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Not Without Salt
Ashley was on a path to becoming a pastry chef at Spago in Beverly Hills when she found out she was pregnant and everything changed.
Today she has a successful blog, named best cooking blog by Saveur in 2013, and a new book called Date Night In, an extension of a popular series on her blog called Dating My Husband.
I am so excited to have Ashley Rodriguez of Not Without Salt here on the show.
On What Drew Her To Starting a Blog:
When my husband and I were living in LA and I was working at Spago, I would come home and have all these crazy stories from the night’s work. He was like, “You should start a blog.” And that was the first I’d ever heard of the word blog.
As I do often with his ideas, initially, I laughed it off and I’m like, “No, who would read that? What is that? I don’t know plus I don’t really have time for that. I’m working at the restaurant all the time.”
It wasn’t in the plan for me to leave the restaurant so abruptly. We found out we were pregnant and then things changed from there.
The blog initially started after we had moved back home to Washington State, and I started my own dessert catering and wedding cake business. And so the blog was my free website.
It started off like, “Hey, look at the cake I made last weekend,” that sort of thing, until it evolved into what it is now.
So it’s really the blog that taught me how to write recipes, how to take pictures of food, and even writing about life itself.
It’s really, really evolved over the eight years that I’ve done it.
I think the most natural is the recipe development or the idea for the food.
Recipe writing is a whole other subject just because I’m not a meticulous cook, and so it’s hard to write recipes in that way. But coming up with the food ideas, I think, comes pretty naturally for me and then also the photography aspect.
The writing is the hardest and I think I could have so many more recipes and so many more photos and things like that than I actually share. But it’s often the writing and what’s the story behind it and what’s the point of this recipe that keeps me from sharing more often.
It just takes so much time, and it takes so much attention.
I feel like I’ve lost touch with the blog through the process of writing the book because I’ve put all of myself into the book, which I wanted to do, but sadly the blog lost its way. So I’m hoping to find my way back to it.
Right now I’m in this crazy process having just launched a cookbook that my level of respect and empathy for others who have gone before me and wrote a cookbook, it’s just crazy. I just value cookbooks in such a different way now. So I’m going back and going through my library and finding inspiration from others in that way.
I look at the blog as kind of like this encyclopedia of what has inspired me, throughout the years, throughout the course of the years. It’s rare that I post a recipe that’s a straight recipe from someone else’s cookbook but there’s often inspiration there.
On Where Her Love of Pastries and Cooking Came From:
I don’t have a super romantic idea of having all these memories in the kitchen and all of that. There are a few of those, but what I do have is I grew up not being afraid of the kitchen, which I think is a huge gift that my mom taught me.
Even though I didn’t spend hours with her in the kitchen, I watched her and I watched her not following a recipe. I watched her coming up with a dinner in 20 minutes from whatever she could find in the cupboards and throwing in some spices here and there and just being fearless, and I think that’s a huge, huge gift.
So it’s never been intimidating to me, the kitchen and cooking.
But it really wasn’t until I lived in Italy for a semester where I fell in love with food and the culture around the food. I was studying there as part of my art degree, when I once thought I was going to be a high school art teacher. It was the first time I experienced a culture where life happens around the table.
Initially I felt guilty for spending all my money on meals that would vanish and what do I have to show for it. But I quickly realized that that’s silly because what was happening around the table was even more important than the food that I was absolutely falling in love with and enjoying.
I came back with just this renewed excitement and just having completely fallen in love with food.
And then the pastry, I’ve always loved sweets and I felt that pastry really married my love of art and food, so that’s kind of the route I took.
On Her Popular Blog Series “Dating My Husband”:
That series started four years ago which is crazy to me.
We have three young children, and when I started the series they were very, very young. Our youngest was just a baby, and I remember in that time missing my husband.
We both worked from home so it’s not that we weren’t seeing each other, but we were completely not connecting and we were just basically trying to survive that time of our lives.
I remember always just looking at him and realizing that I see him more as my roommate rather than my husband or best friend. And I really didn’t like that feeling.
The way that we used to connect, we would go out every Friday night before we had children when we were dating and try new restaurants and new foods. We kept journals, going to these restaurants, on what we tried and I really missed that.
Going out on a weekly basis wasn’t really in the budget like it used to be, but I realized that the kids go to bed pretty early and the hours that we were using in the evening, I would often grab my computer and he would grab his. And I would go to the couch and turn on the TV and eventually fall asleep on the couch.
There were many hours in the day where we were just not using because I often used that as my time, once the kids were in bed, I’m off the clock, I’m done.
But what happened then is I completely neglected our relationship and forgot how important that was and it was definitely taking its toll.
