Our latest inspiring woman is the lady behind the blog, 80 Breakfasts. Joey de Larrazabal-Blanco has been serving up stories, photos, and recipes that have whet the appetites of her followers for ten years now.
As with most bloggers, Joey’s life is more than what goes on her blog. There’s work, her family, her kids. She shares with us her thoughts on food blogging, on pretty pictures, traveling, mummyhood, and raising kids who are comfortable with food.
Tell us a little bit about who Joey de Larrazabal-Blanco is.
I think I must be the simplest, most uncomplicated person in the world and, as such, not very exciting! I love being with family and friends, but I also enjoy being by myself and I’m never lonely being alone. I think it’s a treat! I like lazing around with my husband and kids in bed, eating all sorts of things that are way too indulgent, burying my head in a book, or standing over the stove stirring a softly-bubbling pot. As you can see, far from glamorous. I believe in knowing what you love and what makes you happy and just going with it, not living by anyone else’s standards.
I started my career, quite typically, in a bank. I then got the chance to work around Europe for two years and I jumped at it. I love to travel and, at that time, I was single, so it was the perfect opportunity. It was there, when I had to fend for myself, that I really fell in love with cooking and preparing food.
I now work from home doing back-end support tasks for the same company I was with in Europe. It’s full time work, and can be quite hectic, but it’s worth it to be able to be at home with the kids. My blog, and everything I do in relation to it, is just my hobby… albeit a hobby I am madly passionate about!
Let’s talk about your blog, 80Breakfasts. What is it about and how has it changed over the years? Where do you want to take it?
My blog is about real life, day-to-day cooking. It’s a way for me to both journal my recipes and food experiences as well as share them with others. Almost every post includes a recipe, and usually a little anecdote or musing on life. I believe food and life and inextricably connected, so that’s how it is on my blog as well. I share my recipes in the hopes of inspiring people who may not have that much cooking experience, or who are a little nervous about cooking, to get into the kitchen, get their hands dirty, whip something up and (most importantly) enjoy eating it afterwards. I’ve always said if I can get just one person to do that I would be a happy camper.
Funnily enough, for as long as I have been blogging (10 years!), my blog hasn’t really changed all that much. It is still, essentially, the very personal food journal that it has been since the beginning. I have upgraded a few things (like my camera!), gotten my own domain, added some bells and whistles (I’ve worked with Martine de Luna and Patricia Villa to give my blog a little facelift), but it is still that same recipe, food, and life chronicle that it started out as that fateful July in 2005. And I am glad it still is.
That being said, there are definitely things I would still like to do with my blog, places I would still like to take it. I would certainly like to reach out more to my readers, engage and interact with them more, as well as work with like-minded individuals who are as crazy about food as I am. Right now I’ve joined a group of lovely mummies called Mothers Who Brunch who get together to cook, share, and learn new things together in the amazing Viking Kitchen.
How do you avoid being “just another food blog”? What keeps a food writer relevant?
In truth, I’ve never really thought about how to avoid being “just another food blog”. I’ve never tried to avoid being anything really. I’ve just been myself, I guess, however corny that sounds. And I think that’s the crux of it… just be honest, genuine, sincere. If you write about things you genuinely love, it will show. If you write about things you truly believe in, it will resonate with others.
Even with 10 years writing a food blog I don’t think I am really an authority on what makes food writing relevant. Simply because I’ve don’t think I have ever written anything on my blog consciously thinking: “I need to be relevant!” I write because I love to write. I write about food because I love food. I think if you have something genuine to share, and it comes from a place of love and truth, then it will be relevant to someone.
Your food shots look really pretty! Have you always been this good with photography? Can you share a few tips on how to compose the perfect food shot?
I have not always been good at photography. You can check my earliest blog posts if you want proof!
My food photography tips are actually pretty simple. The most important thing to remember is always use natural light. My set up is super basic. I do not own any fancy equipment aside from my DSLR and a tripod. My food goes on a trolley table or my coffee table, which are by a window. I like shooting food with the light slanting in from the side. Shadows and texture make food look yummy. Use a tripod if you have shaky hands like mine. Also, I find that food (aside from a few exceptions) always looks best when it’s newly cooked… still fresh and glossy, with the colors still bright. Shoot your food, as much as you can manage, as soon as you cook it. Don’t over think it—I think food looks it’s best when it’s not overly contrived.
And my absolute cheater’s tip? Take a TON of photos…that way you will have a lot of choices and there are sure to be winners in the batch. The same technique works for kids 😉
You’ve obviously gone beyond 80 breakfast features by now. Are you really a breakfast person? What makes breakfast so special? And what is the most perfect breakfast for you?
I love breakfast (obviously). I am absolutely a breakfast person. I love breakfast type food and it is really my favorite meal of the day. Aside from this, from a health perspective, it really is the most important meal of the day. A good breakfast gives you the needed energy to “gun your engines” and start the day with a boost. I go to bed at night thinking about breakfast the next day. My secret pet peeve is being interrupted when I’m having my breakfast and coffee…it drives me bananas!
