A few months ago my trend-spotting, news hounding little brother Zach rang me to tell about a cookbook he thought I would love. Soon, I had Well Fed Flat Broke in my hands and I was whipping up rib-sticking, lip-smacking dishes that are family-friendly, delicious and not hard on the bank account.(See my Vitamin Daily review).
Emily Wight, Well Fed Flat Broke’s whip smart and funny-as-heck author, is someone a lot of people my age can relate to, said my little brother. She has a young kid who’s a fussy eater, a husband who has dietary restrictions, a modest grocery budget and a do-gooder approach to food (organic, local when possible). It was a cookbook-big sister match made in messy kitchen heaven.
Wight’s recipes are a friendly mix of South/Central American fare, a sprinkle of South East Asian dishes and a lot of Canadian classics like cottage pie (my family’s favourite and the best way to sneak vegetables into my toddler’s dinner) and her grandpa’s version of molten lava cake. Well Fed Flat Broke’s photography is gorgeous, the food styling colourful and vintage-y. She’s a humorous, sweet writer who’s neither too brash nor syrupy. Though her recipes could be served in some of Vancouver’s trendiest bistros, they are meant to be made with easy-to-find ingredients that won’t break the bank.
If I still lived in Vancouver, I’d probably try to be Wight’s friend. I’d ask her to go for coffee on Commercial Drive, swap recipes and search out sweet vintage finds at The Attic Treasures. So instead, I’ll highlight her f*#king awesome her job as a food blogger and cook book author.
Emily Wight, age 32, Cookbook Author, Arsenal Pulp Press
So how did you get that f*#king awesome job? Can you describe what your job is and what it is that you do?
I’m a lot of things, but I’m mainly a writer. I am also a messy home cook. These two areas of my life came together almost seven years ago now when I started up a wordy little food blog called Well Fed, Flat Broke, as a way to have a place to write and save recipes. Some great things have happened as a result of my half-drunk little whim one cold January evening when I was despairing about how I’d probably never have anything to write about again now that I’d finished school and had no real deadlines. My first cookbook came out in April 2015 from Arsenal Pulp Press; that’s been the highlight of all of it so far!
Did you have to give anything up to get here?
Sleep and exercise, mostly, and also all the chores I do not like to do. So, you win some, you lose some. I work a lot, and I have a three-year-old, so I don’t get a lot of downtime; I admit I should probably do a better job at prioritizing sleep and physical effort, but when I have a chance to sit and zone out with a glass of wine and a book or Don Draper, I definitely put that first. I feel like Don Draper would respect that.
Who or what has been your mentor/inspiration along the way?
Leanne Prain, who wrote Yarn Bombing, Hoopla, and Strange Material (also from Arsenal Pulp Press), was a co-worker of mine when I was fresh out of school and embarking on a career in communications at the University of British Columbia. She has been both an inspiration in terms of a person whose career I admire, and in terms of how prolific she is – she works full time and still manages to put out these incredible books! She has also been unwavering in her motivation and support – she’s read my blog and liked it enough to give my name to Brian Lam and Susan Safyan, the publisher and editor at Arsenal Pulp, and for that I am forever in her debt. If you’re at the bookstore looking for my book, you should definitely look for hers too.
In three words or less, what’s the best part of your job?
Eating test batches.
In three words or less, what’s the worst part of your job?
Pants always tight.
What did you want to be when you grew up?
My earliest career goal was to be a successful dentist who found the time and balance to also be a successful BC Lions cheerleader. Over time, my ineptitude in math and generally not-good dancing led me to consider different paths. I’m a lot better at writing than dancing.
What is your drink of choice?
I like an extra dirty vodka martini, with all the olives. Failing that, pink wine always makes me feel like a fancy lady.
Where was the last place you travelled?
I went to El Salvador in 2013 to write about poverty and child labour; World Vision Canada was generous in offering me a spot on their trip. Everywhere I go I can tie food to some larger topic; this was an interesting one for me, as it connected me to so many kids working to produce ingredients we use every day – sugar, coffee, chocolate – and really made me conscious of how the choices we make at home affect people all over the world.
What’s on your playlist right now?
Gratuitous pop music. So much Rihanna.
What are your top three reads vis a vis your career (books, magazines, manuals, podcasts)?
I read Dianne Jacob’s Will Write for Food maybe six years ago, and it’s been invaluable; I still refer to it on a semi-regular basis. I also read a lot of food writing – I have a whole bookshelf just for cookbooks and writers on food. If you want to write cookbooks or culinary nonfiction, read as many different writers as you can – a lot of food writing (or any writing, really) is homage; I’d really encourage seeking out diversity so you don’t find yourself emulating someone else’s voice. My two favourites, the two I keep going back to, are Roy Choi’s L.A. Son and Laurie Colwin’s Home Cooking. Read everyone, not just MFK Fisher.
Any advice for someone who’s looking to lock down their f*#king awesome job?
So much happens online now and it’s been a really great equalizer in terms of putting yourself out there and building an audience. So, get online. Start a blog, get on Instagram, be weird on Twitter – it all helps, and the more opportunity you have to interact with people and build relationships, the better for you in the long run if your interest is in selling or profiting off your work. And if your interest is writing, then write! Find the thing you want to hang your stories on and build your niche. Then write badly until you don’t write badly most of the time anymore.
What does the future behold for your f*#king awesome job?
I don’t know! But I’ve got a few ideas I hope pan out. I’m currently researching Dutch cookery and the spice trade, particularly in Indonesia, so I’m hoping to bring those two together. We’re trying to figure out our finances for a trip to the Netherlands early next year; fingers crossed! I think I’m done writing about myself for a little while, and would like to know more about what other people are eating, and why. I could spend my whole life just learning about why people cook and eat the way they do and then writing about it. The next time you meet someone new, ask them where they like to eat, or about their favourite food. You’ll get so much farther with them than just a boring old “so what do you do?” A lot of people don’t love their work, but almost everyone loves food.
~ 30 ~
I want to insert a HUGE caveat here AND now. I did not come up with this column name, my favourite, now deceased magazine – Readymade – did. It was one of my favourite columns in the DIY mag. I hope to emulate their ethos here (the questions are from my brain with a bit of audience testing from friends/family). As an introvert and general lover of the human race, I am inspired by people who LOVE their jobs. So I thought I would dedicate some space on the world wide web to profiling people who have f*#king awesome jobs: who they are, how they got there and what advice would they give others.
Do you know someone with a f*#king awesome job? Head over to the contact page and send me a note about them. Who knows, maybe they’ll show up here in the next few months.
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