This is part of my Makin' Bacon podcast, you can check out all the episodes or subscribe on your favorite podcast player.
Today, we talk about the hardest part of writing cookbooks, how to pitch brands you love, and why giving back can help you, and your community.
The video of the interview is also available on the Makin' Bacon YouTube Channel.
Annelies Zijderveld is the author of Steeped: Recipes Infused with Tea, selected by the Los Angeles Times as one of their favorite cookbooks in 2015.
She writes about food, culture, and the arts with work appearing in PASTE, Edible East Bay, The Kitchn, and San Francisco Classical Voice with photography appearing in the Los Angeles Times and other publications.
She is on the board for the International Association of Culinary Professionals. She holds an MFA in poetry from New England College and a BA in Journalism from Southern Methodist University. She teaches cooking classes around the Bay area and lives in Oakland. Find her online at @anneliesz.
If you want to read some more about this, here are a few helpful links.
Today, we talked about the hardest part of writing cookbooks, how to pitch brands you love and why giving back can not only help you, but also your community.
Today's guest is the author of Steeped: Recipes Infused with Tea, which was selected by the Los Angeles Times as one of their favorite cookbooks in 2015. She writes about food, culture and the arts with work appearing in PASTE, Edible East Bay, the Kitchn and the San Francisco Classical Voice, with photography appearing in the Los Angeles Times and other publications. It's very impressive.
She's on the board for the International Association of Culinary Professionals. She holds an MFA in poetry from the New England College and a BA in journalism from Southern Methodist University. She teaches cooking classes around the Bay area and lives in Oakland.
Today she's coming on to talk about marketing, cookbooks and how to serve the community. I can't wait to learn from today's guest Annelies Zijderveld from Eat More Meatless.
Jason Logsdon: Annelies, welcome to Makin' Bacon
Annelies Zijderveld: Thank you so much, Jason.
Jason: You have a wealth of information I can't wait to dive into. But first I always like to start with, what is it like around your dinner table on a typical day?
Annelies: If feel like these days, it's an assemblage of what did we have in the pantry and the refrigerator and ingenuity to bring a dish together and just spending time with each other.
We may have been in different rooms, given that we're right now on the quarantine, but at the same time, there's still new things that we can learn about how each other's days are going. So it's kind of a little bit of all of that.
Jason: I like it. Yeah. It's definitely different coming together for dinner when you've been pretty close to each other the entire day already. But it's good to have you a little bit of separate time I think during the day as it is.
Jason: I know your focus is on other places right now, but I'd love to chat briefly about The Food Poet. I think it's this mix of poetry and food photography is really fascinating. And I'd love to kind of hear about if you could explain a little bit about what the food poet was and kind of how you got into combining food, photography and poetry.
Annelies: I'd say like it's still a very near and dear project. But The Food Poet started out because I worked in the food industry and found that I was traveling a lot, um, and I wanted to Chronicle my travels. So I wanted to chronicle restaurants that I ate at that I really liked, restaurants that I was like ooh, maybe not worth going back to and then even restaurants where man, I had this amazing cocktail at a restaurant that no longer exists and hacked it at home because I needed to have that cocktail in my life beyond going to a restaurant show in Chicago. So that's where it started. Those were in the very early days of food blogging. At that point, the blog actually had a different name that really reflected more of that travel ethos, if you will.
And in 2010, I ended up, so like 10 years ago, I ended up rebranding it to The Food Poet because I found that well, the first name really served my purpose well in the early days. I wasn't traveling as much. I felt as though, you know, I was writing about things like surviving or going through an MFA program.
And I felt like that was a really important thing to kind of discuss for other people that are perspective or going through it. Also um it's sort of chronicle for myself. Because keep in mind how far food blogging has come really in the early stages it really was much more of a sort of a journal or a chronicle, much more personal accounts. That's still happens, but it's a little bit different.
I feel like a lot of food blogs have kind of turned into more of a business rather than initially a lot they were a hobby of people just trying to get their information down or a lot more for themselves and their friends.
And I think that from the get go, I never wanted to become business. Which is one of the reasons why I still will post there, but it's far and infrequent.
Now it really does need to feel as though it's something that kind of plays within the guard rails of, yeah, so I work in marketing, and so I'm always thinking about these things, but the tagline. So like, does it, does it really kind of serve that purpose? And if it doesn't, then I might be writing that for something else, a different publication.
But for my purposes, yeah, The Food Poet had taken on kind of a life of its own. I explored, um, sharing poetry there.
And then I think one of the things that's important to know about the poetry community in general is that if you want to actually get your poems published, they can't be published in other locations, including blogs. So if I publish it on my blog, it's one and done. So that wasn't really something that I was kind of like interested in. I'm currently working on a collection of poems and looking at you traditionally publish those eventually. So that's maybe a reason that that at least kind of stepped back.
But I'm a huge reader. And so if, if you visit the blog, you'll see that most of my, like more recent publications there are on book reviews. Because I think, um, I don't know, books that really stick with you and especially cookbooks that just have a lot of merit beyond the one-month fresh new thing kind of window. I think they're meant to be shared and it's very exciting to come across those. So, so I'm definitely still doing that there as well, but recipe-wise, even it's a whole other ball of wax. I think I probably over-thought it a lot.
But yeah, I started a new blog, which I'm sure we'll talk about at some point and that was for a different purpose. But I did one sponsored post on The Food Poet, the brand that I like and chef that I like, it was a really cool campaign and I wanted to participate, and it felt good. But it also sort of felt like it didn't really. I look back at those guardrails, did that fit the ethos of those guardrails? I'm not really sure. And, um, I have a lot of opinions on that.
