Sites We Love: Hungry Ghost Food + Travel
Gorgeous photos? Check. Engaging writing? Check. Seriously inspiring recipes, tips, and culinary curiosity? Check, check, and check. The best food blogs all seem to have a lot in common—but what separates them out are the strong personalities behind them. In our Sites We Love series, we sit down with some of our favorite bloggers to find out how they do it—and why it's as much fun for them as it is for us.
Today’s site we love is Hungry Ghost Food + Travel, where photographer Andrea Gentl shares her stunning, surprising photos of food, as well as seasonally-inspired recipes that feature the freshest wild and local ingredients. Here’s what Andrea has to say about her site:
Live since: March 2011
Posting rate: Average posting is about five per month.
Geographic location: New York City
Why Is the site called Hungry Ghost? In many Buddhist countries, hungry ghosts are restless insatiable spirits from the afterlife who haunt this world hoping to fill their bellies and quench their thirst and stave their addictions by feeding off our energy. The ghost’s torment is that they never can be satisfied. In many Buddhist cultures there are festivals and feasts dedicated to the feeding of the hungry ghosts. Beautiful food and offerings are left to pacify the spirits, so they may not haunt us in this life. Though the site is called Hungry Ghost it is a reminder to myself to live beyond my obsessions and to live life fully and to always give something to others.
What’s been your most popular post? My most popular post was Winter Salads. They were fairly simple and were meant to be more of an inspiration of the season rather than recipes to be followed exactly. I like working with unusual combinations of fruits and greens and experimenting with what I find at the markets or in the wild.
What’s your favorite post? My favorite is the Winter Sherbet and Sorbetti post. It came about on a quiet snowy day when I was alone in our house upstate, shooting and cooking. We had to go to a New Year’s party the next day, so it started with the seed of “What am I going to make to bring?…” and ended up a full-fledged shoot. I loved the light that day and the way the composted skins of the winter fruits fell in no particular pattern. The beet sorbet was a total experiment. I was trying to get a deeper color in one of the sorbets, and the beets on the counter were just the things I needed. It ended up tasting a bit earthy which I really liked. For the last shot I put the tray out on the porch to let the snow settle on it, and then I quickly ran inside to shoot it before the snow melted. I was really happy with the way that shoot came out. I remember it was my last post of the year.
Credit: Andrea Gentl
What’s something great that you’ve learned or that’s happened to you since starting your blog? I started this blog not really knowing where it would lead. I wanted a creative outlet that was separate from the work I do everyday. I have always loved food and cooking and travel. It is what I loved most about photography since the beginning. I wanted to somehow bring them all together in my own platform. The best part of this whole process is that I have met so many interesting and like-minded people. I feel completely re-inspired all the time. I have met so many interesting bloggers and farmers and chefs. Just the other night I went to a lecture curated by Jerome Waag of Chez Panisse. It was about the social and economic history of cod—truly fascinating. One of the guest speakers Robin Shulman spoke about the history of food and food purveyors in this city and how it helped to build New York into what it is today. Then to top it off, there were demonstrations on how to make brandade and cod chowder by chef David Tanis and writer Samin Nosrat. I don’t think before starting this blog I would have know about an event like that.
What’s the usual process for developing one of your posts? The process for one of my posts is pretty simple. I start out at the Greenmarket or The New Amsterdam Market, and I look to see what is in season. I never go to the market with any particular plan; ideas usually come to me from what I see there. I am often inspired by the names of things…like Dragon Carrot, Hidden Rose or Old Maid’s Winter Apple. That’s all I need to get going. I rarely go to the market with recipes in hand. Posts can also come about if I’m upstate and see something wild in season, like dandelions or wild watercress or elderberry. I grew up in rural Western Mass where types of wild berries and fruits were close at hand. Farming, canning, cooking and putting up were an integral part of my life. Now, as a city dweller, I always keep scissors, shears, and paper bags in the car. You never know what you might find in the city or upstate. I also draw inspiration my paternal grandmother who was Italian and loved to cook and eat. Quite often, I think she is beside me when I am dreaming up a dish.
What are your favorite ingredients and tools? My father gave me his two vintage Sabatier knives recently, and I just love them. I am kind of a knife fanatic; I especially love small utility knives from French or Italian hardware stores. My favorite tool that I never travel with is a simple mandolin—I have them from several places but my Muji one is my favorite. I also have my grandmother’s pasta machine and her rolling pin. My favorite ingredients are those that are wild, seasonal and local. That being said, my fridge is never without a large chunk of Pecorino Romano. My essentials are: garlic, sea salt, good olive oil, lemon, fresh herbs and farm fresh eggs. There is always a quick meal to be had with eggs and Pecorino in the house. On top of that, I generally have some strange and unidentifiable (to my kids) items in the fridge, like bags of dandelion greens, milkweed pods, bark burdock root, fresh turmeric or horseradish root and always mushrooms.
Credit: Andrea Gentl
What are your favorite food and cooking resources? I somehow started collecting cookbooks without really noticing, and the piles have grown over the years! I have many of my grandmother’s cookbooks including her whole Time-Life book series. I used to look at those books for hours as a kid. They are so full of strange and beautiful travel and food photography. When I looked at them then, I dreamed of going to many of the places in those books. I grew up with Fannie Farmer, so I still look there occasionally. I feel sort of sentimental about the Fannie cookbook, but I do prefer books with photographs. My go-to books for years have been all of Alice Waters’ books, like Vegetables and Fruit but more recently The Art of Simple Food. I look to Nigel Slater’s Tender, volumes one and two, for seasonal inspiration. They always spark some new and creative way of thinking. Right now I am mad for Magnus Nilsson’s Faviken. We ate there last year when we were photographing it for Conde Nast Traveler, and I have to say it was the most unique and inspiring meal of my life. I love to scour antique stores and junk shops for old cookbooks. I also love a good church bazaar; it’s a great place to pick up those little binder cookbooks. I found one recently called Food of the Smokies. It had everything from chess pie to squirrel! Lastly, my greatest recourses are the vendors from the markets I frequent. My favorite market is the New Amsterdam Market in Lower Manhattan at the Old Seaport. It’s such a special place. It is where I met my favorite mushroom gatherers, wildcrafters and fruitier. Relationships with local market vendors and farmers are integral to my blog.
What photography equipment do you use? I use the Canon Mark2 5D primarily for my blog. I use the Fuji X-100 and the Plaubel for travel.
Where else can we find your work? My work can be found on my commercial site where I work as Gentl and Hyerswith my husband Martin Hyers. You can also find me on various social media via my blog.
What food blogs do you follow? This is an overwhelming question! There are so many inspiring blogs from around the world. When I have a day off, I find I can get lost for hours reading blogs and looking at beautiful photographs. I would say the food blogs I look at most often are: Manger, Canelle et Vanille, Glutton For Life, Eating from the Ground Up, Simply Breakfast, Forty Sixth at Grace, La Tartine Gourmand, Food 52, David Lebovitz, La Buena Vida, Ciao Samin, 101 Cookbooks, Trail of Crumbs, Sprouted Kitchen, among many more.
Do you know a blog or blogger who deserves to be featured in this space? Email a nomination—including a link to the site and a few sentences on why they’re worthy of love—firstname.lastname@example.org.