Our favourite food bloggers share their ingredient phobias

What ingredient are you most indimidated by? We posed this question to top food bloggers from around the world. Read on to discover some surprisingly common kitchen fears.

By Colleen Fisher Tully

Our favourite food bloggers share their ingredient phobias
Every cook tiptoes around something in the kitchen. Maybe you always ruin stovetop rice, or transform perfectly normal biscuits into hockey pucks with each attempt. It's no different for celebrated food bloggers, who have made a career out of cooking and writing about food. Read on to discover the secret fears of professional foodies, and how common some of these fears actually are.

Ingredient #1: Live lobsters
Oh the drama in my kitchen every time I cook with live lobsters! (I even wrote a few stories on my blog about the whole experience, here and here!) I remember standing there in the middle of my kitchen, glued to the floor while I watched the live animals staring up at me. I kept thinking "I'm never going to be able to drop them into the pot". At first, they kept slipping between the tongs and at every time it happened, a small shout escaped from between my lips. "It should be easy," I tried to convince myself. "Come on! You live in New England and that's what people do!" It took some time, and courage, until I finally completed the task, and I really enjoyed the foods I created with them. But I don't think I'll ever get over the feeling that I can't do it. Perhaps you have to be born in the culture!

Beatrice Peltre is a freelance food writer, stylist and photographer. She is the author of the award-winning food blog La Tartine Gourmande in which she shares anecdotal stories about her passions: cooking, family, travel, design, styling and photography. She is a regular contributor to the Boston Globe Food Section and is currently working on her first cookbook.

Ingredient #2: Spiny artichokes
Artichokes. I love them and make them often. But even after all these years, I almost always have to call my mom and ask her how long to cook one. And even then, I somehow tend to over cook it to the point where they get too tough on top and a mushy mess on the bottom.Then there is the fact that I usually end up stabbing myself on the artichoke petals. I've tried cutting off the tops to prevent this only to make it worse, and clumsy me got one stuck in my thumb and had to get the tweezers out to remove it. One day I have faith that I will cook the perfect artichoke.

Peabody writes the baking blog Culinary Concoctions by Peabody, where humour and pastry meet.

Ingredient #3: Yeast
The ingredient I'm most intimidated by is yeast. It has always felt to me like a living, temperamental thing, and whether I use fresh cakes or dried granules, I always worry it's going to under- or overreact. I have, however, found a way to overcome my intimidation, and it is to not rely on commercial yeast anymore: I now keep a natural sourdough starter in my kitchen and use it to make pain au levain. Because I feed and take care of that starter on a regular basis, it has turned into a familiar, pet-like creature (its name is Philémon) that I've come to know and trust, and the loaves I make with it are also far tastier than anything I'd ever achieved with commercial yeast.

Clotilde Dusoulier is the 31-year-old Parisienne behind the award-winning blog Chocolate & Zucchini, in which she writes about simple, fresh food. She started her blog in 2003 after returning to her home city, and its success has allowed her to start a new career as a full-time food writer.

Ingredient #4: Bone marrow
I’m not really afraid of ingredients or techniques: if a recipe calls for squidging raw eggs into ground meat with my bare hands, I squidge; if the oil needs to be at 350 F, out comes my frying thermometer. But that’s not to say I haven’t raised a well-shaped eyebrow at an ingredient.

A few months ago I prepared Risotto Milanese when I reviewed Jennifer McLagan’s Fat.

“Fine,” I thought. “I make risotto often enough. I’ll just compare it against my usual recipe.” Then I realised it called for beef marrow.

Beef marrow…as in the fatty substance from the centre of cow bones. Good gravy (no pun intended).

I’m not adverse to fat, so that wasn’t the issue. The issue was how to get beef marrow. As I pondered becoming the equivalent of an 18th-Century grave robber - but for 21st-Century cows - I remembered my grocer carried marrow bones.

Harvesting marrow isn’t difficult: a bit of exsanguination here, a few water changes there, a bit of boiling this way, and a bit of scooping that way. It was a culinary rite of passage. It was empowering. It was when I became a grown up in my own kitchen.

Jasmine Mangalaseril authors “Confessions of a Cardamom Addict,” a food blog devoted to her omnivorous culinary adventures. Described as quick-witted and insightful, she pairs recipes with the stories behind them. Jasmine can be found at http://cardamomaddict.blogspot.com and Tweets as @cardamomaddict.

