Are you a San Diego foodie looking to try something new? Or perhaps a visiting gastronome looking to taste the area’s best fare? Then it’s time to head over to San Diego Foodstuff, where local go-to food finder Caron Golden shares her most fabulous discoveries.
A San Diego-based freelance writer and culinary blogger, Golden is passionate about food, farmer’s markets, restaurants and everything in between. Her work appears in a wide range of local and national publications, including her weekly her column, Local Bounty, and guest appearances on KPBS radio’s weekly show, Midday Edition.
A regular contributor to Edible San Diego, Golden was recently invited to author the magazine’s first blog, Close to the Source. At last October’s J-Awards, she received three awards for her writing, including the top award in the Magazine Food & Restaurant category for her Edible piece, The Legacy of Chino Farms. The San Diego Press Club also awarded her two nominations for her Foodstuff posts.
In our interview, Golden talks about her inspiration for making the leap into freelance food writing, shares her advice for getting kids interested in cooking, and offers up her latest local dessert discovery.
TriMark R.W. Smith: You write for an impressive array of food publications, including Edible San Diego, San Diego Magazine and Saveur. What inspired you to become a food writer and journalist?
Caron Golden: I grew up in a food-centric household. My first memory as a young child is my dad holding me carefully over the stove to teach me how to make scrambled eggs. I would have been about three then. My parents and grandparents were wonderful home cooks and I grew up cooking for my family and friends. While I loved food, cooking, dining, and shopping, it never occurred to me to write about it when I was choosing a career. But later, well into my life as a freelance writer, I wanted to make the plunge. Blogging technology motivated me to launch San Diego Foodstuff as a food-writing portfolio to help me get newspaper and magazine work. And, it did. I initially established a niche writing about markets, which are still my passion, but over time I’ve embraced a more generalist approach to food writing.
RWS: At San Diego Foodstuff, you write about restaurants, farmer’s markets and local food finds. Which latest find are you most excited about?
CG: What day is it? I’m constantly inspired by chefs, farmers, and artisan food vendors. My most exciting days are when chefs or artisans invite me into their kitchens to cook with them. I learn so much and, in turn, get to share what I’ve learned with readers. But if you have to pin me down, I’m guiltily thrilled that a long-time reader, Erin Smith, has launched her own caramel business, Caramel Collective. She’s a scientist so she brings that precision to her caramels. They’re exquisite.
RWS: Not only do you sample fabulous foods in San Diego, but you’ve enjoyed some pretty interesting cuisines during your travels. Tell us: what was the most unusual meal you had abroad?
CG: It could be the fried cricket tacos in Tijuana or the sea snail tostadas in Ensenada—but that’s too easy. (And, btw, they were delicious.) I’d say Australia lent itself to some unusual meals—ostrich steak and Moreton Bay Bugs (well, that’s kind of cheating since they’re really Australia’s version of lobster, but doesn’t it sound extreme?).
Actually, I’d have to say some of my more unusual meals have been created by adventurous chefs like Chad White and Davin Waite’s sushi bar in San Diego. We have the most amazing year-round bounty here and our chefs love to take advantage of that. Recently, I went to White’s sushi bar in Oceanside, Wrench and Rodent Seabasstropub, where he served me grilled local hagfish—a fairly gnarly-looking eel—marinated in ponzu, sesame oil, garlic, and salt and pepper. Now that’s unusual. And very tasty!
RWS: As a volunteer chef and instructor at Olivewood Gardens in National City, you work with kids by showing them how to make healthy, tasty meals. What tips can you offer for getting kids interested in cooking?
CG: Cooking with them. It’s as simple—and complicated—as that. What’s not to love about cooking when you’re a kid? You get to play with food, get dirty, and you end up creating something wonderful for your family.
The question really should be how to get kids interested in eating healthy food and understanding where it comes from. That’s the greater challenge in our communities. That comes from gardening and cooking. When kids help with preparation they’re more invested in the meal. Even young kids can help, although you have to be patient and creative. In the kitchen we use plastic lettuce knives for young kids, as well as OXO choppers. The little ones love that and it allows them to chop garlic, onions, peppers, and herbs without the chance of hurting themselves. We also have a rule that you have to take one big bite before turning something down. The rule comes in the form of a pledge we all recite. That helps, too. If they commit to tasting something they’re wary of, they often find they like it. Basically, the kids are easy that way. It’s often the field trip parents we have to insist take that bite. And, in fact, with this exposure, along with education at school, the kids can change the family dynamic where food is concerned and insist on parents cooking instead of defrosting/reheating prepared meals or buying fast food. That’s so exciting!
RWS: You’ve received many awards for your food writing and journalism. What’s your best advice for budding food writers and bloggers?
CG: The reality is that it’s a tough market and for 99 percent of food writers, the pay is negligible. I love food writing, but I also spend a lot of time doing business writing to pay the bills.
The advantage today is that technology offers more of an opportunity to showcase your work and create a niche that you can become known for. You have to have passion and commitment. You absolutely must refine your skills—whether it’s through classes or workshops or simply writing every day. Then you have to identify your food community, these days through social media, and develop an audience. Go to local food events and meet chefs, farmers, vendors, and other writers. Become a vital resource for information. Basically immerse yourself in the world you want to be in. And, have fun. If you’re enjoying yourself, that joy will come through in your work, and what’s more attractive and compelling than that?
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