Jason: You said a cookbooks or books in general that kind of stick with you. What's one that you've read lately that you think is maybe a little underrated that other people don't know about as much, that's really stuck with you and you think more people should know about?
Annelies: My method always on The Food Poet, and I would say that even one of my, still one of my top posts is about a cookbook review that I did. Um, I really like to make 5 recipes from a cookbook. I think it's important to see if the recipes work, are they well-worded, um, that's very helpful for home cooks.
But I'm also a huge proponent and believer in old cookbooks, which is to say not necessarily like ancient cookbooks, there's merit and value in all of them. But it is this kind of ideology, I think, in the publishing industry that if it's not out within the last month, or it's not one of like the new titles, it's they're not pushing them anymore. And so I think that knowing all the work that goes into a cookbook, I kind of like to go back in time and even if it's back a year or back 6 months. It's sort of after that initial window and burst of activity happens, that I'm really interested in kind of exploring that.
So I would say that right now, the book that I'm really, really loving, who knew that it was going to be so right for this moment, actually. So there's several. I've been cooking a lot out of Jubilee, but that's a brand-new cookbook and that's getting the acclaim that it should get. I think that it will win a James Beard Award. I wouldn't be shocked if it were won other awards, it's tremendously researched. Um, it is a wealth of information, definitely something that I've added to my library as a great reference book. Wonderful recipes that are vivid and rooted in history where she actually, um, so it's written by Tony Tipton Martin, who is a food historian. But she essentially like, has like, here's the inspiring recipe from way back when, and here's my adaptation, and these are some of the things that I did differently. And it's very neat to see that kind of dialogue that's happening on the page and her talking about how some of the recipes are definitely rooted within the culture. So that's a cookbook that we've been really loving, um, actively.
Jason: I got that for Christmas and it's, I love it. It's I agree that it's fascinating to read. You know, here's the, here's the recipe or 2 recipes, that they talk about like old school, 100-year-old recipes, 200-year-old recipes, and like here's a modern take on it. How you can do it still with that homestyle, feel to it but with, you know, today's ingredients and today's measurements and it's. The food in there, it's just fantastic. Everything I've made has been really amazing.
Annelies: Peanut soup, I don't know if you've made that one yet?
Jason: It's on, it's high on my list.
Annelies: It's got actually, all of the pantry staples. I mean, I think cream is probably the most exotic ingredient that's on and that's not even exotic. It's like, and I think probably most people can find cream in their groceries. But that's one that we love, uh, or I've been loving.
Also Tortillas and Turnip Greens. So the chef is from Georgia but originally from Monterrey, Mexico. So it's kind of this combination of his Mexican heritage meeting Southern cuisine. And I really loved, there's so much innovation in that book. And so many like bright flavors and colors and textures. I don't know, it's really inspired me right now.
And, and then the only other book that I'll say like, and this has been the one that I've been taking my time reading through. The writing is punchy. I really look forward to hopefully one day when we can travel again, to go to London and get to visit Honey and Company. But they have a wonderful cookbook called Honey and Company at Home.
It's just not really fussy food but beautiful. It sounds really delicious. And I just like that, it's this husband and wife that are kind of writing about, you know, being professional cooks and the kind of food that they make at home. I think that's, that's always something that's interesting to explore. So those are some of my current favorites.
And then my last book review that I wrote, this was for Edible East Bay. That was on Vegetable Kingdom by Bryant Terry. It's been receiving a lot of acclaim as it should. He is a vegan plant-based chef, um, social activist that's based in Oakland. And it takes a really kind of like, interesting approach to thinking about everything from kid-friendly cuisine and what that means. But also thinking about everything from kohlrabi, like I made a kohlrabi apple slaw from his book that was really lovely. The dressing alone, like I was putting that on everything for days after. That he, he just has a very unique vantage point where he combines each of his recipe with the song. So there's this giant playlist that accompanies each of his cookbooks and that's been kind of a signature move of his, um, that I think is really unique. So those are some of my favorites right now.
Jason: Sounds awesome. And I can see with your passion towards cookbooks and food, why you would want to undertake, to write a cookbook of your own. And so recently you came out with Steeped. How did you go from food poetry and cookbook reviews to writing an entire cookbook about tea?
Annelies: It's one of those kind of serendipitous things that happened. So as you mentioned at the top of the hour, I am part of the IACP board, so the International Association of Culinary Professionals. My first year that I attended the conference, I was walking through the lobby and a friend of mine who I'd known and he worked at a knife company for a number of years. He kind of hollered my way and I went over and um saw that he was talking to a woman that I didn't know. And so I said hello. And, you know, just, it's kind of like the fun of conferences, right? You get to meet all these people that you wouldn't meet otherwise.
And so he didn't really introduce me to her, more than that he kind of said, you know, this is Annelies and she's a really, she's really good writer. And, you know, "Hey, Annelies have you ever thought about writing a tea cookbook?" At that point I'd worked at a tea company for 8 years. And so, you know, traveling around the country, going to food festivals, doing trainings, getting to talk with, or dialogue with chefs that knew how to cook with tea that was something that I was versed in. And so I just kind of went with it and I was like, yeah, that's a great idea. I could do that. And so I kind of rattled off a few different ideas and she and looked at me and said, "That sounds really interesting. Um, here's my card. I'd love for you to reach out." And she was a literary agent.
So here I went from crossing the lobby, getting ready for the awards gala at IACP, I was just going to go change my shoes, mind you, right. And I got introduced to the woman that would become and still is my literary agent. So, um, that's sort of how that happened.
