WELL-FED METALHEAD — My jars innumerable, incalculable my pride.
Food and metal; my sustenance. As The Black Dahlia Murder once explained, some of us just love to prepare food, pickle it, brine it, organize it, and cherish every bit of hard labor that went into our collection of jars. Well-Fed Metalhead is a new blog aimed at hungry headbangers who love food but hate to read in details about the author's 1998 childhood vacation just to get the recipe for a damn lemon cake.
If you want to learn how to preserve anything that grows under the sun and sharpen your kitchen skills, the Well-Fed Metalhead is there to guide you, so raise your forks and sharpen your knives. No bullshit, no nonsense, just food. And lots and lots of jars...
First please introduce yourself.
Well-Fed Metalhead: Hi! I am Well-Fed Metalhead — I am a 25 year old metalhead from San Diego, CA, living in the Greater Seattle area with my spouse, 3 cats, aquariums, and sourdough starter. I worked in fine dining for 4 years in various stations, mainly in bulk prep, pastry, and baking. I left the restaurant world due to health problems but cook and bake every day at home. I write my blog from my desk job during my massive amounts of spare time working as the office manager for a small engineering firm.
How did the idea for the Well-Fed Metalhead blog come to you?
I was at a housewarming party with mostly kitchen friends, chatting with some non-industry folks about canning with home-grown food. I had just started larger scale production at home and got so excited talking about it to anyone who would listen. They asked me if I had a blog or something, which sparked the idea.
The thing is that I hate most food blogs. There's too much blah-blah-blah, just take me to the recipe, damn it! And there had better not be any pop ups asking me to subscribe! It took me a few months to think it over before deciding to buy the domain. I have never come across a badass, heavy metal inspired blog other than Vegan Black Metal Chef's Youtube channel, so I thought maybe I could fit my niche little idea in there.
What do food and metal have in common?
Our love for food and beverage as well as energy release in the form of fast, heavy music are carnal desires. To me, they're both life sustaining. I always look forward to late night snacks after a show, or listening to something that gets me in a groove while I cook. One could also draw parallels with lighter food vs heavier, they need to balance each other out a different times.
Metal can range from very simple, catchy tunes with cookie-cutter structure to heavily technical compositions. It's like the difference between blue box macaroni n cheese and a baked cavatappi with béchamel sauce and seasoned breadcrumbs. Both will feed and delight, and many won't necessarily like the more complicated option. Everyone has their preferences and one isn't necessarily better than the other.
There's something for everyone out there. When I meet a fellow head banger I ask "what flavor" of metal they're into.
So what flavor of metal is your favourite?
My favorite flavors of metal are power, doom, folk, death, black, and thrash. I'm averaging about 25 heavy metal shows per year at this point.
Are there certain genres or bands that are (to you) more conducive to baking, making preserves, etc.? Like a gym playlist for cooking?
I usually listen to entire albums rather than playlists of selected songs. It really depends on the time and mood of the day and the weather that determines what I want to listen to. When I do a big general meal prep day, I usually gravitate towards more bombastic and sing-along beats, like Sabaton, Hammerfall, Amon Amarth, Megadeth, Deicide, Rob/White Zombie, or Iron Maiden. When I need to concentrate on one item, like paying attention to a jam when it's about to set, I like slower doom, like Ahab or Bongripper. We've been listening to a lot of Agalloch with the return of the grey skies, rain, and earlier sunset. 'Tis the season.
Spotify and Youtube have facilitated the soundtrack to my life, I always have one or the other on throughout the day, including the kitchen. At the top of every post (on the blog), I have a "Listening to" line that posts what I was listening to while making the food and while writing the blog post
When did your love story with food and cooking start?
I was probably around 7 or 8 years old when I started "helping" in the kitchen with my parents and grandparents. I enjoyed mixing boxed brownies and cakes with my mom, stirring spaghetti sauce and sampling pizza dough with my dad, flipping omelettes with my French grandparents, and rolling stuffed grape leaves with my Lebanese-American grandparents. I made my own simple food from time to time for after school snacks, making a giant mess along the way.
What is the first thing you remember making?
I don't remember any particular "first", but I was intrigued with deviled eggs I had at a birthday party and wanted to replicate them at home. After lots of push-back from my mom, I followed the recipe exactly as it was written and they turned out beautifully — my mom still asks me to make them when I visit. I would also make crêpes, French toast, quesadillas, and attempt to bake bread from a 1976 Betty Crocker bread collection. I still have that bread book and its hilariously bad recipes.