Ingredient #5: Pie crust
There are a couple of ingredients and dishes that I am scared of but the biggest among those is something most people are capable of making with their elbows. Not me, I never managed to make an edible pie crust of that simple kind, the one where you only use flour, butter, salt and water. I have tried and tried in the past and not once did they turn out like the ones my friends made. I had one friend who didn't even like to cook but she made perfect pies and I failed. This shortcoming in my cooking abilities used to bother me a lot so I made pies over and over again - they all came out with fillings that were great but uneatable, rock-hard pie crusts and that was not a good combination. I have stopped trying because in the end I 'invented' my own pie crust with potatoes and baking powder and that beats the traditional one every time!

Ilva is an expat Swede living in Tuscany, Italy since 1994 with her Italian husband and three children. Originally an academic, she now works as a food and still life photographer. On her food blog Lucullian Delights she creates her own recipes that are influenced by Italian food traditions but with a twist.

Ingredient #6: Live fish
As much as I love seafood, I am petrified of live fish. Several years back, my friend gave me one of his live catch from his fishing trip. My immediate thought was to enjoy this fresh fish by simply steaming it, Chinese-style. So, I happily prepared the ingredients needed, sliced some ginger, scallions, chilies, and cilantro; oblivious that the fresh catch lying in the kitchen sink was still very much alive! When I touched the fish, it’s skin felt slithery as the scales were still intact and I had to remove them. I had never scaled a fish before, yikes! So, here comes the scary part, when I let the water flow onto the fish, it leaped out of the sink! I yelled for help so loud that even the neighbours heard me! Silly me. In the end, the fish “got away” from my dining table, I returned the fish back to my friend. Without any doubt, live fish intimidates me every time! I hope one day I will get over the fear of dealing with it; but, for now I am happy to receive all the help I can get from my fishmongers!

Angie Tee created her Seasaltwithfood blog as a means for to document all her cooking experiences and recipes so that they can be shared with family, friends, readers, and especially her kids, for when they need to learn how to cook. Ultimately, she strives to to provide her family with good memories of all the food they enjoyed together.

Ingredient #7: Tripe
The ingredient that I am most afraid of cooking with is...TRIPE (Trippa in Italian). Tripe is a type of edible offal taken from the stomachs of several animals. Typically it is taken from the stomachs of: cow, sheep, goat, pigs and deer. I am told that it takes quite a long and involved cooking process to break down the tripe and that it is an acquired taste. I am not sure if it is it's appearance (rubbery), texture (honeycombs) or smell that is off-putting to me. It could very well be a combination. I am told that tripe is becoming a delicacy in some circles, but mentally, I simply can not bring myself to tackle this ingredient. Perhaps one day I will conquer my fear of tripe!

Paula Jones is the author of bell'alimento, Italian for "beautiful food". Paula is a self-taught home cook, food writer and recipe developer who enjoys sharing her passion for all things Italian on her site. See for yourself how she uses seasonal ingredients to make authentic Italian dishes that are accessible to even the novice cook {beautiful food doesn't have to be complicated}.

Ingredient #8: Tofu
Does anyone actually know what tofu is? This was the question that passed through my mind at the grocery store, as I poked and prodded at the package sitting daintily in my cart. As I continued to stare in fascination at the package, I wondered how what was contained in the blue plastic wrapping could possibly be edible. According to Wikipedia, tofu is a “soft, white food made by coagulating soy milk and then pressing the resulting curds into blocks.” According to me, tofu is my worst enemy and, by far, my most feared ingredient. Having knowledge of my unwarranted fear of this spongy food, a friend challenged me with a daunting task: to use tofu as the main ingredient in a dish. Not one to give up when faced with a challenge, I eventually managed to make a meal I call “tofu rice wraps”. Read about it here. Yes, I overcooked the tofu, as it is apparently not supposed to be crunchy. Was it as bad as I thought it would be? Not quite, thanks to a smothering amount of vermicelli and green beans. Though the challenge was a success, I will never forget the day that the evil tofu invaded my kitchen.

Hilary Duff started her blog “Hilary Makes” this past April, after promising her roommate she would learn how to cook and conquer her hatred of vegetables over the summer. Since then, she has become obsessed with food photography, Canadian Living recipes and baking for her work colleagues. Hilary is a third-year journalism student at Carleton University and a bicycle enthusiast.

