Val of More than burnt toast is written, created Val. Also known as the Pesto Queen in the foodie blogging community, she is a blogger with a mission to end world hunger. I can't think of a better way to do it than with a society of people dedicated to food.
Straight out of British Columbia, this Canook is a inspiration.
I was attracted to Val's cooking style and her unique interpretation and use of pesto. When I requested the interview with her I had no idea how touching and inspiring the outcome would be.
This philanthropic foodie has taken a new approach tonfeeding hungry children all over the world. Through her non-profit blog she and her fellow bloggers have comprised The Blogger Aid Cookbook where 100% of the proceeds are donated to the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) and the School Meals Programme.
What better way to bring people together then by sharing food and Val does it on a whole new level with her blog, More than burnt toast!
Pasta Recipes by Italians.com: How long have you been a part of the foodie blogging community?
More Than Burnt Toast: In February More Than Burnt Toast will have been a big part of my life for 4 years. It began as a place to share my food discoveries with anyone willing to read as well as with my daughter who was headed off to university. It continues to be a gathering place for family and friends to pull up a chair at the same virtual table and share what we have. I learn something new every day from the blogging community whether it be a new technique or an unknown ingredient. What keeps me coming back year after year is the sense of community and the encouragement we receive from each other on a daily basis. I wouldn't be blogging otherwise.Pasta Recipes by Italians.com: What drives you passion to share you food experiences and recipes with others? In other words, why do you blog?
More Than Burnt Toast: A few years ago I attended a cooking school on a small island in the Agean Sea off the coast of Greece. This was a life-changing vacation that altered my perception of food and how it should be enjoyed on a daily basis. Travel helps us to better understand and appreciate other people and their cultures. Nothing is more intimate, or more effective at breaking down cultural barriers, than cooking and sharing meals together. When you have 10 like-minded people from all parts of the world breaking bread at the same table magic happens. In the classic movie Zorbas the Greek the main character sums it up the best, "On the coast I felt for the first time what a pleasant thing it could be to have a meal. We started eating and drinking, the conversation became animated. I at last realized that eating was a spiritual function and the meat, bread, and wine were the raw materials from which the soul is made."
Countless times I've turned to food blogs for tips, answers and inspiration and I have never been disappointed. There is so much talent and creativity out there in the blogging world.
Pasta Recipes by Italians.com: Where did you learn to cook? What give you the ideas for that creative edge you have in your recipes?
More Than Burnt Toast: When I was young I was a very picky eater. I am sure that my parents agonized over my lack of nutrients and enjoyment of food as I pushed my food around my plate. Sadly my mom is missing the cooking gene so I learned to cook by trial and error, memorizing cookbooks and magazine recipes as well as all those years of Home Economics throughout my school years. As a teen I collected recipes and dreamed of the day when I would have dinner parties and friends sharing animated conversation, laughter and outstanding food at my table. Let's just say my first dinner party was not a great success with canned potatoes and carrots being in the picture somewhere. That was many years ago and I have come far beyond Burnt Toast and canned ingredients.
As you get older your palate changes and you can learn to love food and be excited by the possibilities of sharing a great meal. I am a locavore who chooses the freshest ingredients possible from our local producers here on the west coast province of British Columbia. When I am not traveling or attending cooking classes' local ingredients and wines from the local orchards and vineyards inspire me. Every day we should be excited about what we are eating even if it just means making use of a wonderful find at our local farmers market. Of course living in Canada it is very difficult to follow this ideology through the winter months, but we do our best to seek out what we have available throughout the year.
I must say that what I prepare in my own kitchen on a daily basis must be appealing to both the eye and the palate or I would probably not eat at all!! I love to attend as many "foodie" functions as possible in my area for inspiration as well as a humbling experience. Our local chefs are all so talented!
Pasta Recipes by Italians.com: What is your heritage?
More Than Burnt Toast: My family is British which says it all. In the past England has not been well known for its earth shattering recipes beyond roast beef and Yorkshire Pudding. Growing up in the melting pot we call Canada I have had the opportunity to explore many diverse cultures and cuisine over the years in friends homes and local restaurants.
Pasta Recipes by Italians.com: How does it influence your style of cooking?
More Than Burnt Toast: Italian, French, Greek, Chinese and other cuisines are easily defineable. What all of the above cuisines have in common is that when they are preparing these regional dishes the cooks used ingredients that are available to them in their own country or region to create their every day foods. A cuisine is built on foods we eat on a day to day basis at home or what is available to us in restaurants. This is also true of Canadian cuisine. We use ingredients that we find in our local farmers markets but also depend heavily on our ethnic roots from province to province. Canada was built on its British and French roots which means you could be chomping down on Tart de Sucre in Quebec, Nanaimo Bars in British Columbia or Butter Tarts in Ontario.
