frequently. So yeah, I would say Instagram and just on my blog are probably the best ways to reach me.