A Baby, a Blog, and Berlin

Luisa Weiss is the woman behind The Wednesday Chef, the blog that won over the food world with its yummy recipes, thoughtful and elegant prose, and fabulous pictures. More recently, she is the author of the best-selling food memoir My Berlin Kitchen. The moving and gracefully told story details Weiss’s bi-continental beginnings (she was born in Berlin to an Italian mother and an American father, and later moved), her life in New York, and the life-changing events and decisions that landed her back in Berlin. The whole story is shaped by her memories of and love for food and cooking, and recipes accompany the plot. Elizabeth Street was lucky enough to talk to the new mother about life in the kitchen and being a mom. —Hally Wolhandler

You’re the mother of a seven-month old baby. Do you cook for him yet? If so, what does he like, and what’s your favorite thing to make for him?
Yes, Hugo started solids last month and since then I’ve been cooking for him every day. He loves puréed fennel, parsnips and super-fresh, tiny zucchini that are nice and sweet, and he loves, LOVES, plain yogurt. At the moment, all I do is slice a bit of vegetable up and boil it in water before puréeing it in my mini-food processor, but I’m getting really excited to “graduate” onto the next things: pastina in broth and starting to mix his puréed vegetables into tasty combinations. And then, hopefully, he’ll just start eating what we do – we were at an Indian restaurant the other day and he was very eager to try what we were eating, so I gave him little tastes of everything and he ate it all.

How do you plan to share your love for food with your baby as he gets older?
I love to cook and I think family meals are really important not only for one’s physical health, but for emotional health of a family, too. So I think just by actually cooking his meals and having us sit down together every day to eat together will be the best way to share one of life’s great pleasures. Beyond that, I hope that as he grows up he appreciates good simple homemade food over processed junk or fast food, but I also hope to not be too rigid about things, because I do believe that balance is everything. We all need treats and I think it’s best never to get too dogmatic about anything.

Do you feel that there is a big difference between blogging and writing a book? Which do you prefer?
A huge, huge difference! Blogging is, for me, mostly pure pleasure. I write about whatever I want to and each post feels relatively immediate and almost entirely unfiltered. Plus the feedback takes place right then and there, which is the best part of blogging, of course. Writing a book, on the other hand, is a terribly lonely endeavor and without that sense of community, it can feel far, far more daunting and difficult.

What are some of your favorite cookbooks?
Do you have all day? Because I have so many and it’s so hard to choose! For baking, I love Home Baking by Naomi Duguid and Jeffrey Alford, which always makes me feel like I’m taking a little travel around the world, and Good to the Grain by Kim Boyce which is all about using different kinds of flours to enhance the flavor and texture of your baked goods. For cooking, Paula Wolfert’s Slow Mediterranean Kitchen is full, from start to finish, with recipes each worth the price of the book (the sardine-avocado toast! the poached quince! the stews!), and The Essential New York Times Cookbook should just live in my kitchen, because I’m always consulting it.

What are you excited to make for your son as he starts to eat more varied foods?
I’m excited for him simply to start eating what we eat, to start learning what the taste of home is. For example, to recognize that the smell of an onion browning in olive oil is the beginning of dinnertime, which will hopefully always be a warm, cozy, calming time for him. I can’t wait to start laying the groundwork for his earliest food memories, which are always so individual and funny. I really wonder what his comfort food will be.

Any future plans for your blog?
I’d very much like a little redesign to get it feeling a little more streamlined and up-to-date, but I have to say that writing-wise, I’m feeling really inspired lately. It’s been fun to put the book behind me and just focus on blogging again – I’m full of ideas and am really enjoying it.

You speak three languages! Are you planning to raise your son bi- or tri-lingual?
He’s growing up tri-lingually – I speak to him in English, my husband speaks to him in German and my mother speaks to him in Italian. The crazy thing is, he can already tell the difference! When he hears me speak in German or Italian, he looks at me in the funniest way.

Did anything in particular surprise you about becoming a mom?
What surprised me was how wonderful and easy it has been so far. I had always felt this deep urge to be a mother, but with the advent of the internet and mommy blogs especially (which, don’t get me wrong, I love to read), I got the impression that motherhood was often made up of a lot of drudgery and boredom in between the happier moments. What I’ve found, though, is that it’s not like that at all for me. I am loving every aspect of motherhood and I’m finding it so much easier than I expected, even though I’m home alone with him almost all the time (my husband works in a different city during the week, so we only see him on weekends). I don’t know if it’s because we got particularly lucky with our son, who is a darling, easy-going child, or what, but I literally want to stop time every single day and just sort of bask in how wonderful it all is. I feel incredibly fortunate.

What are some blogs or sites you visit every day?
Cup of Jo, Little Green Notebook, Amalah, LA in Bloom, Whoorl, Dinner: A Love Story and Design Mom.