We ask Kitti of The Screaming Artichoke about her love of food photography, pumpkin-seeded guacamole, and the best food event she's been to.
What prompted you to start a food blog?
Initially, it was a way to share my food photography without flooding Facebook. That has now evolved into an all-consuming endeavour to find the best ethical, sustainable vegetarian fare in the world and share it with others who care for animals and the planet, as I do. I had become disillusioned with eating out in Sydney until I started writing The Screaming Artichoke. Now find myself traipsing to the end of the Earth for adventure, or 'food safari" as it is known amongst my friends, from Vietnamese in Cabramatta to Ethiopian in Uptown Chicago. There’s always something new and exciting waiting just around the corner, even if it’s in some forsaken place down an unmarked back-alley.
It seems there’s a wealth of vego blogs out there today; can you spout off a few of your faves?
I’m actually more of a reader of food photography blogs than vegetarian ones. Food porn is a universal language that seems to have taken over the world. Cookie and Kate manages to combine both, which is very convenient. VeganYumYum also does each terrifyingly well. Otherwise, I tend to find myself trawling through What Katie Ate for inspiration; her new cookbook is simply divine. My secret pleasure is leafing through dog-eared '70s vegetarian cookbooks at seconds stores and dreaming up ways to give old recipes a comeback.
What spurred the move to Chicago, and what do you make of its food scene?
I came to Chicago for adventure, food and a boy. All three have, so far, been magical! Chicagoans are big on comfort food and they do it really well. The grass is obviously always greener though, because right now I would absolutely kill for a decent Sydney salad. Things are made with love back home, where everything in Chicago is franchised or part of a hospitality chain, which can take away a lot of the charm.
Having said that, Chi-town is at the forefront of food innovation right now, and every week there's another festival or event happening that, as a gluttonous gourmand, one simply must attend, such as the Chicago Gourmet – by far, the best food event I have ever been to. Chicago is also home to Grant Achatz’s Alinea, number seven on San Pellegrino’s list of the World’s 50 Best Restaurants, and the most superior dining experience I have ever had.
Describe the joy you derive from cooking for yourself and friends. What else gives you a similar feeling?
As a kid, I remember making a killer apple pie. I thought my grandma was a really great cook and endeavoured to learn from her until I was old enough to realise that duck fat was one of her secret ingredients. Then, somehow, the magic got lost in a sea of complicated recipes and the fear that I wasn’t any good. After a while, I realised that if people don’t like it, they don’t have to eat it, which really helped in the confidence department. Professionally, I take pride in everything I do and am never really satisfied with my own work. It really helps to hear 'I love it" or 'good job" at the end of the day, even if it is from my parents. My various obsessions, from illustration, to photography, to the latest DIY home craft projects, mean there are a lot of self pats-on-the-back to keep me going!
Which three ingredients are you loving (and cooking with) right now?
Now that fall has hit Chicago, I'm surrounded by pumpkin everything, from pumpkin spiced chai and pumpkin gelato to pumpkin face-masks and pumpkin-seeded guacamole! Anything artichoke is a must these days due to the name of the blog. And I’m trying to find the best vegetarian Thanksgiving recipes, so the final one is TBC! I recently purchased Yotam Ottolenghi’s new cookbook, Jerusalem, so I’m hoping to gain some inspiration from his incredible Middle Eastern ingredients and age-old cooking traditions.