Alexandra Harcharek

alexpicAlexandra Harcharek
Most well known to
Rowan students as
the insightful columnist behind,
“A Food Coma,”and blog 
of the same name,
Alexandra Harcharek, 22,
now a London resident,
shared with me some
of her insights on
her favorite foods, 
her experiences in food writing,
and her future with the two.

 
 

 

What is your absolute favorite thing to eat? Describe what it is you like about it.
My fascination with cuisine borders on obsession at times, and I’m constantly exploring new things – which makes it difficult to pinpoint a favorite dish. But there are a few things that stick with me always: fresh pasta with olive oil, focaccia bread with rosemary, my Dad’s vegetable stews. It’s all about simple and fresh tastes. I enjoy things with fresh vegetables and an inherent nutritional value.

And admittedly, I’ve got one hell of a sweet tooth, so anything chocolate is ace in my book.

What is your favorite dish to make? Describe what it is you like about making it.
Mediterranean cuisine inspires and excites me because it’s such a healthful and creative way to approach food. Their diet includes lots of good fats like olive oil, fresh fruit and veg, fish and cheese… it is my ideal way of eating.

My resolution for 2009 was to eat more Indian food and learn about its origins. Consequently, I’ve fallen in love with the thick creamy curries of Northern India. I will never get sick of Aloo Gobi and Malai Kofta, two classic vegetarian dishes, especially if served by Philadelphia’s fabulous Tiffin restaurant. I haven’t perfected Indian food yet, but it’s my new favorite project.

More recently, we posted an entire week’s worth of soup recipes on A Food Coma. Such a perfect way to warm up on a chilly London evening.

What is your favorite ingredient or spice to use in your everyday cooking?
In my kitchen, I always have a box of Maldon Sea Salt, a jar of pepperocini, cayenne powder, olive oil, dried Herbs de Provence and rosemary. You can do so much with that. I love searching for hotter and hotter dishes and will usually sprinkle everything with either red pepper flakes or finely diced fresh chilies. 
Though even will all the possibilities and opportunities out there, I’d still be happiest with a big bowl of freshly steamed broccoli. Mmm.
 
What is it, exactly, that drew you to cooking and food writing?
Ruth Reichl, former New York Times restaurant critic and editor in chief of Gourmet Magazine. She’s my hero and my inspiration. I started reading all of these cooking magazines ( Bon Appetit, Gourmet, Saveur) in high school and fell in love with them. It started out with the occasional magazine purchased at a bookstore and then I was buying up everything I could find. Magazines, cookbooks, food memoirs, including two copies of Reichl’s “Comfort Me With Apples.” When food blogs came around, it became another excuse to fuel that passion.
 
What inspired “A Food Coma?”
I began blogging in September 2007, at the same time I became a vegan and started writing my first food column in The Whit. A Food Coma came a year later, when I was ready for something bigger. It’s a project of love, started and collaborated with my boyfriend (a big nerd and fellow foodie). We saw what college students were eating, saw was the culture was around the cafeteria, and decided that we had a niche. It’s been a wonderful year and I’m proud to say it’s a project that’s growing each day. I’m hoping to make it my full-time job eventually.
 
 I understand that you have dabbled in both vegetarianism and veganism.
What was your reason for doing so? What is your diet like now
?

I became a vegetarian at age nine, after learning where my food came from. It was a moral decision on my part, but an admittedly ill-informed one. I didn’t know how to eat properly and ended up in a hole of too many carbohydrates and not enough balance. Eventually I learned my way and discovered the joy of cooking for myself.
The foray in veganism was really just an experiment. I was curious, mostly, and interested in the lifestyle and discipline. I have so much respect for people who can seriously live a vegan life – unfortunately it just wasn’t for me. But I still make vegan meals at least once per week and that time had a big influence on the way I create a menu. It forces you to think out of the box and pay attention to what you’re eating in a way that’s very intense.

My diet now is far more flexible. Since coming to London and traveling around Europe, I’m trying to experience and taste everything I can: I’ve had bratwurst in Berlin, paella in Spain, fresh pizza in Italy. Even though 95% of the time I eat vegetarian or vegan meals, I can no longer call myself a vegetarian. That may change again someday, but for now this is how I’m living – through tasting and exploring everything this country has to offer me.

Is there anything else you think I should know about your experiences in food and food writing? Where has your writing been featured? What is your dream job?
This summer I was featured on Epicurious.com, one of the premier resources for food journalism and recipes. They interviewed me about A Food Coma and what it’s like to be a food writer in college, living out of a crappy apartment like mine. To give you an idea, their archive has 25,000 professionally-tested recipes and 50,000 member-generated recipes, amassing about one million hits per day! To say I was excited is a supreme understatement. Seeing the article published was one of the greatest and most life-affirming things for me – I actually got teary.

I always said my dream job was to work for Gourmet Magazine, which sadly, closed it’s doors this week after 68 years of glorious publication. But there are others and I know that I’ll end up writing about what I love somehow. I’ve recently set up two interviews with food magazines in London. Keep your fingers crossed!!

My fingers are certainly crossed for Miss Harcharek after having such a delightful discussion!
A Food Coma features Alexandra’s original recipes, resaurant and product reviews, and original podcasts created by Alexandra and her talented graphic designer boyfriend, Brandon Werner. Here is one of my favorite videos that includes directions on how to make a delicious, homemade New England Clam Chowder! YUM!

I implore you not to stop with this video, though. Head on over to A Food Coma yourself and see what all the fuss is about. I promise you, it’ll be worth your time AND your tastebuds!

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