Christine is just gearing up for a nationwide tour to launch her book. Hawaiian Shaved Ice had the pleasure of discussing it with her, and learning how her passion has helped her establish her place in the food world.
photos by Christine Chitnis
I have a big sweet tooth, yet health and wellness are of great concern to me as an individual and as a mother. White refined sugar is something I like to steer clear of, and so I set about developing desserts that rely on natural sweetness yet still satisfy my sweet tooth. With 75 recipes for a full range of frozen sweets, you'll find healthy treats that use fresh fruits, vegetables, and herbs, that are free of refined sugars, and that include vegan and dairy-free options. The results are flavorful, unique, refreshing, and healthy— and my hope is that it will make summertime healthier and sweeter!
How do you come up with new and exciting recipes?
I'm endlessly inspired by the seasons, and I make a real effort to source quality ingredients, whether from my own garden, local farms or the farmer's market. When a bushel of juicy, just-picked strawberries lands in my kitchen, I immediately feel inspired to start creating. So many of the recipes are inspired by the pairings that come home with me from the garden- strawberries and basil, watermelon and mint, pears and thyme. I really look to the seasons to guide my cooking. For me it comes down to choosing the highest quality ingredients, and keeping it simple and letting those flavors shine.
Have you ever made something while experimenting and creating recipes that tasted awful?
Oh sure...when I'm in a hurry I'll occasionally forget an ingredient! I remember this chocolate ice cream recipe I was testing where I forgot to add sweetener of any kind, and so it pretty much tasted like bitter, unsweetened cocoa powder. I was juggling a million things that day, and the baby was up early from his nap so I was trying my best to wrap up my cooking, and I totally spaced on adding the honey. When I sat down with my family after dinner to try the ice cream, we were all horrified!
Do you have any tips/advice for aspiring writers/foodies?
I always have a hard time answering this question because I want to be realistic yet encouraging. I got into food writing without having worked in the industry and with no contacts in the publishing world. I worked really hard, checked out every "How to Write a Query Letter" book from my local library, and faced stacks of rejection letters. But I stuck with it because it was my passion. However, I always worked another job to help pay the bills. It is really, really tough to make a living being a full-time food writer!
I guess I would encourage aspiring writers to hone their craft—get out there and write, take pictures, visit farms, try new restaurants, learn everything you can about food, contribute to your town daily, write for free for the little guys...don't expect to go right to the major leagues! Put your time in, and slowly, if you stick with it, you will find success. Also, get your name and writing out there, whether through a blog (which was instrumental in my own career), Instagram...whatever platform works for you. But get your name out there.
photos by Christine Chitnis
Oh gosh, balance is such a tricky topic, isn't it!? I think it's something we all strive for, but I'm not sure it is a reality that can be reached. I remember years ago my mom wisely told me, "You can have everything, just not all at once." And so, I have to pick and choose how I spend my time. The majority of my time is given to my family. I have two young sons, 4 and 5, and they are mostly home with me. I fit in recipe testing while they are playing Lego at my feet, and I take pictures while they take their afternoon naps. It is not always perfect, and there are plenty of days where I would love more uninterrupted time to work. But this is my life right now, and it is beautiful and messy and I am very grateful for all of it. I also ask for help when I need it, whether it is getting a babysitter for a few hours to meet a deadline, or asking my husband to take the boys for a Saturday so that I can stage a full photo shoot.
I also work part-time at the school my boys will attend next year, so that adds to the juggle. Things that get dropped: social time, exercising (unless you count running endless loads of laundry up and down three flights of stairs), and alone time! But I try to fit these things into my mothering time, such as meeting friends and their kids at the park for a playdate, or taking a long walk with the boys to get my heart pumping. Mostly, I try to savor these days: I never realized how fast they would fly by. I had two babies just yesterday, and now they are these active, amazing young boys! It's amazing!
Do you have a favorite shaved ice recipe featured in the book?
I love the Blueberry Lemonade Shaved Ice recipe. I just love the sweetness of plump blueberries paired with the refreshing sourness of lemons. The syrup is such a lovely purple hue, so it tends to be a crowd favorite. I've found that serving shaved ice at parties and dinner gatherings is such fun. It feels like a novelty, and a completely unexpected dessert. I like that element of playful surprise!
Is there a particular place that you look forward to visiting on your tour?
I am beyond excited to visit San Francisco! I've never been, so the newness factor is exciting, as is the food scene and the amazing events I have planned while I'm there. I touch down on a Monday, and by Thursday morning I'm off to Seattle, so I'm not sure how I'll visit the 50 restaurants that I have on my "must-try" list, but I'll certainly give it my best!
Christine Chitnis kicks off her book tour on Friday, June 10th in New York City, and on June 22nd she’ll be in San Francisco with giveaway prizes courtesy of Hawaiian Shaved Ice! Please visit her website at christinechitnis.com.