Canada is a melting pot of diverse cultures that has heavily influenced our day to day foods in a big way from the Eastern shores of the Maritime Provinces to the Pacific Ocean on the West Coast. Living in British Columbia we have what we call West Coast cuisine which is essentially just utilizing the freshest local ingredients available ...just as they do in every province and territory across the country. If you asked a Canadian in Halifax, Nova Scotia or Saskatoon, Saskatchewan to define what they eat on a daily basis you would have two different answers. Ask your neighboor what they had for dinner last night and see what the ethnic influences are. Like everyone else we use what's in our backyard and cook with what's around us."
Pasta Recipes by Italians.com: It appears that you take all the pictures of your recipes for your blog. Did you make every recipe on the blog?
More Than Burnt Toast: I would have to say that over the past 4 years I have made all of the over 500 recipes on More Than Burnt Toast Kira. Even if I have been at a local cooking school I had some hand in creating the dish featured. I feel that my photography has improved over the years but I have still yet to go so far as to have a light box and props.
Pasta Recipes by Italians.com: Of course I'm mostly attracted to your pasta recipes, which look delicious, Where did you get the inspiration for the Zucchini Pistou?
More Than Burnt Toast: In the blogging world I have been dubbed by some as "The Pesto Queen", not because my pesto is the best in the world but because I use it in a myriad of ways. I also utilize more unusual ingredients not associated with this classic like spinach, asparagus, arugula, and garlic scapes. In keeping with my inquisitive nature I thought that zucchini would make a fantastic pesto or "pistou".
Pasta Recipes by Italians.com: Can you explain to our readers the resemblance of Pesto and Pistou?
More Than Burnt Toast: Pistou is to the French what pesto is to the Italians. Pistou means "pounded" in French but is understood to mean basil paste. It is a cold sauce made from cloves of garlic, fresh basil, and olive oil. Provencal cooking is unthinkable without pistou and is similar to pesto, however more garlic is used, and there are neither pine nuts nor cheese in the original recipe. How much garlic is used varies from kitchen to kitchen just as every recipe differs as well. This is one of those rustic farmhouse dishes that requires simple, flavourful and readily available ingredients. Traditionally, the ingredients are crushed and mixed together in a mortar with a pestle. Some more modern versions of the recipe include grated Parmesan, pecorino or similar hard cheeses emulating the classic pesto!!
Pasta Recipes by Italians.com: My next favorite would have to be the Ricotta Gnocchi with Cherry tomato and olive sauce. Where did you get the inspiration for this recipe?
More Than Burnt Toast: A year or so ago I learned to make gnocchi in the kitchen of one of my Italian friends. I felt ricotta would make these tiny morsels light and tender. We added a little parsley and Parmesan as well. Our local Italian supermarket has fresh ricotta that I incorporate into my recipes whenever possible. I am looking forward to making some butternut squash or pumpkin gnocchi this coming season.
Once again I came across some heirloom cherry tomatoes at our local farmers market which I felt would make a colourful as well as flavourful sauce for the pasta that was quick and easy. One of our Canadian chefs Michael Smith had something that could be easily adapted.
Pasta Recipes by Italians.com: You participate in many online charities related to food and hunger and combating illnesses such as Cancer. How did you get involved with these charities and why?
More Than Burnt Toast: "The journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step". Our community of food bloggers is always there to support each other and somehow make a difference. Yes we enjoy sharing our daily lives and recipes with each other but we are also there for each other when times are tough. Our food blogs can become our platform if we wish.
In 2009 BloggerAid - Changing the Face of Famine (BACFF) was born from a vision that ordinary people can achieve extraordinary results. Having launched the site, we were keen to find a project where food bloggers from around the world could co-operate and make a real difference. We understood immediately that food bloggers can best relate to a cookbook.
The authors of this cookbook are food bloggers from around the world who have strived to make a difference by raising funds for the World Food Programme and encompassing their passion for "all things foodie"at the same time. Through these recipes they share their traditions and diversity, and their insatiable curiosity about new flavours. They pay tribute to the home cooking of our grandmothers while celebrating the exoticism and richness of a world brought closer together by their hopes to make a difference.
Whether it be bringing attention to a friend who is fighting cancer, world hunger or the tragedy of AIDS our food blogging community has a strong voice. "You must be the change you want to see in the world".Mahatma Gandhi
Val, I want to thank you for taking the time to interview with us and for sharing your thoughts and motivations as well as your creativity.
To the readers of this article. There are so many things we take for granted. Things like Water and food that many children in this world go without. Now that is Food for Thought
Be sure to visit Val on More than Burnt Toast for really creative recipes that will feed your body and the soul.