Sites We Love: Reclaiming Provincial

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._

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Carey Nershi

Today's site we love is Reclaiming Provincial, where Vermont resident Carey Nershi shares her skills and passion for traditional techniques and simple, healthful foods. Here's what Carey has to say about her site:

Live since: 2010

Posting rate: 1-2 times per week

Geographic location: Burlington, Vermont

Why is the site called Reclaiming Provincial? This is an unusually lengthy explanation, given that I changed the name in 2012 (and I'm plagued by a need to explain things in great detail). The name Petite Kitchenesse originated during a time when I was getting a kick out of bombarding a good friend living in France with my very limited knowledge of the French language, which usually wound up being a bastardized "Frenglish" of sorts. I soon realized it was not the moniker for me, especially when people would ask me about my site and I'd have to actually say the name aloud, then mentally cringe at how overly cutesy it sounded. But I decided not to change things until I really knew the direction in which I wanted to take the site. As I (and my blog) grew increasingly inspired by Vermont food culture and more focused on eating seasonably and supporting local farms and businesses, I decided it was time for a name that reflected this. I wanted to convey this theme without actually using the word "local," and I found myself very drawn to the word "provincial," despite all of its negative connotations. I kept harping on it during a name spitballing session with my boyfriend, and at one point he jokingly said, "Why don't you reclaim it?" That kind of stuck in my mind, and I decided to look into the etymology of the word later that day. Turns out (at least according to etymonline.com), "provincial" simply used to mean "pertaining to a province" or "of the small towns and countryside," then picked up the negative "unsophisticated/narrow/rude" connotations during the mid-18th century, when modern industry (and, in turn, cities) were experiencing rapid growth. After reading that, it seemed clear to me that it was, in fact, a word in need of reclaiming. And my blog had its new name.

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Carey Nershi

Credit: Carey Nershi

What's been your most popular post? The Valentine's Day Egg-in-the-Basket. A fried-up cheesy sandwich with a heart-shaped egg in the center—I can't say I'm surprised that was super popular!

What's your favorite post? I'm cheating a little on this one, but I have two favorites. The first is the Anatomy of a Really Good Grilled Cheese. I had a lot of fun compiling this post, between researching different types of cheese, playing around with text art in Photoshop (and learning how to make curved arrows—woo!), and sharing my semi-neurotic take on a widely adored classic. My favorite thing about the post is that it isn't a strict recipe, but more of a framework that can be customized in a near-infinite number of ways.

My second favorite post is the Beet Hash Breakfast Wrap. I made a joke not that long ago about how I can't imagine that anyone would want to see the weird, semi-healthy frankendishes I eat on a regular basis when I could be posting pasta and desserts instead. But that got me thinking about this wrap, which has been a favorite breakfast of mine for the past year or so. I didn't realize how attached I was to this dish until I was in the midst of writing the post, and it just kept growing and growing. Beets can also be a somewhat intimidating ingredient to work with, and a lot of people responded well to the idea of simply grating them and cooking them up like a hash. It made me very happy that I decided to share it on the blog.

What's something great that you've learned or that's happened to you since starting your blog? Honestly, for me, the most amazing part of this experience has been building connections with readers, many of whom are also bloggers themselves. I am someone who has always felt more comfortable observing from afar rather than directly interacting with others or initiating any sort of conversation (especially with people I don't know at all). Consequently, I spent many years (even after I began my own blog) reading posts on other sites and thinking, "ooo, that's great!" and just keeping it to myself. Then—and I'm not quite sure why—but one day not too long ago, something kind of clicked. I started occasionally leaving comments on posts, and was super excited when some of those same bloggers found their way to my site and did the same. (That might sound ridiculous, because it seems like kind of a fundamental part of being a blogger, but it was a huge deal for me.) Since then, I've grown exponentially more comfortable in this space, and built genuine friendships with a number of readers. To the point where if I happened to be in their area or vice versa, we'd definitely need to meet up for a drink. In my eyes, that's pretty awesome.

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Carey Nershi

Credit: Carey Nershi

What's the usual process for developing one of your posts? Inspiration comes at random, from all sorts of places—farmers' markets, other blogs, cookbooks, holidays, and so on. I have a tendency to really fixate on things, so I just kind of run with whatever my current obsession is. For example, I was out at a restaurant the other day, and a friend ordered a bowl of Tom Kha Gai (which I'd never had before) and offered me a taste. I declined at first because I wasn't very hungry, but he asked, "Are you sure?" and I figured I'd just give it a try. I wound up devouring half of his bowl of soup, and now I can't get the combination of coconut milk and lemongrass out of my head. That obsession needs to translate into something edible very soon.

What are your favorite ingredients and tools? I get really excited about the constantly changing in-season fruits and vegetables of the spring and summer. Especially when I'm at the farmers' market at 8:00am on a Saturday, surrounded by other people who are just as psyched as I am to get first pick of everything. (God, that sounds kind of dorky…but it love it!) As far as tools go, I have a pretty respectable collection of gadgets at this point, but it's the simple items that I couldn't live without. Just give me a couple sharp knives, a cast iron skillet, a whisk, and a bench scraper, and I'm pretty much set. Having said that, I love my pizza stone to death. And I think my pasta chitarra (a newer purchase) is one of the coolest things ever, even though I don't use it all that often.

What are your favorite food and cooking resources? You can pretty much figure out what room I was last in by finding The Flavor Bible, since I refer to it constantly when I'm dreaming up things to make. I'm also a food science junkie, so I find myself turning to Alton Brown/Good Eats and Cooking for Geeks for a lot of basic techniques. And, of course, I get a ton of inspiration from food blogs, as well as magazines/online resources like The Kitchn, Saveur, Bon Appetit, and Imbibe.

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Carey Nershi

Credit: Carey Nershi

What photography equipment do you use? I currently shoot with a Canon 60D and a 50mm/f1.8 lens, almost always in natural light. I've tried using tripods in the past, but I move around way too much for them to be of any use to me. (Unless I'm trying to use them to trip myself and nearly smash my face and my camera into the ground simultaneously. They work very well for that.)

Where else can we find your work? Since I work a full-time job in addition to running the blog, I don't have too many opportunities to branch out. But I have had recipes from my site featured on Bon Appetit, Frankie Magazine, Fine Cooking, The Kitchn, and HuffPost Taste.