So many things come to mind when thinking about the tumultuous lives of Lorelai, Rory and the colorful characters that surround them: Snow. Paul Anka. Hep Alien. Copper Boom! Town meetings. Coffee…and the FOOD!
Any Gilmore fan could list at LEAST half a dozen recipes from the show that they’d like to try, but one fan rose to the challenge: meet Kristi Carlson, the creative culinary genius who provided us with “Eat Like A Gilmore”; AKA, the cookbook all Honorary Gilmores have been dreaming of!
HC Boise State: Before we dive in, let’s get a brief background. Who is Kristi Carlson? Where did you grow up? What makes you, you?
Kristi: Well, I grew up in the Midwest. I was born in Michigan, but moved around the Great Plains every few years with my family, until we landed in California. So I guess I’m a California girl with a Midwestern work ethic.
My focus is on experiencing as much as I can in the time I have. So, I work a lot and I’m always in a big hurry. Often, I pack too much into a day because I want to do everything while I’m still young and healthy and able. I consciously push myself to take risks, try new things, pick up new interests, and generally put myself out there.
This hasn’t always been my mindset. For many years I followed a somewhat traditional path – put myself through college, and became a 9-to-5 person. At work I’d plug away, putting in too much effort, waiting for someone to notice what a great employee I was, and promote me. One day I started feeling like I needed more – more risk, more excitement, more money, more control over my own destiny (a mindset which made me a terrible employee). Once my performance at work started slipping, that’s when I knew it was time to jettison myself out of 9-to-5 land.
I’ve been my own boss for a little over a year. I took the leap – without many opportunities ahead of me, and without a bunch of money. That was easily the best decision I’ve made. I feel happier, more fulfilled, more alive, and I’m sleeping a heck of a lot more soundly.
HCBSU: What inspired you to start cooking? Do you have a favorite kitchen memory?
Kristi: As a kid I spent summers with my grandparents, in Michigan. My grandmother was a very accomplished cook and baker – as many Depression Era women were. From her I learned how to navigate around the kitchen. Once I turned 9 or 10 my confidence grew to the point where I was experimenting at home, using my parents as my taste testers. I’d make fun kid stuff like soft pretzels, cinnamon rolls, and funnel cakes. When I got my first jobs as a teenager, naturally, I gravitated toward food. I baked cookies and breads, flipped burgers, butchered meat, etc.
My favorite kitchen memory is the Thanksgiving I made the entire meal myself, in my apartment, and had my family over. I think I was 23 at the time. And I went crazy – with turkey, stuffing, lasagna, broccoli casserole, mashed potatoes, yams, rolls – everything. I cooked and cooked and cooked and the entire meal turned out the way I wanted. It was like a minor miracle – I felt like I’d fully become an adult that day and I was elated!
HCBSU: What inspired you to write “Eat Like a Gilmore”?
Kristi: Well, I’ve loved the show since Season 1 first aired. When you match a foodie with a show slathered in food – there’s bound to be a love connection! I’d been wanting to try Sookie’s food, Luke’s food, etc for 16 years. So last summer, when I was looking for a creative outlet, my boyfriend, Tim, suggested “why don’t you spend some time making all the foods you love from ‘Gilmore Girls’?”. I loved the idea, started cooking and then realized “Hey – I bet other fans would like to have these recipes, too!” The idea grew from there.
HCBSU: Who is your favorite “Gilmore Girls” character and/or who do you identify with the most? Why?
Kristi: Lorelai. Lorelai is my spirit animal. I understand Lorelai. Many times in my life I’ve felt like I was Lorelai. Her relationship with her parents, her fierce independence and desire to be her own person and create her own identity. Her dating catastrophes. Her logic about morning butt vs evening butt. Her uncertainty about whether she likes the things she likes because she likes them or because her mother doesn’t like them. Her emotional attachment to her house. The perfect balance she strikes between being a complete nut and incredibly responsible. I identify with all of those aspects of her character. Also, she came along at a time in my life where I needed reassurance that it was okay to show people who I really am.
HCBSU: What is your favorite recipe from the cookbook?
Kristi: This answer changes daily. Right now it’s Homemade Beef-A-Roni. I’m very happy with the way it turned out. If you try to find a recipe for it online, you’ll notice so many homemade versions involve baking a casserole-looking thing. When I saw that I thought “Okay people, we seriously need to fix this. Beef-A-Roni isn’t baked! It’s saucy – tangy – and delicious!” So, the version in the book is saucy, tangy, and delicious. It also uses all real ingredients, so it’s relatively healthy!
