Name: Barry C. Parsons
Blog Name: Rock Recipes
Where were you born? St. John’s, Newfoundland.
Where are you living now? St. John’s, Newfoundland.
Why did you start your blog?
I’ve always been an inventive sort of cook by nature. I’ve never really been bound to recipes as a rule. I prefer to cook on the fly with what’s on hand and make up the recipe as I go along. I never wrote any of them down. That never stopped friends and family from asking for them though.
I found myself answering emails all the time from people asking for my recipes so I decided back in 2007, that it would be easier to start a blog, take some photos, and start posting the things I was cooking in my kitchen. It started as a resource for family and friends and as a way to stem the flood of email recipe requests. It just mushroomed from there as people began sharing the website with their own friends and family.
How did you decide on your blog name?
Back when I started, many of my friends and family who were emailing me for recipes were transplanted Newfoundlanders living across the country. A lot of the original recipe requests were for local favorites or dishes we had grown up with in our family. Being from “The Rock”, the name seemed to make sense at the time. I never envisioned that the blog would have any more than locals or family and friends following it so I never really gave it more than a momentary thought as I was setting up the website for the first time. I guess I’m stuck with it now.
What do you blog about?
I refer to myself as a recipe blogger and not a food blogger. Although I’m always eager to learn more, I don’t pretend to know all there is to know about food, I’m just trying to get dinner on the table. I think that most people with kids and busy lives are trying to do just that and it’s those folks who seem to connect with my blog most.
My blog is meant to be family oriented with meal ideas for everyday life. It really is a just collection of things that we enjoy eating at our house and that are accomplishable by the average cook. I concentrate on lots of variety in quick and easy weekday meals and then encourage people to enjoy more leisurely cooking and baking on the weekends, just as our family does.
Stemming from a life long love that started even before I was a teenager, baking is also a big part of Rock Recipes. I’ve always baked a lot. I think a lot of people are now discovering or rediscovering how relaxing and satisfying baking can be and a lot of Rock Recipes traffic comes from bakers who love the hundreds of baking ideas on the website.
Like my cooking, my blogging is really accomplished on the fly too. An interviewer once asked me what photography rule I thought was most important for food photos. I laughingly replied, “Don’t let it get cold, it’s dinner!” I see my photos as practical illustrations of the finished product of my recipes. They are all shot in natural light in less than 5 minutes right before we eat. It’s what works for me (and my impatient teenagers who are waiting to eat). I probably should be fussier about staging and composition but I’d rather spend my time cooking. Maybe I will finally take a food photography course one of these days and learn all the rules I’m undoubtedly breaking. Until then, ignorance is bliss.
As for writing, I try to knock out a new recipe in under an hour, including time for some basic photo editing. Most of my recipes were actually written at 5 or 6 in the morning before getting ready for work. That kind of time-restricted, committed approach is what works for me and no doubt is the reason I’ve been such a prolific content creator. I sometimes wonder if it actually is a little insane to have published over 1300 recipes and photos to date….but questioning your sanity proves you’re sane…right?
What post are you most proud of and why?
Although I wouldn’t call it my absolute favorite, I’d have to say that my recipe for Double Crunch Honey Garlic Chicken Breasts has to be the one I’m most proud of, simply because I’m still astounded by its popularity. Numbers will always be relative (I’m sure it may be peanuts to others) but as a small time blogger, it still amazes me that someone like me can create a very simple recipe in a small 10x10 kitchen, photograph it quickly on my coffee table just before dinner and it then gets over 2 million lifetime page hits. To me, it is sort of a sign of the times we live in when you can reach so many people from your little corner of the world. I guess that’s why bloggers blog.
Which post do you wish received more love and why?