I try to post my breakfast on Instagram everyday to show people that breakfast can be exciting and varied. I don’t think I could possibly choose a favorite breakfast because that would be like choosing among my children. Definitely good Greek yogurt with all the trimmings (fruit, nuts, grains, honey) is one. A full on Filipino breakfast would be the other. And Eggs Benedict with mimosas are also definitely up there. Or hot pan de sal with kesong puti that has been fried in butter. Don’t make me choose! Whatever I have though, there must always be coffee.
Tell us about being a mummy! Is food a big part of your parenting as well? Are you raising foodies?
I have never been a maternal person. I never actually carried an infant before my kids! My daughter is five and my son is two, but everything still feels so new. It’s like falling in love and going crazy everyday…but a good kind of crazy. I am not one of those mums who have everything planned out and know exactly how they want to raise their kids. I want to raise my kids to be intelligent, loving, curious, happy, and kind people. And that’s about as much as I know. The rest I am learning along the way…and it is an amazing ride!
Food is a big part of my parenting simply because food is a big part of my life. I am not a very craftsy person, nor am I an expert on children’s activities, so food is the default activity. We go to the market. I point out the fish and the produce to hopefully teach them where their food comes from. I let them help me cook at home. I let them massage spice rubs into raw meat, smell stews and sauces, stuff the bellies of whole fish. I let them peel garlic or wash cherry tomatoes. I want them to be comfortable around food. I want them to be involved in their own sustenance and find pleasure not just in eating but in creating what they eat.
Besides food itself, what are your other obsessions? We’ve seen you post about your love for cookbooks and pretty dishes. Can you tell us about these?
Yes, I love cookbooks because it combines two things I enjoy: food and books. I have always been the type of person who is perfectly happy to stay home burrowed with a book. There is really nothing quite like getting lost in a good book. It is like going on a wonderful journey without even leaving your bed… and when you return, you are never the same person.
I love real life journeys too. Travel is another great love. Which is why I decided to work abroad when I was younger. Experiencing another culture, another way of life, a totally new perspective, is a high unlike any other. Since we’ve had kids we haven’t been able to travel as much (and as far) as we’d like, but it is definitely in our life plans!
And yes, I love pretty dishes, which is really just an offshoot of my love for food and blogging. Pretty dishes are my food’s wardrobe after all!
Are you a conscious cook/foodie? How do you choose the food that goes in your kitchen and on the table?
I try to be as conscious as I can be when I cook and eat, as far as my budget, circumstance, and sanity can manage. I like to support local artisans who are passionate about their craft. Their passion is always apparent in the quality of their products. I try to buy as fresh and all-natural as I can, but I think what is most important to me is that we have “real” food, food that our forefathers would recognize. I like to make sure my kids know what a whole fish on the bone looks like or the connection between the animals they know (like pigs and cows for example) and the meat that it on their plate, and the resulting respect they need to have for their food.
That being said, I won’t give myself grief if I can’t buy organic all the time, or if we have Spam once in a while, or if I buy imported fruit. That’s life… my life at least. Life it too short for food guilt!
What’s life for you offline? What keeps you busy that does not go on the blog?
A lot! I have a full time job that requires working with people in different time zones, so a lot of times my hours are crazy. The work allows me to be at home though which, for me, is priceless. It does require a high level of discipline, as you don’t have the structure that an office gives you by default.
In the morning I usually do emails and prepare breakfast. I have breakfast at my desk (bad habit!) after the kids are at school. I try to put as big a dent in my work as possible before the kids get back. I make some time during the day to be with each child individually, even if it’s just for a quick story. Then it’s back to work! When my husband gets home we spend time with the kids just hanging out and enjoying each other, no agenda.
Sometime during the week I will usually have time to cook something for my blog, which I will then post when I have another pocket of free time. And my husband and I will try to squeeze in a date night at some point as well… I think all parents need date night!
How do you balance your time between your work, blogging, and your being wife and mummy?
I would love to be able to share pearls of time management wisdom, but it’s really a dance of give and take, adjusting, and being quick on your feet. What helps me the most is having a planner in which I (try!) to map out everything I need to do as far ahead as possible. It can be done! Schedules may not always get followed (especially if you have kids!) but they will give you a general framework to see what you can fit in where.
On the other hand, how do you take care of yourself?
I like to say that I am a “low maintenance” girl… which is just my way of not having to say I am lazy. I have never been able to sustain a complicated beauty regimen for long. As far as recharging and relaxing goes, in my book nothing has ever made me feel as revivified as a scalding hot shower and a long nap. And my only advice for health and wellness would be this: spoil yourself because you deserve it!
I always say that there’s a “Spoiled Mummy” in each of us. What do you think makes you, Joey de Larrazabal-Blanco, a Spoiled Mummy?
I think it is because I never hesitate to indulge myself… and I have absolutely no guilt about it! I believe we (women, mummies, workers, stay-at-home mums, all of us) deserve to be spoiled, and that we shouldn’t wait around for anyone else to do it. And don’t think of it as being selfish… remember, a happy mummy is a good mummy!
I have to mention also that the best “indulgences” that life has handed me are my family. My husband who has always made me feel like we are working as a team, that he always has my back, and who has supported me in all that I have wanted to do; and my children, who have stretched my heart in ways I never knew possible.