Sites We Love: The Yellow House

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 The Yellow House, where Virginia-based global public health professional, Sarah Searle, shares thoughtful stories and recipes from her daily life. We love the way she writes honestly about about finding her own balance between her professional life and a creative life at home in the kitchen, inspiring her readers to live well in a way that's unfussy. Here's what Sarah has to say about her site:

Live since: February 2010

Posting rate: Varies depending what else is going on in my life. I aim for once a week.

Geographic location: Rural Virginia/Washington DC

Why is the site called The Yellow House? When I first created the site, I had moved back to the U.S. after living and working in sub-Saharan Africa for some time. I was feeling a bit adrift back in the country. When I moved into an old yellow-painted brick rowhouse in DC, it somehow seemed right to ground the blog I planned to write in the concrete space that was my new home.

I no longer live in the yellow house, but the idea of the site as a literal and figurative coming-home persists, both for me and for anyone who happens to be reading or visiting the site.

What's been your most popular post? I didn't know the answer to this question until you asked—it turns out that it's the post for a grapefruit olive oil cake for a cold winter day. Citrus + winter light = magic. That cake is really good.

What's your favorite post? In the past year I've been exploring short essay more, focusing on themes of home cooking, empowerment in the kitchen, and the authentic messiness and imperfection of everyday life compared to what we see in lifestyle magazines or on TV.

"On dinner, work, & lifestyle" (incidentally also one of the most popular posts) was one of my favorite posts to create for a lot of reasons—it was fun and challenging to document a week of my real-life meals—but the response from readers was the best part. The people who visit The Yellow House leave consistently thoughtful, smart comments. It makes my day.

Credit: Ben Sedlins

What's something great that you've learned or that's happened to you since starting your blog? It turns out that I really, really needed the type of creative outlet the blog provides—so that, in and of itself, the discipline of sitting down to write something or cook something a little more intentionally, has been such a boon.

Can I be honest? I'm just amazed that there are people following along and reading. I think that's the greatest thing. I'm not trying to be self-deprecating here, but I very much started the site for myself, and the fact that there are a decent number of people out there who want to read, interact, agree or disagree—the fact that a community has sprung up around this site—that is really great.

What's the usual process for developing one of your posts? There's no formula. I'm inspired, like many, by seasonality, so I cook what makes sense for the time of year. Sometimes there's an event in my life or a holiday or an experience that prompts a particular post. Many people have observed that my site isn't really about the recipes, though—even though there are certainly recipes to be had. I write about all the other stuff that happens in between the lines of the recipes. In that sense, each post is really just a reflection of the life lived around food, and arises pretty organically from that

What are your favorite ingredients and tools? Ingredients: Fresh eggs, especially those from our intrepid duck, Mara. She lays the best eggs you have ever tasted; rich, the yolks are almost buttery. We only have one duck who lays eggs, so hers seem a bit precious and special. Salt, olive oil, bitter greens, good butter, red pepper flakes, cornmeal, lots and lots of fresh herbs, especially parsley, accompanied by whatever veggies and fruits are coming in from our garden or from the folks down the road.

It is difficult for me to admit — but admitting you have a problem is the first step, right? I have a beyond unhealthy penchant for Sriracha sauce. I add it to things I should not. But it is, indeed, one of my favorite ingredients.

In terms of tools, I'm a simple woman: a sharp knife, a couple heavy-bottomed pots and pans (that can preferably go from stovetop into the oven), wooden spoons, a cast iron skillet, and a microplane are all I really need. I was given a gorgeous Japanese-made chef's knife as a gift and it is all I ever use. I love it. Oh, and my apron! I have a grey linen apron that is one of my favorite possessions. My sister had it made for me.

Credit: Sarah Searle

What are your favorite food and cooking resources? I know a guy who grows and sells produce, and he sends out a weekly email with what will be available. Frequently, he'll put a little note next to a particular vegetable, something like, "Turnips: These are sweet and good enough to eat like an apple," and it just sends me off to the kitchen. There's a lot to be said for talking to people, whether it's in the seafood section of your supermarket or to your next door neighbor who grows zucchini in the summer, to get practical tips and techniques for cooking.

There are a few books that are holy books in my kitchen, and their canons of recipes tend to be both beautiful and practical. Judy Rodgers' Zuni Cafe Cookbook can get me so excited about cooking a pot of beans. Nigel Slater's Tender and Deborah Madison's Local Flavors are probably the books I've cooked most from in my life; they are both spot-on in their creative treatment of a year's worth of produce. Canal House Cooks Everyday is a recent addition to my kitchen from which I've already cooked five recipes—I can tell it will be a mainstay. I have a collection of older and used cookbooks that are some of my favorite resources. Edna Lewis's Taste of Country Cooking is an extraordinary book, which appeals to me especially as a Virginia girl.

What photography equipment do you use? I take my photos with a hand me down, rather out-of-date digital Nikon. It's sort of an entry level DSLR. I think by now, there are point-and-shoot cameras that may have better pedigrees than my camera. The camera has been all over the world with me and I'm reluctant to let it go, but it's showing its age and I may need a new one soon.

Where else can we find your work? I write and take photos for greater DC-area food, wine & spirit print publications such as Flavor and the Edible Communities' Edible DC. On the web, I'm a contributor to various sites like Food52 or the Huffington Post food section.

What food blogs do you follow? The food blogs I follow are those whose authors have a distinct voice beyond just recipes and photos—these people make me laugh or think or run to the kitchen. I don't take as much time to read blogs as I should, but those that I don't miss are Orangette, Lottie & Doof, Poor Man's Feast, Canal House, and Bon Appetempt.

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—

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