Featured Austin Blogger :: Full and Content
Believe us when we say that you’ll want to get to know Lisa from Full and Content. As a true foodie, Lisa knows what it’s like to be the one at the table who only wants to talk (in detail) about what’s on the plate. With a true passion for good food, her blog is full of personal stories, beautiful pictures and recipes ranging from redneck sushi to Morrocan serpent cake (aka upper intestine cake– perfect for Halloween).
With a personal mission to eat a local, organic and humane diet, her recipes are the kind you can feel good about making. They are labeled vegetarian (V) and gluten free (GF) in a well organized recipe index, which makes her blog easy to navigate. All in all, we’re big fans of Full and Content.
How did you discover your love of food and writing?
The love of writing has always been there. I wrote a series of novels at age eight (all highly derivative of the Black Stallion novels… little girls and horses, you know), then I destroyed them shortly afterwards out of a sense of being overly self-critical of my work. My aunt was one of the only people I showed them to. She was an artist and a teacher and understood how to deliver feedback constructively. While still being encouraging, she gave me some direction that ended up being hugely influential. She explained how even though I could see an image or a scene in my head—the readers could not—unless I created it for them. I’ve always focused on the descriptive aspect of writing, of visualizing and providing cues for the senses when appropriate. My style has evolved a lot since I was eight, obviously, and there have been many other influences, but that is still key. For me, it’s about communicating a story or idea and translating an experience in as visceral a way as possible—without cluttering the actual storyline. This ends up balancing my tendency towards analysis and keeps me from over-intellectualizing. Hopefully, both the visceral and intellectual pieces coexist in a complementary way. That’s the goal anyhow.
The childhood novel experience was also an early lesson about the creative process: that you can’t be paralyzed by any frustration felt over the outcome not aligning with your expectations. You just have to do it, then process what you would have done differently, and keep on truckin’.
So that said, the writing for the blog is still evolving, and recently I’ve really begun focusing more on the story-telling aspect rather than the food itself. I think I just finally gave myself permission to do this. You can see that in some my more recent posts, like “G’Morning Snow’s BBQ”, “An Inside Look at Micklethwait Craft Meats“, and “Robert J. Lerma, Barbecue Photographer.” (It’s not intentionally reserved for barbecue posts, but I’ve been doing a lot of those recently.)
The whole idea of the blog is, “Life, as told through the story of food.” What we eat is a subtle but strong element in how we define both our selves and others, even if we aren’t doing it consciously. And as something that we structure our lives around, it’s the perfect avenue for capturing what goes on in our own personal world. It’s the framework for exploring other ideas, which are actually the more interesting and important elements of the story (in my opinion at least), and I try to keep that in perspective.
On a purely practical level, I’m pretty obsessed with food and obviously love eating, so it’s been a great outlet for me to blabber on about it as well as document what I’m doing in the kitchen for my kids. That’s an important goal for me as well. I wish so much that we’d captured some of my grandmother’s recipes/processes, even if she did cook by instinct and not by a set of instructions. I want to do that for my kids… regardless of whether or not they hate most of what I make right now. They’ll come around. Maybe.
Has blogging changed the way you view food and cooking? If so, how?
Honestly, I really don’t think the process of blogging has altered my perspective on food or my cooking style. I just take a lot of photos of food now.
What is your favorite ingredient to use in the kitchen?
I wouldn’t say there’s a single one, but peppers of all varieties and spice levels appear pretty regularly.
What is your best memory in the kitchen?
This is not necessarily my favorite memory, but it is my most powerful and it was very formative.
My dad’s mom died when I was eight-years-old. She had a set of emerald-green, Depression glassware, and my immediate family ended up with only one of them. I hated drinking milk as a kid, but I would drink it happily at her house… but only from one of those glasses. I’m not sure what it was about the glass that made me like the milk, but there was a very specific smell when you’d tilt back your head and cup that glass over the tip of your nose while the milk ran down your throat. After she died, I continued the habit and would only drink milk from that glass.
She was the first person close to me that I lost. A couple of years later, I also lost my aunt (the one who had given me the writing advice). A short time after that, I started noticing that I was forgetting details about my grandmother, but when I drank milk from the glass I could feel the cool, silkiness of her droopy cheek as I “hugged her neck.” I could smell her White Shoulders perfume, and I could see the glisten that seemed to always be in her blue-blue-blue crystalline eyes. I could hear the distinctive crackle of her voice, and I started drinking the milk out of that glass not because I wanted milk, but so that I could remember her. Then one day I dropped it. And it broke into too many pieces to ever repair. And I just lost it right there in the kitchen, much to my family’s confusion. The whole “no use crying over spilled milk” expression took on a completely new meaning that day. I was terrified that I would never be able to remember her again as she was without that glass… and also that the same thing would happen with my aunt, that I would lose my memory of her details. And then it would happen with everyone else, one by one.
But that didn’t happen. Instead I learned the power of taste and smell to transport you back in time and open up your memory. All I have to do now is think of drinking milk from that glass, and I can see, smell, hear, and feel her. There are similar tricks with my aunt and with others I have lost since then. I just had to learn how to recognize the triggers and how to control them. And they are still with me through those senses. Food, taste, and smell are the engine of a time machine.