I got the seal of approval when I was 12 to cook at home when I picked rosemary from the garden for roasted potatoes with salt and pepper. It was one of the first things about growing up I could do myself.
What are your favourite things to make now?
This depends on the season! This summer I ate my weight in baked squash blossoms stuffed with herbed goat cheese, and grilled peaches. It's the time to can all of the beautiful fruit that is impossible to find out of season, like cherries and nectarines.
This fall I'm going to be canning lots of squash and gourds. I cook comfort dishes like potato gratin or pumpkin soup.
Winter is for chicken pot pies and Japanese milk bread. I'll open a jar of cling peaches that will be like opening a can of sunshine on the darkest days.
Spring makes me think of pesto penne pasta salads and duck confit.
Year-round I love making sourdough waffles, homemade pasta, soups, and country sourdough boules.
Why do you think foraging for food, sharpening knives, and following ancestral food traditions like brewing mead/beer, making bread and preserves, etc. seem to be generally appealing to metalheads, especially in the folk and Viking metal circles?
Metalheads have always been a different breed with our hobbies, so it's not too surprising that many of us like to cook with the old-fashioned methods in mind. Heavy metal often references sharp, point objects to kill our enemies with. Maybe our enemies are vegetables waiting to be julienned or proofed dough that needs to be scored before baking. I think in general there is a cultural shift to becoming less reliant on processed foods and re-learning the ways of our grandparents before the age of convenience stomped the culture out of us.
How would you suggest approaching the task of learning “the ways of our grandparents”? To someone who does this on a regular basis it might seem obvious, but for someone who is just getting curious it might seem overwhelming.
Many of our parents and grandparents have fallen victims to microwave meals that don't taste good and aren't very healthy! You can go as simple or as complex as you want, so instead of buying a frozen ready-to-eat marinara pasta with meatballs, try opening a box of pasta and a jar of sauce and cook up some balls. All of those things can make more than one meal and can all be homemade or not. Buying a bag of flour, sugar, baking soda/powder, and other ingredients costs a bit up front, but each individual project ends up being as inexpensive as a boxed mix and it will taste better.
For me, it honestly started because I was broke from having equipment envy working in kitchens. The initial investment in a stand mixer or a decent heavy-bottom stock pot can lead to so many possibilities. I started auditing my cooking by seeing what I would normally buy frozen and then replacing it with fresh.
I realize making everything from scratch is not feasible for everyone, but even meal prepping can be done if organized enough. Once people realize it's not too hard and share what they've done, they have a sense of accomplishment and can inspire others. It's nice to have control over what goes in a meal instead of wondering what kind of preservatives and fillers might be added to easy food.
Learn the rules of canning before deciding to bend them. As long as you follow a tested and approved recipe from Ball, Bernardin, or the National Center for Home Food Preservation or other trusted officials, you'll be fine. When in doubt, throw it out! For low-acid foods that need to be pressure canned, having a proper canner (not an Instapot, pressure cooker, or other device) is key to safe food. Some people worry about "blowing up the kitchen", this is only possible if you have a really old unit that has a clogged regulator or you put the heat on full blast and leave to take a walk or something. Pressure gauges need to be calibrated every season, or using the weighted method are both fine. It's not that scary, I promise, as long as you're not a complete numnut chances are that you will be fine.
How did you get into canning?
Canning came to me during a family reunion in 2011 over in Keyport, WA. My dad's cousin Jo Anne stuffed my face with blackberry jam, pears halves in light syrup, and applesauce. It had never occurred to me to make these things, and I knew that I wanted to make some one day. I started canning in the fall of 2013 with applesauce, apple butter, and pasta sauce to give as gifts. I didn't really understand the science behind it, but I was careful to follow recipes exactly as stated. I got my 16 qt Presto pressure canner as a wedding gift last summer, so I dabbled a little bit, but it wasn't until this year that I decided I should can everything I possibly could that would be cheap and in-season.
It's so different than fresh cooking, I swan-dived into my hobby a bit more than I expected to.
What about bread-making?
Bread has always been a fascination because I knew that braided egg bread my grandma made was for the holidays, but then we'd go back to drab sandwich bread for the rest of the year. I think the first time I wanted to make any bready other than the challah was to make pretzels when I was 13. When I was 17, I would invite my friends over to my house for bagel parties; they would bring cream cheese and other condiments, and I would boil and bake these "you-tried" sad misshapen lumps of cooked dough.
