Annelies Zijderveld is the author of Steeped: Recipes Infused with Tea, published by Andrews McMeel, April 2015, and selected by the Los Angeles Times as one of their favorite cookbooks of 2015. Her food writing has been published in allrecipes Magazine, Gluten-Free & More Magazine, the kitchn, Paste Magazine, Edible East Bay, and others. When not writing, she regularly teaches cooking classes around the Bay area. Her literary food blog, the food poet, was selected by Alimentum Journal as one of their favorite food blogs. She’s an associate editor of Poetry International and holds an MFA in poetry from New England College and lives in Oakland
What do I do best?
My first reaction is to say I’m a connector of people. It’s so gratifying to hear a need and then see an opportunity to fill that need. I like to see people reaching their potential and sometimes that involves connecting the dots between them. This can also happen in writing and thinking about what questions cooks and readers might have and then pursuing how to best resolve that question or ask a different one that can inform the initial one.
What makes me the best version of myself?
What are my aspirations?
Personally, my goal is to be here now. It’s so easy to live in the what’s just beyond reach that we blink and realize the present is gone. This has been something I’ve been working toward and it includes celebrating today’s victories without also getting so stuck in them that it creates stasis. I want to live a full life and at the end of it, to look back and think I’ve made my pocket of the world a bit brighter for having been in it.
Professionally, I’m a writer who wants to connect with an audience interested in coming along for the ride whether it’s considering how tea can be a spice in cooking or being open to try a different slant on Mexican cooking in a cooking class. I want to continue to learn and continue to teach. I’m interested in the tangle of words and sounds that is particularly apparent in poetry, so abolishing the idea that poetry is just for a limited group of erudite readers is of interest to me too. When you read a poet who blows your mind open with their writing, there’s nothing quite like it. I’m still working on a collection of poems to eventually publish.
My Biggest Success?
Publishing my first book is my biggest professional success so far. I always wanted to publish a book of poetry and never thought about publishing a cookbook but Steeped surprised me with the velocity at which the concept came out almost fully baked at the beginning, so that’s the biggie. A smaller success that’s compounded over time into a bigger success is in teaching cooking classes. I love the a-ha moment of students expressing a kind of glee of “I did that!” whether it’s a teen in a continuation high school through the #NoKidHungry program, Cooking Matters, who starts out all tough guy that later gets stripped off after he whisks together his first batch of mayonnaise, or a student pressing masa and griddling their first corn tortilla in a paid adults class. There is deep gratification in helping people learn how to cook for themselves and others. God has blessed me.
My Most Challenging Moment?
After graduate school (the first time. My parents were worried I had aspirations to become a professional student.) I desired to move to Northern India. I’d been on two separate occasions both for ethnographic studies during school and didn’t exactly know what I would do apart from knowing writing would always be part of my livelihood but that country sucked me into a cultural vortex I didn’t want to leave. Before graduation, I took on what I thought would be a summer job just so I could stay in the Bay area of Northern California a little bit longer before heading to India. But the joke was on me! Eighteen years later, I’m still in the Bay area. And that summer job? It was the beginning of my career. So far so good, right? Except I had a major dark night of the soul weekend around 2006. I felt l’d sold out on my dream and it was prompted in the unlikeliest of places—the movie theater. During The Devil Wears Prada, there’s a scene where Anne Hathaway is in the back of a limo in Paris, attending Fashion Week with her boss played by Meryl Streep. She is at the pinnacle of her career in this scene. By all accounts, she’s made it. I can’t remember the dialogue, but I’ll never forget that Hathaway opens the door and gets out of the car. As she exits her career, I start crying and attempting to stifle it. Let’s just say it would have been an odd response at an inopportune time… So, I’m having a moment as the credits roll. I’m praying for a sign or something to tell me if this is my time to exit this car. And I run into Anne Lamotte in the lobby... it sets off a chain reaction. Shortly thereafter, I entered an MFA program in poetry, continuing to work (and study and write in the evenings). That period required a different kind of listening and the tenacity to keep at it all because each of those pieces has led me right here.
At any given moment, I am a statement of my life.
My Favorite People/Role Models?
My culinary role model is Suzanne Goin. I like how she thinks about food and flavors. She’s also active in using her voice for good, and has been championing the non-profit, Alex’s Lemonade Stand, helping raise money for childhood cancer research since 2010.
My Favorite Places/Destinations?
My favorite destinations all share one common ingredient: they’re cities. Good food, art, and a mish-mash of cultures all commingling are my jam. Mexico City will always have a piece of my heart. Chicago’s walk-able stretches, friendly people, and public art make it a favorite. New York and I have a long lasting relationship. It healed me after a particularly traumatic experience in San Francisco and is a character in poems I’ve written. Every time I visit New York, it gives me a shot of creative adrenaline that lasts for a long time afterward. My idea of a perfect day involves good food and art—they are part of the larger conversation and I like how they often speak to one another through one form of creativity informing another. Baltimore is home to one of my favorite restaurants (which inspired my first restaurant poem) in the U.S. and I love the cobblestoned streets of Fells Point (plus the literary history). If I could live some place else, it would be Philadelphia. It’s one of my favorite cities and I revisit certain restaurants like one might meet up with an old friend (and last time we toured Edgar Allan Poe’s home. That tour reminded me no matter the constraints of life, the need to create art is a mandate). Los Angeles with its immense crush of cultures is my current favorite place to visit. From really good vegan food in a strip mall to a food truck that pumps out the tastiest tacos, I’m hooked and always secretly planning a trip there (because there’s always something new to taste!) although my appreciation is stretching further south now too, to Santa Ana and Costa Mesa. When it comes to exploring cities, I’m ravenous. I live in the Bay area and San Francisco was the first place where I felt at home. We’re now in the East Bay and its warm hospitality reminds me of the South.
My Favorite Products/Objects?
My camera. I like pens with really black ink (gel pens specifically) and unlined notebooks for drawing or writing. My Hedley-Bennett apron—strapping it on gets my head in the game. My album of MUTEMATH Vitals.
My Current Passions?
Pilates for health. Singing for my soul. Reading for fun. And making other people laugh. That never gets old.
photo credit: Stephanie Shih