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b.y.o.b. - bitten word

We love food magazines. They’re a bit of an obsession of ours, although we find it hard to admit that life sometimes gets in the way of reading through our favorite issues each month. We’ve decided leave that kind of honesty to Zach Patton (pictured at left) and Clay Dunn (right). Together, Zach and Clay publish the delicious Washington DC-based food blog, The Bitten Word. They started blogging in 2008, when, as part of a New Year’s resolution, Zach and Clay endeavored to put their many food magazine subscriptions to work by cooking at least one recipe from every magazine that came in the mail. More than 4 years and 600 blog posts later, they're still at it. We had the chance to speak with Zach and Clay about their blog, their journey over these past few years, and their changing food habits. SPENSER MAGAZINE: You are very open about your cooking process on your blog. It seems to us almost as if you have been learning alongside your readership.

ZACH PATTON: We are the first to admit that we weren’t great cooks when we started the blog. Through this process, we have definitely discovered the joy of cooking at home and have learned so much about so many techniques and so many new ingredients. The biggest benefit, however, is that we’ve come to eat so much healthier than we used to. It takes care of itself when you are cooking at home and you know what is going into your food and where your ingredients are coming from. You just cook so much more healthfully. CLAY DUNN: In blogging about our experiences, we make sure there is somebody there to watch us fail. We are very open about our process and we think, hopefully, that helps our readers learn along with us. We have no shame in showing people the mistakes we make in the kitchen. ZP: I don’t know if it is schadenfreude or what, but those are our most popular posts, when we make some big mistake, like putting in 1 cup of salt in when the recipe called for sugar. SM: We were just reading about your cupboard clean out project. How did it go? CD: Because we cook from all of these different magazines and we are always pushing ourselves to try new things, over the course of several months, we begin to collect a number of unusual ingredients, like chia seeds or amaranth flour. So we decided to spend a week cooking all of our dishes from ingredients that we already had on hand, allowing ourselves $20 to spend at the store. ZP: My biggest concern was that it was going to be a monstrous carb-fest. But we found that a little bit of creativity allowed us to have some really good meals, until maybe the last day. I will say that one lasting effect of that challenge is that we’ve been a lot more likely to reach into the pantry to find something to add to a recipe. Last week, we made a sweet potato hash and found some walnuts in the cupboard, which we ended up toasting and adding to the hash. We probably wouldn’t have done that before. SM: You guys have also found success by incorporating your garden space into your cooking. Do you have any tips for people who don’t think they have enough room? CD: At this point, I can’t imagine not growing herbs when the weather allows. We found it so depressing this winter buying basil, for example, because it was so expensive. It doesn’t seem like too long ago when we had huge plants of basil growing in the yard. Even growing a small herb garden in a container on your window ledge or balcony can be such a great resource. When you are cooking and you want to throw in some fresh herbs, you can walk over with a pair of scissors and snip off something to put in the dish. SM: Do you find yourself shopping more seasonally now that you grow some of your own food? CD: Our shopping habits have changed a lot since starting the blog. We are cooking more seasonally, in part because food magazines are so seasonal these days. We joined a CSA, and, as we started gardening, we focused more on what was fresh that day. We almost never buy a tomato now when it isn’t summer.


spenser magazine: issue four