I ended up writing a proposal. It took me like 3 weeks. I don't know, like, I didn't know that I had a tea cookbook in me until it's kind of pummeling out of me with a lot of force. And honestly, even if I look at the initial trade, uh, table of contents, I would say that a lot of it was fully baked even back then. So that was kind of fun, but that's sort of how that happened was I met him when I was working the job that I was working as I started the food poet and kind of made the transition that way. But writing has always been one of my passions and loves and definitely still part of my work that I do.
It's definitely interesting at food conferences, just the people you run into that you have no idea who they are. And eventually it finds out that you have a lot of overlap of where you can really work with each other and kind of move each other forward.
Jason: Who is your agent? If you don't mind me asking.
Annelies: This is the thing that's kind of strange about me is I feel like a little bit of an outlier because most of the people she works with are chefs. So she doesn't work with bloggers. I've been asked about connecting her with bloggers and it's just, I know that's not going to be the right fit. But I always know that people that do work with bloggers, that I usually try to suggest they might be a really great fit for bloggers that are looking to find an agent. So, um, her name is Amy Collins.
Jason: What was the hardest part about writing a cookbook?
Annelies: Well, man, sometimes I'm going to say maybe it's the same thing though, with logging, right? It's like sometimes you wake up and you're just like, not feeling it or you're really like getting in your own way. I mean, you're doubting yourself or something doesn't go the way that you think it's going to go and it's sort of having the persistence to say, okay, we're going to do it again. And just kind of get up off, get up off the floor. And, you know, I definitely had some soundtracks that I would listen to that would help me get into the right head space as far as crafting the recipes. So that would be just sticking with it.
And also, recognizing that not every day needed to look the same. Some days for the, and could involve the creative part of making recipes, some days can involve maybe the less creative part, but equally important part of research as far as for the front, a matter of the books that talks about, um, ahead of the section that talks about tea and literature. So like researching different places and literature that's tea it mentioned. So it could be a research heavy day. Or it could be a marketing promotion kind of minded day, where it's like, thinking about life after the book comes out. Because a lot of the publishing houses, I mean, and this was back in 2015 and now we're in 2020, they weren't really doing as much of that back then. And I can tell you now there really are not. So they're expecting you to come, I was very fortunate to have an agent and also a publishing house that was very accepting and willing to work with me in my marketing. So I was grateful for that.
But I think that, yeah, knowing that every day doesn't have to look the same and sort of giving yourself a little bit of a break in that regard, too. Especially if you have a tight timeline, as far as turning in the book, you know, taking walks, taking dance break parties, um trying to figure out the ways to do self-care because it's sort of a grilling process.
I mean, even, and something is mundane, but again, this is such something that bloggers encounter all the time, something as mundane as going to the grocery store and like having to do the grocery shopping and thinking about things like, you know, if the recipe is done, but now it's time for the photo shoot.
Okay. We need to find strawberries that are looking their best, so like being very finicky. And I mean, it's thinking about all of those, those parts of the bookmaking process and just persistence in general and not giving up. But also sort of giving yourself many breaks, many bursts of, um, self-help I guess, or mental health breaks or I don't know, whatever you want to call it.
Jason: I think working on the same thing day after day after day, definitely can get in your head. And like you're saying, it's so important to be like, okay, today I don't even want to think about another flavor combination that's up there, but I know I need to go back and proofread things that I've done before. And it might not be this creative work, but it breaks it up. And it's still important work that you need to do. And to kind of take those days you're not feeling creative and still fill them productively.
And that might just be going for a walk that day and clearing your head so you can buckle back down the next day. It's I think some of that it's hard to do when you are on a deadline and you have to keep cranking out content repeatedly.
Annelies: One thing that really worked for me, and I know that like bloggers have a lot of different ways that they manage their content. Um, at least for the book, because it was so many, so many recipes all at once.
I love and believe in and still think that as I'm considering other book projects in the future, this method works for me. It might work for other people, but it's getting like large, it's not like the little post-its, but like large post-its. And so, as an example, let's say that I'm one of the teas that's covered in the book is chamomile. I would write down all of my recipe ideas for chamomile, and then I'd put it on the wall. And so I had like, walls that just had all these big post-its, so visually I could see it. When I was done with the recipe, I could cross it off, which that's such a great feeling of like accomplishment, right. But also it kind of allowed me to see very quickly do I have overlaps, are there gaps of different types of recipes that I need?
Um, even in terms of later on those post-its then started involving like the different sections. So section number 1 is on morning tea so it's really thinking about breakfast. And being able to put that next to the next section. And so getting a sense for visually, how is this flowing.
When you're working with the projects that is like over 100 pages, it really helps. I've always thought that it's sort of like eating a dragon. How do you do it? You need it one bite at a time. That's all you really can do because otherwise it can get very overwhelming. If you think about the large project and you have to kind of take it in bite sized chunks.
Jason: Yeah. I think that's a great concept to trying to visualize it in a different way, because it is, I've done 13 cookbooks now and you definitely forget that like you finally start putting together the index. You're like, Oh, I have like 10 chicken recipes and 2 fish recipes. Like what was I thinking? And, you know, I learned pretty quickly that you need to lay it out. Make sure you have the variety right down in an area that you can see all together and not have to scroll through the document to kind of check where things are.
And I'd like that idea of having the post it notes, crossing it off is the best feeling in the world. I am done with this and can move on to another one. I think those are really good strategies.
Annelies: You understand. I mean, I think it's, it's trying to figure out what, what, what works for you and really going through it.
A giant document, I think is hard. There are now tools that can help with that as far as, um, kind of keeping everything organized for book-length projects. But that definitely works for me. I'm very tactile and kinesthetic. So writing we're doing are like big ways that I connect with work.
