Brownie and Blondie is the witty, candid, and sometimes sassy New York-focused food blog by Siobhan Wallace (Blondie) Alexandra Penfold (Brownie). In April the duo released their first book, New York á la Cart, showcasing the best street food in New York along with original recipes and remarkable stories from food cart chefs. “It opens the door for people who are intrigued by street food and are still a little squeamish and don’t know where to begin or what trucks or carts to visit,” Wallace said. Penfold added that the book goes beyond the food and touches on the history of New York “and how street food has been part of the culinary landscape for decades. I think people will really enjoy reading the stories about the vendors, which is really what we wanted to put front and center. They work so hard and make such good food and have such incredibly inspiring stories,” Penfold said. Now it’s time to reverse roles and share the food stories behind Blondie and Brownie.
Emma Goss: Food writer and novelist Laurie Colwin wrote, “Certainly, cooking for oneself reveals man at his weirdest.” What do you eat when you’re alone?
Siobhan Wallace: Since I’m single and don’t have anybody else I need to cook for, I tend to eat very easy meals. A lot of times I’m eating processed things like cookies for dinner or ice cream for breakfast. I guess what I eat when I’m alone the most? I eat a lot of buttered toast...on really good bread.
Alexandra Penfold: I tend to like to cook for people, so I usually eat boring stuff if I’m eating alone, like cereal with milk. I do like to indulge in fancy cheeses. I will probably put that out on a baguette or a crusty bread. I like really stinky creamy cheeses. If I’m making something just for myself, I’ll probably eat that on toast. Or I’ll have a really boring fiber cereal.
EG: How do you eat or cook differently now than you did when you were younger?
SW: I’m willing to try more now. I was really a finicky, picky eater growing up and it was one of those things I realized later in life. My parents thought I didn’t like peppers because they were spicy, but reality was I didn’t like the flavor of jalapenos. And I just thought the flavor I didn’t like was spice. But I’m willing to just try new things a lot more often because I realize that you don’t know if you like something until you try it.
AP: I grew up on a very Mediterranean diet. My mom’s Italian, and so cooking stuff Mediterranean came very naturally to me, but through writing the book, I used my other spice palates, like homemade Indian food or Latin cuisine or Korean. I love going to spice stores and grabbing different mixes. The book has 20 different cuisines in it. Sometimes when you invest in a certain blend of spices you suddenly have a whole world open to you. I think I’ve become able to freestyle-cook with cuisines and cultures that aren’t as familiar to me.
EG: What principles guide your eating or cooking? (For example, Tamar Adler writes in “An Everlasting Meal” that we should “look at meals’ remainders with interest and imagine all the good things they will become.”)
SW: You have to try everything once, and sometimes you should probably try it a couple times. Because it might be cooked badly the first time.
AP:I feel like food is so wrapped up in family. ’m from a family of dedicated eaters and I married into another family of dedicated eaters, so food is what brings us all to the table. I think I’m at my most inspired and my cooking is at its best when I’m cooking for other people.
EG: Share with us a simple tip for cooking or eating that never fails you.
SW: Always use butter. Don’t use margarine.
AP: Ask a local. If you’re going out and you want to know where the best place is to eat anything, ask someone that’s from the area because they’re going to have great insight into what’s tops.
EG: Which food writer most speaks to you?
SW: One of my favorite writers is Jamie Feldmar, a friend [and managing editor of Serious Eats]. She knows how to write well and it’s not pretentious and its not too purple with a lot of adjectives.
AP: I’ve always been a fan of Calvin Trillin’s work. I love how he brings places to life in the way he looks at food. I still remember the  New Yorker piece he wrote about Shopsin's General Store when they were on the verge of closing their locaiton. He really captured the family [owners] and brought their experiences to life.
EG: What’s a food trend that totally mystifies you?
SW: The molecular gastronomy trend. I understand it for science principles and doing it to really help people realize that this green doesn’t have to taste like mint, I understand the whole psychology behind it, but going to an actual tasting venue full of weird molecular gastronomy mystifies me a lot.
AP: I know offal has recently become very trendy, but as adventurous as I am about eating, I just can't get into organ meat.
EG: What’s a mistake you consistently make in the kitchen or at a restaurant?
SW: One of the mistakes I’ve been making recently is not following what the other food writers are saying. I’ll go to a restaurant and everyone will tell me to get this one dish, and I’ll get this other dish and it’s not good. It’s not why anybody is going to that restaurant. Not listening to other people is my current mistake that I’m making a lot.
AP: When you’re making recipes and you’re following directions, read them closely. Sometimes I’ll be in a rush. Be mindful when cooking something you’re unfamiliar with.
EG: What’s your favorite Jewish food, and why?
SW: Pastrami. Basically anything from Katz’s, or anything from a Jewish deli. My family decided to have our Thanksgiving dinner at Katz’s this past Thanksgiving because my parents used to go to Jewish delis all the time when they were dating. And it’s just delicious. It’s good every day of the year.
AP: Lox. I love lox, I die for lox. I’m currently pregnant so I can’t have lox. My first son was born at night. My husband came the next morning and brought me two different bagels with different types of lox and I ate them both. I may repeat that experience with baby number two because I’ve been dying for lox the past 9 months. (Note: Alex very recently gave birth to a healthy baby boy and celebrated with lox and bagel)
EG: If your personality could be characterized by a food, which one would it be and why?
SW: I would say butterscotch. Simply because I think sometimes my personality, not everyone gets it. They can tolerate me, but at some level they just don’t understand why Canadians love me. Yeah, that’s my answer.
AP: I’m pie. Just pie. A little bit sweet. A little bit tart. Kind of crusty on the outside. But you know, friendly and comforting.
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