The person whom we have interviewed today used to market for an IT company and in her free time used to bake. In her own words she is ‘a 20 something girl from Bombay who always has food on her mind and is always thinking about what to bake next. More often than not a recipe book replaces the bedtime book’. Let us welcome Shaheen Peerbhai at your Adda for a free wheeling interview.
Q: When and why did you start blogging?
A: I started blogging back in September 2007 to document my recipes and my obsession with food.
Q: Your love of cooking is well-known and well-documented on your blog. But you often use ingredients that are not easily available at the local bazaars. How do you source these and don’t you think it restricts your readership a bit?
A: I like using hard-to-find ingredients and experimenting with them, but in fact, a lot of the ingredients are available locally. I’ve put up an entire list in a post dedicated to helping people finding the right ingredient. When I use lavender or cacao nibs, I know that it is going to be well received even by those who may not have it in their pantry. People like to learn about new things that may not be available. In fact, in a lot of the cases they ask friends/relatives coming down to fetch them the ingredients. To answer your question about restricting readership: No, it doesn’t because 70% of my audience is American, with access to those ingredients.
Q: Do you plan your posts and accordingly your kitchen experiments? Or is it the other way where you cook and then decide to write?
A: It works both ways. There are days where I stick to my posting schedule and there are days when I have the strongest urge to bake something that isn’t a part of the schedule. Either way, it’s a lot of fun.
Q: What is your favorite ingredient or vegetable? What would you cook up especially for the BlogAdda readers?
A: Favourite ingredient has got to be chocolate. If I were to cook up something special, it would definitely be the Garlicky Baked Fries!
Q: Your posts are all illustrated with colourful, vivid images. How important are beautiful images for a food blog? Can you tell us more about your interest in photography vis-à-vis blogging?
A: When I visit a new blog, the first few things that strike me before I even start reading the blog are layout and photography. Once these are pleasing to the eye, I move on to discovering other aspects of the blog. This is how I look at blogs, and I can imagine others looking at mine in the same way. When I first started blogging, I used to use a camera phone! Over time, I got pretty passionate about photography and making my food look good.
Q: Do you have any advice or tips for photo-bloggers? What camera do you use and what are your favorite image tools/software?
A: Lighting is of utmost importance. I shoot all my photos in the morning light. I like to make my images look bright and colourful, and I use props/backgrounds accordingly. I use a Canon 550D. I don’t post process my photos much â€“ just some basic colour tweaking in MS Office Picture Manager.
Q: Your blog looks and feels very vibrant and colourful. Did you design it yourself? How do you maintain the technical side of the blog?
A: Yes, I’ve designed it myself. I take care of most of the things about the blog myself. In case of an occasional hiccup with database, hosting, etc., my geeky boyfriend pops in.
Q: Do you ever get stuck when writing an entry? What do you do then?
A: Writers block! Who doesn’t face it? I don’t fret over it too much. Instead, I read my favourite books that inspire to face that block.
Q: Aside from food, what other topics would you consider writing about?
Q: Do you promote your blog? What promotional techniques work best for you and why?
A: Not really. I tweet about what I’m upto and I also have a Facebook Page.
Q: You’ve been featured in the media for your blogging, pretty often. How did you come into the spotlight?
A: Journalists/ writers stumbled upon my blog, liked what they saw, and contacted me.
Q: How important is it for a blogger to interact with their readers? Do you respond to all the comments that you receive?
A: Blogging is known for creating two way communication, and interacting with readers is something I’ve loved from the beginning. Time doesn’t permit me to reply to each comment individually, but if someone’s got a question/doubt/request, I make sure I reply to that.
Q: What do you find to be the most gratifying aspect of blogging?
A: All the reader emails and comments are like a pat on the back. I’m thrilled to bits each time someone tells me that they tried something from my blog and liked it!
Q: How, in general, would you rate the quality of Indian blogs? Share your favourite five blogs and top five Twitter follows.
A: My top 5 blogs:
- Finely Chopped – Somewhere around Bangalore
- Lottie + Doof – Bonus: The Poacher
- David Lebovitz – Baked Apricot Bars
- Vikram Doctor – How About An Asiad For Chennai?
- Nordljus – Pâtes à Tartiner
Top 5 twitter follows:
Q: What is your advice to someone who wants to start a blog? Any special tips or insights for food bloggers?
A: Have a big appetite! Eat things without prejudices and always carry your camera with you. It’s a good idea to keep a taste journal â€“ something I got inspired to do from Mimi Sheraton (ex-NY Times food critic) â€“ this way you can record exactly how you feel about a certain food and keep a track of how your palate has evolved.
Eg,- Over a year ago I ate some fresh raspberries, and didn’t like them so much. A few months ago, I tried them again with chocolate ganache and quite liked them, and then just last week I had a raspberry-strawberry sorbet and couldn’t get over it! Notice something? Same ingredient â€“ but with different flavour pairings, opinions can change so easily. I turn to this journal when I need to write about a particular ingredient.
And finally, some fun facts about Shaheen Peerbhai:
TV Show: Lost
Book: The Flavour Thesaurus (currently)
Time of Day: Night
Your Zodiac Sign: Scorpio
Thank you Shaheen for this interview. We are sure our readers would now be scanning through your blog and trying out some of the recipes this weekend. Readers, if you need to ask anything to Shaheen you can do it using our comments form below.