With Sarah Kieffer of The Vanilla Bean Blog
F I V E Q U E S T I O N S
arah Kieffer is a self-taught baker and author of The Vanilla Bean Blog, named a Reader’s Choice for Best Food Blog from Saveur Magazine. Sarah’s emphasis is not just on the food, (though trust us, her recipes are pretty amazing!), but also the joy of sharing a good meal and the importance of family food traditions. In her story 'Vanilla Extract,' her recipe is simple but reminds us of those little joys in life that can make all the difference.
Your story shows how simple it is to make homemade vanilla extract. Why do you think people don't make more of their own ingredients at home?
O N E
SARAH: I think time plays a big factor, as making things from scratch can seem daunting, especially the first few times. It takes a little practice and time management, but once I get past those, whatever I am making can (usually) be easily incorporated into my day.
Could you tell us more about your monthly baking + cooking logs?
T W O
SARAH: I love to be in my kitchen – I was a baker before I had children, and I find any excuse I can to mix and mash and stir. After a few years of not working, baking has once again become part of my job, and so I have to spend a fair amount of time testing recipes and then photographing the final product. I decided to start documenting everything I was making, and so my baking + cooking logs came about.
What is a family food heritage and why is it important to you?
T H R E E
SARAH: For me, a family food heritage is a collection of recipes that are unique to my own personal extended family. They may be amazing (Grandma Ethel’s peach pie) or just a guilty pleasure (my mom’s cheesy hash brown potatoes), but either way the recipes are treasured family heirlooms.
It’s important to me because I really don’t have a food heritage. It’s not that I didn’t eat well growing up, or wasn’t happy about the food being served. My mother made sure dinner was on the table at five and that we ate our fruits and vegetables. She decorated cookies with us at Christmas and taught me how to make boxed pancakes. But our family meals and get-togethers lacked memorable food. And that is what I want to create now.
What is your idea of the perfect meal?
F O U R
SARAH: A moveable feast. (If I may borrow from Hemingway, and quote his son): ‘In later life the idea of a moveable feast for Hemingway became something very much like what King Harry wanted St. Crispin’s Feast Day to be for “we happy few’: a memory or even a state of being that had become a part of you, a thing that you could have always with you, no matter where you went or how you lived forever after, that you could never lose. An experience first fixed in time and space or a condition like happiness or love could be moved or carried with you wherever you went in space and time.’ – Patrick Hemingway
There are a handful of ‘perfect’ meals that are etched in my memory. One is the first time I ate at Lucia’s in Minneapolis, and had three courses that blew my mind. But there are other significant gatherings: home cooked meals and rustic desserts, unstoppable laughter and conversation that shaped and changed me. Those meals are just as important to me.
What are some of your favorite Steller stories?
F I V E
SARAH: Of my own stories: ‘Shenanigans in Gigi’s Mirror’, and ‘Other Worlds’. They aren’t food related, but I’ve been obsessed with reflections lately, especially in water, and the Steller App is such a great place to play with photos and video that I wouldn’t use in my food-related work.
From others: I love everything in my ’Beautiful’ collection: Karen Poole’s ‘Airplane Silhouettes’ is a recent favorite, Luisa Brimble’s ‘Light Leaks’, Mino Amarsaikhan’s ‘Walk with me’ and Nina Johnson’s ‘Beneath the Surface’ are all so gorgeous.
Follow Sarah @sarahkieffer on Steller. On the discover page, search : sarahkieffer