Author Luisa Weiss is keen to introduce German cuisine and baked goods to an international audience. Daughter of an Italian mother and an American father, she made her home in Berlin, her hometown.
Mrs. Weiss, while you were still in school, you lived first with your father in Boston, then with your mother in Berlin. You spent most of your holidays in Italy. How was your identity shaped by shuttling between Germanythe United States and Italy?
In Boston, I lived with my father in a fairly conservative and peaceful suburb. Although it was quite pleasant to live there, Berlin has always been dearest to me. Already as a teenager, I felt very comfortable in the international community to which my parents belonged. Many people who live in this rather atypical German city identify with Berlin despite not being German themselves. It’s a bit the same in New York, where I worked for various publishing houses after graduating in English and French Literature from Tufts University.
You launched your culinary blog “The Wednesday Chef” in New York in 2005. What was the inspiration?
I myself am passionate about cooking and I am also interested in how other people cook at home. When the first food blogs started popping up online in the 2000s, I was fascinated by the concept, so I decided to start my own food blog in my spare time, albeit in secret at first. For “The Wednesday Chef”, I started by taking recipes from the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times which I cooked and then comparing the results. I kept the blog anonymous for two years, but to my own surprise, my readership quickly grew and the blog started getting mentioned in national newspapers. It was then that I realized that I could happily put my name on it without risking losing my job. In the end, the blog really opened doors for me, allowing me to take the next step in my career: I had the opportunity to work as an editor for a cookbook publisher. Through my blog, I have met many restaurateurs, chefs and other food bloggers, and it has really paid off.
You gave up your career in New York publishing houses in 2010 to be able to return to Berlin. What triggered this decision?
I liked living and working in the United States. Books are my world, and I couldn’t imagine better than being paid to indulge in my great passion, reading. Still, I was homesick for Berlin – I always felt something was missing in New York. When I visited my mother in Germany, I found it incredibly difficult to leave at the end. That’s why I left my then partner and my job behind and went home. It was the right decision: I started a family in Berlin and also started working as a full-time author. When I started book “My Berlin Kitchen” I wrote all about this period of upheaval and my desire for Berlin, and I told the story of my childhood, my search for myself and my years in New York. The book also contains my favorite recipes: roasted Brussels sprouts and braised chicken from New York, Sicilian bracioline and chickpea soup from Italy, and Pflaumenmus and Rote Grütze from Berlin.
You published your second book in 2016: “Classic German Baking”. Why did you decide to shine the spotlight on this area of German cuisine?
“Classic German Baking” is aimed at international readers, and particularly at an American public, which I know very well thanks to my background. On the international market, there are few baking books that present traditional recipes from the German-speaking world, such as yeast and streusel cake, Black Forest cake, poppy seed croissants and petit breads. “Classic German cooking” is designed to fill this gap. At the same time, I wanted to make Germans understand that they can rightly be proud of their unique baking tradition, which is a really difficult profession!
You are currently working on a book on traditional German cuisine recipes. Is it a challenge?
Yes, in fact, it is much more difficult. Baking recipes show greater regional variety, and an afternoon slice of cake is an integral part of German culture. German cuisine, on the other hand, is perceived much less positively internationally, and in some cases reduced to simple meat dishes, roasts and sausages. And my research has indeed revealed that typical German dishes often call for meat. That said, I’ve also found a few light vegetarian recipes that I’m going to feature.