Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Meet Carolyn Jung: The Food Gal

It's Wednesday, which means it's time to meet some of my food world friends, even those I haven't actually met face to face. Carolyn Jung, The Food Gal, blogs about her life in the food world. She knows a good empanada when she sees one and her Mother's Day tribute last weekend was a lovely tribute to an era when moms all wore dresses all the time. Head over to The Food Gal for food, photos and good stories.

1. What pushed you to food or wine blogging?

When I was laid off from my former newspaper, the San Jose Mercury News, in March 2008, I didn't really have a Plan B lined up for what to do next. Back then, in addition to all my other writing duties at the paper, I also oversaw the paper's food & wine blog. My last day at the paper, I posted that I would no longer be doing that blog, that it had been my first experience blogging, and how I wanted to thank everyone for coming along for the ride. Now, that blog normally was lucky to get two or three comments. But when that post went up, the comments poured in. I was actually surprised that the paper left the blog going as long as it did, considering no one took up the reins, and my good-bye post was the only thing on it for months. In that time, an amazing thing happened -- about 30 or so comments poured in. Most were from long-time readers, who wrote that they would miss my stories and hoped that they would still be able to read my writing somewhere else.

I can't tell you how touching that was. So right then and there, I thought, "I'm not sure what the future holds for me yet. But one thing I can do easily right now is just start a blog.'' And so, I did. It's been so incredible to reconnect with so many folks who used to read me in the newspaper, and to develop new relationships with folks all over the world via cyberspace.

2. What do you hope to share with readers through your blog?
I think of my blog as my own little food section. It has a variety of content -- from newsy pieces to Q&A's with celebrity chefs to my family's recipes to my outings at local restaurants. With so many local newspaper food sections a shadow of themselves and so many food magazines shrinking or folding, this blog is a way to fill a bit of the void that's developed by providing useful, entertaining, and educational information about all the things we love to eat and drink.

3. Is there one post that stands out from others as one that generated a lot of commentary or maybe made you wish you hadn't posted it?

The post that I wrote about the cafe at Facebook ( generated a lot of buzz. Facebook is such a hot company right now, and one that so many people can identify with because, hey, who isn't on Facebook these days, right? Silicon Valley has long been justly famous for the perks that exist on its high-tech campuses -- from on-site pharmacies and gyms to free dry-cleaning or childcare services. Those of us who don't work in high-tech, though, are rarely privy to seeing any of this. Indeed, only employees or their guests can dine at the Facebook cafe, which is headed by a chef who used to work at some very well regarded restaurants. He invited me to come take a look, and so I was able to give sort of an insider's view of just what he does there, including the incredible gourmet meals he serves to employees, who eat for free. The post allowed readers to live -- or taste -- vicariously, which I think is why it struck such a chord.

4. Do you cook yourself? Well?  What is your go-to dish (share the recipe in a few sentences)?
Now that I work from home, I cook even more. So, I'm probably cooking and baking about four or five times a week. My go-to dish would probably have to be an Asian stir-fry with black bean sauce. It works with shrimp, as well as pork, beef or chicken that's been cut into bite-sized pieces, and most any veggies. I marinated the protein in a little bit of sesame oil, soy sauce and mirin (Japanese rice wine). Then I slice up an onion, mince some fresh ginger and a couple cloves of garlic. I heat up a wok with some peanut oil, and throw in my protein till it's browned, then I remove it to a plate to set aside. Then I add a little more oil to the wok, and throw in my onions, ginger, garlic and whatever veggies are on hand (broccoli florets, cut-up long beans, red peppers, green beans, zucchini, etc.). I splash in a little more mirin, then stir in a tablespoon or so of jarred fermented black bean sauce. Then, I add back in my protein, give it a stir, and it's done. Serve with steamed rice, and it's a meal.

5. Forget your favorite go-to dish; what is your idea of a perfect meal?
It varies according to my mood. It can be something as decadent as the tasting menu with wine pairings at the French Laundry or as simple as my husband boiling a couple of fresh Dungeness crabs to go with sourdough bread and a Caesar salad at home.

Bonus question if you feel like it: Do you have a dirty little secret in your kitchen? 
I admit that I have my share of gourmet products in my kitchen. But there's one thing I try not to keep in my house whatsoever because it's just too much temptation for me. And that's gummi bears. I once bought a huge bag of individual servings of gummi bears a week before Halloween, intending to hand them out to trick-or-treaters. Guess where they all ended up? Yup, inside my stomach. How sad is that? I have loved these chewy, colorful, little candies ever since I was a kid, and I guess I still do. I don't care what anyone says about them all tasting exactly the same. I know in my heart that the clear ones are the best.


Alexandra Grabbe said...

Thanks for this interview. I have always wondered what motivates food bloggers and this helps me to understand. Food blogging has become a whole culture unto itself. Fascinating!

Mary Bergfeld said...

I loved this interview. This is my first visit to your blog. I had intended only to say hello but was lured by some of your earlier posts and stayed far longer than I planned. I really like what you are doing here and will be back as often as I can. I hope you are having a wonderful day. Blessings...Mary

Babette said...

Mary, thank you so much for stopping and reading beyond, too--I went right over to your blog, too--lovely...I look forward to seeing you here more often!


Mary Bergfeld said...

Just jumping back in to thank you for your visit. I hope you'll visit often.

Unknown said...

Loved the Gummi Bear statement. I can relate to a candy addiction. I'm the same way with Mike & Ike's. I can eat a whole 9.5 oz box if I'm not careful. Love them. Thank goodness I'm don't cook much in the kitchen, or I'd buy more--because I'd go to the market more often.

Jan said...

Babette, Great questions in your interview. Love to look just at your pictures!

Keep it up. I'll have to check out if you have any chicken recipes!