Ingredient #9: Finnicky methods, like pie crust
I don’t think there’s one particular ingredient that intimidates me. There are, however, methods of cooking that escape me. Want me to make a nice soufflé? Forget it. How about the perfect crust? Ain’t gonna happen. You see, for me there are a few basics that always escape my grasp in the kitchen. But back to that pie crust thing. I should be a relatively simple thing to do but my pies always tend to be dry or just too doughy. I have yet to find that perfect recipe or method of preparation for pie which is a shame – we’re in summer pie season! Come over and I can make you a beautiful crumble or a delicious galette. Necessity IS the mother of invention, you know.

Matt Armendariz maintains the blog Mattbites, which began in 2006 and has been recognized as one of the world’s top food blogs by London Times UK. His widely read blog has been featured in a variety of publications, television and magazine program and covers Matt’s passion for travel and food, as well as many behind-the-scenes moments of food photography.

Ingredient #10: Flour
"Fear of Flour" would be a good way to describe the ingredient that intimidates me most. I've always been a pretty intuitive cook, but it was only after I started writing a food blog that I ventured into baking. It's definitely been a humbling experience with the added challenge of adapting recipes to make them suitable for the low-glycemic way of eating. Luckily I'm the type of person who gets her heart set on a certain thing and doesn't give up until it's a success! One winter I decided to create a high-fibre recipe for the bread machine using only whole wheat flour and no sugar, and it took me eight tries to finalize a recipe I deemed to be "blog-worthy." My recent experiments with Whole Wheat and Low Sugar Chocolate Zucchini Bread took me five attempts to get what I wanted. At least with all this practice, I can only hope my baking skills are improving!

Kalyn Denny is a former third grade teacher from Salt Lake City, Utah, who discovered blogging when she wanted a place to share her recipes online. Now she's busy keeping up with Kalyn's Kitchen, her blog focused on low-glycemic recipes, gardening, and healthy eating. Kalyn also writes about food at BlogHer.com, and has been a speaker on food blogging at BlogHer Conference, South By Southwest Interactive, and BlogHer Food Conference.

Ingredient #11: Pie crust
With my fear of yeast locked firmly into the past, the next hurdle to jump is the ever-elusive flaky and tender pie crust. Despite marrying into an enthusiastic pie-making family, I have never actually made a pie myself. Sure, I have baked beautiful pies under the tutelage and close supervision of my mother-in-law and my husband’s cousin. I even have a beautiful Emile Henry pie dish in my cupboard, which looks at me scornfully (I swear) each time I push it aside to lift out another dish. However, making a pie crust without the moral and culinary support of others intimidates the ba-jeepers out of me. Perhaps this doesn’t sound like something to be concerned about, but my husband would tell you otherwise. Some people are cake people and some are pie people. He's a pie boy, through and through. I’m determined to get past this little hang-up of mine by the time the call for autumn's first apple pie sounds.

Dara Michalski
is the author and recipe developer for the blog, Cookin' Canuck, which is filled with innovative recipes, entertaining anecdotes, and step-by-step photos.

Ingredient #12: Yeast
I’ve always been most intimidated by baking with yeast. I figured that yeast required a kind of seriousness, maybe even some kind of devout reverence, in the kitchen. My cooking style was definitely more flippant and carefree. But after years of hemming and hawing, I decided that my time to get over yeast had arrived. I took it easy and used a recipe for Hot Crossed Buns that I had found in an old Betty Crocker kid’s cookbook. I mean, how hard could baking with yeast be if this recipe was meant for children? And it was pretty easy – the buns were delicious and I had taken baby steps right into the wonderful world of yeast.

Jeannette Ordas is a food-obsessed web designer living in Vancouver, BC. She writes about her cooking and baking experiences on her blog, Everybody Likes Sandwiches.

Ingredient #13: Oysters
Shucking oysters freak me out. While the fruit of the labour is sweet and rewarding, there’s nothing like a traumatizing experience that makes me think twice before picking up an oyster knife to pry open some of BC’s finest. A few years ago, I couldn’t resist the urge of opening the oysters up immediately for a quick taste after digging them up on a Vancouver Island beach. Working off of a few rocks, my grip slipped and I jabbed the tip of the knife into my hand - ouch, what a painful way to ruin my appetite! While most would swear off shucking their own oysters after an experience like that, I am still proudly and cautiously shucking my own with a heavy duty kitchen towel or an oven mitt to protect myself.

Melody Fury is the founder of Vancouver Food Tour and a passionate food writer. She shares her food musings on her blog, Gourmet Fury, and various Vancouver publications. Follow her tweets @GourmetFury.

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