Today, we're getting to know Sarah Kieffer, the 36-year-old Minneapolis blogger behind the beautiful Vanilla Bean Blog. In this space, Sarah documents the recipes she hopes will become her family's heritage, the ones that will embed themselves in her relatives' memories and create a culinary history. That brand of thoughtfulness pervades every corner of The Vanilla Bean Blog, from the lovingly chosen words to the illustrated logo to the rich and personal photographs. Visiting Sarah's blog is a pleasure I hope you allow yourself.
Read on to get to know Sarah!
What is your all-time favorite book?
This is a terribly difficult question. I would have to say Lord of the Rings by Tolkien; I read it for the first time at 23, and it brought so much beauty into my life. "[T]heir hearts, wounded with sweet words, overflowed, and their joy was like swords, and they passed in thought out to regions where pain and delight flow together and tears are the very wine of blessedness." That part makes me weep every time.
But there are a few other books that I would hate to live without. Rainer Maria Rilke’s Letters To A Young Poet is always moving, and I’m addicted to Pablo Neruda. His odes are so wonderful. Also, I have a huge crush on Lord Peter Wimsey, and love all the Dorothy Sayers mysteries.
What meal do you love to cook?
I love making a huge meal – chicken roasted with just olive oil, salt, and pepper, mashed potatoes soaked in rosemary-grapefruit pan sauce, homemade bread, and sides of vegetables: broccoli, or carrots and parsnips. Living in a cold state with six months of winter, I find comfort food to be essential.
What is your favorite food scene from a book?
The food scene that sticks out to me is from The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, when Edmund eats Turkish Delight next to the White Witch on her sleigh. This book was one of the first non-picture books my Dad read to my sister and I, and I have such a vivid memory of us sitting on our living room couch, totally intrigued by magical food and Edmund’s rebellion, and imaging Turkish delight being small balls of actual cooked turkey.
Coffee or tea?
What is the last book you abandoned?
I abandon a lot of books. I’m always starting and stopping, finding them later on, it seems, when I need them. However, I have started The Brothers Karamazovso many times and have never been able to finish it.
Author you'd most like to meet for dinner, and your order?
I would like to meet Mary Oliver for dinner. I would read her own words to her: "someone I loved once gave me a box full of darkness. It took me years to understand that this too, was a gift," and then ask, "how did you find these words, put them together, make such sentences?" Then I would listen to whatever she wanted to say, tucking her words away.
Where do you go to find new recipes?
I tend to first turn to the cookbooks on my shelf. Nigel Slater’s books are always a starting point; Ripe, Tender, and Notes From the Larder are so beautiful and inspiring. I’m also a big Cook’s Illustrated fan, and frequently check out piles of cookbooks from the library.
Where do you go to find new reads?
Brainpickings is a great resource – I am always finding books and articles that I want to read there.
Tell us about your blog — the inspiration for it, why you blog, and what your favorite aspects are.
I started my space to create some kind of food record for my family; we had no family cakes, no special holiday treats, no concrete food heritage. Nothing had been passed down through the years – no recipes were treasured family heirlooms. So I decided I wanted to change this, and little by little I have.
I would say my favorite thing about my blog is all the lovely people who stop by there.
What are your favorite blogs, and why?
I love so many blogs; it’s hard to leave any off this list. But Oh, Ladycakes, Happyolks, Local Milk, The First Mess, Seven Spoons, Dash and Bella, and 729 Layers are always places I turn to for stories and thoughtfulness, as well as recipes. I’ve recently discovered My Name is Yeh, A Brown Table, Dolly and Oatmeal, My Blue & White Kitchen, and Princess Tofu, and love their beautiful spaces and photography. Also, my dear friend Melody has recently started posting some of her writing, and I love what she has to say.