Blogger of the Month: Tara O'Brady of Seven Spoons

Blogger of the Month: Tara O’Brady of Seven Spoons

With a sleek website design, witty prose and photography crisp enough to make your mouth water, Tara O’Brady, a marketing professional turned food blogger, has the writing voice, kitchen savvy and design sense to make even the greatest chef-authors keep a close eye on their bestseller rankings. As a dedicated family girl, this Ontario resident feeds her husband and two sons a unique mix of traditional and contemporary dishes, sharing sweet secrets and clever recipes on her increasingly popular blog, Seven Spoons–all with a hefty dollop of charming satire.

What is the inspiration behind the name Seven Spoons?

It’s a funny thing, that. After being stuck for a name for a really long time, “Seven Spoons” was a whim that stuck. It’s a bit silly now, looking back on it, but the honest story is this: I was sitting on the couch, reading Donna Hay magazine and talking to my boyfriend (now husband) about what I wanted to do in the future. At the time I was working in marketing and communications, but was itching for a change. He asked what made me happiest, and I looked at the magazine and thought, “this.” In a coincidence, in that issue’s Editor’s Letter, Hay mentioned that she was turning 34. I was 27 at the time. 34 minus 27 gave me seven, and that’s always been a lucky number for me. I adopted the seven as a bit of a reminder of that important conversation with Sean, and spoons went nicely with that. And so, done, there was my name.

So you have a family of boys: a husband and two sons. What’s the best dessert mom makes?

My husband votes pies, our five-year-old says honey peanut butter, no wait, chocolate chip cookies, and our three-year-old emphatically votes little cakes! One dessert that is a family tradition for us are icebox cakes–those old-fashioned cakes you make by layering cookies with whipped cream. They are sort of a cross between tiramisu and a trifle. We make them for my birthday each year, as they require no baking and my two lads can manage most of the assembly (with modest adult supervision). They’re a throwback to my childhood and I adore them. It’s become a fun challenge to come up with a new flavor each year; we’ve done mochastrawberry and coconut cream (with blackberry) in the last few years.

What is a great ‘kid’ food that you like to ‘fancy’ up?

Since we’re starting into the truly cold days of winter, a baked pasta is pretty great. I love a béchamel full of greens, or with roasted squash and gruyère, or with really lovely wild mushrooms. Also in the winter issue of Kinfolk magazine, we talk about fries and buttered clams, and really there’s nothing better than that.

What is one of your favorite recipes that you’ve created?

Each piece is such a learning process, as each comes with its own particular set of challenges, requirements, and opportunities. It sounds overly-sentimental to say, but it’s true; with each I finish I feel that one was my favorite. I hope that means I’m on the right track! There are ones that stand out, like the first story I did for UPPERCASE magazine. It was a Vietmamese Coffee Ice Cream; or, the last one I did for them, which was on biscuits like those you’ll find in the American South. That was a recipe that took months to work on, and when I got it right I think I may have jumped up and down a little.

Tell us about an article you’re really proud of.

I loved talking about decorating cakes with Saveur. It was such fun! I love baking cakes, and the response to that piece was the best; people talking about celebrations, and buttercream, ganache and sprinkles, happy memories and all that good stuff.

Seven Spoons gets an impressive readership. Why do you think your readers feel so comfortable and are so active on your blog?

Hmm, that’s hard to pin down in a simple answer. I think it’s a combination of things; I’ve been writing for six years now and so in that time I hope I’ve established a rapport with people. There’s a relationship takes root over a conversation that’s lasted that long, and for that I’m grateful. I hope people come back because they find a spark in what we’re talking about–a story that I share that reminds them of something that they’ve considered or experienced. It is always a delight to see the unexpected ways a recipe or memory will resonate with folks. It’s the best part of what I do.

If you could wine, dine and cook with any chef (dead or alive) who would it be and why?

Off the top of my head? That’s so hard to choose. First thoughts are MFK fisher, Julia Child, possibly Tony Bourdain because he’d get on with my husband and I think it would be a hoot to see him with Julia. Nigel Slater because I could listen to him all day long. And I have a deep, abiding love of roasted marrow bones, so Fergus Henderson needs to be there. And a double batch of his chocolate ice cream … I did it on my site. My goodness, it’s life changing. And then there’s two spots for Christopher Hirsheimer and Melissa Hamilton; they are a consistent source of inspiration and I’d relish the chance to see them let loose in a kitchen. I’m terribly indecisive sometimes. But [I'd] want it to be a killer party. I’d love to see Julia’s reaction to Crack Pie. I also wouldn’t mind if a whole gaggle of pals showed up–the more the merrier! Even better if they bring bubbles. Or gin.

Check out more of Tara’s ramblings and recipes here.