All photos courtesy of Runaway Apricot
Some budding cooks, raised with recipe-literate parents, are born with one foot already in the kitchen. Others, like Runaway Apricot blogger Robyn Andrea Burgess, have to find their own way.
"We weren’t a very big cooking family," our latest Blogger of the Week said of her Oxon Hill, Md., upbringing. “My mother bought the right ingredients”—think healthy fare, such as fresh vegetables and lean proteins—”but she didn’t know how to cook them. They were always under-seasoned! So I kind of started learning to cook out of necessity, in the 6th grade.”
Then in high school, surrounded by an ethnically diverse group of friends, Burgess launched herself on a journey of culinary exploration. She fell in love with a variety of cuisines, and also, after witnessing the fast food favored by her peers, started to focus on cooking healthy.
Burgess told us that her mission is “to teach people how to cook real food” through the recipes and stories on her now six-year-old blog, which she develops during her time off as a client relations manager at a marketing firm. That means emphasizing the importance of local ingredients, eating more vegetables, and preaching increased awareness about what we put in our bodies.
Here’s everything you need to know about Burgess:
Runaway Apricot’s adorable logo.
1. Her first major culinary undertaking was an “illegal” high school bake sale.
"I was making a lot of cakes and cookies and selling them at school. It wasn’t sanctioned or anything… it was kind of illegal [because it was against school rules]. I would carry a red lunchbox around with me, and when people saw it they knew they could buy something. But I was a good kid—I was friends with the principal and I was valedictorian—so I didn’t get in trouble. Even the teachers bought from me!"
2. The blog’s title, “Runaway Apricot,” is based on her name… sort of.
"The name ‘Runaway Apricot’ is kind of taken from my full first name, Robyn Andrea. One day [in high school], I sat down and wrote different words that began with ‘R’ and ‘A,’ with help from a dictionary and thesaurus. I tried to find words that had the right amount of serendipity and had an association with food. I settled on ‘Runaway Apricot,’ which inspired my blog years later."
A recent haul at her local farmer’s market.
3. Her most treasured recipe is top secret.
"What really got [my high school baking business] started was a pound cake, which I gave a hint of lemon. Then I did a raspberry jam glaze for the top. I refuse to post that on the blog, because it’s one of my little secret recipes."
4. Despite her baked good beginnings, Burgess’s cooking habits are much healthier these days.
"I only have one cookie recipe on the blog right now, because I’ve been trying to keep it very focused on healthy foods. In college, at Columbia University, I went a lot of foodie events: I saw Mario Batali and Marcus Samuelsson talk about how it’s very important to appreciate ingredients that are local to the place you’re in. So I started thinking more about local foods that were available at the farmer’s market, and also about the kids I grew up with, who mostly ate McDonald’s and just-add-water noodles. My mission is to teach people how to cook real food."
Eating healthy is all about moderation, which means even upside-down rhubarb cornbread is OK every once in awhile.
5. Her love of food inspired her to major in anthropology… and learn as many foreign languages as she could.
"Food is such a good lens through which to understand other cultures. And I wanted to study every language so that I could travel everywhere and confidently order (and eat!) everything I wanted. I got older and realized I couldn’t study every language, but I could study the hardest one I could think of: Mandarin Chinese.”
6. She studied abroad in Beijing during college and came home 30 pounds heavier.
"The cuisine in China is so exquisite. I ate about a thousand dumplings in Beijing, and in Sichuan Province, I ate a lot of hot pot, double-cooked pork belly with peppers, and garlic-infused eggplant. I gained 30 pounds while I was there! But I was 6’2" and 120 pounds when I first went, so I kind of needed to gain the weight. I don’t regret it."
Burgess has helpful tips on planning a week’s worth of meals.
7. Burgess defines the globally inflected cuisine on her blog as “New American.”
"New American basically means everything. The way the country has changed, American food is also Asian food and African food and so on. My version of New American food, which is inspired by these cuisines, is taking ingredients that are available and doing interesting things with them."
8. She has literary aspirations.
"I don’t want to do a cookbook—I want to do a book of cookery, which goes back to my anthropology background. I want to write about the social and historical reasons why we eat the way we eat. Maybe I’ll take the summer off and go to an island and write it!"
Check back all week for recipes from our blogger of the week, Runaway Apricot.
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