Each week we profile a different Canadian Food Blogger who is part of the FBC community. This week meet Susan, full time Toronto food photographer and recipe developer who blogs at Rhubarb and Cod!
Name: Susan Keefe
Blog name: Rhubarb & Cod
Where were you born? Halifax, NS
Where are you living now? Toronto, ON
Why did you start your blog?
I felt very unfulfilled in my previous job. I’d always been creative and I felt like that part of me was atrophying, so I started the blog as a outlet for all the ideas I couldn’t stop having.
How did you decide on your blog name?
I named it after two of my favorite foods from childhood. I thought it was a dumb name until I designed the logo. Honestly, I think I just kept the name so I could keep the logo.
What do you blog about?
I write about food in general with a particular emphasis on trying to make things from scratch. I don’t do this to show off or encourage people to embrace their inner Stepford wife. I do it because I don’t like the thought of specific skills being lost to the ages. There is something very empowering about being able to cut-up a whole fryer or make your own pasta. Plus, it’s fun to take on a food project on a lazy Sunday.
Is your blog your business, your hobby or something in between?
Something in between. I started the blog as a hobby but now I am a full-time food photographer and recipe developer. The blog itself doesn’t make a ton of money, but it’s how my clients found me.
What post on your blog most encapsulates you and why?
I think this post for Chicken Tortellini Avgolemono Soup best sums up what Rhubarb & Cod is about. Slow Sunday cooks, from-scratch cooking techniques, and cross-cultural culinary intersections - that’s Rhubarb & Cod in a nutshell.
Which post do you wish received more love and why?
I loved these Lamb Dan Dan Noodles, but I guess I was the only one. That’s an exaggeration. The post did okay, but when I ate these noodles I thought they were break the Internet good. But I guess that’s the limitation of the blogging medium, you can’t actually taste the food unless you make the recipe. But honestly, I thought the photos and styling were on point, so I’m surprised this post didn’t attract more interest. Meh, you win some, you lose some.
Which post’s success surprised you and why?
These guys (Pho Soup Dumplings) consistently get hits. I made this recipe over a year ago and they still see a lot of action. I really thought these dumplings were a little too out there to gain much traction, and, honestly, they’re a project. In a world where a lot of bloggers strive to create 5 ingredient, 30 minute meals, I thought these dumplings had a snowball’s chance in hell. But no, people love this post, which frankly, I find a little embarrassing. My photography skills are still a little shaky in this post and to say my dumpling pleats need work would be an understatement. But I guess I underestimated how much people love pho and soup dumplings.
What’s your biggest challenge as a blogger?
Sharing my personal life. I don’t like to go into much detail about my family and friends. I rarely post photos of myself on my social media channels and, honestly, I think it holds me back. It must be difficult for my readers to connect with me when I come across so aloof. I’m trying to be braver about sharing more of myself this year but it’s an uphill battle. I’m sort of shy in a lot of ways.
What is the biggest lesson you’ve learned as a blogger?
It takes time to find your voice. Great blogs don’t start with a manifesto. I think I was under the impression that the bloggers I looked up to always knew exactly what they were doing. But if you dig into the archives of even the biggest blogs there’s some pretty gnarly stuff. Just because you don’t know what you’re doing today doesn’t mean you won’t know what you’re doing tomorrow. I feel like I’ve only recently found my voice and it took a lot of groping in the dark to find it.
Share a couple of your favourite food blogs to read. Why do you like them?
Lady and Pups: Mandy is a creative powerhouse. Her photography astounds me and her knack for pairing flavours is truly awe-inspiring. She never backs down from a culinary challenge and she still manages to make art out of her disasters. Total girl crush!
A Cozy Kitchen: Adrianna’s recipes are simple, fresh and unexpected. There’s always a little twist to everything she makes. I find I always value in other people what I don’t find in myself. She has a very clean, minimalist aesthetic that I just don’t. She also has a corgi and I don’t. Wait, maybe I don’t look up to her, maybe I straight-up envy her. 😉
i am a food blog: Oh yeah! Canadian content! I read Steph’s blog long before I picked up a camera. She has this minimalist aesthetic and a knack for typography that blows my mind. The plethora of Asian recipes she posts only seals the deal. Every time one of her recipes shows up in my inbox, I want to make it, like, that night. Her turkey pho is tops, btw.
Editor's note: you can read our interview with Stephanie from i am a food blog right here!
Favourite food - care to share a recipe or a restaurant destination?
This Mushroom Chowder is a riff on my absolute favourite meal of all time: my grandmother’s fish chowder. Unfortunately, my boyfriend is not a fan of seafood, so now I make this mushroom version. The mushroom version is good, but I definitely miss the lobster, scallops and cod. Classic Nova Scotian.
What are you working on next for your blog?
I’m currently developing a series about recipes of necessity a.k.a. peasant food. The genius culinary tricks people employed to stretch a tough piece of meat or the last of a loaf of bread. The lessons learned from these recipes shouldn’t be forgotten and should be employed more often. Respecting what you have should never goes out of style.
What else should we know about you that may or not be in your “About Me” page?
I am fueled by espresso and wine gums. I don’t endorse this lifestyle.
What makes your blog unique?
I think my blog is unique because it shies away from short cuts. Most recipes I see advertise how quickly you can get them to the table. I’m not about that. If my recipe happens to be a quick recipe. I can assure you it is by complete accident. I just focus on making the best possible food I can make and if that means I wind up with a five hour recipe, so be it. This used to be a source of great anxiety for me. I thought in order to be competitive I would have to make simpler, quicker recipes with easy to find ingredients, but I couldn’t. It’s not me. I’m pleased there are bloggers out there who create that kind of content because on a Wednesday I need them. But when I post, whacked-out recipe come out. I like flying my food nerd flag on my blog. Perhaps, the content I produce is less useful as a result but this is the stuff I make.
What part of the FBC site do you find most useful?
The Technology and SEO section. I’m a creative at heart, so I don’t have a ton of patience for or interest in the more technical aspects of blogging. But I find the contributors to this section are great at laying out what I need to know without overloading me with information. It really makes you feel less alone, especially when you’re starting out and you’re worried you’re doing everything wrong.
Connect with Susan and Rhubarb and Cod on Social Media