Jason: I think a lot of food bloggers and probably people in general get nervous when they look at a big cookbook and they, you know, there's these beautiful pictures, there's these great recipes. And they look at that and say, I don't have all this type of like perfect work in me. And they don't really see the hard work that goes into it - and the mistakes that go into it.
I know you've talked a little bit about, um, the you've had missed steps along the way, especially when you were doing recipe testing for the book and different epic fails. Can you talk a little bit about, um, some of the fails that you had and what kind of, what you learned from them?
Annelies: We still kind of talk about jokingly in the house about the one recipe that, I mean, I'm really glad that I tried it because I know I don't need to do it that way again. I mean, Thomas Edison, I think had this quote that was talking about, um, he's never failed, but he has figured out a thousand ways to not do something.
So I think that there's a lot to be said for, for just being able to pick yourself up and say like, "Okay, that cake that I made 13 times, because I believed in that cake, I knew that that cake would be so good, but it needed to have the right amount of leavener so that the chocolate chip cookie base that's so good and melty when it comes out of the oven. It's topped with a merengue. The merengue, it's going to fall, but it needs to not fall so dramatically that someone who's never made this cake before, all of a sudden think they did it wrong and they beat themselves up about it.
I teach cooking classes now, and I feel like one of the biggest hurdles that I sometimes overcome in the classes themselves is, um, different guests that just are, they're nervous about failure. And I think that there's a lot to be said. We can learn from tech and bloggers actually about trying something. If it doesn't work great. Now, you know, you're not going to do it that way again. But at the same time, giving it your best college try. So, um, so the cake recipe is definitely one that it took me 13 times.
There was a, I had this idea, it just did not. It was, so the one that my husband and I talk about as the recipe that shall not be named. He calls it like the one time that I really like just missed, missed the mark. But it was taking that idea of kind of milk brazing protein. So like milk braised pork or milk braised chicken um, and I thought, Oh, let's try that with eggplant and it was disgusting! Not only that, the liquid was gray. So it was like not good. And it was like gray liquid. It just was really that night we called in for pizza.
Jason: I think we remember those probably very few recipes that you're just like, I can't even eat this. Like, there's a lot that you finish with it, you're like, not what I was going for, but this is fine. And I'm going to change the recipe for the book, but for dinner tonight, this is fine. But every once in a while you hit one of those, you're like, yeah, this is just going right in the garbage, I wouldn't feed this to the dog.
Annelies: When I was in middle school or a teenager, I I've always been really curious. And I think that that's probably part of my methodology, even for cooking is just curiosity. Like, I wonder what happens if. So I once tried tinned tuna with apricot jam thinking Oh, that's going to be great together with cornflakes. And I did try something like, you know, poaching, zucchini, and apple juice and that actually was not bad. That was pretty good. So, you know, I think that even back then, I was like, well, let's try it and if it doesn't work, then we're not going to do it that way again.
Jason: So you're really big into tea. What is your favorite tea? And what's the tea you think more people really need to try?
Annelies: I'd love to see more people become open to, as a tea, or even as what I like to consider tea, a spice for your kitchen. It's Lapsang Souchong. So Lapsang Souchong is a black tea that's smoked over fir tree root. So I tend to think of it as campfire in a cup. It's really smoky. And when you start brewing that, let's say that you have a coworker that's sitting at a desk across the room, or like maybe you're at home and your, your spouse, or, um, someone that you work with is sitting in the room like, Whoa, do you smell that, it smells like smoke, like a campfire.
And it's Lapsang Souchong. It's very like, very overt. And so I think that that in particular, whether you use it ground up, whether you use it, where it's brewed and the liquid, um, it provides the smoky quality to food that's really nice. I especially like it, I like it with proteins. And I think that it definitely is heavy hitter when you think of the savory side. But also thinking about imparting just a little bit of that smokiness to something sweet is really good. Because especially with little cream and sugar, you get kind of like the smoky sweet, um, experience. It's really nice.
So that's one that I sort of feel like if people can open themselves up to it, maybe it's a little too strong or too, um, too assertive as a drinking tea, but as a cooking tea, it's marvelous. So that's one that I would say, um, just as an encouragement for folks.
The tea that I have been drinking a lot of lately, they're probably 2-fold. So there's a chai that I got at a tea house in Eugene, Oregon that I really liked the blend of the spices and the black tea in that. That's a masala chai that I feel like really marries the spices so they're not overwhelming, but at the same time, you can still taste the tannins of the tea. Um, it, it takes milk very, very well. And that's, that's another bonus for that.
But I've been enjoying rooibos and that's actually not a tea. It's an herbal tea or a tisane. But rooibos comes from South Africa. It's the most tea flavor that you'll find in the herbal world. But it's really nice as a relaxing kind of like right before bed kind of experience. It's great over ice. So if you're caffeine sensitive, rooibos is wonderful. So yeah, rooibos would be it's my jam right now.
Jason: You also mentioned that you are now teaching cooking classes. And I think that's something that a lot of food bloggers are interested in. There's a natural overlap between coming up with recipes and describing how to cook in there with the written word and then doing that in person. How did you get into teaching hands-on cooking class?
Annelies: Well, and I'm glad you brought that up because I think that there's a lot that the bloggers also can do online. Right now during the quarantine, um, I promise I'll come back to your question, but I feel like there's such an opportunity for bloggers who really understand it, or have technical teams behind them that are supporting them this idea of doing online classes. More people are cooking than ever before or learning how to cook. They're relying on blogger recipes and you know, I keep hearing from a lot of blogger friends about the uptick in traffic that they're seeing. So there's this opportunity here for kind of, I think a revenue stream that maybe they hadn't considered before.
