March 20, 2009

Orangette teases the palates of readers with a chapter from her new book A Homemade Life

On Wednesday night, I was fortunate enough to attend the Molly Wizenberg a.k.a. Orangette book event at Idlewild Books here in New York City. You could call Molly one of the first food bloggers (in fact, she was on the cutting edge to just be blogging in general) - she started Orangette over four and half years ago, and I think most people would argue that blogging was still relatively unknown back in late 2004 early 2005. I was excited to meet her as she is someone who has successfully navigated almost every major medium a food writer can tackle - a blog, a monthly column in Bon App├ętit and now a book - A Homemade Life.

Wizenberg has been a self-described "foodie" from birth. She can even recall her first article focused on the topic of food, a poem about wanting to immerse herself in a vat of marshmallow fluff

"I didn't realize that not all families were as obsessed with cooking as mine was," she said. "It's all I knew."

At first, she didn't know what she wanted to do with her interest in the culinary profession - she just knew she loved food. The rest was supposed to fall into place.

After a stint working in the kitchen of a San Francisco vegetarian restaurant, Wizenberg realized that working in the back of the house wasn't the path she wanted to take. The disconnect between preparing the food in the kitchen and actually seeing people enjoying it at the table was disappointing, so the dream of attending culinary school was scratched. She was back at square one.

Wizenberg admits that she had secretly been thinking about being a food writer, but she filed the idea away as nonsense. Not knowing where to start, she was scared to try.

"I was terrified to write because I loved it so much," she said. "The fear made it that much harder because of that love for both writing and food. If you fail, it's all the more worse."

But after the death of her father, Wizenberg reached her tipping point. It was during lunch with her friend that the idea of a blog came up. It was 2004, and although she didn't exactly know what a blog was (not many people did then), she thought her friend was right - the blog would give her something to be accountable for so she couldn't give up that easy if it proved to be difficult in the beginning. Not too long after, Orangette was born.

Orangette soon took on a life of its own. More and more people began to read Wizenberg's posts, relating to her stories about a love of food and family. It was this success and reader loyalty that led to a book deal with Simon & Schuster and the birth of A Homemade Life, Wizenberg's first book.

"Honestly, I was starting to hate the blog," she said. "The immersion process of the book taught me to love the blog again, showed me how much it could be."

And if the at capacity crowd was any indication at Wednesday night's event, Wizenberg isn't the only one who loves Orangette.

You can buy Molly Wizenberg's A Homemade Life on Amazon or your local bookstore.

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