Every week, we’re spotlighting a different food blogger who’s shaking up the blogosphere with tempting recipes and knockout photography. Today, we chat with Stanford University-trained sociologist Brooke Conroy Bass, who in her spare time runs the beautiful and poignantly written food blog Chocolate & Marrow. Swing back all week for a new recipe from Bass every day.
Blogger Brooke Conroy Bass catches a 20-pound salmon in Alaska. Photo: brookebasspdx/Instagram
Running a food blog is hard work, especially if it’s one as dreamily photographed and engagingly written as Chocolate & Marrow, the Portland-based recipe site by Brooke Conroy Bass. Now imagine doing it while working toward a Ph.D in sociology. That’s precisely what Bass did for the last two years of her six-year program at Stanford University, which she just finished up in June.
Bass’s academic work — most often related to issues of gender, class, and race — frequently slips into Chocolate & Marrow, coloring her musings on recipes from blueberry-rhubarb bread pudding to lavender shortbread cookies. But the connections are never a stretch.
“Eating and cooking are things that are really tied closely to gender and class and race, and it’s something that I think we don’t analyze a whole lot and talk about in food writing,” Bass told Yahoo Food. “It’s something that I’d like to do more of.”
Bass’s take on fried chicken and waffles.
Bass is herself the product of several worlds. Her childhood was spent in and around New Orleans, much of it in a house sandwiched between two bodies of water: the bayou and Lake Pontchartrain. Many nights, Bass caught dinner from a 100-foot dock that stretched into the lakeside horizon.
“While we were there, it was just my mom and my sister and me,” Bass recalled. “It was neat to be these three women who were doing the best we could — fixing the house, fishing, and crabbing. When I look back on it, I realize that it instilled in me a love of living off the land.“
A decadent spin on avocado toast, topped with salmon roe.
Later, Bass moved to South Carolina to enroll at Clemson University, and after that, California’s Bay area to attend Stanford University for her Ph.D. She ate everywhere, taking stock of ingredients and flavors and spices wherever she went. Still, however far from home, Bass’s love of food always reminded her of family — hers was one that loved to cook, eat, and enjoy. But a family tragedy that struck in her early 20s (which Bass isn’t ready to discuss publicly) rocked her entire world. The color seemed to drain from life, she said.
“That period of my life was filled with a lot of loss and sadness,” Bass said. “I coped by burying myself in my Ph.D program. During that period, I didn’t really feel alive. I felt like there was a piece of me that was just missing.” It wasn’t until a trip to Italy in 2013 that Bass truly began to pick up the pieces. After taking a handful of cooking classes at Agriturismo Nonno Tobia, a quaint farmhouse above the Amalfi coast, something passionate stirred in her.
“I was photographing everything I ate and writing about it, not for anyone else, just for myself,” Bass told us. “I found myself while I was there. I felt alive again for the first time in a long time, and I didn’t want to let that feeling go. A food blog felt like a natural place to start. It opened my eyes to latent passions that I hadn’t yet explored, like writing, photography, and gardening.”
Bass’s chocolate lab Bourré often makes cameos on Chocolate & Marrow.
Chocolate & Marrow was born upon her return to the States. The “chocolate” part is for Bass’s chocolate lab, Bourré, who often appears in photos longingly gazing at whatever Bass is cooking. As for the “marrow?” “It comes from the Thoreau quote from Walden,” she explained. “’I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life.’ That’s kind of how I felt, and it’s what I wanted: to live this life with more balance and intention. The blog for me was part of it.”
Chocolate & Marrow quickly resonated with readers and other publications. This year, she was a finalist in Saveur’s annual blog awards in the “best new voice” category.
Pizza topped with fontina cheese, spicy fennel sausage, and dandelion greens.
Today, Bass lives in Portland, Ore., with her husband Barrett and pup Bourré. The blog is heavily influenced by the ingredients and produce available in the Pacific Northwest, like Oregon’s famous pinot noir grapes (incorporated into Bass’s cranberry sauce) and wild salmon from the Hood River (beautifully cured with beets and horseradish). Since graduating, though, Bass’s life is again at a crossroads. The future is still very much a work in progress.
“To be completely honest, I’m not sure what’s going to come next,” Bass said. She has a few projects in the pipeline, though she was tight-lipped about what they are. All in good time, Bass said.
“Nothing that’s formal or signed,” she teased. “But some fun things to look forward to, for sure.”
Circle back to Yahoo Food for a new recipe from Chocolate & Marrow every day this week.
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