Today we're hooked on Cara Nicoletti, the 27-year-old Brooklyn-based blogger behind Yummy Books. A former literature major, this butcher by day brings literary food scenes to life. Her subjects range from children's books like Matilda (with a recipe for the infamous chocolate cake forced on Bruce Bogtrotter by the Trunchbull) to adult fare such as Truman Capote's In Cold Blood, which she paired with a sour cherry pie and cherry pit ice cream. As if that's not enough, Cara is the author of an illustrated book of stories and recipes called Voracious, out in 2014.
Read on to get to know Cara!
What is your all-time favorite book?
I almost feel silly saying it, because I know it’s such a common answer, but I think I have to say Pride and Prejudice. I still re-read it every year and I always find something new to love. Carson McCuller’s The Heart is a Lonely Hunter and Joan Didion’s Slouching Toward Bethlehem follow closely after.
What meal do you love to cook?
Growing up my dad didn’t feel any meal was complete without a huge bowl of pasta accompanying it. It didn’t matter if there was meat and rice and salad, he needed that bowl of pasta. He always made it the same way — tons of garlic toasted in olive oil and poured over thin spaghetti with tons of black and red pepper and mounds of good parmesan. It’s my favorite thing to cook — it’s simple and cheap and it reminds me of our happy, loud family dinners, which always brings me comfort.
What is your favorite food scene from a book?
Oh this is so hard. There’s a scene in Roald Dahl’s The Witches where the narrator’s grandmother tells him about how she used to fish for cod as a girl in Norway. She talks about using mussels for bait and cooking them up in seawater if they didn’t catch any fish, or frying the fish up in a pan over the fire if they did. She also reminisces about eating shrimp straight from the shrimp boats, still warm from just having been cooked. It’s a really beautiful scene, and one that reminds me a lot of my childhood in Massachusetts. No one can write about food quite like Roald Dahl.
Coffee or tea?
Coffee, every hour on the hour. I’ve got a bad thing going on with coffee. I do love tea, though! I usually have a pitcher of either hibiscus or mint tea in my fridge at all times.
What is the last book you abandoned?
I just recently abandoned Cleaving by Julie Powell, the author of Julie and Julia. My day job is as a whole-animal butcher and the book chronicles her experience apprenticing at a shop closely connected to the shop I work in. It turns out, though, that reading detailed descriptions of the same exact things you’ve been doing at work all day isn’t really the most enjoyable way to spend your post-work hours. Once I got to a paragraph detailing the tedious task of cleaning skirt steaks I decided to put it down.
Which author would you most like to meet for dinner, and what would you eat?
Definitely E.B. White. I’ve been reading and writing a lot about him lately for my book, and it’s incredible how far ahead of his time he in thinking about ethical and sustainable farming practices. I think we would eat pork chops, as long as we knew exactly where the pig came from and how it was raised.
Where do you go to find new recipes? New reads?
I create most of the recipes on my site myself, but I try to stay reading multiple books all the time to find new food scenes. It’s pretty rare to find a book that doesn’t talk about food at all, and even rarer to find a food scene that isn’t in the book to serve some kind of purpose. I spend a lot of time on my off days wandering around bookstores and farmer’s markets looking for inspiration, and browsing sites like Goodreads, Bookslut, and the Times and Guardian book blogs.
Tell us about your blog—what inspires it? Why do you blog? What are your favorite aspects of it?
Well, I got obsessed with food scenes in books when I was really little. I was super shy and connected really deeply with the characters I read about in books, so cooking and eating the things that they cooked and ate was just a way for me to feel closer to them. Most of my adult life has been a tug-of-war between books and food. I cooked in restaurants and worked as a pastry chef through my years studying literature at NYU and once I graduated had to decide whether to keep cooking, or to pursue a PhD in literature. I chose to keep cooking and started a literary supper club out of my apartment in order to stay connected to my literary life. It got really popular and I couldn’t keep up, so I started the blog as a way to keep it going. I love the community of people that blogging has opened me up to. It’s amazing the relationships I’ve formed with people of totally different backgrounds, ages, locations, etc, based solely on our love of books and food. I also love creating and testing recipes.
What are your favorite blogs?