Today we're cozying up with Randle Browning, the 26-year-old blogger, web developer and restaurateur from Waco, Texas. When Randle's not elbow-deep in fresh pasta in her home kitchen, she's building websites or developing recipes for her blog, CrandleCakes, and her independent, family-owned restaurant, Shorty's Pizza Shack. I love that Randle uses both sides of her brain in her different areas of work. It's a tough thing to achieve, but a satisfying thing too, I bet.
Read on to get to know Randle!
What is your all-time favorite book?
My impulse response is Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, because I can read it over and over and it brings me back to a certain time in my life, but then the English major in me says it’s Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway. Since I’ve read it so many times, I can open it anywhere and get pulled in.
What meal do you love to cook?
First place: This will make me seem so simple, but a pot of beans. I’m telling the truth. My ideal dinner is a pot of Italian white beans simmered with herbs, garlic, and black pepper, then tossed with fresh greens (like arugula or spinach), lemon, and strong olive oil. I serve it with crusty bread smeared with soft aged cheese, or maybe a soft-poached egg.
Second place: Marcella Hazan’s super simple tomato sauce with pasta
Third place: Cod baked with fresh breadcrumbs or pesto on top. It’s the easiest fish to cook!
What is your favorite food scene from a book?
The luncheon scene in Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own.
“Meanwhile the wineglasses had flushed yellow and flushed crimson; had been emptied; had been filled. And thus by degrees was lit, half-way down the spine, which is the seat of the soul, not that hard little electric light which we call brilliance, as it pops in and out upon our lips, but the more profound, subtle and subterranean glow which is the rich yellow flame of rational intercourse. No need to hurry. No need to sparkle. No need to be anybody but oneself. We are all going to heaven and Vandyck is of the company — in other words, how good life seemed, how sweet its rewards, how trivial this grudge or that grievance, how admirable friendship and the society of one’s kind, as, lighting a good cigarette, one sunk among the cushions in the window-seat.”
It gives me chills. No matter how different my general experience is from Woolf’s, I feel like she’s captured what it is to feel completely satisfied while dining with good friends.
Coffee or tea?
Coffee in the morning, tea at night.
What is the last book you abandoned?
David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest. I want to read it. I really do.
Author you'd most like to meet for dinner, and your order?
If we’re talking living authors, Ruth Reichl, and I’ll have what she’s having.
Any authors ever? George Eliot, and I would eat something very English, like cold roast beef.
Where do you go to find new recipes?
Cookbooks, blogs, and restaurants. Aside from reading blogs regularly, I search my favorites when I’m looking for specific recipes. I have three types of cookbooks: beautiful ones, practical ones, and those that are both at once. I look through cookbooks to get into a mindset and think about ways to pair ingredients, but I usually don’t follow the recipes exactly. Restaurant experiences feel like education. When I’m dining out I get to learn about food and enjoy it without thinking about cooking it. Later, in the kitchen, those dining experience seep into my cooking.
Where do you go to find new reads?
I try to read old classics that I should have read as a student. For example, I’m trying to finish Daniel Deronda right now. I read it as a graduate student, but this time I’m taking it more slowly and thinking about it differently (as in, I’m not panicking about reading 1,000 pages a day). Even though I’m happy in the 18th and 19th centuries, I make an effort to read contemporary fiction, which I hear about on public radio or through friends. This is embarrassing, but I also stockpile books based on those “20 books you read in your twenties” lists that BuzzFeed puts out.
This year, I’ve been doing #readwomen2014. Since January 1, I’ve only been reading fiction by writers who identify as women. I wanted to see if immersing myself in women’s fiction would change the way I think and write. My favorite 2014 read so far has been Marge Piercey’s Braided Lives. I find out about books for my #readwomen2014 year by researching which women writers inspire(d) authors of books that are already my favorite.
Tell us about your blog — the inspiration for it, why you blog, and your favorite aspects.
I launched Crandlecakes in 2012 when I started my second year of graduate school in Boston. I had trained as a chef between my undergraduate and graduate degrees, and I missed cooking. Also, writing in the academic setting made me thirsty for a space with no rules, and I was dreaming of a way to merge writing with cooking. Now, I blog because I’m addicted to having a space to share what I create and meet lots of other writers, artists, and food lovers.
One thing I love about my blog is that the writing isn’t always “about” a recipe as much as it is about an experience I’ve had involving food. For example, I found a way to use carrot cake to talk about the blogging life, and I made chocolate pudding parfaits an opportunity to reminisce on a childhood favorite.
Oh yeah, “Crandlecakes” was a nickname my husband (then boyfriend) had for me. I didn’t get into cakes until the last several months!
What are your favorite blogs, and why?
Oh that’s a tough one. My favorites are always changing, but recently I’ve been into Eat this Poem [ATTW]. Recently, Waco, TX even got one of Nicole’s Literary City Guides! And I know I’m late to the game, but I always read Molly Wizenberg’s posts on Orangette, no matter how busy I am. I think it’s partly because we both got married and opened pizza places with our husbands. Funny, huh? Oh! and I got hooked on Top With Cinnamon and Hummingbird High [ATTW] a while back. And a new favorite is Tortore (the English version is at the bottom! Scroll down!).