What is the best thing about your kitchen?
I don’t like having generic objects in my house. Almost everything has a connection to a person or an event or a place or I have assigned some kind of meaning to it, even the stuff form IKEA. My kitchen is filled with memories. I have an antique butcher block and several display items from my great-grandfather’s general store. I have all the mismatched serving dishes that my grandmother and my great aunts used for our holiday meals. The hand-spun ceramic pitcher that holds all my utensils beside the stove is one I made in college… lots of memories there I won’t into. College, you know. There is a collection of food-related artwork by family and friends on the wall, and things I’ve picked up on my travels. For starters.
What is your favorite meal to prepare?
Anything where I can stand there for an hour and zone out while drinking a glass of wine. It’s a very zen thing for me, and I don’t have a single favorite. I experiment a lot and like to try new things. Recipes shift based on what is in season and what I have on hand. But if I had to pick one I say Cold Peanut Noodles. Since I cook seasonally, by the end of each season I start anticipating all the produce that’s just over the horizon. As soon as cucumbers hit, there’s a cold peanut noodle frenzy. It’s one of the things I most look forward to each year. The recipe is insanely easy to adapt to personal preferences, and I can eat it for several meals a day for days on end before I get sick of it. Even my kids will eat it, kind of.
What does your dream kitchen look like?
More counter space. Robot dishwasher.
What 3 guests would you like to have at your dinner table?
Evel Knievel, Ernest Hemmingway, Teddy Roosevelt. No reason other than I think it would be pretty entertaining to see exactly how the room came to explode before the night was over.
What does the word “sustainable” mean to you when it comes to food?
Well, that’s complicated. It’s both one of the easiest and the most challenging areas where our personal habits and decisions can have an impact.
It’s easy because changing our habits on food consumption—both in terms of what we are eating and what sources we use for our food—has a ripple effect on so many environmental issues. Too many to even go into. And our food consumption happens three times a day, or more, for those of us who are lucky. That’s a lot more opportunity to make responsible choices than even basic consumer consumption, so the potential impact is pretty big.
It’s challenging because of all the complex issues of availability, access, cost, education, and the simple but powerful emotional sensation of eating. I’ve already talked about it enough here. Food is memory. It’s lifestyle. It’s how we see ourselves and how we judge others. It’s reward, and it’s punishment. It’s denial, and it’s power. That’s a lot of stuff to sort out. You’ve got to be pretty dedicated to change your habits in a way that will have impact. You’ve got to be educated about the complexities of the issues and keep the learning process open as new information becomes available. You’ve got to have access to responsible food sources or be the squeaky wheel in order to change the system so that you do. You’ve got to have an adventurous attitude towards eating. And that last item is one or the other. There are people in my family I won’t mention by name (but I will tell you they are my brother… sorry, Bro) who have existed in periods of their life eating only bulk, frozen, fried cheese sticks from Sam’s Club. It’s a wonder those people didn’t get scurvy during that period of their life. But people like what they like. That’s a broader category for some than others. And many people would like to make healthier choices, but the options just aren’t there or they are out of reach. The immediate obligations of everyday life take precedence over the long-term. Making “sustainable” choices is a luxury many just can’t enjoy.
Speaking for myself, I do my best, and then I don’t. I have reorganized my finances and lifestyle gradually over time so that I allot more to food so I can buy the “good stuff.” I eat seasonal produce most of the time. I don’t buy factory meat, (though I don’t always ask at restaurants, and I assume if they aren’t touting it, that’s where it comes from). I barter and trade with people who grow or make their own food. I cook way more than the average person, and I preserve a lot of the basics for later. I blog partially because I realized what I was doing in my kitchen was influencing others. I eat a lot of vegetarian meals, and I promote Meatless Mondays and local producers and vendors. I’ve been using reusable bags since the mid-90s, which was very confusing for a lot of retail workers up until the recent past. I live in a place where I have been able to do all this, and I make just enough money to wiggle it around.
But… I won’t give up barbecue. I won’t. Not until I have to. In my world complete denial leads to a backlash, so I opt for moderation instead. We pick and choose. We all have our heroin. Personally, I try to balance it elsewhere. I’m sure there is tons of rationalizing that goes on for everyone. The point is to never be too self-satisfied and to keep examining our own habits and their impacts. And maybe only eat barbecue once a week.
Favorite Recipe to Date?
My Creamed Sweet Potato Greens with Bacon surprised me by how much I liked them. I’d had the greens in a salad but never cooked them before. I now crave these year-round, and all I can say is gigantic HOORAY that they are in season again!
What three recipes would you share with our readers?
My all-time most popular post is a collection of recipes and tips for how to use loquats. I got a little obsessed, and apparently there are a lot of people out there who are interested: Loquats, Here’s What You Do With Them.
My recipe for Broccoli-Beer-Cheese Soup is my next most popular one and also one of my own personal favorites. When broccoli season rolls around, this is the first thing I make. It’s easy, accessible, and completely decadent… don’t try to lighten this one. Just indulge.
Homemade Peaches and Cream Ice Cream, just like Mama used to make. For real. It’s her recipe.