I Will Not Eat Oysters
Danielle is obsessed with food. Apart from her blog, I Will Not Eat Oysters, she is the chef, owner of Moo Milk Bar in Toronto, photographer, and the author of Modern Israeli Cooking, which is due out in the fall. As if that isn’t enough, she contributes to foodnetwork.ca and Pepper Passport.
I am so thrilled to have Danielle Oron of I Will Not Eat Oysters, joining me here on the show today.
(*All Images Below are Danielle’s.)
On Her Obsession with Food:
I have a mild obsession. And this is what I hear, “(Food is) the worst addiction to have because you have no choice in life but to eat.” And you can’t give that up, so that’s just an addiction that I have, that I’ve obsessed over food since the day I could speak, probably.
My mom used to tell me that I would ask what we were going to have for dinner the following day while eating breakfast the day before. I would just constantly, constantly think about food my whole life.
I was always obsessed with eating. And then later on, I developed a taste for things that I liked and things that I didn’t like. My mom would make a pasta sauce and I would tell her, “This pasta sauce is a little different than the one that you made last week.” And she’s like, “Yes. I forgot the oregano. How did you know?” And that came really young. Then, I would say, when I was about 16 or 17, I got my own TV in my room, so I was really excited about that. Food Network was the first thing I put on.
I think it was one of those Iron Chef episodes, like the old one, the old Japanese ones. I saw, I think it was Morimoto that made some miso filet, and he made it in seaweed, so it was a different cooking technique than I’ve ever seen. That’s what really got my mind thinking about cooking and actually making the food, and not just eating the food and how it’s an art form. That was probably when I really got into it.
On Her International Food Influences:
I grew up with my mom’s Israeli food, and then I would go to lunch, and then I told my mom like, “I don’t want you making me some weird Israeli stuff. I’m going to get pizza at school.” I was trying to fit in that way instead of having my mom send some weird Israeli food or Middle Eastern food that no one could recognize. So I had both Israeli food and Moroccan food growing up, but then I was very interested in fitting in, let’s say, in the American cuisine world. So that’s pretty much what I grew up with.
I fell in love with Korean food, probably still when I was in high school, and I used to go with my mom and we used to get Soondubu jjigae, which is just like the Korean seafood tofu soup. And I just fell in love with it.
My best friend growing up was Korean. I used to go to her house and we’d look through her fridge, and she’s like, “Oh, my mom only left weird Korean food.” I would start eating it. So I would have kimchi, and then she would have nothing else to drink but milk. So I would have kimchi and milk, and she’s like, “You’re disgusting.” But I really loved it and I just developed a palate for it.
Now, I go eat Korean food at a minimum once a week. I started cooking it, so I’m very familiar with the products now too. It came so naturally to me that I definitely believe I was Korean at some point in my life.
On The Idea Behind Moo Milk Bar:
When I met my husband, I was still living in New York. And moved there (Toronto), and wasn’t a Canadian resident, so I technically couldn’t get a job. Because I missed home, I started cooking and baking, and that’s actually when I started the blog as well. It was just out of boredom and needing to create something.
I started baking cookies and I was just obsessed with it and I missed home. So it made me feel nostalgic and reminded me of the times that I know my brother and I would just grab a roll of Pillsbury cookie dough and just eat it.
So I started just making a lot of really good cookies, and then my friends were like, “You should just open a bakery. Just open a bakery and just do it.” And that way, I could actually hire myself to work in Toronto. So that’s what I did.
I talked to my mom about it, and she’s like, “Well, you know, your grandfather had a dairy bar, a milk bar in Tel Aviv in Israel, growing up. He would have flavored milks. He would flavor his own milks that he would get from the farm down the street.” And I was like, “Oh, you know what? That’s great. That would perfectly work with this concept.” So it’s a combination of missing home, baking really good cookies, and then the inspiration from my grandfather back in the day that brought it all together for me.
I started, it was just myself. I was cooking, baking, cleaning, selling, everything start to finish. And then it hit a point where I had a line out the door, and then I realized I had no more products. I was like, “Oh my goodness. Okay, I need to hire more people.” So then you hire more people, and then you get the wholesalers coming to you. And a grocery would be like, “Oh, we would love your cookies in our store.” Then I realized, I need more people.
So the challenge was just keeping up with the growth and getting to that point where you can’t do anymore and getting more people on board and hiring the right people. I would say that initial growth and constant growth is really the biggest challenge that I’ve come across, because it’s not something you can plan for. It’s a Catch 22 where I can’t hire more people until I have enough business, and that was something that was learned. I’m sure not just with bakeries. But with every small business, this happens. So I learned a lot from that.
I take a lot of pride in our product too. I don’t like talking about myself. I can talk about this product all day long. But yes, it’s a very good product. That was our number one goal. You find cookies anywhere but they’ve got a shelf life of a week. Personally, I believe the cookies at least that we’re making, no preservatives, no nothing with butter. So they’ve got a shelf life of a day and a half, two days max, and that’s the best quality. So I really believe in that. I believe in the product.
