A social networking site for the Philly creative community.
For the third installment of our spotlight on local websites, we decided to feature local food site, Eclectik Domestic run by Katie Briggs. Once upon a time for me, the local food scene used to mean trips to McDonald's, Dunkin' Donuts and supermarkets to buy the usual tatter tots and hot pockets. But over time, I was introduced to urban farming, C.S.As, local grocers and, well, the actual local food scene. Eclectik Domestic is a great gateway into this world of fresh food, healthy living and creativity in cooking.
Q: When and why did you start Eclectik Domestic? What’s your goal?
A: Eclectik Domestic started about 3 years ago with a close friend of mine. At the time, we couldn't afford (or legally) go to bars, so we decided to have dinner parties in her one bedroom and feed all our friends and maybe get a little crazy. We would do all sorts of different dinners, mussels, mini pizzas, pasta, soups, kabobs, you name it we made it. Eventually, we started having a yearly tradition of Friendsgiving, a pot luck with all the fixings, right before we went away to spend Thanksgiving with our families. We loved nothing more than cooking for our friends, and were always dishing out culinary tips and calling home for advice. A loyal attendee of our parties made point that we needed to start writing down our recipes and should start a blog. This is roughly when Eclectik Domestic came to be.
Q: What is the local food “scene” like in Philly?
A: Pennsylvania, is, after California, one of the most diverse agricultural and culinary powerhouses. From the vast farm land to the cities, PA has a lot to offer, and Philadelphia is going through a rebirth of culinary tastes. Historically, Philadelphia has always been a leader in quality goods, and, in recent years, we have seen a push for local, sustainable, and most importantly delicious food. Farmers market are exploding across the city and people are reclaiming their taste buds and their health. Now, Philadelphia's food scene is one of the leading in the "farm-to-table" movement and is offering itself up as a vibrant, locally-oriented, foodie town. I think its one of the most exciting places to eat right now.
Q: How seriously should Philadelphia take food and nutritional education?
A: Food, is the most uniting human facet. Everyone eats, and generally everyone loves to eat. As a food enthusiast, I love nothing more then sharing new flavors with friends…and just about anyone. For me food is such an enormous part of my life, and an endless exploration. I find that incorporating basic and simple nutritional guidelines to my meals is not only logical, but critical to ones livelihood. Unfortunately, not everyone is educated about proper [nutrition] and many are trying to manage in a badlands of salty, greasy and generally unhealthy food. That is why I need Eclectik Domestic. The outlet helps me reach people, and let them know that healthy food can be tasty food, and it can be done on a budget!
Q: How did your parents shape your love of food?
A: My parents are veteran food industry. They have obviously had a huge impact on my culinary journey and continue to inspire me. I think the most transformative philosophy that was instilled in me as a child, were the wise words of my mother's father. He always said (and my mother too always said) "You don't have to like it. You just have to try it". As a young eater, anything that I had never experienced or encountered before was like an adventure waiting to be eaten. The new flavors, smells, and sensations I experienced always left me hungry for more and is why I still am so in love with food. I know hordes of people who say they hate something that they have never even tried. I find myself always looking for the challenge of changing people's misconceptions and helping them find their new favorite foods.
Q: When did you start cooking? Are you completely self-taught?
A: I have been in the kitchen my entire life from cookies as a child to attempted gourmet in my teens. I have been lucky enough to be surrounded by immense culinary talent and always absorbing new information. I have never been formally trained, but I do spend about 30 hours a week in a professional kitchen. Though my job there is not to cook the food, I have a hard time not being hypnotized by the chefs working around me.
Q: You mention on Eclectik Domestic that at Temple University, when you moved into the dorms, you really only had a hotplate to cook with. Can you talk about some of the creative ways you cooked with it?
A: While at Temple, it was the first time I had ever not had access to a kitchen, if not at least an oven. At the prison style dorms they had only a hot plate and fridge. After getting tired on making tacos and stir fry's, I finally invested in a toaster oven and would bake as much as I could. I would try to make as many non-cooked items such as salads and snack mixes, but I am happy I got out when I did.
Q: Eating can be a very social experience. We go out to eat with friends, dates and family. How does food help develop bonds between people?
A: For me eating a meal together allows for undisturbed one-on-one interactions. The conversations had over meals can produce some of the most amazing outcomes and connections between friends and family. Sitting down and eating a meal is, for most people, the only time of day we take time for ourselves and take care of our bodies. Working in the service industry, I constantly see people bonding over culinary experiences and love showing people a good time. Food is how I show people I care about them, from the ingredients to the preparation, it's all done with love and joy. I like to think people can taste that.
Q: What do you feel like are some reservations that people have about cooking?
A: I think most people think they can't cook, because they have never been shown how or were told they are bad at it. There is such a wealth of information, so many ideas, it can be difficult to even know where to start. I always tell people to master one dish, maybe try for a favorite to motivate you, and take it from there.
