At The Table With...Sarah of The Yellow House
Today we're getting cozy with Sarah of the beautiful blog The Yellow House. This prolific writer is a public health professional by day — currently working in Ghana — who shares recipes, peaceful photography and personal musings on the site she started nearly three years ago. At 26, she is already quite accomplished, with mentions in Saveur, The New York Times and The Guardian — the type of acknowledgements many creators can only dream of. Despite all that, her posts are humble and bright, focusing on thoughts, observations, food and gardening. For a quiet break to relax and absorb, you'll certainly want to stop by The Yellow House.
Read on to get to know Sarah!
What is your all-time favorite book?
I'm going to resist commenting on what a terribly difficult question this is. In terms of sheer pleasure or number of times I've re-read something, A Wrinkle in Time is probably my favorite. It just has it all, and I wish I could have met Madeleine L'Engle. I think we would have been friends.
What meal do you love to cook?
I love a good long-braised meal, probably because it implies leisure time when I can be home all day with something in the oven. I make a pork shoulder rubbed with crushed up fennel seeds, black pepper, chile, brown sugar and then braised in cider vinegar — you serve the whole thing with a pile of mustard greens dressed in the pan juices. That's my favorite type of meal to cook.
What is your favorite food scene from a book?
Gabriel García Márquez writes really earthy scenes about food in Love in the Time of Cholera. Crazy old Doctor Juvenal Urbino has very specific hungers, and wants his meals to taste as though they've been prepared with love. He wants to be able to smell the asparagus in his urine after he eats it. He sends back his tea, claiming it tastes like "window". His wife and the kitchen help are perplexed, but they taste the tea and understand: it does taste like window.
Not only is this just magical, weird García Márquez at his best, but I get hungry for very specific foods too — I think cooking does that to you, makes you intimately familiar with every nook and cranny of your creamy or garlicky or spicy hunger. I wonder if I'll be like Urbino in my dotage.
Coffee or tea?
Coffee. Tea is having a moment, and I know it's way cooler to be a tea person, but I can't help it. I really like good coffee, but I'm nowhere close to a snob. I'm in Ghana right now for work, and I'm drinking Nescafe instant coffee, black. Seriously. It's awful, yet here I am.
What is the last book you abandoned?
For a long time I never abandoned a book on principle. Now I do it all the time. I have a commute during which I read a lot, so it's freeing to just be able to let go and try something new rather than face what might be a struggle every morning. You can always try again another time.
Last week I abandoned One Man's Meat, a collection of E.B. White essays. White is one of my most favorite writers, but it was just not a week for essays for me. No big deal. I'll pick it up again if the time is right.
Author you'd most like to meet for dinner, and your order?
Can they be dead? Can I meet them in their own time? I'd have dinner with Hemingway, but it would have to be during the '20s in Paris. We'd eat whatever was on the daily prix fixe menu at his local café and probably drink too much cheap white wine. By the end of the night he'd be regaling me with over-masculine stories about war or about wrestling a lion in the shadow of Kilimanjaro.
Non-dead: Rebecca Solnit. Or Terry Tempest Williams. These questions are so hard!
Where do you go to find new recipes? New reads?
There are certain writer-cooks whose recipes I love so much that I will read and cook from anything they produce: Nigel Slater, David Tanis, Deborah Madison, and Melissa Hamilton/Christopher Hirsheimer's Canal House series come to mind. Otherwise, I'm decidedly unambitious about seeking out new recipes. If I get a tip from a friend or happen to see something that looks good while I'm paging through a waiting room magazine — that's how it tends to happen. Otherwise it's just me experimenting with what I know. Same with books: tips from friends who have similar tastes in reading. I've also been known to seek out books referenced in bibliographies of books that I've loved, but obviously that's non-fiction.
Tell us about your blog—the inspiration for it, why you blog and what your favorite aspects of your blog are.
I like to write, and when I started the site I never thought I'd be writing about food so much. Sometimes when I sit back and realize I've been thrown in the category of "food blogger" it's a bit bizarre. I'm not culinarily trained, and I'm not a photographer, and I spend a lot of my time doing decidedly non-food-related things. So: why? I guess I'll keep writing about food and cooking until I figure it out. (A little secret is that I still don't think I'm really writing about food).
My favorite part about the site is its smart, articulate readers. People leave lengthy, thoughtful comments on my site. I think that's so rare in our short-attention-span Internet age. I value it.
What are your favorite blogs, and why?
The blogs I like are those whose authors have a distinct voice and a story to tell—these people make me laugh or think or run to the kitchen. I don't take as much time to read blogs as I should, but those that I don't miss are Molly Wizenberg's Orangette, Tim Mazurek's Lottie & Doof [our interview with him here], Elissa Altman's Poor Man's Feast, and Sarah Rhyanen's Saipua, and Samin Nosrat's blog.