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Headshot photo credit: Leslie McKellar
Behind the scenes at Schermer: Q&A with Stephanie Burt, Schermer’s journal author and host of The Southern Fork Podcast
As we say in the orchard, we here at Schermer have known Stephanie Burt since she was just “leafing out” on the Southern culinary scene. In 2017, we asked her to begin working with us building content for our online journal, and through the years, she’s brought us plenty of delicious recipes but also helped us get to know many folks who are in the business of filling our plates with all things good. It comes naturally for her -- the stories behind the plate are her everyday as the host and producer of The Southern Fork podcast. The show grew out of her work as a writer where she’s a frequent contributor for Saveur and Conde Nast Traveler, and she’s worked with numerous other publications, too, including Washington Post, CNN's Parts Unknown, and Atlas Obscura.
So, we turned the tables on the person who’s usually asking the questions, and she shared with us one of her go-to recipes, and we think it will become one of yours too.
Do you have a specific connection to pecans from growing up in the South?
Definitely! They were a precious commodity. My grandmother’s Sunday school class sold them once a year, and beyond that, if we got any from a neighbor, we cracked them on this scary contraption called an Inertia Cracker. (I actually go into detail about it at the end of Episode 209 of the show when I interviewed Putt.) And we always, always stored the pecans in the freezer.
How did you land a job traveling, eating, and writing about it?
As many folks in food and travel media, I have no idea! I have a MA in American Lit, but I feel like the work I do in some ways was inevitable when I decided to leave academia for consumer writing. I started watching cooking shows in elementary school and was always a voracious magazine reader. Growing up in Charlotte, local cooking star Betty Feezor on WBTV was before my time, but I read Kathleen Purvis in the Charlotte Observer religiously from middle school on. I was inadvertently getting a food writing education (from a master of it) at an early age.
How would you describe your style of cooking?
It’s really more of a lifelong research project than a style. Sometimes I’m learning about an ingredient or something in that vein, but more often than not, I’m trying to master a specific dish. I'll make the same thing over and over until I understand the method and the roles the ingredients play, then I can play with it. I’ve done that with pound cake, roasted chicken, buttermilk pie, and this carrot bread I’m sharing, which is one of my first adapted recipes. This revisiting happens over months and years, not like in a week or anything, so recipes slowly become go-tos, easy to share and easy to make when I’m ready to cook but don’t want to concentrate too hard.
Five-Spice Carrot Bread
An adaptation of Carrot Bread by Betty Feezor, Carolina Recipes, Volume II, 1979
¾ cup salad oil (any kind of neutral oil: canola, grapeseed, vegetable blend, etc.)
1 cup sugar
1 ½ teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon five-spice powder
¼ teaspoon salt
1 cup solid packed, grated carrots
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup chopped pecans