Interview with food hacker Canida

Interview with food hacker Canida

Arwen sent in our last Thanksgiving interview! “Christy Canida has been slowly building up a really quite amazing guide for fledgling or experimenting cooks on Instructables. Beautifully instructed, she started out teaching the basics and has documented her way through an astonishing number of delicious meals. With a wicked sense of humor and an instinctive grasp of what needs explaining and what can be left to the imagination of readers, her Instructables home page is worth checking out any time of the year for interesting ideas in the kitchen. Orange ginger miso turkey anyone?”How would you describe yourself?
Hmmm … how about an under-utilized biologist easily distracted by shiny things? I’m a food experimentalist in both senses: we keep lab notebooks with lists of our tests, and I’m willing to try anything at least once.

How did you learn to cook so well?
Trial and error! My mom is a great cook and gave me a good framework, but she’s strongly reliant on recipes. In my college living group we cooked once/week in teams of four, preparing food for ~30 in an industrial kitchen. Recipes often don’t scale well, so you quickly learn to taste and modify on the fly. I quickly ditched recipes as anything more than a general guideline. Starving college students make the best guinea pigs- they’ll eat almost anything.

What interesting projects are you working on right now?
Right now I’m making Thanksgiving dinner for ~42 people. After that I’m back to my previously-scheduled projects: making a quilt out of some gorgeous tie silk fabric samples I nabbed from the East Bay Depot for Creative Reuse a couple of months ago, knitting a fuzzy winter scarf, more taxidermy (I’ve got a dead crow and squirrel in my freezer), gutting & redoing a closet, planning how we’ll terrace the yard, and painting the rest of the interior of my house. I’ve also been eyeing a wall between my living and dining rooms- next time I get itchy crowbar fingers it’s coming down.

What new idea (in or outside of your field) has excited you most recently?
I’ve gotten really interested in the role diet/food choice plays in health and aging. There has been some extremely interesting research in the past couple of years, both in mouse models and human studies. My husband Eric and I enjoy sifting through the scientific literature because we’re nerds, but the general public needs to see a good popular translation of these ideas — there’s some really neat stuff here.

What are your favorite tools/books/websites?
Cook’s Illustrated magazine/website and Instructables have a high signal:noise ratio; Google finds me everything else I need. Oh, and one more book: McGee’s On Food and Cooking is THE reference tome. It answers most any technical food-related question, authoritatively ending those dinner-table discussions.

How do you feel about Thanksgiving?
It’s the most awesome holiday ever. You’re encouraged to eat insanely good food and hang out with your friends and family, and there’s no gift-giving or religious baggage attached. I hate travelling during Thanksgiving, so this is our third year throwing the party at our house.

What’s one tip you’d give to other makers or users of Instructables?
Over-document, and use good pictures. You’re better off showing too much detail than assuming the users understand what you did, and good pictures make others excited to try your project. If you’re psyched about your project the enthusiasm will be contagious.

Also, don’t be afraid to start small. You don’t have to start with an insanely large and detailed project- putting up your weekend breakfast smoothie is a good first step.

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