I know there are a million recipes for fried chicken out there and it’s very difficult for any new recipe to get noticed I’m sure, but my recipe for Smoky Chipotle Fried Chicken is actually the best I’ve ever had. I’ve done quite a few road trips in the southern US, sampling lots of southern cuisine and great barbecue. Fried chicken is something I’ve always loved and I’ve tried plenty of good versions all over the South, from an out of the way diner in Memphis to the famous Mrs. Wilkes’ Dining Room in Savannah, Georgia. Honestly, my recipe is still the best I’ve ever had.
Which post’s success surprised you and why?
Again, like fried chicken, there must be a million recipes for Coconut Cream Pie online, but this one still does incredibly well in my list of most popular recipes, almost breaking into the top ten. It’s the same recipe that I’ve made for 35 years or so and perhaps that old fashioned homemade connection is its appeal.
What is one (non-kitchen) gadget you can’t live without?
I’m not really a gadget-y person. I’d say, though, that I couldn’t do without my Nikon DSLR camera; not in terms of food photography but for other purposes like travel photos and kid pics. I first became more interested in photography 16 years ago when my daughter was born, just to take good baby pictures. I got my first 35mm camera back then and taught myself basic photography. Learning to take great photos of your kids is an invaluable skill. Many of those early photos are not perfect but they are perfectly priceless.
What is one kitchen gadget you can’t live without?
Although decent knives are an absolute essential, I’d probably rather learn to live with cheaper, duller knives that give up my Kitchen Aid mixer. I’ve always called it a third arm in the kitchen and I know I wouldn’t bake as much as I do without it. I’ve gathered a number of attachments for it as well and use them often. The meat grinder and sausage stuffer are a couple of my favorites. I’m working on some smoked sausage recipes for the summer and experimenting with some prime rib burgers too.
Favourite food, care to share a recipe?
When I was a kid, dinner was something to get through to get to dessert. I’ve always been a dessert junkie, so while I do love particularly love Greek and Indian food, dessert will always be what I crave most.
I’m also a huge fan of British cooking shows, especially those that regularly feature traditional UK “puddings” like The Great British Bake Off, the annual BBC summer ratings phenomenon. I’d love to see a Canadian version of that show for sure. I might even be tempted to apply.
When I think traditional British puds, I think warm comfort food and what better example than my absolute favorite, Sticky Toffee Pudding. To me, it’s the ideal combination of texture and taste in a comfort food dessert…and there’s warm toffee sauce! As Spouse says, “Who doesn’t love warm carbs?”
What else should we know about you that may or not be in your “About Me” page?
I secretly want to run away to the Cornish Coast in the UK and open seaside B&B. The coastline there is quite similar to Newfoundland so I’d probably feel quite at home there while being close enough to the continent to travel throughout Europe in the off-season. I guess it’s kind of a retirement fantasy but if I suddenly go missing, check there first.
What makes your blog unique?
I kind of struggle with that question because I didn’t start Rock Recipes as a niche blog or as an expert resource on a topic, which it seems is the way new blogs gain an audience these days. Although obviously influenced by the place where I live, it isn’t nor was it ever really intended to be a Newfoundland food blog. In the end, that probably turned out to be a good thing because I wasn’t restricted in the recipes that I wrote for the blog.
I always explored different types of food before starting Rock Recipes and regularly challenged myself to make something new out of what was available in the fridge and that’s still the way meals happen at our house. The way we live and eat really hasn’t changed at all. Rock Recipes is more of a documentation of what comes out of my kitchen more than anything else.
That approach of sharing practically everything is what has led to what is really now a database of 1300 recipes. Many loyal readers tell me it’s their first stop when looking for recipes from old standards to something new to do with that chicken they have sitting in the fridge.
Real recipes for real life is really what Rock Recipes is all about. Real life means baking cupcakes for a school bake sale, having family over for weekend brunch, dinner made in 30 minutes so the kids are not late for music lessons, sips and nibbles with friends you’ve invited over for the Holidays and hopefully a slow cooked Sunday comfort food meal at the end of the week as a reward for juggling it all.
What makes Rock Recipes unique? Hopefully it’s that people relate to the way our family deliciously navigates real life and like that we are very happy to share how we do it.
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