Charity Beth Long is a freelance writer and photographer who explores the space where food, travel and the human experience intersect. You can find her culinary, homemaking and travel pursuits on her blog VintageKitty.com
1. First off, we'd like to know five interesting things about you that most people don't know.
Goodness, I feel like my life is such an open book! But I guess there are tidbits that my followers don’t know about! The most defining thing about my life is that I live in a fixer-upper. It’s this diamond-in-the-rough Victorian with rambling staircases and loads of charm but it’s akin to living in the Money Pit movie without any of the romantic comedy. You go to open a door and the doorknob falls off, there’s peeling wallpaper and falling plaster and so much dust!
We bought the old girl right before the housing crash, so restoration is more than a bit behind schedule. I try not to share that chaos with my readers. I truly love living in this beautiful disaster and hope that one day we’ll be able to restore it to its full grandeur, ballroom and all.
I totally dig dystopian fiction. I’ll read or more often listen to audiobooks depicting what life would be like after a disaster. Anything from kids books to adult fiction really because I’m more than a little obsessed with the genre. I’m quite the pessimist so in some ways it feeds my need to think things are running catastrophically amuck. But the creative part of me likes to see how the human species might reinvent itself after such a disaster.
I have this deep sadness for homeless china. I go to thrift and antique stores quite often and I can tell you there’s a heap of unloved china out there. That china was someone’s wedding gift or prized possession. It’s what people used to eat all their holidays meals on. Lots of history there but china is sadly out of fashion. So if you’re reading this, please adopt a homeless set of china because I already have four sets and my husband has cut me off!
I live with autoimmune disease. My instinct would be to say I suffer with autoimmune disease, but I try not to give in to that type of thinking. In my early 20s, I was diagnosed with Hashimotos Thyroiditis. At the time I had intermittent symptoms and a protruding goiter so at 25 I had a thyroidectomy. Being the odd ball I am, it grew back. That doesn’t happen very often! But what complicates matters is I also developed Graves disease.
My metabolism is in a constant state of flux. I’m tired much of the time and constantly visiting doctors but over the years I’ve learned how to survive despite not feeling well. I don’t talk about it on the blog very often because autoimmune disease, and particularly thyroid disease, are under researched and underserved by the medical community.
I find that there’s a lot of unhelpful information out there that offers false hope and I don’t want to add to that noise with my opinions. The truth is that there are few answers and many more questions when it comes to what triggers autoimmunity and whether it can actually be reversed. If there was an easy answer, I’m sure endocrinologists would be eager to help their growing case load. I’m constantly researching and looking for a solution, but until then I take things one day at a time.
My husband Kevin and I love to visit National Parks. We have one of those passports and love to get it stamped. We love nature and history so it’s a natural fit. When planning vacations, we totally nerd out, often planning our destination around how many parks we can visit.
2. Have you always loved cooking? How did you discover your passion for it?
I grew up baking with my mom so I guess the answer is yes? But my mom was totally country cook and the veggies were largely overcooked and the meat always came in roast form. So as I got older I started to be curious about other types of cooking. What really set me on the path to learning cooking technique was working in the restaurant industry. I started waitressing at an early age and would often ask the chef how to make something. So I’d scribble down notes and take them home to practice.
3. What did you learn about food and cooking from your travels?
So much! Travel teaches us to appreciate our differences and similarities. Just about every culture has a casserole, a dumpling, and some sort of slaw. But the ingredients and techniques can vary widely. Why is a curry in India so different from a Thai curry?
Beyond cooking style, I think there is much to learn about culture in a country’s recipes. Food is a way we celebrate and pass on tradition. While religion and history can be touchy subjects, people are generally open to breaking bread together and exploring new flavors and cuisines. Exploring food anthropology is one of my passions. Food isn’t just something we eat, it’s living history.
4. Can you give us your best cooking tip?
If you couldn’t already tell, I’m pretty wordy so just one? Ugh! I guess if I were to give only one tip for all levels of cooks, it would be to keep trying. It doesn’t matter if you’re a beginner or a master chef, you are going to have failures. We’ve all been there! The soufflé falls, you add too much heat and your soup tastes like fire or you’re hosting that special holiday dinner and the meal is hours behind schedule… but you can’t let it make you stop cooking!
When I was younger I was engrossed by everything Martha Stewart. I watched her shows, read the magazines cover to cover and bought anything I could afford from her catalogue. And one thing that they kept featuring were perfectly piped royal icing cookies. So I studied and bought my piping set and thought I’d have instant success. But my efforts ended in a puddle of tears. The cookies were a hot mess and I swore I’d pipe another cookie again.
Years later, inspired by Callye’s blog Sweet Sugarbelle, I swallowed my pride and tried again. I’m certainly not at pro at it but my friends and family are always impressed with my piping skills. So don’t give up. Becoming a great cook is a process, not a destination.
5. What are the three original recipes that best represent your kitchen?
Oh that’s like picking your favorite pet or child! I’d say Pizza Soup
because my husband calls me the soup whisperer, Lemon Balm Pesto
because if it’s growing in the yard (and edible) it’s on the menu and Orange Turmeric Margaritas
because no recipe is sacred. Fusion is everything in my kitchen!