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Family ties

(article, Liz Crain)

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In the fall of 2005, New York City-based Leland Scruby launched a food blog titled Eat. He used the space to post about everything from his “pregnant eating habits” to kitchen cutlery and dining reviews. A few months later Rebecca Pollak, Scruby's mom, started blogging with him.

Their combined blog, now called Eat: Listen To Your Mother, is a way for this mother/son duo to bridge the distance between them (Pollak lives nearly 400 miles away in Pittsburgh) with good food, thoughtful writing, and a strong, supportive online community. 

Recently, Scruby has been tackling large sections of cookbooks, such as Richard Olney’s classic Simple French Food, while Pollak has been cooking everything from hearty soups to winter pies.

[%image momson float=right caption="Rebecca Pollak and Leland Scruby, mother-and-son duo, go shopping for kitchen supplies." credit="Photo courtesy Eat"]

p(blue). Blog: Eat: Listen To Your Mother 
Average posts per month: 22
Bloggers: Leland Scruby, 26, New York; Rebecca Pollak, 54, Pittsburgh

How and why did you two decide to work on Eat together?
Pollak: Leland had been writing the blog himself for several months. I barely knew what a blog was when he told me to take a look at Eat, and said that I would enjoy reading it. I began commenting regularly, and it wasn't long before he asked me to help write it.

Scruby: Also, Mom's comments on my posts were becoming longer and more interesting than the posts themselves.

How do you divvy up the blog work?
Pollak: We don't do it systematically. Leland posts more often than I do, which doesn't really make much sense since I actually have more time to cook than he does. But I'm always trying to lose weight, so I don't want to cook delicious food too often!

[[block(sidebar).

h1. Liz's favorite posts

[[block(smalltext).

1. Mom’s birthday 
2. Kitchen power struggles
3. Grandma’s raw milk 
4. Leland’s first whole fish
5. Mom makes caramels

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Scruby: Mom handles the publicity. She sends me several emails a week suggesting (and occasionally demanding) that I add or remove certain links from our sidebar, or suggesting that we participate in some online thing. I can't complain, though, because our readership has tripled since she joined; she even got us mentioned in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

I should also mention that my partner, Nathan, is the brains behind the website, and that Mom and I would be lost without him. The server that Eat lives on is under the wine rack in my kitchen.

What's your favorite part of blogging?
Pollak: It's hard to pick my favorite part. Creating a good post, with lots of links and well-written text, is very satisfying. My family likes the fact that I have been cooking new and different things, just so I can write about them, instead of the same old rotation over and over. 

I have also been forced to learn some technical skills. Before I started blogging, I didn't even know how to upload a photo from my camera to the computer, or how to take a good photo. 

Lastly, the stage-struck part of me enjoys having a public forum. My husband is a regionally well-known rhythm-and-blues performer who has been in the spotlight for over 20 years. Now it's my turn!

Scruby: I've learned a ton about cooking since I started, which was the point. When I look at posts from my early days, I'm tempted to delete them out of shame! But it's nice to see the progression. 

Blogging has turned us on to so many great recipes, writers, and ingredients. We've met some of our favorite bloggers, like Toast, The Wednesday Chef, Kitchenography, and A Good American Wife, in person, and these are people we never would have met otherwise.

What's your readership like?
Pollak: We have a core group of regular readers who are mostly, but not all, women and fellow food bloggers, and then lots of infrequent, occasional, and one-time-only readers. And I hope our families read us regularly!

What criteria do you look for in food blogs? What do you like to read?
Scruby: I enjoy blogs written by people who clearly enjoy cooking and eating. If I see someone handling large pieces of meat, I'm likely to stick around. If I laugh out loud, I'll probably be back. I also read some New York–specific blogs, like Eater, to keep up on the scene here, although I rarely go out to eat.

Pollak: I like to read blogs that focus on good, well-cooked food — dishes that I might realistically prepare for myself that include recipes, and are well-written and personable. I also enjoy making comments, and it's nice when the comments are acknowledged.

[%image baconapples float=right caption="Eat's version of Baked Chicken and Bacon-Wrapped Lady Apples." credit="Photo courtesy Eat"]

Leland, how has your cooking evolved since starting Eat?
I have a long way to go, but I don’t think I actually knew how to boil water a couple of years ago. The things I cooked tasted good, but I was doing everything wrong. 

These days I learn something new from Mom every time she posts, and we both learn from the brilliant cooks who leave comments.

Becky, what's your most important food discovery since you started blogging?
Other food blogs! If I don't discipline myself, I can spend whole days going from one to another just reading about what other folks are doing in their kitchens. Fascinating stuff. And now I always know where to go when I need a special recipe for absolutely anything.

How often do you see each other?
Pollak: Not often enough! Three times a year if we're lucky.

How has Eat affected your relationship?
Pollak: It has made me feel closer to Leland, and probably made us slightly more like colleagues than mother and son.

Scruby: As I learn to cook and learn from my mom, I have more and more appreciation for all the work she put in to feeding our family for so many years.

Any secrets you'd care to reveal?
Pollak: Leland and I have gotten so comfortable with each other's styles of cooking, and have developed such a level of confidence in each other through the blog, that when he was home over the Christmas vacation, we planned a holiday open house for more than 150 people and did all the shopping and cooking ourselves. It was a lot of fun and the food was great!

p(bio). Liz Crain is a writer based in Portland, Oregon.


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