Des Moines-based blogger Kristin Porter - also known by her blog moniker Iowa Girl Eats - will be in Iowas City on Jan. 20.
She'll spend the day at the University of Iowa then join other local food enthusiasts - Linda Snetselaar, Lauren Rabinovitz, Chuck Swanson, Kurt Friese, Colleen Theisen, Kristin Porter, Ari Ariel, Naftaly Stramer, Ofer Sivan and host Joan Kjae - at FilmScene, 118 E. College St., Iowa City, for a free discussion on the intersection of food and culture from 5 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. A catered reception by Oasis and Devotay starts at 4 p.m.
These events kick off the UI's inaugural theme semester, "Food for Thought." There were a few related events last semester, but the key events open to the community will follow this spring.
In advance of her visit, Kristen shared these thoughts about her blog, the foodie life and Iowa's culinary scene:
Q: Where do you get the ideas for your recipes? Where do you find inspiration?
A: After writing Iowa Girl Eats for nearly six years, at times it can be difficult to find inspiration for new recipes. That said, I love updating classic dishes I grew up eating, giving them a healthier spin, for instance, making our favorite takeout dishes at home and recreating meals I've had while traveling. Cooking with what's fresh and in-season is a constant inspiration as well.
Q: How did your diagnosis with Celiac Disease impact how you approach the blog? Has it brought in a different audience as you've focused your dishes on being gluten-free over the last year?
A: Getting diagnosed with Celiac Disease in February 2014 was a huge shock, and honestly I didn't know if I could go on food blogging as I knew it. My fears were quickly calmed after learning more about the disease. Although I can't eat foods like traditional pastas, pizzas, cakes, cookies, etc, I choose to focus on what I can eat, which includes meat, fruits, vegetables, grains like rice and quinoa, nuts and seeds. I was actually eating mostly gluten-free already. I think the general public still sees the gluten-free lifestyle as a fad, or simply doesn't know a lot about it, so I was hesitant to label myself right away as a gluten-free blogger. Over the past year I've tried to educate my readers on what being gluten-free means, and that it doesn't mean cooking with hard to find ingredients nor feeling deprived in any way. I hear from readers every day who are so excited about the new direction of Iowa Girl Eats, whether they themselves are gluten-free or know a friend or family member who is.
Q: This visit is part of the UI's Food for Thought semester. As college students are getting out of their parent's kitchens, what advice do you have for them - or any of our readers who might be more comfortable heating up a pizza than making a home-cooked meal - about jumping into cooking?
A: Just start. Practice makes perfect, and I always tell people who are hesitant to start cooking to jump in and get your feet wet. Start with something as simple as making a wrap or simple pasta dish, then continue to challenge yourself by tackling one new dish or ingredient each week.
Q: Along with the Food for Thought theme, it seems like thinking and talking about food, cooking and eating locally has seen a resurgence in American culture. Where do you see Iowa in that scene, and where do you think we're going next?
A: Iowa is the heart of American agriculture, and we have a responsibility to show the rest of the country how eating local is done. It's right at our fingertips. Eating local doesn't have to mean eating at a trendy restaurant. It can be as simple as signing up for a CSA, visiting your local farmers market or teaching your children about how our food is grown and raised. It doesn't have to be all or nothing, either. Choosing to eat locally-sourced (whether that's Iowa or Midwest-sourced) and in-season foods as often as you can, even if it's not every time, is still supporting our farmers.