Q: It seems like in the poorer sections of Philadelphia- and this is probably true for most areas like this across the country- there are more fast food restaurants than any type of grocery or outlet to go and buy the healthy stuff. If that’s the case, why do you think that is? Is there a remedy for it?
A: There is unquestionably a demand for fast food within poorer sections throughout the country, and for good reason. Fast food is cheap, tasty, and filling, but you also have to consider the amount of corporate politics that are involved in these areas. Not many people are willing to put a restaurant on 3rd and Erie but a multi-billion dollar company like McDonalds can and will. It just so happens that its easier for these companies to infiltrate these areas, and for people on a budget, fast food is generally the most economic choice. In most of these areas, there are not people looking for vegetables or gourmet food, not to say that people in these areas are not interested in these items, it's just that there needs to be education in conjunction with things such as farmers markets and victory gardens. As far as a remedy to this problem, I think that education is a critical remedy to these areas and that we are slowly seeing a change in this (i.e. farmers markets).
Q: How bad of a shape is our country in with regards to, well, shape? In your opinion, is there as big of an obesity problem as we’re told? Is that mostly because we just cannot seem to eat right?
A: I am no expert on the shape that our country is in. Generally I would say that most Americans are over weight. Given our multi-billion dollar diet industry it seems to me that many folks wish not to be the weight that they are. I am always so frustrated when I talk to people who are on crazy crash diets because that's no way to be healthy. Food shouldn't be about weighing out portions or exiling certain foods. It's about nutrient dense food- giving your body what it wants and rewarding yourself occasionally with fatty foods such as fried foods. I do not think its a matter that people can't eat right. I think its a matter of they don't know how.
Q: How can healthy food be made to seem more appealing to the majority of people?
A: Preparation is a huge part of winning people over to the vegetable team. Most people tell me all the time that they hate this or that, but they [probably] just have some horror story of having it prepared the wrong way. Making vegetables or "healthy foods" palatable is all about seasoning and preparation.
Q: You’ve also mentioned on Eclectik Domestic that people are getting back to the old-timey way of gathering and preparing food. How so?
A: Generally in this statement, I am referring to cyclical nature of cooking. Cooking should really be about cooking with the seasons, what's fresh and preparing for the time when we don't have many fresh foods such as in winter. The old-timey methods I speak of are things such as canning, preserving and fermenting fresh- generally only summer available items that can be kept and stored for winter. It can be challenging to cook this way, but it's an adventure and fun.
Q: How can a more thoughtful approach to food help better Philly?
A: A thoughtful and conscious approach to food can help Philly in so many ways. By supporting local farms we are not only helping the local economy but also are getting the freshest and nutrient rich produce. Buying produce from California does nothing for the Pennsylvania economy, and by the time that food arrive here, it had traveled over 3,000 miles, and who knows what happened to it along the way. I also believe that people who eat a conscious and vegetable-based diet generally are healthier, feel better and have more energy to lead a more active lifestyle. Over all I think its the best solution from an economic to a health level.
Q: Are there any local food-related programs that you are aware of that people should know about?
A: I am a big fan of C.S.A's, or community supported agriculture, which cuts out the grocery store and connects you with local farm. I participate in Lancaster Farm Fresh's 25 week C.S.A and love it. I also love the local farmers market such as Passyunk Square, Head House and many more. Also one of Philadelphia's greatest and oldest local food programs is Reading Terminal Market, where there's the best of the best, and something for everyone is all under one roof. I am always stopping by RTM's Fair Foods, who exclusively sell local produce and goods.
Q: What would be your ultimate wish for food in Philadelphia?
A: My wish would be for people, critics and foodies alike to start taking Philadelphia's food scene seriously. We have been easily passed over for quite some time, due to our close proximity to New York, but I am here to say on the record that this is such an exciting time in Philadelphia.
Q: Lastly, is there a recipe of yours that you wouldn’t mind sharing with us?
A: One of my favorite combos is my chill and jalapeno cheddar corn bread. Its such a great way to have a filling meal while tricking yourself into eating your veggies! I hope you enjoy it!
3-4 can of beans
1 jar Tomato Sauce
1-2 onions sauteed and caramelized
2-4 cloves garlic sauteed
1 bag frozen corn
1 cup edamame/peas
1 jalapeño pepper
1-2 red or yellow peppers diced
2 tomatoes diced
Add a pound of turkey or beef if you'd like!
Combine beans and tomato sauce. Sautee onion, peppers and then garlic. Mix together onions, tomatoes and beans. Add frozen vegetables and simmer. Season with Sirachi, pepper, season all, and chili powder. Enjoy!
Cheddar-Jalapeño Corn Bread
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup yellow cornmeal
1/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons baking powder
2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 cups milk
3 extra-large eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 pound (2 sticks) butter
8 ounces aged Cheddar, grated
1/3 cup chopped jalapeño
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a bread pan. Combine the flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl. Add milk, eggs, and butter. Stir until mixed. Don't over mix! Mix in the grated Cheddar, jalapeño. Pour batter into the bread pan, smooth the top, and sprinkle with the remaining grated Cheddar. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes. Enjoy!