This is Yummy Workshop’s FIRST cookbook author interview – another milestone! I am very honoured to have interviewed Camilla V. Saulsbury, author of new book, 500 Best Quinoa Recipes published by Robert Rose. Camilla has written several cookbooks and besides interest in cooking, she also holds a PhD degree in sociology, specializing in food studies. What’s more? She is also a professional fitness instructor. It made me wonder what her inspirations are for accomplishing so much. While she stopped by Vancouver to promote her book I took the chance to interview her to learn more about this talented author, recipe developer, and fitness expert. We touched on many topics, I feel it is only fair to write the interview in two separate posts in order to cover some of most interesting things about this book and Camilla. I will also share a recipe on part two of this interview. If you haven’t had quinoa, it is usually eating like a grain but is actually the seed of a broad leaf plant. It is rich in protein, iron, calcium and potassium, copper, and potassium. It is often considered a superfood.
I know you have written several cookbooks, so how did you actually first become a cookbook author?
It was a circuitous route in getting here. I’ve done some catering in between college and graduate school. I realized the initial job that I have taken wasn’t what I wanted to do so I decided to do some work that I really loved doing. So I decided to do some catering at a very small scale in professional kitchens (in the San Francisco Bay area). I did that for about three years. In the mean time, I decided that that I wanted to go back to school. I wanted to get a PhD in sociology and do something related to food some day.
In the little introduction I’ve read about you, I know you have a PhD in sociology specializing in food studies, what inspired you to go into that field?
Once I got into graduate school, I wanted to do food writing on the side so initially when I started, I just did the core classes and I proposed doing a food column in the Indiana University newspaper. It did really well and got picked up by syndication of other university newspapers. One thing led to another, I got the notion that I thought maybe I can do more of this. Once I got to grad school, I started thinking more and more about tailoring my degree to food. It is actually related to identity, production, and consumption issues.
Was there a specific area that you went into and have done your research on?
Yes, my dissertation was about home cooking from a regional perspective, I did many focus groups and met a lot of food professionals. It was a lot of fun. I also did interviews with different ethnic groups, it took me a very long time to collect data.
Your new book has 500 recipes, how long did it take you to prepare and develop all of these recipes?
The idea for this actually came about for me about seven years ago. I have been developing these recipes during that time and finalizing them with my publisher took about year from beginning to finish. At that time when I was expecting my son (seven years ago), that I started trying quinoa. I taught many fitness classes, I needed to eat something that gave me energy. The fact that quinoa has complete protein and it seemed like something I should try. So I got some at the health food and I tried it and loved it. It is very easy to make and also very versatile. My husband loved it as well (he has more of a meat and potato palate ), but he was interested in having healthy food as long as they tasted good. So it was easy to incorporate into daily recipes. I then discovered using quinoa as a flour – it’s amazing!
How does the quinoa flour compare to regular flour? I read a bit about it in your book that you don’t need to add additives like xanthan gum when baking with quinoa flour.
It is a good gluten-free alternative. Normally if you want to try gluten-free baking, you would need to by specific ingredients like xanthan gum, but with quinoa flour you don’t have to. You can just use it in place of regular flour in recipes, but you do need to adjust because quinoa flour absorbs more liquids. You can’t use it in traditional yeast recipes. But it benefits things like muffins and quick breads, for example you can add in an extra egg for that rise [in the recipe]. For things like cookies and biscotti, you can just add in extra water or milk. It is a fantastic alternative. You can make the flour yourself at home as well (there is a section in the book that teaches you how to do this).
I’ve tried your peanut butter quinoa granola recipe and it is delicious! The quinoa adds a nice crunch.
That is one of the neat things about it, you can achieve different textures [with quinoa]. A lot of people have had quinoa salads (like recipes in the health food magazines) but then after you can’t make anything else with it. But with quinoa you can get crispy, smooth, and it also has a nice nutty flavour.
So I want to know what is your philosophy when you develop your recipes?
This book was really fun for me, it reflects who I am. I love baking (I wrote a book on baking) but I don’t it every day. But for quinoa and healthy eating, this is the way I eat most of the time. It was much easier (in developing the recipes). I teach fitness class, my husband is into sports, and with my son, it is definitely from a health perspective. I have a job and family, if [the food] is healthy it shouldn’t need too many steps and extraordinary ingredients. Besides healthy and easy, it also need to taste good. They should compliment what you already like to eat. It should be something you are making because it tastes good not because it is only healthy.