And anyway, so that's maybe an aside, but I feel like it's an important, an important aside.
Jason: Yeah. I, I agree actually completely with what you're saying that I think it's, a lot of people were looking for information like that right now. And whether you're putting that together as an email course, a video course or doing. There's people that, you know, will say, here's the ingredients you need, we're going to have on Tuesday at 6 o'clock, make sure you have the ingredients so we're going to all cook together on a zoom call and I will give you instruction.
And you might not be in the kitchen with them, but you can still have this group of people that you're teaching to cook. And there going through the methods and they could hold the phone over their pans and make sure that you can see it and everything. So I think it's, there's a lot of interesting things you can do without needing a ton of technical know-how, just get out there with your fans. And, you know, like you're saying, there's a huge need and you're, it's an easy way to serve your fans right now in a way that they, a lot of cases really need to be served.
Annelies: That's what to me has been so interesting about this, this moment that we're experiencing right now, of all of us being in quarantine. I know some states are starting to lift the shelter in place. But still you're getting that proximity that in the early days Twitter afforded that we were like, Oh, all of a sudden I can tweet at this person that I never could have reached before.
And so, you know, whether it's an Instagram live with a figure like Steph Curry, as an example, and being able to see him kind of like with his family and his living room and they're talking about different things. I think that's been one of the most fascinating ways to see how extroverts can have these Instagram lives even if they've never done one before or a Facebook live. That's a platform that for a little while I feel like Facebook live has kind of been on the, maybe the decline a little bit, but all of a sudden I'm really interested in Facebook live again. And I'm finding that as I discover them, discoverability is a little harder on Facebook than it is on Instagram. But from that standpoint, I've really been loving that because you're getting to go into the people's kitchen.
Annelies: I was talking with some friends about this the other day, about how right now there's this moment of intimacy that we're getting where, you know, you're getting to see my wall, that maybe you wouldn't have seen otherwise, you know, it's seeing a chef that, that comes into her kitchen and her kitchen maybe not pristine. Maybe there still are dishes in the sink. I think that actually adds to the story and the humanity. All of us are feeling overwhelmed. And sometimes this idea of I have to cook again, even though we love to cook. Or like another time, you know, I call it the marathon of dishes.
So I do sort of feel like this is, there's a definitely an opportunity, like the one you were talking about with the zoom call and I've done a few Instagram lives and. At least for the first month was doing them once a week, kind of pivoting from Instagram over to Facebook to kind of get a sense for both. Who was showing up and trying out different time slots, testing, different boundaries, as far as even, you know, the Instagram 40 minutes versus the Facebook live.
Okay, you can just roll with it. So they definitely have different things to provide. But, um, getting back to your original question, I was going to say too, you've made the point about a lot of food bloggers are nervous about, might be nervous about doing it if they've never gone live before or done anything.
Jason: And I was talking to Abby Rike and she mentioned, it's the perfect time to do this because if things don't go right, like, no one's expecting perfection. Like you were just saying, like, yeah, your kids can run through, or your video might freeze. I was doing Everything Food Conference live, um, happy hour for, uh, for their Facebook group.
And like the video went down because the video can, like the internet comes and goes. And no one was like, Oh, I can't believe how unprofessional Jason is. They're like, Oh yeah, that happened to me when I was talking to my family the other day. Or everyone's used to these kinds of hiccups and random things going on and they know you're at home. So it's easy if you've never done it, just hop in and be like, I don't have to be perfect. I don't have to, you know, be in the studio. I can just be myself in my own space and people are going to be a lot more accepting than they might be, you know, 3 months ago.
Annelies: I'm really curious to see if we go back or how much, how much we will go back. Because I actually feel like if you think about how the world has changed in ways that we still haven't really fully perceived yet. I think people want to know that they're not alone in this and actually having those gaps ... my cats walked through meowing one day, like I had cheese on the counter and of course they're like down there, it's like my camera's panning down over, um, kind of a hands and pans style over my cutting board and you can see just beyond, there's 2 cats, they're just sitting there and yelling and wanting the cheese in it. I think added so much to the story about this is my life.
You are being welcomed into my kitchen. You may be sheltering in place alone in your house and feeling lonely, but all of a sudden, now you have cats that are meowing at cheese in someone's kitchen that maybe you've never and will never visit in person. But at the same time, it's, it's kind of a sense of like we're all in this together. And I think that there's a lot to be said right now about having experiences that are not polished. I think they're actually stronger personally.
Jason: Yeah. It's different social media platforms like, especially Instagram I think is one of the large culprits of kind of putting forward this like polished ideal of you follow us on Instagram and you have these polished moments that people think is actually what their lives are like. And in most cases, it's not.
And we're learning, I think during this time that there might be a place for that, but there is a large place still for authenticity and for people being themselves and for being like, this is my daily life. And yeah, I am a successful food blogger and I write recipes and I do cookbooks. I also have cats that walk through the middle of my photo shoot had my life is not this, you know, snapshot of perfection and I still function. You probably have a similar thing, you can still function, we're all in this together. Let's just keep moving forward. I think that's been one of the best things that will hopefully will come out of this whole ordeal, is kind of a reconnection to authenticity.
Annelies: And also thinking about the tremendous amount of work that goes behind bloggers, creating their recipes. Tremendous amount of work. Thinking about like even photo angles and styling the plates.
I mean, one of my favorite, um, videos that I was watching on Instagram yesterday was a woman and their name does not, escapes me right now. But making a cheeseboard and kind of shuffling the cucumber slices and then figuring out, okay, here, I'm going to put the charcuterie and I'm shuffling the cucumber slices again. So it's, there's so much thought that goes into every single component. And so I think that that could even be apart from this idea of like teaching cooking classes online. Maybe it is like an actual live, like let's build a cheese plate together and maybe it's, let's build a cheese plate for 1 or 2 together. Bringing people into the experience of like, this is how I make these photos so amazing or the food beautiful because we eat with our eyes, right?