HCBSU: Lorelai and Rory are notorious for eating out/ordering in. In full Gilmore spirit, where is your favorite place to get takeout from?
Kristi: It depends on my mood – pizza, Thai food, sushi, Indian food – all good! I don’t eat as much Chinese takeout as they do – for the simple reason that I live in California. We’re not really known for having great Chinese food. If I lived on the East Coast, I’d probably be eating more of it! My true favorite is Mexican food – chips, salsa, guacamole, tacos, burritos. We’re really lucky to be surrounded by so much GREAT Mexican food! I could eat Mexican takeout every day for a month and not be sick of it. Actually, now that I’ve said that, I think I may have to try it, just to make sure.
HCBSU: “Eat Like a Gilmore” started as a Kickstarter project that raised over $47,000 during its campaign and was picked up by a publishing house. How would you describe that experience?
Kristi: Gosh – I highly recommend it! Fair warning, though, managing a Kickstarter campaign involves work. It isn’t just a month of kicking back and watching pledges roll in. The first week of the campaign I was on my computer 14 hours a day talking to potential pledgers, approaching journalists and press outlets, sending “thank you” messages to backers and generally trying to drum up support for the campaign. The second week is when the media really took it into orbit – once Buzzfeed posted their story (Thank you, Buzzfeed!) I started getting calls and texts from friends “You’re on TeenVogue’s website!” “You’re on People.com!” “You’re on RealSimple.com!”. There were two days when the whole thing was a complete press frenzy – those days I just sat in my livingroom, stunned. It was so surreal. Every time someone pledged, I’d get an email from Kickstarter. Pledges were coming in so quickly that my email box would say “112 unread messages” every 15 minutes or so. I hit the original $20,000 goal during those days. (So I guess 2 days of the campaign really did involve me kicking back, watching pledges roll in!)
Tim and I had a tote board we’d update – like it was the Jerry Lewis Telethon or something. The first few days, the tote board got updated about once an hour. During the press frenzy, it was updated every few minutes – and it wasn’t thirty bucks at a time, it was hundreds of dollars. Those were the moments I knew – I knew I’d found my people. And I knew we were going to make a fantastic cookbook together!
Ever since then, I’ve felt a tremendous gratitude toward the folks who pledged. And the focus of the book shifted. It was no longer about what I wanted it to be. It became about them – what would they like to see? How can I make it easier for them to use, more visually appealing, more fun, more “Stars Hollow-y”? And backers were an unexpected source of support. I’d get random notes – some of the sweetest, kindest notes I’ve ever received, from complete strangers. They’d thank me for working on this and they’d offer so much encouragement. It really helped me press forward. I couldn’t have done it without them.
HCBSU: You’re very active on your social media, which has been exciting for your fans. Is there anything from your Social Media experiences that has really stuck with you?
Kristi: Aw…thank you for saying that! I love social media and love connecting with fellow fans.
I think the two most valuable tips I read before embarking on all of this are:
1 – When you post or send emails to groups, write as though you’re talking to your best friend, not a group.
This sounds easy, but sometimes I forget and don’t do it. When I do do it, I notice a real difference in the responses from people. It’s clear to me that people want connection, community, and real talk – not a bunch of professional sounding lingo.
2 – When you tell a story, lead off with the punch line. Then tell the story. It draws people in.
For the longest time I struggled to write a compelling story. I always thought the point was to save the punch line for the end. The result was that my stories were massively boring until the very end, and by the time I got to the end, no one cared.
I’m still not always great at it – but doing this one thing has made a huge difference.
HCBSU: What advice would you give to a young food blogger who has seen your success and aspires to have their own cookbook someday?
Kristi: I’d give them the same advice I’d give anyone – read Tim Ferriss’ book “The Four-Hour Work Week”, and then read it again, and then read it again. I’ve been a devoted fan of his for 6 or 7 years. Much of what you see me doing with “Eat Like A Gilmore” is a result of his ideas, guidance and examples. His theories can be applied to any product or business – not just launching books. So I’d tell anyone who feels an entrepreneurial calling they’ll really benefit from reading that book.
HCBSU: Is there any special message you’d like to give to your fans and Her Campus readers?
Kristi: What a great question! Yes. I’d like to say “thank you” – for supporting me, for supporting this book, for expressing genuine excitement and happiness at the thought of having and using the book! It’s made the process so heart-warming for me. I’ll always look back on this time as one of the most exciting and rewarding times of my life. So I cannot say it enough. Thank you.
Thirsty for more? Follow Kristi’s amazing journey via Instagram at @malibukristi!