A health-focused, almost-vegetarian wellbeing blogger (not me) and a hedonistic lover of all the things that are bad for you (that’d be me, for the avoidance of any doubt) might not be considered natural bosom buddies and yet, Monica Shaw and I have become dear friends. We’ve even had drunken conversations about bosoms, come to think of it. We first met during a press trip to Cornwall a few years ago and have remained friends ever since, meeting up for gentle weekends of cooking, eating, drinking, playing board games, listening to music and generally relaxing. Everyone needs weekends (and friends) like this in their life.
Hello and welcome, please introduce yourself and tell us a little about the kind of content you share.
My name is Monica Shaw – I’m an American – and a Brit! I hail from Chicago but moved to the UK about 7 years ago, got my citizenship, and I guess now this place (the Wiltshire countryside) is home to me. I make my living doing social media and web analytics for small and large companies, and while I’m a geek at heart, I’m equally crazy about food and, for lack of a better word, wellness.
Is there a story behind your blog’s name?
SmarterFitter is all about how to be awesome by making sound choices. My content focuses on recipes, stories and tips for living a “smarter” and “fitter” life in all aspects: food, fitness, work, play… as a geek, I come at it from a sometimes nerdy angle. But my aim is to use my logical mind to not only make sound choices in my own life, but also to pass on reasoned, quality information to my readers.
My blog mostly focuses on vegetarian, vegan and raw food but I myself am not a vegetarian (though I was for over 10 years, and why I’m not anymore is probably the subject for another interview!).
Why did you choose to blog about vegetarian food?
Simple: I’m obsessed with vegetables, and my diet is about 90% plant based, so this is what comes naturally to me.
Does blogging about vegetarian food present any particular challenges?
Only when people realise I’m not a vegetarian and get a little huffy!
What are the biggest influences on your cooking at the moment?
I’m very lucky to work with Rachel Demuth who runs Demuths Cookery School in Bath. Her vegetarian and vegan cuisine is a revelation. Many vegetarian cooks focus on replacing meat. But for Rachel, it’s all about the veg, and creating beautiful dishes that are inherently vegetarian, drawing on her experiences travelling all over the world. Her Mexican cookery is a particular favourite. In fact, hers is the best Mexican food I’ve ever had (particularly her tamales and her frijoles refritos negros), and that’s saying a lot – I used to live in Austin, Texas where Mexican food was a staple!
Which food or ingredients could you not live without?
Avocado. Avocado. Avocado. Well, I could live, but there would be an avocado-shaped hole in my heart if I had to go without.
Which food writers / chefs do you find most inspirational and in the same spirit, are there any particular cookery books you cherish above the rest of the shelf?
Mark Bittman and his book How to Cook Everything Vegetarian
If I were coming for dinner, what would you cook for me?
Warm tofu with sesame garlic sauce, because I know you love it!
What’s been your favourite destination thus far and why did you love it so much? Can you share a favourite memory from the trip?
By far, Kate’s Kitchen at Camont in Gascony for a food photography workshop with two extremely talented people – Tim Clinch and Kate Hill – in one of the most beautiful places in the world. A favourite memory is the “apricot tart moment”. We spent the day photographing Kate as she went through the process of making an apricot tart. It was a stunning dish and made for beautiful photography. Then went out to the night market in Vianne, returned home drunkenly in need of sustenance, so we hacked into the tart, eating it off of napkins. I took an Instagram photo of the tart, on the napkin, half-eaten, totally unstyled, and launched into a rant about how “this” is what food photography is all about: the moment in which the food is actually enjoyed, not some super-styled setup that bears no resemblance to how the dish is actually shared and consumed. But you know what, after the rosé wore off, I realised that my rant was the manifestation of a subconscious belief that I had repressed (food styling pressure and all that). Now, I am to make my photography a reflection of what’s real, even if it isn’t always pretty.
Which destination is at the top of your foodie travel wish list? (nb: can make it a top 3 if prefer)
What’s the very first trip you remember taking?
Road trips to Ohio from Chicago to visit my dad’s side of the family. Amazing pies. Terrible tinned vegetables.
Where are you going next?
Camont again for Christmas!
What three things can you never travel without?
Keys, wallet, phone.
If we were to take a trip together, where would we go?
Japan, of course.
What is the hardest aspect of blogging for you?
Time. I work full time and some of the work I do is very brain-intensive, so often at the end of the day I feel too zapped creatively to write anything worth reading.
What inspires you to keep blogging regularly?
Trying to keep up with all the prolific bloggers out there who have an amazing capacity to keep cranking out content.
What are you absolutely loving cooking, eating, doing right now?
I’m currently on a 7-Day Juice Feast so I’m all about the fresh-pressed juices and smoothies at the moment. My favourite thing is taking fresh juice and blending it up with avocado for a silky smooth creamy meal in a glass, which I eat with a spoon. Garnishes are also one of my big loves – on smoothies, the best thing ever is a trio of pumpkin seeds, coconut flakes and bee pollen. Ok, and maybe a sprinkle of coarse sea salt.
What’s the single most popular post on your blog?
32 Natural Ways to Flavour Water though I much prefer the runner up, 11 Immediately Gratifying Things You Can Do Right Now To Improve Your Health.
Can we give a little extra love and attention to a post you love but didn’t catch the attention of your readers in the way you hoped?
My beloved (and extremely photogenic) dog Rocky recently passed away. As a tribute, I’ve created a book and calendar of Rocky photos, both of which I’m selling to raise money for Hope Rescue, a charity and rescue centre where I adopted Rocky from. The calendar costs just £6 – a small price to pay for a little Rocky in your life, and a little £££ to help those precious pooches who haven’t yet found their forever home.
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Blog URL http://smarterfitter.com
Facebook page http://facebook.com/smarterfitter
Twitter handle http://twitter.com/monicashaw
Pinterest profile http://pinterest.com/smarterfitter
Instagram handle http://pinterest.com/smarterfitter
Enjoyed this interview? Read the rest of the series, here.