I just feel like there's a lot to be said for just building community. And not like in a way that sometimes that word gets tossed around. I feel like right now with social media as that's just a term or part of the lingo. But I actually am serious about it.
And I think there's a lot to be said for being in food. It's all about hospitality. You're feeding people. You're wanting to feed people. There is, there is such an honorable thing about knowing that someone made your enchilada casserole from your blog and their family loved it. They invited you to their dinner table. That's an amazing honor.
So it is that idea of building community and thinking about like, what is going to benefit, what is going to be of value to my community? How can I reach out to my community right now in ways that's going to benefit them?
Yes, it's also going to benefit traffic, looking at trends, you know, being able to think about repurposing content and give it fresh life. What are people searching? What can I do more of that might also put that at the end of the day is also trying to serve the customer or the guest or the fans needs right now. And I think that's a really beautiful thing.
Jason: Yeah. I think food is one of the few kind of industries that you can really be in and focus a 100% on the customer's needs and that is only a good thing. You know, where other things, there's a lot of other kind of components you have to be worried about, and it's kind of a trade off. But in food it's, you know, put out recipes that are going to really meet what your fans are trying to accomplish and do it in the best way that you can. In a lot of cases, that's going to give you the most success than you could possibly have.
And it's like you're saying about them inviting you to their dinner table. I was in computer programming for 15 years and I had never really got emails saying like, Oh, thank you so much for putting together this, you know, website or a software package. But I get emails all the time from you know, I was so worried about using my sous vide machine and I followed your guide. And then my, my niece came over with her boyfriend and I made them steaks and they said they were amazing. And it was just, I was so happy and so proud. And you're like, that's why I do this. You know, you're a part of people's lives and building the community and an authentic community, like you're saying around that is a, is a great way to really change people's lives. And move yourself forward and stand out from a lot of other, you know, especially websites that are out there doing recipes.
Annelies: Here's the, here's the other part of this. Um, it comes down to trust. Um, I read a blogger thread on Facebook recently that I thought was fascinating. Partly for how the question was misinterpreted, but also I think what the question was asking and maybe the answer that they received, that they weren't expecting.
And it's this, why do bloggers make the same recipe? Why does every blogger make the same recipes? You know, if they're classic recipes that already exist, why does a blogger feel like they need to make them? And one person said this and I never thought of this before. And, um, it opened my eyes and I feel like it helped expand my thinking about it.
But it's this idea of that a blogger said that they had a reader um, tell them, you know, I come to you first and if you don't have it, then I'm going to go look for it elsewhere. So it's more this idea of almost blogs being like mini internets, so sort of searching. Okay. I'm going to search for, let's say like beef stroganoff. It's pretty basic, right? Beef stroganoff. But maybe they like the way that you think about like your flavor combinations or they know that you don't really like white onions, which white onions wouldn't be in that. But you know what I mean? You trust your recipes and the way that you write your recipes and so they're going to look for it up there. So that was really interesting to think about.
From the standpoint of also building that trust and along with the community. But just what that looks like as far as keeping that trust. I think that's where considering brands to work with when it comes time for bloggers to think about their, their money-making strategies. It is really thinking about does this brand, um, is this a brand that I already have in my pantry? That's always one of my, like, kind of first checklists. And then is this something that would benefit my readers? Um, and then that seems like a win-win kind of partnership.
Jason: I've been, uh, had a few different people on lately that have been talking about brands and how you can feel comfortable, kind of pitching brands to your fans. And everyone pretty much agrees like if you find products that you love and you use, and then you talk to those brands, you will feel comfortable pitching those to your, your fans because you already use them.
You love their products and it's easy to be like, Hey, I've used this for the last 5 years, I think you will like it as well. Compared to like, Oh, well, they're going to give me 3 grand and so I think here's kind of how my users, you know, might want to take advantage. It's like, nah. Like if you love it, if you would recommend it, what I always say is like, if I would recommend this to my mother-in-law, then I should feel comfortable recommending it to my fans.
Annelies: I did a collaboration with Bob's Red Mill last year. So I started the second blog Eat More Meatless. So that's kind of like my main blog with a different intent than the food poet. And, um, the collaboration I did with Bob's Red Mill was part of that. So Eat More Meatless it was a way for me to think about community building, because I really am like want to bring people together, want to keep people together, I want to keep the conversations going.
I was teaching a number of classes under that moniker. So in person classes, I just kept thinking, okay, well we have only like 2 hours, 2 1/2 hours to talk about maybe an ingredient or to talk about a method. Um, but I wanted to, to keep the conversation going. And so from my standpoint, I started the blog as a way to say, here's a place you can go if you want more information about that. Um, they have my email address already, so they could reach out to me that way.
But I was teaching a weeknight whole grains recipe class. So I knew I was going to be teaching this class. I partnered with them both to have their products in the class, but then to have it on the blog as well. So doing some sponsored posts content, but really thinking about that from the standpoint of like, is this going to bring benefit? And then that also gives me the opportunity to link out so that readers can figure out where to buy the product. Because that's the other part too, right? It's like trying to help connect those dots as far as like, here's what it is, this is why, and this is where you can find it.
So, um, so that's kind of like a little bit of a segue, but I think that that really, for me, I saw the second blog's creation more as a potential moneymaking endeavor where it's, it is partnering with brands that I believe in and that kind of fit the ethos there. Yeah. And just kind of like having that available but taking a little bit of a different take than The Food Poet and writing content there that would not be for The Food Poet.