On What’s Most Popular at Moo Milk Bar and What Could Get More Love:
So we’ve got this Brown Sugar Toffee Bit Cookie that is so buttery. As soon as you pick it up, your hands just get greasy. But it’s just so delicious. It’s so good. That is probably our most popular cookie. And then in the summers, we do special ice cream sandwiches, and we do S’mores ice cream sandwich. It’s so big you can’t pick it up to eat it. It’s so large. We use an oat brown sugar cookie, and then we make our own marshmallows that are probably about two inches thick. We toast it on the spot. We melt some chocolate. We put vanilla ice cream. We make a ground cookie crumble on top. It’s so good. That’s probably our most popular item in the summer.
There is a Banana Chocolate Milk. I mean, there is some love for it, but everyone always goes for, “Oh, I’ll take a Caramel Milk, a Chocolate Milk.” In Israel growing up, there were these popsicles; these popsicles you used to get on the beach where it was a banana chocolate popsicle. And it just reminds me of that. Maybe it’s nostalgic for me, but it is delicious. And we make our own chocolate syrup and we use a compound, a very high quality Italian compound made from real bananas. So it’s got a really good banana flavor to it. It needs more love.
On Her Cookbook, Modern Israeli Cooking:
I was approached by Page Street Publishing. I don’t know if you’re familiar with I am a Food Blog. They did a book with her recently, and they approached me as well, and they said, “I would love for you to do an Israeli or Middle Eastern cookbook, and it’s really trending right now.” I was like, “You know what? Yeah, sure. Let’s do it.” They gave me about 3 months to write 100 recipes, and that was so challenging but in a good way. I really, really loved it.
We did it and I photographed it all too, which is nice. So I was able to do the writing, the recipes, and the photographs. I got a lot of control over what was happening in the book, and I sent it all off. Now, they’re editing it. It’s going into print probably in the next few months or so. Really, really exciting.
The Pressure Cooker:
Which food shows or cooking shows do you watch?
I watch Chef’s Table, which is on Netflix. That was unbelievably shot. Really beautiful, great chefs. Francis Mallmann was probably my favorite. He cooked with a lot of fire and has got a great concept of food.
I love The Mind of a Chef on PBS.
I’m not really into the competition shows. I actually get very angry when I watch them just because I’m like, “No. What are you doing?” or, “That doesn’t make sense.” A lot of times, the best recipes come from development and feeling and thought. And I think when someone is just throwing things together, and this is what I came up with, sometimes it could be great. But most of the times, it’s not my thing. So that’s why I enjoy more of the specials, like the Chef’s Table and Mind of a Chef.
What are some food blogs or food websites we have to know about?
My favorite right now is Lady and Pups. She’s got some great recipes on there. Really smart and quirky. I love her writing. It mixes all these cuisines together. I really, really love her. So her.
Happy Yolks has great photography. I really love that one.
Pepper Passport is great. I give them some recipes occasionally. But they’re also great for travel. They’ve got a lot of different cities that they review. So that’s really cool.
And then, oh, Death to Sour Mix. It’s a cocktail blog. Really cool. And I’m really bad at cocktails, believe it or not. So I really like that one.
Who do you follow on Pinterest, Instagram, or Facebook that make you happy?
I forgot what the guy’s name is on Instagram. But the dog’s name is Norm, and he’s a pug. And he puts him on things, like on ledges… anyway, he makes me very happy.
Then there is a restaurant called Jack’s Wife Freda in New York that has a great Instagram. They always photograph. I guess, one of the owners, she dresses really nicely and she takes photos with products and holding different dishes in the restaurant. That’s a really cool one to follow too.
What is the most unusual or treasured item in your kitchen?
The item that I can’t do without is my, I’ve got a Japanese Mandolin. I mean, probably the most dangerous tool in the whole, entire kitchen, but I love it. I love my mandolin. Then I’ve got a pair of tongs that I’ve had forever. They’re just a pair of metal tongs. Also, I’ve got a pan. I always make omelettes in.
Name one ingredient you used to dislike but now you love.
Dried cherries. I used to hate dried cherries. But recently, I rehydrated them in whiskey and I used them inside of a sausage mix. So I made pork sausages with whiskey-soaked cranberries, really delicious. So I’m really starting to love them when they’re soaked in whiskey.
What are a few cookbooks that make your life better?
I am in love with a cookbook called Prune. It’s a woman named Gabrielle Hamilton that wrote it. She also wrote Blood, Bones, and Butter. This cookbook is fantastic. It’s from her restaurant, Prune in New York. She’s got some great recipes. They’re those down home good comforting recipes but with a really nice, elegant, sophisticated twist to them. So I really enjoy it.
What song or album just makes you want to cook?
I don’t know why I really love listening to Brazilian Girls and that just gets me going. I guess it’s the vibe of it. Especially in the summer, Brazilian Girls in the summer makes me want to barbecue for some reason, so that and any sort of Dave Matthews Band.
I like really bad R&B music too for some reason, like Trey Songz, and really bad stuff.
On Keeping Posted with Danielle:
I’m big on Instagram. I love Instagram. I’ll post there more than anywhere else. That’s definitely where to follow. I’m @iwillnoteatoysters on Instagram.