February 12, 2013

A Chat with Luisa Weiss of My Berlin Kitchen & Book Giveaway!

Today I am thrilled to be chatting with one of my all-time favorite bloggers and published authors, Luisa Weiss of The Wednesday Chef. In case you missed it, last spring Luisa’s first book, My Berlin Kitchen: A Love Story (with Recipes), was released. It is a terrific food memoir (foodoir?) that chronicles her life to date beginning with her young childhood in Berlin, Germany. I won’t give away all the stories in the book, but suffice it to say Luisa has spent her life living around the globe, finding love and solace in her kitchen, and is currently – happily – living in Berlin with her husband and infant son.

I loved this book not only for the rich storytelling but also the uniquely German and American recipes. I’ve earmarked so many things to try and am specifically hoping to master the Elderflower syrup and Springerle cookies before the year is out. Luckily for us, Luisa stopped by to answer some questions and give away one of her books!

My Berlin Kitchen

1) I love the food memoir format of your book. Did you ever debate about writing a cookbook, or did it always seem like a memoir was the right format for you?
When I first started thinking about writing a book, I did consider a cookbook, but I was never really sure what the angle would be. On my blog, after all, I mostly write about other people’s recipes. In fact, it felt like I had far more personal stories to share than recipes, so eventually a memoir wiggled its way out of me. In retrospect, it made a lot of sense and I’m glad that my agent saw the potential in me. I needed a little convincing! I wasn’t sure anyone would really want to read about my journey.

2) Was there ever a moment in the writing process when you found yourself stuck? You’ve had a busy life up until now – it must have been hard to recall and write down everything!

Oho, was there ever. I’d say there was probably about a year of feeling utterly stuck. I’d left New York and was adjusting to life in Berlin during a very long, harsh winter. All the plans I had for writing went straight out the window. I think deep down I was just plain scared – terrified – of the hard work that lay before me. There were a LOT of truly awful chapters and then a lot of time in which nothing got written. It was so scary! Luckily, my publisher gave me time and eventually the weather got better (haha) and I started my own internal creative thaw. But there were many hard moments – writing a book is what I imagine what running a marathon is like. Episodes of total runner’s high and episodes of utter torture.

3) Now that you are living in Germany would you ever consider living anywhere else in the future? It took so long for you to get back.

At the moment, I’m very happy to be in Berlin. I feel like I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be, which is epic – it’s what I was looking for my whole life. That being said, I like to daydream about spending a few years in southern California, where it’s always warm and sunny.

4) What is some of the favorite feedback you’ve received from readers?

All of the positive reviews and letters have been absolutely amazing, but my favorite thing is to hear from readers with similarly mish-mashed background who say that no one has ever been able to sum up their experience so succinctly or authentically and that reading my book made them feel less alone. Those are the letters that bring tears to my eyes – it can be a little lonely growing up this way and I’m so glad to hear that my book gave comfort to others. It’s really incredibly gratifying.

5) What are some of your all-time food memoirs and cookbooks?

My favorite food memoirs are Cooking For Mr. Latte by Amanda Hesser, Tender at the Bone and Comfort Me with Apples by Ruth Reichl, A Homemade Life by Molly Wizenberg and Home Cooking by Laurie Colwin. My favorite cookbooks? It’s hard to make a list, since I have so many favorites. But at the moment, I’m really loving Nigel Slater’s latest book, Kitchen Diaries II, and at night I’ve been curling up with The Little House Cookbook that I got for my birthday from a dear friend. It’s so cozy and reminds me of reading The Little House in the Big Woods and falling in love with Laura Ingalls Wilder as a kid.

6) I love the stories about Hugo on your blog! How do you plan to introduce him to your identity with both America and Germany?

Thank you! I’m home with Hugo full-time so he’s exposed to my American side all day long: we listen to Ella Jenkins, Pete Seeger and Natalie Merchant, I read him my favorite English-language baby books, plus there will be a few trips a year to see his grandparents in the US and I hope to send him to a bilingual daycare/school here in Berlin when the time comes. His dad’s in charge of his German side, though of course since he’s growing up here, he won’t need as much helping along with that.

7) What kind of food does Germany do better than anyone else?

Baked goods! I’d like to find a more attractive term for the stuff, but desserts isn’t accurate, since German sweet baking encompasses breakfast and tea time too. The German/Austrian baking tradition is unparalleled in the world! From strudel to doughnuts to rustic yeasted fruit pies to towering tortes to myriad Christmas cookies to fruit bread and braided sweet loaves, nut-studded breakfast buns, marzipan confections and more – it’s an entire universe.

8) What is next for The Wednesday Chef? (another book, I hope!)

Ooh, I don’t know just yet! A book of some kind, yes, though I swore up and down I’d never write again after I finished My Berlin Kitchen. We’ll see. Hopefully I’ll know more in the next few months. (Editor’s note: please, please write another book!!!)

To win a copy of My Berlin Kitchen:

1) Leave a comment below sharing your favorite German food!

2) Contest runs from February 12th through February 19th at 7:00am. Winner will be announced in the February 22nd newsletter! Good luck!