Jason: How do you recommend for someone who has an ingredient that they use all the time and they really love. How do you recommend that blogger reaching out to that brand to, you know, either pitch a deal or something like that?
Annelies: I've worked in food marketing for 15 years now, and I still work with bloggers and content creators. I just wrapped up a Q3-Q4 calendar with one of my clients last week. So that's so exciting. I love making those relationships happen. It's very fun to even like, think about the calendar and just figure out like the right mix of the who and the what.
I am a big believer and start organically engaging with the brand on social. That's a great way to start even before sending the like direct message. Hey, would you like to collaborate? You know, would you like to advertise, or can I send you my media kit? I think that's fine. But at the same time, it's very impersonal. You might be doing that 50 other brands. It says nothing about what your connection is going to be to the brand, other than maybe you want to make money, which, hey, there's no shame in that game.
But it is thinking about, do you like that product? Do you like that ingredient? And if you do, start engaging with them, you know, like their posts, comment on their posts, give them a reason to come over to your feed potentially. So like if you use the ingredient or the product, maybe tag them in your photo on Instagram so that they have kind of like that little alert that lets them know, Hey, I'm going to go check that out. And then you're enticing them all of a sudden with content that could be there. And maybe then they come to you asking for your media kit and your rate sheet and having opportunities to collaborate.
So I also like to say that I have a very long memory when it comes to bloggers. And sometimes it's not the right time or the budget it's just not there, but just having kind of a blog of like, who are the people that are consistent, both from the standpoint of like, they are engaging with our content and also thinking about from the other side of things, you know they're consistent in their content. And whether that's how often they're posting more like, you know, the gist of it isn't changing dramatically. Um, I've definitely worked with bloggers in the past that within 6 months I had a 6-month contract at one point with the blogger that decided that they no longer wanted to write about what they were writing about. So we sort of had to kind of part ways very early on, which was a real shame because I liked them. It's things like that and thinking about the long-term and just being consistent.
But I would say first be a human to the brand, but at the same time, it's like knowing that even brands like they're made up of humans too. And I think that there's a lot. Kindness goes a long way, as well as just, yeah, naturally engaging.
I mean, some of my favorite bloggers I've worked with are the ones that do go above and beyond because they liked the product beyond what's stated in the contractor or the agreement. You know, they want to keep, they want to stay front of mind. It's a very, very savvy and smart.
I've had 1 blogger in particular who, after they turned in, um, the work that was due essentially at that time, pitched the next idea. I was like, that's great. It was like 6 months kind of down the line kind of idea. That was really smart of them. And also having the SEO data to back it up, you know, that takes a little bit of time.
But if you think about even like editorial freelance writing, I mean, so much work that goes into like making the pitch, right? And that's a little different too. But I think that from a blogger standpoint, being able to showcase, not necessarily their brand, but perhaps it's the ingredient or the product in a way that really just looks irresistible, I think is a great way to start. And just then being human and like engaging with them.
Jason: I think those are great points, you know, that we think of a brand and we call it a brand like it's this giant monolithic thing. But there is there's people that work there that are making these decisions about who to go with. And if you think about not only what's good for the brand, which is, you know, getting exposure and, you know driving revenue, but thinking about what's good for the people making those decisions of someone that's fun to work with, someone that anticipates their needs, that's consistent.
It's a lot easier to then make a pitch to them because you're thinking about the people that are making them decisions, not just kind of, Oh, here's the return on investment that I will make for your company's money, which is less compelling I think in a lot of cases. Than, I'm going to make it easy; I'm going to go above and beyond. I'm going to give you more than your value and I'm going to be good to work with and responsive and kind of all those things we like in partners.
Annelies: Also understanding that brands talk to each other. So if they have a bad experience with a blogger, I mean, I don't think it's that they're necessarily going to gossip or spread that news. But I mean, if there is a conversation that happens just know that it's a small world too, right?
Jason: People talk. Bloggers talk about brands and I'm sure brands talk just as much as bloggers. They go to conferences too. I like your concept of writing about them first as well. And I think that's a good approach too, if you're on the newer spectrum of dipping your toe into these type of sponsored posts or different ways to work with brands, if you can point to something you've done and say like, Hey, I've used your product before. Here's 4 posts that I did, here was the engagement that I got on those posts, here's the stats from them. You didn't pay me for it, but here's what return I got from it. I'd like to do something similar with you. It's a lot more compelling than here's my general audience and follower account. I'd like to do something with you, but not to being able to show them what you've done in the past.
Annelies: Even in the past, when, when I go to blogger conferences on behalf of a brand, I would say, I am researching every blog and I will do a search on that blog to see if they have that ingredient, if they don't, they're on my list, but they're very, very much at the bottom. And so they, they come by the table, let's talk. But at the same time, I think it's also understanding the brands have different sized budgets. So if you're a very, very good brand, perhaps one of the, one of the buckets that they can really invest in is this idea of new user acquisition in so far as like ingredient buy-in. If they have a small budget, that's not going to work.
So like discovering that ingredient for the first time on the blog. Maybe, but it's, it's having to be really like mindful of that. Whereas if I come across a blog that already has, I mean, and this has happened before where they have like 8 posts that use that one ingredient, not the brand necessarily, but that ingredient, I already know, they love that product and I'm going to figure out a way for us to work together.
