It could be argued that nothing goes better with food than good conversation. And if you’ve ever met the irrepressible Lori Baltazar of the famous Dessert Comes First blog, you would have probably realized that her skill at sustaining a lively chat would give her aptitude for sniffing out scrumptious sweets a run for its money. That’s the reason why we were so excited to sit down and talk with Lori.
Well… that and her new book which hits shelves very soon, of course!
Fully Booked Blog: Tell us about your upcoming book.
Lori: It’s called Dessert Comes First after my blog of 8 years. It’s really an encapsulation of my best work to date. It consists of three major parts: The essays, some of my most popular blog posts, which I’ve updated for the book; plus, exclusively written for the book essays as well. Then I’ve got profiles of ten chefs and home bakers of the local food scene that I respect; plus, each one has contributed two recipes. And the last major part of the book is my recipes of the sweets that I like to eat. And I’m finally sharing the recipe of the cheesecake that I made for my home baking business. I’m quite famous for that cheesecake because I only make it for family and friends and people who I love. And everybody loves it. And I decided it was time to share it with the world.
What was the spark that got you started on food writing?
Well, I’ve actually had quite a circuitous route, if you could call it that, to what I’m doing now. I originally wanted to be a broadcast journalist, a.k.a. a newscaster. And that was really how I started my professional career, my first job right out of college. I was also an English teacher, a radio announcer, a culinary school student. And I even did my time in the corporate world. So I was a corporate drone for two years or so! And then after I gave birth in 2002, I was sort of bereft of anything to do. I didn’t really know what I wanted to do.
So one of my friends said, “You still have your skills, Lori.” And I was thinking, what are my skills? I said, “Well, I’ve always liked to write and I’ve always loved to eat so maybe I could put the two together.” So being the ballsy girl that I’d like to think I am, I marched right into the offices of Food Magazine, a local food magazine that I read often, and I had put together a piece called “The Six Best Desserts of 2003.” And I marched right up to the editor-in-chief, and I said, “Would you please publish this?” And that was how my career as a food writer started.
The Dessert Comes First blog has been around for over eight years now. After all this time, what keeps you so engaged about food?
Well, first of all, I’m always hungry. So that’s a given!
Constant, insatiable hunger is what propels me to write about food, to take pictures of it, to tell people about it. And even my friends and people that I like to talk to also like food because basically, if you don’t like food, you don’t like to eat, then we have no business spending any time, any amount of time together. I mean there’s just no point. Plus, I find that people who like to eat and who love food are really—they’re so dynamic, they’re so engaging, they’re so lively, they’re so exuberant. I love that.
And at this point, in our country, or in my city, which is Manila, there’s never been such a surplus of places to go, things to eat. Our food landscape now is just so engaging. You have so much more choice now than you ever did have.
And I also cook and bake so that’s also an added aspect to it. It’s not just about going to restaurants. It’s also the things that I cook, the things that I bake.
I wouldn’t say you are a food critic as much as you seem to celebrate food more. You largely talk about the things you like. Why is that?
Well, I’m emotional about what I like. When I like something I really like something. And it’s my decision to only write about the things that I like because there’s already so much negative energy on the internet. The fact that it’s so anonymous feeds a person’s desire to just lash and lambast. And I don’t want to contribute to that. I really only want to be positive on my blog, which is why and thus the conscious decision to only really write about things that I like.
There are times, though, when I feel that I need to call out certain, I guess I’d call them ‘lapses’ in the food industry or just food in general. So I will have certain posts like the dishes that don’t make it to Dessert Comes First. Sometimes I feel that I do need certain posts like that to remind myself and my readers that it isn’t just all sunshine and light here on Dessert Comes First, but I also like to keep it real.
Speaking of things you like. You don’t like shortcuts. ‘Give me butter. Give me sugar—’
Give me my steak and my steak fat!
If you’re going to go big, go big—or go home. I live my life with this one motto: ‘Everything in moderation including moderation.’ That’s how I live my life.
So if you’re going to have a cupcake, have a real, decent cupcake. Don’t have a sugar-free substitute. If you’re going to have a steak, go for the real thing, cooked medium-rare with fat marbling. But then if you’re like on my more behaved days, so to speak, I’ll have my salad, yeah, but it’ll be from like the freshest greens, it’ll be with the best olive oil.
You seem to love word craft. How do you stay prolific as a communicator?
In all of my food writing workshops, I always say that if you want to be a food writer you have to read, you have to like reading. There’s just no two ways about it whether you read on your tablet or read e-books, which I highly recommend. You have to like to read. If you don’t like to read then there’s no point in you being a writer because writing is all about reading. And when you write something it’s really about getting your message across whatever that may be.
Words are my world and they are my weapons. I do a lot to work on my writing. I really try to be the best food writer that I can possibly be. So I read a lot of food books, cookbooks. When I’m fed up with food I like to read murder mysteries—the bloodier the better, because it’s the farthest thing away from food. I also love to read women empowerment books such as Unlimited by Jillian Michaels, et al.
And because I read a lot, I also have a notebook wherein I scribble down quotes that I come across, whether it be food or otherwise, and I use it for inspiration. I like to look at that notebook and read through all these quotes from ten years ago, 15 years ago. And you feel that spark because, you know, as an artist, and you know this, that sometimes the spark just isn’t there. The muse is not singing. So you have to create it.
It’s as they say, ‘Inspiration will come to you, but it has to find you working.’ So you can’t just be like lying in bed waiting for lightning to strike. I mean you really have to be working.
Read more about Dessert Comes First, the book on Lori’s blog announcement: http://dessertcomesfirst.com/archives/11710/. The book will be available starting September 5, 2013 in Fully Booked branches.