Rebecca Sedlak is the founder of local cooking blog Food Allergy Cooking. A University of Oregon journalism major, Sedlak uses the blog to show people around the community ways to cook around dairy, nuts, and wheat products. While many would think that allergenic would be bland and limited, Sedlak’s blog, loaded with deserts and hearty dinners, shows that cooks with allergens have plenty of delicious options.
Q: When did you start this blog and why did you start it?
A: I started it in July last summer because I was here at school taking some classes, and one of the classes I was taking was Urban Farm which is you go out and garden twice a week and plant things you learn about organic gardening. I have always been kind of interested in cooking, mostly because I have some food allergies which I discovered in senior year in high school. That’s when I stopped eating gluten, milk, and eggs. I guess that made me have to cook for myself, and be more aware of where my food comes from and what I’m eating. And then in the Journalism school you’re always told, ‘oh you should start a blog and you should write you should do something’ so I decided to start a cooking blog to discover more about cooking.
Q: You discovered your allergens so late, weren’t you already having symptoms before?
A: Probably but they weren’t as apparent. It was the fall of my senior year of high school, right when school started. I started getting some skin reactions, my stomach would hurt or my eyes would get puffy. I didn’t know what was happening, so my mom took me to a naturopath doctor and they did a blood test, and she basically said ‘well you just shouldn’t eat these things.’ and so I don’t anymore.
Q: Has that served as a challenge for you having all those allergens?
I think at first it definitely was, and people still forget, but I’m more used to it now. I’ve learned to cook and find substitutes and do other cooking and baking with stuff that I can eat. Sometimes its hard if people want to go out to a restaurant that I can’t eat at or if it’s like a potluck I can only really eat something that I bring or like if its like a salad or something. So it’s challenging in some social situations. Sometimes I’m tempted to ‘cheat.’
Q: Have you cheated?
A: Yeah sometimes (laughs).
Q: So in terms of the blog, has the blog been getting a lot of viewership or is it mainly friends that look at it?
A: Some friends. I tweet my posts on Twitter and there are some vegan bloggers and gluten-free bloggers I follow on Twitter. I think sometimes they look at my blog and I’ve gotten a couple comments. So there’s a small readership, but I think it’s there. I remember when I posted for Thanksgiving there were a couple more hits because it was the holidays and people were looking for those specific recipes.
Q: is there any blog that you follow that you kind of model after?
A: Not really. I think other bloggers talk more about their personal lives, and connect it into the recipe — or not even connect it into the recipe, they talk about their lives and then also post a recipe. I don’t think I’m that personal on my blog though.
Q: What are some of the challenges that you face running the blog?
A: Time definitely. Also money. I don’t have a car so I have to bum rides off of people to go to the store. If I decide to do a recipe, I get the ingredients at the store (sometimes I luckily have them already). I have to cook it, have time to do it, which is usually a Friday night or during the weekend…or maybe an evening I don’t have homework — miraculously.
I don’t have the best camera but I really like photography, so I just have a point and shoot. maybe eventually I’ll buy a nice digital camera with a real lens and stuff. that’ll be cool.
Q:It looks like your photos aren’t too bad.
A: Well I took a basic photography class in high school. It was a film photography class so it’s a little different.
Q: What’s your favorite recipe on the blog?
A: During Urban Farm, whatever we harvested we could just take home as part of the class, and There were these blueberry bushes, so I picked a whole bunch of blueberries and then I made this blueberry coffee cake and it was so good. My friends were like, “oh my God is this vegan? is this gluten-free?” and I was like “yes! It’s delicious!”
Q:Prior to coming to college did you cook for yourself a lot?
A: I don’t think so. I think my mom mostly did cooking but now I’m definitely more interested. Whenever I go home we bake bread or find a recipe and then she’s like, “oh you’ll cook me dinner now!” and I’m like, “sure mom.”
Q: Four years ago, in high school, would you have ever guessed that you would’ve been ended up running a cooking blog?
A: Probably not. I think before we discovered my food allergies, and I had to limit what I was eating, I wasn’t really interested in cooking or food, or where food comes from, or how fast food affects people and stuff like that. But now I’m definitely more aware of it, and interested in the food industry and the organics and local food. It’s definitely been a change.
Q: Where do you get your recipes?
A: I have a cookbook. sometimes I go to the New York Times Dining and Wine section and look up their weekly recipes. I think I’ve gone on Epicurious.com. I don’t subscribe to any food magazines but I’m thinking of subscribing because I think that would be fun.
Q: Do you have any major goals for your blog, or is this something you do for fun?
A: I want to increase readership and have more comments. I think to do that I have to post more often and I just don’t have more time right now; I’ve only posted once this month and normally I try to do way more than that.
Q: What would your ideal blog rate be?
A: Probably three to four times a week.
Q: That’s a lot of money!
A: (Laughs) yeah, well see sometimes I cook for my self and it’s just one portion but if I cook for my friends and me, then it gets way more expensive cause you’re cooking for like five people.