Quick Bites with the Culinary Cyclist
Favorite weekend getaway destination?
Anywhere that involves getting on a train!
What are you reading right now?
Cooked by Michael Pollan and Paris to the Moon by Adam Gopnik. I know, I am behind.
Hobbies besides cooking?
Anything creative! Drawing, knitting, block printing. If I had more space than a tiny Parisian apartment, I would be gardening. Also, I love taking old bike inner tubes and making earrings out of them.
Favorite skincare product?
“C” Perfect Skin from By Nieves. It’s a pretty amazing face oil made with all organic ingredients, and I use it right after a shower or washing my face, which makes it act as a pretty incredible moisturizer.
Three things should every culinary cyclist should carry in her arsenal:
1. A spork – You never know when you’re going to need to picnic.
2. A reusable coffee mug – You never know when you need to re-caffeinate or pour yourself a glass of bubbly in a park. I swear by Innate Gear’s Doppio.Tumbler
3. A variety of reusable food containers in different sizes – You want to be able to easily pack your food and transport it.
Anna Brones has done what many of us only dream of: Merged her passion for food, travel, and writing into a career. Her website, Foodie Underground, explores the earthy, delicious side of plant-based cuisine and dishes it up with a healthy side of humor, and she regularly contributes to print and web publications in the U.S. and in her current country of residence, France. Here, Anna talks to us about her latest book-writing project, The Culinary Cyclist, and more about her fabulous,food-and-adventure-filled life.
You’re a globe-trotting Swedish-American who lives in France. What do you love best about navigating the space between multiple cultures?
I think that anyone that has lived or spent time abroad will tell you that there is beauty in the sense of accomplishment you get on a daily basis. Even if you are completely fluent and have been in a place for a long time, there is still a bit of adrenaline that comes from navigating a culture that isn’t your own and doing it well. At first it’s that you managed to order a coffee without messing up. Then it’s that you managed to go to the bank. Then it’s that someone asked you for directions and you answered them as if you had lived in that place for your entire life. I personally get addicted to that feeling. I like the challenge of it all.
What or who inspires you?
Eating food. Talking about food. Looking at food. To be honest, I am a bit food obsessed. Anyone that knows me will tell you that it takes about seven minutes before I start talking about something food related. I like engaging with people and finding out what their food practices are. I like talking to producers and hearing them explain, with a whole lot of love, about what they do. I like just walking through a market and watching people as they pick what vegetables they’re going to put in their basket. When you stop to think about it, even if you’re not interested in food, it’s still something that’s ever present. We all have to eat, why not eat well?
What’s your culinary philosophy?
I would say that I have a holistic approach. By that I mean that for me, food isn’t just about what you are eating. It’s about where the food comes from, how it was cooked and whom you are eating it with. I’m actually not vegetarian or vegan, but I eat a mostly vegetarian diet, and cook predominantly vegan at home. For me, a healthy relationship to food means thinking about not only how it affects you personally, but also how it affects your community and the planet.
Foodie Underground is such a dynamic spot to search for culinary inspiration. When did you launch?
Foodie Underground actually started as a column in 2010. I have written it weekly since then, missing only two or three weeks, I think. Then at the end of 2012 I decided I wanted it to be more than a column, so I launched the website. It’s mostly me, but there are several other people that contribute to it on occasion. I didn’t really want a food blog; I wanted a platform for talking about food and getting people to think about what they eat. No matter where we are with what we eat, we can always improve, and I just hope that Foodie Underground provides a little inspiration for that improvement, be it cooking more, going for a couple of meat-free options a week, or taking the time to sit down with family and friends and enjoy a meal instead of eating on the go.
Describe your relationship to cycling.
I have been cycling for as long as I can remember. All through elementary and middle school my dad and I rode a lot on our tandem, with matching jerseys and the like; we did the Seattle to Portland ride five years in a row. But the “everyday cyclist” attitude really came about in the last 10 years living in Portland. I never had a car, so bike was my only option, and in my mind, it was the best option. While I don’t road race or mountain bike or cyclocross, there’s rarely a day that goes by that I don’t ride a bicycle. It’s a means of transportation, but it’s a means that makes me happy. Riding a bicycle doesn’t just get me where I need to go, it makes my day better.
When did you dream up the idea for your book, the Culinary Cyclist?
The idea for the Culinary Cyclist came from sitting down with my friend and publisher Elly Blue to drink kale smoothies (not kidding) and talk about various projects we were working on. She was relating all the new books she had in the works at her publishing company – which focuses on all bike-related topics – and I said to her, “why don’t you do one on food and bikes?” Her response was, “why don’t you write it?” The it all sort of went from there. To me it seemed to obvious to pair the two together, so I never really even felt that there was a moment of inspiration that fueled the book, it was just a book that needed, even wanted, to be written.
What’s your favorite vegan recipe from the book?
Definitely the Five Seed Crackers. It’s actually a recipe that my mother mastered, and it’s one both of us make a lot. I eat mostly gluten-free, so it’s a great crispy cracker that you can serve it to pretty much anyone, making it an excellent party appetizer.
You’ve traveled to some pretty exciting places—warzones included. Tell us about that!
Last fall I volunteered with the nonprofit Mountain2Mountain on a project in Afghanistan. I was helping with a public photo exhibit called Streets of Afghanistan, an exhibit of large-scale photographs done by Afghan and Western photographers. The exhibition had traveled around the States, but this was the first time it showed in Afghanistan. My friend Shannon is the Executive Director of the organization and the brainchild behind the exhibition and asked for me to come along to help out. To say it was life changing and eye opening sounds cliché, but it really was. It’s pretty hard to go to an area of the world that we see and read so much about, but at the end of the day have very little understanding of, and not be impacted.
How does fashion fit into your life?
I’ve always been the girl that likes to get outside and get dirty and nothing makes me happier than a week of backpacking and going without a shower, but I am equally as happy in an urban environment, and putting on a nice outfit for a dinner party. That being said, I would say that my own style philosophy is fairly casual and practical; if I can’t bike in it I probably won’t buy it. I also try to be pretty conscious about what I buy; as much second hand as possible, companies that have a true sense of ethics and use sustainable fabrics, etc. That and I am obsessed with stripes.
It’s 2020. Where are you and what are you doing? What does your life look like?
Absolutely no idea! But definitely riding a bike and doing something with food, hopefully inspiring other people to do the same.
Anna's next book will be released by Ten Speed Press in Spring 2015.
photos courtesy of the Anna Brones/The Culinary Cyclist