Connecting with our readers doesn't have to be hard - it can be as simple as sharing our passions with them. And not just our passion for food. Today, Karlynn Johnston, author of the cookbook Flapper Pie and a Blue Prairie Sky and the blog The Kitchen Magpie, tells us about how her passion for all things vintage, especially vintage glassware, helped her form an emotional connection with her readers of her blog and her cookbook.
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I’m pretty sure that anyone who has picked up my new cookbook, Flapper Pie & a Blue Prairie Sky, read the title of this post and thought “That has to be Karlynn.”
Of course it’s me. With the publication of the cookbook my “wasn’t ever really a secret” obsession was thrust out into the open for all to see; my entire cookbook is filled to the brim with as many pieces of my vintage glassware as I could stuff into it. I invited readers into my house with carefully curated photos of my main glassware displays starting out the book and continued the theme with the use of vintage glassware in almost every photo thereafter. I use the term “carefully curated” because let’s face it, my displays don’t always look that neat! The bottom shelves that no one sees as much tend to be piles of bowls and plates that I use for props in my every day blogging, while the upper shelves are pristine displays of my favourite pieces that are rarely used.
I am often asked if my glassware collection inspired the theme for my book, but that’s like asking if the chicken came before the egg. I tend to love all things from the past and am in love with rescuing hidden, unloved treasures that might otherwise hit the dumpster or, even worse, used to a literal death in a household that puts vintage glassware into the dishwasher. Don’t even get me started on that tragedy of paint and pattern loss. Side note: my husband and kids learned early that any vintage glassware in the dishwasher meant an instant 20-minute lecture.
Thus my cookbook was inspired by my love of all things vintage – including recipes – and the fact that a lot of the recipes that I grew up with are falling by the wayside in favour of crazy Oreo-stuffed, triple-deep fried and smothered in cheeseburgers recipes that are wonderful eye candy …. that we actually never want to eat.
The same can be said for vintage glassware, with the current photography trends embracing all things white as de rigueur: white marble, white plates, white bright backgrounds. On the other side of the spectrum is the dark photography trends: moody, wood toned, shadow infused photos. While I definitely dabble on both sides of the photography spectrum, I knew that I wanted the photos in my book to grab people’s attention in another way entirely. I wanted people to pick it up and instantly connect with not only the food, but the props. You eat with your eyes first so they say, but I was aiming straight for people’s hearts. Our Grandma’s, Aunt’s and Mom’s, they all used the glassware in my book which encouraged an emotional connection & reaction to the photos as well, something that’s almost impossible to achieve with food that sits there on a plate and does nothing!
The new recipes I developed in my book are also plated on vintage glass or baked in it; a nice meld between the present and the past. The best example of this is my new chocolate chip cookie trifle recipe photo that has my favourite Hazel Atlas Kitchen Aids glasses beside it. Old glasses full of milk to go with a newfangled recipe – deep frying not included.
Using my vintage glassware in the book and on my website is also another way to connect with my readers about something that wasn’t food. Some of my best conversations on social media have nothing to do with food and those personal conversations are what turn readers into daily website visitors and yes, you guessed it, cookbook buyers. My wonderfully chatty readers love to tease me about shopping too much (truth!) and avidly watch out for what vintage glassware I am using next in my recipes. Truth be told I actually love that we don’t have to talk about food all the time - there goes my food blogger card, not that anyone actually ever sent me one. I’m also part of a few vintage glass groups on Facebook whose members most likely singlehandedly turned Flapper Pie & a Blue Prairie Sky into a bestseller with them wanting to get a peek at my collection in its entirety- which I actually kept under wraps until the cookbook came out. Marketing at its finest, that move.
Between being blessed with an amazing publisher (Appetite by Penguin Random House) that trusted my vintage vision; a wonderful designer that saw my vintage glassware photos and nailed the book design first try and all of the wonderful comments and emails I’ve been getting from those who’ve bought the book, it’s been an amazing experience. I hope to continue to do more, write more and (don’t tell my husband this part) collect more, so that I can continue to share my love of all things retro with everyone!
Now I’m off to the thrift stores for some happy hunting!
Be sure to check out our review of Karlynn's new cookbook, Flapper Pie and a Blue Prairie Sky.