There are so many fabulous food bloggers out there that I adore because they constantly inspire me with their original recipes, beautiful instagram feeds and diy creations. I love keeping up with their lives through their blogs, and getting a better understanding of the way they think as well as what drives them to constantly create. My most favorite bloggers are those that I want to sit down with over a good vegan meal after reading their blogs and get to know better. Since that’s not always possible, I came up with a new column idea on Olives for Dinner called Why I Cook that virtually allows both me and you the chance to get to know great bloggers better.
In this column, I’ll ask some of my favorite bloggers questions around, well … why they cook! If you don’t already know about these noteworthy bloggers, you’ll be introduced to some great ones and, if you are already fans, you’ll learn something new about them here! This week, I’m excited to feature Dresden-based Constanze Reichardt of Seitan Is My Motor, who is an immensely talented baker, food photographer and ethical vegan.
Dessert and cake makers are like magicians to me, since I have tried and failed at making both more times than I can count! So Constanze’s site is my go-to for seeing what can be done, like this breathtaking Chocolate Cherry Guglhupf, Courtesan au Chocolat, Raspberry Fondant Ruffle Cake and these Homemade Vegan Marshmallows. I also admittedly don’t know much about German cuisine, so I always learn and take something interesting away from Constanze’s recipes and descriptions!
I also love and identify with Constanze’s approach to veganism that partially echoes the way I define veganism, which is based on ethics—not dietary perfection. She writes, “Cake was never meant to be healthy, it was simply made to be enjoyed. And that’s what I am trying to do here. Enjoy my cake. And I hope you do, too.” As food bloggers, it’s so hard to please everybody, so I’ve learned that it’s best to just do what you love … and Constanze is an inspiring reminder to keep doing just that!
Read on to learn more about the traditional German desserts Constanze has veganized, take a look at some of her gorgeous food styling and photography, and find out the one ingredient she can’t live without!
When did you start to cook and what about the process itself kept you interested in it?
When I still lived at home, we never ate out. In my family everyone did cook, even my father, who is a trained chef. And even though my mother never really liked cooking, she did it anyway. So when I moved out, cooking my own food seemed natural even though I didn’t have much experience.
There are only ever a few moments when I don’t like cooking. The minute I started doing it, I was hooked. For me cooking has always been a way to be independent and creative.
Describe your process of recipe development. How do you come up with fresh and new ideas on a regular basis?
That really depends. Most of the recipes on my blog are for cakes and other desserts. Sometimes I have an ingredient that I want to use, like my neighbour recently gave me a bag of frozen gooseberries. Gooseberry cakes are very common in Germany, but they are also kind of boring. Also gooseberry are really tart and not everybody likes them. So I tried to come up with something that would make the gooseberries blend in a bit better. Bienenstich (Beesting Cake), another German cake immediately came to my mind. It’s a very sweet and mild cake that is usually filled with pudding or buttercream. And that’s how the Gooseberry Bienenstich made it onto my blog.
When I started blogging I made the decision to write in English even though I am German. Many of my readers live in other countries and often do not know much about the German cuisine. I feel like I need to tell people that the German diet does not only consist of bratwurst and sauerkraut. In fact it is so rich and diverse. That’s what I want to share on my blog. So many of my recipes are inspired by traditional German dishes or desserts. And also by stuff that I miss, that doesn’t exist in a vegan form (or isn’t very accessible). When aquafaba became popular for example, I made a batch of schokokuesse, which is marshmallow fluff covered in chocolate. I was so exited to finally be able to do that. The schokokuesse were a huge success when I shared them with my family. They an important staple treat at any German kid’s birthday party. I got so many nice comments by people telling me how much they had missed them, too. I also sometimes get e-mails from people living in the US or Canada telling me they have German ancestors. They tell me memories they have about their grandmothers and mothers making certain German dishes. I am really inspired by these e-mails and they also help me come up with fresh ideas.
What influenced your love of cooking?
My belly! I just love to eat.
Define your own style of cooking.
The way I cook every days at home could be described as simple and very spontaneous. I don’t plan much in advance and since we have such a good infrastructure in my area, I often pop into the grocery store after work and find a couple of foods that look good to me. Weekday meals at our house are often very boring and simple: a couple of fried vegetables, some sort of grain and some tofu, tempeh or plant meat on the side. Cooking for the blog is a whole different story though. I love to try out new elaborate recipes that often take some time to develop or even cook or bake. An example for the way I usually cook when I am not blogging is the Zucchini Soup with Tahini and Mint that you can also find on my blog. It’s a very simple soup made with a couple of fresh, seasonal vegetables.
Describe the best dish you’ve ever made.
I wouldn’t say there is “the best dish”. You always improve and find new techniques, so my “best dish” often changes.
If your current self could give your past self one piece of sage cooking advice, what would it be and why?
Don’t listen to people who tell you that cakes with four or more eggs cannot be veganised. It is not true. Generally just try to find your own style and don’t be afraid to try new things. If you fail you fail. Also, don’t buy into all the fear mongering that is around concerning food and nutrition. There are no good and bad foods and we should’t describe food with moral or religious terms. And last but not least, buy a good knife.
Do you have any culinary heroes?
I honestly don’t have any culinary heroes. I don’t buy that many cookbooks and I almost never watch cooking shows. But I recently started watching the Great British Bake Off and loved the way Mary Berry talked about the food the contestants made. You could see she has so much experience and also a lot of respect for techniques and traditional recipes. I am sure there’s a lot to learn from her on how to make really good cakes. If it comes to influences, I think I get most of them from innovative bloggers. People who have their own really distinct style of cooking and baking. People who rather try something new than follow all the new food trends. These kind of people fuel my imagination and creativity a lot.
If you could choose anyone to cook with in the kitchen, who would it be?
I like to cook for people a lot. Everyone is welcome in my kitchen as long as you don’t tell me you hate tofu.
If you could throw a party for anyone, who would be there and what would the menu look like?
I’ve never in my life made a menu. I’d just cook up 10 different dishes and everyone could take what they wanted. Of course there would have to be lots of very rich desserts, too. A tiramisù for sure and some donuts, like the Frankfurter crown donuts that I have on my blog.
Name one ingredient and kitchen gadget you can’t live without.
Ingredient: sugar! I will gladly admit that I cannot live without it. A kitchen gadget that I couldn’t live without isn’t really a gadget. It’s a good knife. In Germany you can buy really cheap good quality knifes that will last forever and that are super sharp. They have a very thin blade made from non-stainless carbon steel. I just love these knifes!