We came across Glutton for Life and our stomach started rumbling at the site of beautifully photographed homemade meals prepared by Laura Chávez Silverman that she generously shares on her website for us all to devour.
A writer, a reader, a cook, an eater, a gardener, a forager and a world traveller, Silverman shares a passion for nature and sharing food with friends. Now calling a cedar-shingle cottage across the Delaware River in upstate New York’s Sullivan County home, the consummate foodie dedicates her time to tending the veggie patch and writing seasonal, nutritious recipes to share on her popular website.
Here we asked Laura to share with us a sneak peak into her ‘life of gluttony’…
Tell us a little about your background – how Glutton For Life began, how has it evolved and what role it plays in your life currently? I’m originally from Santa Cruz, California, a verdant paradise that instilled in me a deep passion for nature, but for many years I lived in New York City, working as a freelance writer and creative consultant to brands. In 2009, I made the move to live full-time in what had been a weekend house upstate, where it’s wooded and the air is pure. This new way of living is what inspired Glutton for Life, a blog that’s about being greedy for everything that’s good for us—what I call “truly shameless indulgence.” It continues to be a place where I can explore my philosophy on life and share my discoveries in the kitchen, in the garden, in the woods and on the road.
Can you describe your home and how it inspires you? I live with my husband George Billard, a filmmaker, and our cat Titi, in a 1935 cedar-shingle cottage in Sullivan County. It’s actually smaller than the loft we had in the city, so everything is highly organized as I can’t bear a lot of distracting clutter. We added on a screened-in porch that doubles the square footage in the warmer months and I really love the indoor/outdoor living from May to October. I have a room where I write and my kitchen is like a kind of lab for me, so the house harbors a lot of creativity and experimentation.
You are very passionate about nature as a source for health and healing. Have you always had such an approach to living and eating? I was fortunate to grow up with easy access to the ocean, the redwood forests and locally-grown foods, so a connection to nature came naturally and it has always informed the way I eat and my overall sense of well-being.
What advice do you have for those aspiring to adopt a garden-to-table philosophy when living amongst the hustle and bustle? I’m so happy that farmers markets seem to be increasingly popular, as they offer an excellent way to support both healthy eating and small producers. I think it’s important to spend some quality time in the kitchen, no matter where you live. Restaurant food and takeout are fine on occasion but cooking is a wonderful way to take care of yourself on a regular basis.
What does a typical day involve for you? Although I tend to prefer routine, the texture of my days is really quite varied. When I’m home, most mornings start with meditation, and the rest is some combination of writing, yoga, studying, cooking, being outdoors (hiking, canoeing, gardening) and hanging out. When I’m in the city, about once a week, I’m meeting with clients, having lunch with friends (I love to try new restaurants), maybe getting a facial or visiting a gallery.
What would be your last meal on earth?
That would depend entirely on the season and where I was expiring. But if cheese were involved, I would probably die happy.
Which other creative people are you most inspired by at the moment? My friend Juliette Hermant, who is developing a local antiques and provisions emporium in Narrowsburg, NY. My husband, filmmaker George Billard, who is also an amazing photographer. Maria Popova of Brain Pickings. The LA potter Mirena Kim, whose work is at once earthy and refined. Sasha Duerr, who works with natural plant dyes.
What are your favourite ingredients to cook with?
I eat a very diverse diet and am always exploring new ingredients, but a few that I keep on hand include hot chiles (lately I’m loving Calabrian chiles packed in olive oil), raw honey, ginger, shallots, lemons—and Kewpie mayonnaise, my guilty pleasure!
How do you develop ideas for food posts? Where do you draw inspiration? Ideas and inspiration are everywhere: in the markets, on my travels, in books and magazines, online, at restaurants… I’m influenced by the season and what’s available; by my mood and my cravings; by the place and the company.
With the holiday season approaching, can you share any advice on entertaining? Plan ahead and get organized, ideally cooking something that can be done by the time your guests arrive, so that you, too can enjoy the party. Braises, stews and curries are ideal for this. Ask for help. Abandon perfectionism. Remember that it’s about having fun!
What cuisines do you draw inspiration from, and where are you travelling to next? I adore Thai, Vietnamese and Indian food but also Japanese, Chinese and Middle Eastern. Oh, did I mention Korean, Spanish and Moroccan? In January I’m headed to Oaxaca, Mexico, and plan to come home fluent in mole and mezcal.
What are you working on at the moment? What are you looking forward to? I’m currently trying to finish a novel I’ve been working on for several years. I’m also developing a show about sustainable living for my local public radio station. And I’m looking forward to snowshoeing this winter, to learning how to make tofu and to working with natural dyes.
What are your goals for ‘Glutton For Life’?
To allow the blog to develop organically, reflecting my evolving interests and passions. To continue to spread the word about eating for health and pleasure, and about slowing down enough to really listen to what we need, as individuals and as a planet. And to connect with kindred spirits and collaborate on all kinds of project that bring us joy!
Spicy Shorties are possibly my favorite cookie of all time. A riff on shortbread, they call for lots of butter, but also ginger, cardamom and black pepper. Rolled oats and whole wheat flour give them an addictively chewy texture
¾ cup rolled oats
1/2 pound salted butter (2 sticks)
1 packed cup dark brown sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground cardamom
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 teaspoon fresh ginger, finely grated
1 cup candied ginger, finely chopped
1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
2. Process the oats briefly in a food processor, just to break them up slightly.
3. Beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, then add the salt, spices and oats. Work in all the flour well, and mix in the fresh and candied ginger.
4. Press the dough into a 9×12 pan and score the surface in squares as you would with shortbread. (You can make any shape you like but these are rich, so smaller pieces are best.) Bake until surface is lightly browned, 30-35 minutes. Baking them longer will result in a drier, crisper cookie (which is also nice).
5. Remove and cut through along the score lines, then set aside to cool.
Makes about 2 dozen