Jason: Yeah, I think that's makes a lot of sense. Just, you know, coming to me and asking me to write about Bob's Red Mill like that would not be a good partnership for my sous vide blog. Like I have some grain recipes and I use grains and its sides. But if, sponsorships that I've done with the Snake River Farms and Allen Brothers beef, like those are prime up my alley. Because I cook a lot of meat and a lot of my recipes are meat, and I know what I'm talking about when it comes to meat and I love it. And if you're a meat brand looking to get exposure, then I can help give you exposure to a group of people that I cook a lot, a lot of meat. Where, you know, blog like yours, maybe Bob's Red Mill would be a perfect fit for, because that's more of what that blog is about. And kind of marrying those, not only what the blogs write about, but what their fans are interested in makes a lot of sense about those are the type of brands that you should go after.
Annelies: I found that my decision for the second blog, Eat More Meatless was really like thinking about an educational blog and an opportunity to really deep dive into different ingredients and thinking about them multiculturally as well.
I find a lot of times there's kind of like a one and done, but at the same time, there are ingredients that have, um, they have an imprint in so many cultures. And even then it's like not being able to be exhaustive, but, but be able to kind of look at how is this particular ingredient used in different cultures. I think that that's also great, because I always learned something new too, you know? And I think that's part of, part of the fun of cooking. Right?
Jason: The final things I wanted to touch on is you do work with No Kid Hungry. And you've also talked about using social platforms for more than just making a profit. Can you talk a little bit about your thoughts around that and why you're so involved in the the community around you?
Annelies: So you asked the question earlier about how I got started teaching cooking classes, and it's really, I got started teaching with No Kid Hungry. So they have a program called Cooking Matters.
It is a 6-week program that goes into food insecure neighborhoods or neighborhoods that perhaps have food insecurity. And teaches everything from nutrition to basic cooking skills for healthy eating that include like a wick and a snap budget. So it's trying to think about healthy eating salacious, but at the same time, um also affordable and not super fussy or fancy.
I felt like that was really important just giving back and being a part of volunteering. I think that, you know, to whom much is given, much is required. I really believe that 100%. I've been a part of No Kid Hungry on multiple kind of roles over the years. Um, back when I was at the tea company, we were a sponsor of their Tastes of the Nation, which was more of a chef-oriented fundraiser for the nonprofit. I heard about Cooking Matters after I left the tea company and started there and continue to teach there as I have time. But I think that there's a lot to be said for, especially if you're really successful, use your platform for good it pays you back in dividends. As far as knowing that you're loving your neighbor, you know, that's, that's, that's really important right now I think.
I saw this wonderful collaboration that was happening. It was Fantastic Food so she's one of the bloggers and I've worked with her in the past. But, um, she just did a collaboration with a whole handful of other kind of more healthy eating bloggers. If you go to Instagram, you can see it, that they're eating peanut butter and in the caption, there's this giveaway that's happening, but it's essentially trying to raise money for a particular organization. And I'm like, that's great. So it's thinking about creatively, how can we give back? There's a blogger, The Tomato Tart, years ago when Japan had the tsunami, she did an online bake sale.
And so all these bloggers collaborated by providing different baked goods that people could bid on and then they would get shipped out. So I love seeing ingenuity of bloggers, just banding together and saying like, here's this big problem we have all of these followers and people that listen to us and why don't we raise some noise, particular, even headline that perhaps otherwise would go unnoticed?
I really feel like that's important. And while even earlier I was saying it pays back in dividends. It shouldn't be that shouldn't be the reason that we can do it. You know, I think it's really, from the standpoint of this idea of loving our neighbors, as we love ourselves. Who is our neighbor and figuring out how can we like use our voices and our platforms for good and just be a good citizen in the world. I think that's, it all kind of comes together.
Jason: I think the majority of people that are into food writing and food blogging, didn't go into it just for the fame and riches. And I think we did it because of emotional connections, either growing up or that we've developed as we're older. And food is so it's obviously important to sustenance and living, I think it's also very important in emotionally. And to be able to connect and kind of give back, like you're saying, and yeah, there are benefits to your brand probably. But you can give back and you can really do a lot with what you have and it's going to, you know, provide a lot of fulfillment, I think for you as a blogger and as a person.
Annelies: When I got nominated to be on the IACP board, you know, I thought about it very, very thoughtfully for, um, for a little while, but I knew I was going to say yes. That organization has given back to my career so much over the years. So the idea of contributing 2 years of service to the organization, just made sense. And also trying to think about, you know, how can I be a part of rebuilding that community there and a part of the conversation.
And just, I definitely am someone who likes to welcome, welcome in new new people and making sure that. You know, those are always the saddest things when you hear about conferences, blogger conferences and whatnot, where people are like, I didn't know anybody, so I had dinner in my room by myself. So how can we be hospitable and invite people to the table? There is room at the table for each of us, every single blogger out there, whether you have some crossover with another blogger, you know, that's going to happen. Sometimes you think similar to other people, but it's also recognizing that someone else succeeding isn't necessarily impeding your success.
Jason: It's a big pie out there and, uh, it's easy to share.
I really appreciate you coming on. If people have more questions for you or want to reach out about anything we've talked about, they can email email@example.com or find you online @anneliesz, Anneliesz.
Thank you so much for coming on. I'll put that in the show notes so people can, um, find links to that and find links to your book. Actually, everyone, if you like tea or if you're just curious about tea, if you're just tea curious, you can go check it out.
I think your expertise from 15, 20 years, however long it's been in the food industry is just fascinating. And I love all the different aspects of food that you've worked with. I really appreciate you coming on and sharing that with all of my listeners.
Annelies: Thank you so much for the opportunity, Jason, it's been a delight getting to chat with you.
Jason: I'm Jason Logsdon and this is Makin' Bacon, all about helping you serve your fans, grow your income and get the most out of your blog. Until next time. I'm Jason.