Interview with Anne Bramley

Anne Bramley is a food scholar, university lecturer, writer, cook, and host of the internationally acclaimed podcast, Eat Feed. She was born in a Midwestern blizzard and has thrived on all the best things cold weather provides, from her grandmother’s “snow ice cream” to deep-winter snowshoeing. She has also traveled the world, living in England, Germany, and United States and learning from each new food culture she encounters.

Eat Feed Autumn Winter: 30 Ways to Celebrate when the Mercury Drops is her first cookbook. just named it one of the Best Cookbooks of 2008. She lives with her husband, daughter, two cats, and two dogs in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where they eagerly await the next snow day.


Gina: Your book is filled with lots of wonderful historical recipes. On election night, I had a good time reading your accounts of Lincoln’s Inaugural Chicken Salad, Washington’s Favorite Corn Cakes, and Jefferson’s Peanut Sundaes. Where did you track down these gems? Also, what did you end up serving at your own election night get-together?

Anne: As an academic, I’ve always got my head in some archive or other and tend to collect bits and bobs of culinary history since you never know when you’ll want them. And as a former Chicagoan (and Hyde Park resident) my election night was inspired by some of our favorite foods from the city and neighborhood.

Gina: In your acknowledgments, you mention that novelist Katharine Weber gave you an early boost. How did you meet her and how did she help you?

I met Katharine through Readerville. She is always there with ready and willing advice about the writing life — agents, pitching, publicity, and more — and she’s always generous in lending an ear as well as a hand to a new writer. Plus she has sent me some of my best podcast topics and guests.

Gina: I’m charged with bringing cranberries to Thanksgiving dinner at my mother-in-law’s house this year. I know you love the topic of cranberries. Please tell me how should I cook them and share with my readers why you think they’re so interesting.

Anne: Every way and in everything! I love that they are really one of the few remaining foods that have a season that you can’t industrialize your way around. At least as far as I’ve seen, they aren’t shipped in from the southern hemisphere as with things like raspberries. Instead, I long for the October harvest each year and then try to do as much as possible before they’re all gone from the shelves in January or February.

When I have the ability to cook just cranberries and not have something else in the oven, I love to do low temp, slow cook with a bit of spirit at the end. I don’t really have a recipe and tweak it every time, but do something like a pound of cranberries with 1/2 to 1 cup of brown sugar for 1 to 2 hours at 200 to 225 degrees. Add a splash of alcohol in the final 15 minutes — brandy if you’re going for a Jeffersonian French inspiration, rum for something a bit more middle-brow colonial. The key thing about the low temp for a long time is that the berries don’t pop and go mushy like in a stovetop sauce. Instead they just gently warm and soften. Mmmm. (Also, I know it’s a big range on the sugar, but people have wildly different sweetness desires when it comes to cranberries and I prefer mine a bit tart, vaguely reminiscent of the kind of tart sauces that historically accompanied meat like verjuice in the Renaissance or a 19th-century gooseberry or rhubarb sauce.)

Gina: What is your favorite winter cocktail?

Anne: When I’m looking for some vitamins with my vice, it’s a Bloody Mary made with Scandinavian aquavit (like the Bloody Sigrid in the book). But oftentimes I just want something really warm, creamy, sweet and possibly nutty, so I wrap myself around whatever boozy milk punch is on offer.

Gina: What’s next on your proverbial plate?

Anne: Getting a position in the new administration as the local seasonal food czar. If that doesn’t work out, endless meals with great cold weather foods and a little bit more time with my husband and toddling daughter and our menagerie of 4 animals who are often lounging in front of the warmth of the oven waiting to see what experiment pops out next.

9 Responses to Interview with Anne Bramley

  1. karentempler says:

    Hi, bramley!

  2. readingwritingliving says:

    Oooh Bramley! I looove her voice. It’s so inviting and warm. I must get this book.

  3. Lisa says:

    Yay Anne! Your book is so wishlisted. Congratulations on such a beautiful end product.

  4. Paige says:

    I love this interview, and I adore the concept of the book (especially on this brrrzy night.) Can’t wait to check it out!

  5. Gina Hyams says:

    I am so making Anne’s low temp/slow cooked cranberries for Thanksgiving. They’ll go over better than last year’s Jello surprise salad, yes?

  6. Bess says:

    I’ve got a great recipe for cranberry apple pie if you’re needing a dessert.

  7. Gina Hyams says:

    We’re talking Thanksgiving in Connecticut: only pumpkin will do…and the family certainly wouldn’t trust me with baking…but that fruit mix does sound like excellent pie.

  8. Kaethe says:

    Hi, bramley! Great to see you’ve got a beautiful book out. Hmm, now who needs a Christmas present?

  9. Cara deBeer says:

    I can totally recommend the book – it’s fabulous to read through and so far all the recipes I’ve tried have worked well.

    And I think I might try the slow-cooked cranberries with brown sugar and brandy this year as a change from my usual orange zest cranberry thingie.

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