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September 17, 2012

Sweet Talk With Joy the Baker

Joy the baker[This article was written by Seven Days calendar editor Carolyn Fox.]

If you don’t know who Joy the Baker is, we can only assume your life is sorely lacking in butter, sugar and flour.

One of the internet’s top food bloggers — as named by Forbes and Saveur, among others — Joy Wilson (aka “Joy the Baker”) is the thirtysomething California mastermind behind such unusual sweets as Avocado Pound Cake, Chocolate-Peanut-Butter-Pretzel Brownies and Toasted-Marshmallow Milkshakes. She’s no slouch at savory recipes, either; Seven Days associate arts editor Megan James swears by her Kale-and-Sweet-Potato Soup.

But visitors to her site tend to drop in as much for her warm personality and self-effacing humor as for the food. A “self-taught/family-taught/taste-buds-taught baker,” Wilson exudes girl-next-door-charm and an affinity for words such as “bonkers” and “amazeballs.” She frequently interrupts her regularly scheduled recipes with posts about her life as a cat lady.

Wilson visits King Arthur Flour this Saturday, September 22, as part of its grand-opening celebration. We caught up with the blogger by phone to talk about her new cookbook, her brief time as a Vermonter and, of course, Ben & Jerry’s.

SEVEN DAYS: You’re no stranger to Vermont — you moved from California to Burlington right after high school. What brought you here?

JOY WILSON: When I was in high school, in Los Angeles, I was working at a Ben & Jerry’s in a shopping mall — like, the kind of job you have when you’re 15. I wanted a total change, but I still wanted a job. I literally called the Burlington Ben & Jerry’s scoop shop and I was like, “I’m gonna move to Burlington. Will you please hire me?” And they said yes. I went home and told my parents I wasn’t gonna go to college and I was going to move across the country and scoop ice cream. They nearly disowned me, but that’s what happened. Just sheer craziness.

SD: I’m curious, what’s your favorite flavor of Ben & Jerry’s?

JW: Oh, my gosh. It totally depends on my mood. I really loved Wavy Gravy, but that doesn’t exist anymore. I guess now I like Chocolate Fudge Brownie. I’ve gone more pure.

SD: Did your time in Vermont, a state largely focused on locavorism, influence the way you approach food?

JW: I don’t think so. When I was living in Vermont, I had so little. I moved out there with a suitcase. Not a lot of friends. Not enough clothes — I was so cold. I was operating very minimally. I would eat the rejected ice cream at Ben & Jerry’s. There was a Chinese food restaurant on my walk home from Ben & Jerry’s, and I would order an entire container of hot-and-sour soup. And then I would walk down to the [City Market] co-op. It was such a treat to go into that place, and everyone was so nice. I would just buy myself a little something and it was such a luxury. I didn’t have a real food experience [in Vermont], because I just couldn’t afford it.

SD: Are you excited to come back to Vermont?

JW: I am so excited to come back. I haven’t been back to Vermont since 2001. It’s been a really long time. It’s just beautiful. The people are so nice. I’m really excited.

SD: You’re currently touring in support of the Joy the Baker Cookbook. What’s it like to meet your internet fans in person?

JW: Oh, my gosh, it’s so bizarre and amazing! I write Joy the Baker in the privacy of my own living room. It’s such a small operation with just me and my cat. It’s really bizarre to walk into a room with people who know me, from reading my work for a couple of years. I’m among strangers who know me.

SD: You’re visiting King Arthur Flour this week. What can we expect from your demo and talk? Any delicious baked goods?

JW: We’re starting out with a demo, so I’m going to spend half an hour baking an apple pie, which is super seasonal and actually one of my favorite things to do. I know people are sometimes super intimidated by it. And then there will be a book signing, as well.

SD: Tell me, do you ever use King Arthur Flour products?

JW: I do. I actually use King Arthur Flour because they are super consistent in their flour. When I was a professional baker, that was such a big deal. And they don’t even pay me to say that!

SD: You’re a food blogger, a cookbook author, a podcaster extraordinaire ... What’s next in the life of Joy the Baker?

JW: I’m definitely going to work on some more cookbooks. That’s what’s in my immediate future. And I’m maintaining the blog, which is my first love.

SD: What are you looking forward to baking these days?

JW: Pies and cakes are going to be bonkers right now, as we’re going into the holidays.

Joy the Baker visits King Arthur Flour in Norwich on Saturday, September 22, at 1 p.m., as part of its grand-opening celebration. Info, 649-3361.

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