Registered dietitian Katie Sullivan Morford is a food and nutrition writer with more than 20 years of professional writing experience. She's been published in the New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Cooking Light, Bon Appétit, Self, and Parenting, to name only a few. With her brother Mark Sullivan, chef/partner at Spruce in San Francisco, and partner at the Village Pub in Woodside, Morford co-wrote a regular recipe feature for the San Jose Mercury News. Her new blog, Mom's Kitchen Handbook, focuses on quick and healthy recipes busy parents can make for their kids. SFoodie sat down with Morford recently to find out more about the blog, microwaved sponges, and why birthdays mean Cheetos time for her three daughters.
SFoodie: How did you come up with the name Mom's Kitchen Handbook? In a city like San Francisco, where lots of dads are interested in cooking, was there a concern that you were shutting them out?
Morford: Let's start with the "handbook" part. I like the idea of a handbook because it cover lots of non-recipe-related things, like how to best sterilize a kitchen sponge. It's not purely a cooking blog. As for the "mom's" part, I wondered if I was essentially shutting out 50 percent of potential readers, but honestly, I find that it's mostly moms who ask me questions about nutrition and cooking. Moms are mostly who I hang out with so I felt that was my natural audience.
What's been your biggest surprise so far? A post that got a big response?
Well, going back to the sponge thing, it was a silly little post about microwaving sponges to keep them clean. Unsexy, uninteresting, right? But people loved it, I think because it was functional. I did a simple piece on do-it-yourself microwave popcorn, just a brown paper bag, popcorn and olive oil, and people talked about it like it was Zen. A lot of moms I know were doing cleanse diets and I wrote something about the potential pitfalls of that. I was actually surprised that most of my response was positive. Nothing too angry.
Do your kids ever just want a bucket of Popeyes?
Absolutely. My girls give me eye rolls and say, "I wish mom wasn't a nutritionist," but overall, I think they like that I can cook well.
I'm not as supercrunchy in my own kitchen as one might think. That said, doughnuts and potato chips are a rarity. Each of my kids can eat whatever they want on their birthdays and, yeah, they'll go for doughnuts and chips but they'll also ask me to cook dinner. Oh yeah, Cheetos are a biggie, too.
What's been your brother's influence on your career, and vice versa? The food at Spruce and the Village Pub isn't exactly healthy.
I don't know if I could say that we really influence each other. We grew up in a house of wholesome, home-cooked food, kind of old fashioned, and both of our parents prepared meals. There was nothing processed or packaged, rare considering we were East Bay kids raised in the '70s and '80s, and I think that's been a huge influence on both of us. When we wrote our column together, I think we really came to realize how much we were on the same page. Yeah, Mark's restaurant food is loaded with butter and other animal fats but it's not meant to be eaten regularly. I'm actually touched by his appreciation of my cooking because he likes the basics of it. I've made him enchiladas and he acted like it was the best thing he's ever eaten.
How would you respond to those who say that your blog is a little too precious?
I'd actually kind of understand. There are lots of resources out there for cooking. If my blog speaks to you, great. If it doesn't, there are other places to go. This is how I cook and what I'm about. I try to be mindful of having relatively accessible ingredients that aren't too difficult to get your hands on. I also don't want to people to think you're going to die of pesticide poisoning if you don't use organic produce, even though it's what I use.
What disturbs you most when it comes to parents feeding their kids?
It really bugs me when I hear parents say, "Oh, she's not going to like that" when their child is about to try something new. It's like they're willing their kids to be picky and accepting the dumbing down of kids' food. I get it, kids can be picky eaters. But if it's all nuggets, fries, and quesadillas, what do you expect?