Today we're getting cozy with Paper and Salt's Nicole Villeneuve, a 26-year-old New York City book publicist and self-proclaimed Investigator of Literary Recipes. This blogger researches the eating and drinking habits of noted authors and recreates recipes in long, thoughtful and personal posts. A recent example? Pizza margherita for Susan Sontag, the compulsive list-maker and American writer, filmmaker and political activist.
Read on to get to know Nicole!
What is your all-time favorite book?
The impossible question! But I do have ones I keep going back to time after time, like Rebecca and In Cold Blood. Truman Capote is a crazy genius.
What meal do you love to cook?
Smitten Kitchen’s mushroom bourguignon. It’s probably one of the reasons I was able to stay a vegetarian for so long—it makes not having meat feel like no big deal!
What is your favorite food scene from a book?
I love all of the food scenes in The Adventures of Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass. There’s the tea party, of course, but also Eat Me/Drink Me, and the bread-and-butterflies, the Mock Turtle’s song, the Red Queen’s banquet. The whole thing is filled with food. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to live in that world?
Coffee or tea?
Tea. I work in what might be the only office in New York that doesn’t have a coffee machine — we’re all tea drinkers.
What is the last book you abandoned?
I'm still trying to get comfortable with abandoning books. I know I should, because there really are too many good ones out there to waste time, but I still feel guilt pangs if I leave off in the middle of one. I'll cop out and say Mary McCarthy's The Group, which I abandoned only because I had to return it to the library. I've been meaning to get my own copy, but haven't gotten around to it yet.
Which author would you most like to meet for dinner, and what would you eat?
Oscar Wilde. I'd order a chocolate-hazelnut torte, and he'd order champagne for us both — a glass for me, and the rest of the bottle for him.
Where do you go to find new recipes? New reads?
For recipes: Food52 and Smitten Kitchen for general inspiration. Ottolenghi's Plenty andLukas Volger's Vegetarian Entrees that Won't Leave you Hungry for gorgeous vegetables. The Sunset Cookbook for dishes that take me back to California. For reads: The Millions, Maud Newton, and (mostly) friends with amazing taste in books.
Tell us about your blog—what inspires it? Why do you blog? What are your favorite aspects of it?
Paper and Salt researches and recreates the favorite meals of famous writers. I started blogging there after reading a collection of Hemingway’s letters and being amazed by how much space was devoted to food (and drink! Can’t forget drink). I started doing some digging and found that so many great writers did the same thing, and that some of their tastes were really surprising (that Sartre had a thing for halva, for instance—who knew?). That’s one of my favorite parts of the blog, those little discoveries that make you feel like you’re sitting down to dinner with one of your literary heroes.
What are your favorite blogs?