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Susan Whetzel’s cookbook features more than 50 twists on the classic treat.
Courtesy of Susan Whetzel
S’mores cereal bars are made with graham cereal and dark chocolate chunks.
Courtesy of Susan Whetzel
Courtesy of Susan Whetzel
S’mores chocolate bread pudding topped with marshmallow syrup
Wednesday, July 31, 2013
Roasted marshmallows, chocolate and graham crackers combine for a flavor that instantly transports many of us to happy times spent perched beside a campfire with a sharpened stick in hand.
For 38-year-old Pearisburg native Susan Whetzel , the taste of s’mores means so much more — it is the flavor of success.
Whetzel’s cookbook, “The S’mores Cookbook,” was recently published by Adams Media , with a foreword by TV food personality Duff Goldman . It features more than 50 twists on the classic treat, including s’mores bread pudding, s’mores stuffed French toast, and a s’mores martini.
This is Whetzel’s third cookbook; she has also written “The Everything Ice Cream, Gelato, and Frozen Desserts Cookbook” and aggregated recipes for “The Everything Busy Moms’ Cookbook.” The book deals all blossomed from Whetzel’s blog, Doughmesstic.com, which she started in 2008.
Whetzel tests all her recipes on her husband, Jon , and her 5-year-old son, Seven (no, his name has nothing to do with the “Seinfeld” episode; it stems from several happy coincidences surrounding his birth and the number seven).
Before she headed out on a nationwide book tour sponsored by the Hershey Co., I snagged some time with Whetzel to ask about her adventures in cooking.
Q: How did you get started with Doughmesstic?
In January 2007, my husband Jon and I went on a Mediterranean cruise for a couple of weeks. So that we could keep our families up to date on our travels, I started a little blog . While in Rome, I became terribly ill and was rushed to the hospital, where we found out I was pregnant!
From that point on, the blog became a way to keep the family involved with the pregnancy and, once Seven was born that August, to allow them to watch him grow . When he was 3 months old, I decided to stay at home and only work part time, but I didn’t know anything about cooking. After a few months of Hamburger Helper and pizza, I started reading food blogs.
Honestly, I had no idea what a food blog even was, but the sister of a friend had started one. While hers was very sporadic, she followed several other food bloggers that for some reason resonated with me. They were funny, charming, and personable, and they could cook. I decided I could be a food blogger, too.
I started at first by posting recipes on the baby’s blog, but the family was getting cranky reading recipes versus updates on the baby! That led me to start the food blog.
I sat down one evening, thought for about 30 seconds, and Doughmesstic came to me. I never looked back.
Q: How did growing up in Southwest Virginia impact you as a cook and mother?
My mother always worked — always. Now that I am a mother, I know the exact reasons she wanted my sister and me “out of her space” when it came time to cook. So I really didn’t grow up learning to cook from Mom. She’s a great home cook though — we still eat at her house every Sunday — and there’s nothing like your mother’s cooking.
But gourmet or fanciful meals? I learned that all on the Internet, from chef friends, from YouTube and from books. I love to study and to learn, and food for me is a never-ending wealth of information. Plus I get to eat it, and I do love to eat!
Q: Your first book was “The Everything Ice Cream, Gelato, and Frozen Desserts Cookbook.” How’d you get that book deal and why that topic?
The world of blogging is very diverse, but we are also a pretty tightly knit group. There are certainly groups within the groups, though, and one of the great bloggers I followed and befriended had just written an “Everything Pies” book. I tweeted to congratulate her one evening and she said the publisher was looking for someone to write the ice cream book.
She recommended me, I wrote the proposal, and within a few weeks I was under contract with the “Everything” series.
I consider that type of book more of a manual, and in reality, it was my foot in the door to the world of publishing. Since then, I have been asked to write the “Busy Moms” cookbook, as well as photograph two other “Everything” books.
Q: How did Duff Goldman end up doing the foreword?
Last year, out of the blue, I read a tweet from Duff. It’s really not like me to respond to random tweets that aren’t addressed to me, but I replied, being my typical snarky self. He must have found me funny, as he replied, the conversation continued, and we ended up taking our friendship from Twitter into the real world: texting!
We became pretty fast friends (cake bakers have to stick together), and eventually we worked an event together and got to meet in person. Since then, we’ve remained close and stay in touch every few days, and when I hosted my inaugural food blogging conference, “Mixed,” he was our celebrity guest. We decorated a hundred cakes with bloggers over the weekend, mixed, mingled and had a great time.
It was at “Mixed” that I had just signed on to write the s’mores book, and I jokingly mentioned to him that I would be hitting him up for an endorsement someday. Touchingly, he said if I wrote a book on s’mores, he’d endorse it without reading it because he knew my stuff .
In January, when it came time for me to request advance endorsements, I texted him. He asked if I had a foreword yet, and I told him I hadn’t planned to have one. A week later, he emailed me his foreword. I was thrilled!
Q: Do you have a particular affinity for s’mores or did something else determine the focus of this book?
In all truthfulness, I am not a huge fan of s’mores. I don’t love graham crackers. But, I do love the idea of s’mores — the nostalgia — and so many people feel the same way.
After searching online for s’mores cookbooks, I found the field to be horribly lacking. I had done several s’mores recipes on my site, so I wrote a proposal and sent it to my contact at Adams. She forwarded it to the right department, and within hours of proposing it, I was hired.
Q: Did you get tired of chocolate and marshmallows while working on the book? Did you ever worry that you wouldn’t be able to come up with enough variations on the classic dessert?
Ha! Yes, I did get tired of it! There were so many experiments, but luckily, it’s such an easy combination that it’s difficult to get wrong.
I did find myself worrying that I wouldn’t be able to come up with enough recipes. Since completing the book, however, I keep thinking of new things to add — like s’mores truffles — so I may have to write a second book someday.
Q: How much do your husband and son influence the work you do?
They are both troupers. Because I am a food blogger and I always need new material for my site, we rarely eat the same thing twice. Plus, I am always having to photograph the food before we eat it, so they sometimes eat dinner cold. We’ve worked as a team to remedy that, though — I take the pictures while they eat, and then I eat the “hero” shot.
Jon loves hearty foods like meat and potatoes. … Seven loves any kind of dessert, so it’s pretty easy to keep him satisfied.
Q: What is life like when you are promoting these books? Where has it taken you, and what adventures have you had?
This is the first of my books that has involved a tour. Book publishers today don’t see the value in a book tour, so it is the author’s responsibility to promote as they see fit.
I have worked closely with Hershey’s in the past, and thankfully, they are responsible for this book tour. I started at The Bank Food and Drink in Pearisburg, my hometown, and we had a great crowd and even sold out of cookbooks!
From here, I will be … flying around the country and meeting readers, as well as hosting blogger events to promote the book. I start in Chicago and hit Boston, New York, Las Vegas and Los Angeles, as well as D.C., Baltimore, Charlotte, and possibly Nashville. It will be a whirlwind!
In addition to the physical book tour, I have a blogger book tour lined up, with close to 20 bloggers guest-posting on my site with their own s’mores recipes while I am away on tour. They are all promoting the cookbook on their own sites at the same time, and these types of tours really stir up a lot of attention.
Q: What do you hope the future holds for your writing career?
I’ve thought for years I would like to write a novel. I have so many characters in my head! So maybe I will find the time.
As for another cookbook? Writing a cookbook is much like having a baby. In time, you forget the pain, the work, and the toll it took on you, and eventually, you say “I can write another book!”
But I’m not there yet.
On the blog
Find out how to pronounce some commonly mispronounced food terms at blogs.roanoke.com/fridgemagnet.
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