The weekly date nights that we started, I used it as a time to really stretch myself in the kitchen too.
Because the other thing that happens sometimes when you have children is you kind of get into these ruts and cooking becomes a chore and I wanted to continue to fuel my passion for it and love for it.
So I stretched myself in the kitchen and cooked the sort of food that I don’t cook on a regular basis and really make that evening feel special.
The initial part of the series was that yes, we would do this once a week, which we definitely tried to do. We still try to do it. It does not always work but that’s okay. It worked really well when I was writing a book about it because the accountability of writing a book made it.
On Her Book, Date Night In:
As I saw the response from Dating My Husband, I realized okay, I’ve hit on something here that people can relate to which was exciting.
The emails that I got from people from reading that series and the comments I received from those posts were by far just some of my absolute favorite.
As much as I love food and cooking and recipes, again, it’s really what happens around that food and around the table that’s what really excites me. And so that was really wonderful. Plus it put to use all the relationship classes and the relationship books that I read growing up. It married these two subjects that I find very, very fascinating.
There is this woman, she’s a Seattle food writer, Rebekah Denn. She was the one that actually said, “I think there is a book here” and at that point, this was really, really early on in the series.
The desire to write a book was definitely, definitely there. I had had offers of writing a cupcake book or things like that and none of them really felt right. I explored this Dating My Husband option every now and again, but we hadn’t been doing it long enough for me to write about it from a really genuine and sincere place. It felt to me in midst of it a very, very slow process but eventually it came to be, and I spent a year working on the proposal and eight months writing the manuscript.
It really stays pretty consistent to the original posts. In fact, there are still rewritten versions of some of the original posts. But the book itself is 25 chapters and each chapter is a different meal.
It’s arranged seasonally and lots of them have cocktails.
They all have desserts since obviously that’s where it kind of all started from. And it’s fun food.
It’s not how we eat on an everyday, weekday basis, but there’s fried chicken and the food that excites me and kind of lures me into the date.
Each chapter starts with a really honest narrative about dating my husband and about just the intention behind it and just what it takes to make a long-term relationship really work. And obviously, there’s much joy and happiness in that but there is a lot of work, so I speak really honestly about our marriage.
The Pressure Cooker:
Which food shows or cooking shows do you watch?
I just started watching Master Chef Junior with my kids, which has been so fun. I usually don’t like those kind of reality cooking shows, but to experience it with them and for them to see these young kids have so much talent and so much ability in the kitchen, it’s been really inspiring.
As a result of that, actually, I’m teaching my eight-year-old how to make an apple pie today. So I’m pretty excited.
What are some food blogs or websites that we have to know about?
I think probably many of them you already do know about.
I read Sprouted Kitchen, Seven Spoons, and actually both of those they have books coming out this year.
And another good friend of mine has the blog, A Sweet Spoonful.
Who do you follow on Pinterest, Instagram or Twitter that make you happy?
I think Instagram is my most happy place right now as far as social media stuff goes.
I follow a ton of food people for sure, but I actually love following people who aren’t in the food world. So different artists. Right now I’m following Lisa Condlin who’s an artist/illustrator. Helen Dealtry, who’s out of New York, painter.
It’s fun to step outside the food realm.
What is something all home cooks should have in their pantry?
I think it’s one of the most important ingredients, if not the most, and I think home cooks tend to be a little bit afraid of using a lot of salt.
It still sort of has a bad rap although that’s changing, which I’m very happy about.
And salt of different kinds and varieties, it’s exciting to play around with that and different flavored salts and things like that. Although I usually tend to stick with vanilla and smoked salt. The other ones don’t do it for me.
Name one ingredient you cannot live without?
What are a few cookbooks that make your life better?
Anything by Nigel Slater just really, really makes me happy. It makes my life better.
I go through so many different phases. I’m inspired by different books at so many different times.
Last night I cooked from this Frankies Spuntino cookbook that was really fun and it’s a beautiful, beautiful book.
I have so many friends that have written books that are really fun to read and inspiring.
I love particularly the book Eat. I wish I could write a cookbook like that. It’s basically just a list of ingredients and how to put them together, but it doesn’t really give super precise measurements. Just a nob of this and a bit of that and so I love that.
What song or album just makes you want to cook?
I wish my husband was here to answer that. He is the family DJ.
He has such a great taste of music and he puts on music tailored fit to our date nights and all that kind of stuff, but I don’t really know what we’re listening to a lot of the time.
Keep Posted on Ashley:
I really like Instagram. I think that’s my most regular. That and my Facebook page for the site. So on instagram I’m @Ashrod and Facebook is, you can find me at Not Without Salt.