I tried to make bread a few times in my first apartment around 19, and realized the simplest recipe was usually not the way to go for a good tasting loaf. When I started working pastry at an upscale diner in Woodinville, I worked alongside the company bread bakers and learned a lot about proofing, shaping, and baking different kinds of loaves. I ended up working with them 2 years later at a different location when I was an overnight bread baker.
Besides burns, what kinds of risks are involved with canning especially?
You might be thinking of pots and pans or even touching a hot oven that burns you, but the real danger is sugar burns! Jams and other conserves' set point is 105C/220F, which is hotter than water's boiling point, but most importantly, it's sticky. This fruit lava pops and bubbles up while you need to stir it constantly to prevent scorching. Wiping off boiling jam will also take off a layer of skin with it. The main risk with canning is misinformation regarding methods. There is a lot of bad advice out there. Not preparing the food correctly or trying to wing a recipe, and then not processing according to approved methods can cause foodborne illness. Botulism very rarely occurs, but other "bugs" can cause major discomfort and time spent on the porcelain throne. While I take the USDA's advice with a grain of salt because I know they don't have the funding to test everything, I prefer to be safe rather than sorry. I always link to an approved source at the bottom of my recipes to provide clarification or if anyone wants to learn more about the process. I simply adapt the common recipes with my metal flair and provide explanations on what can be tweaked and what can't be done. The maiden voyage of the pressure canner is the most anxiety-inducing time you'll use it. Then you’ll see that it's not so hard and have confidence from there.
Have you ever had a bad kitchen accident?
The worst I had at home was once I was intoxicated while making dinner and wasn't paying 100% attention while using my mandoline and sliced off a good chunk of my thumb. The worst at the restaurants was probably when I got my arm stuck on the pizza oven while turning a pizza too enthusiastically. My coworker used some cooking spray to release me, which in turn created a steam burn that took months to heal. Both of those events slowed me down considerably. I miss those chunks of skin. Sheet trays in particular have gotten me on more than one occasion.
Is there a cooking process or a type of food you'd like to learn but haven't had the chance to master yet?
I'd love to learn more about fermenting. I'm making a few vinegars right now from fruit scraps right now: blackberry, nectarine, quince, and Asian pear apple. I'd love to learn about brewing alcohol that doesn't taste like the toilet-wine style mead I made a few years ago. Amon Amarth had a Youtube video that has since been taken down on how to make mead, which I had to try of course! I'd also love to learn how to make a good phở broth. I've tried a few times and it's just not the same as a mom and pop Vietnamese place. I usually only go out to eat for things I can't make myself, so I'm always looking to change that.
Speaking of restaurants, have you ever been to any metal-themed restaurants (like Grill 'Em All)?
Not any full-on themed restaurants unfortunately, but I have been to some bars attached to venues that play music that appeals to the crowd attending the show. My spouse's silly idea for a restaurant theme would be the "Re. Spect. Wok!". I have next to no desire to run a restaurant, but if I ever did it would be metal themed.
Do you usually give your creations metal names (Pantera-related or not!)?
I wish I were that clever to be able to give each one names, but for now I stick to rhyme zone to help with creative titles for posts. Once in a while I'll think of something funny that will stick, like "I have become Comfortably Plum" and I'll design a label for it.
Would you ever do a Well-Fed Metalhead video series, or in-person cooking classes?
I've considered starting a Youtube channel as an occasional compliment to the blog, I know how much work goes into creating consistently well-done content. My spouse is a filmmaker and I'm sure we could set something up, but coming up with the content I would be more difficult. I think I want to just do the blog for a while and get my groove there and see how it goes. I would absolutely be open to cooking classes, I've already gotten together with some of my metalhead buddies to harvest blackberries for jam, and then again when I brought them 31lbs of Asian pear apples to make prapplesauce and slices of fruit in light syrup. It's a nice wholesome activity for a bunch of degenerates. I'm sure I could come up with a proper lesson plan/demonstration given the chance.
What are your plans or projects for the blog? This all originally started as a place for me to organize my recipes and be able to refer back to them without having to do the heavy researching especially for canning recipes. I'm doodling some corpse paint designs and planning some photo shoots. If the blog takes off, I wouldn't mind making a few bucks off of it to cover the costs of hosting, corpse paint, and maybe some jars. If it really took off, I could see formatting an e-book or something like that. I'd like to add in some cost estimates for recipes at some point and perhaps nutrition info. My spouse is the official photographer and we're working on more interesting content. I'm still trying to find my voice and style I want to continue going forward!
Follow the Well-Fed Metalhead's culinary adventures at wellfedmetalhead.com and be ready to get your aprons dirty if you want to play along!