Can you tell us about your background?
I have an eclectic background, full of quite different and unique experiences which perfectly culminated into creating “Veggin in St. Augustine.” Examples include a Bachelor of Arts in advertising photography from Rochester Institute of Technology, being a photojournalist for a newspaper in Pennsylvania, working in the communications department for the Pennsylvania State House of Representatives and Senate, and managing marketing at the Lightner Museum and the Ponte Vedra Cultural Center.
On a personal note, I love to travel and photograph environments and the people in them.
What inspired you to write a book?
Shortly before the pandemic, my husband, my son and I went to Barnes and Noble in St. Augustine. It had been a long time since I stepped inside a bookstore. Mostly, these days, I read books on my Kindle or listen to audiobooks on my iPhone, but I still love to hold a cookbook in my hands. I have a whole collection. I love to go over them on a Sunday morning and plan something to make. I love the earmarked pages, the food splatters, and the little notes I've made myself.
A specific cookbook caught my eye on this trip. It was “The Forest Feast Mediterranean” by Erin Gleason. In the book, she documented her family's trip to the Mediterranean, including beautiful pictures along the way and recipe inspirations from the restaurants they visited. I thought, wouldn't it be great if I could make a similar book featuring St. Augustine and include original restaurant recipes. It was a seed I stored away in my brain.
What did you enjoy most during the process of writing your book?
Several things really. As I write my second book, I am struck by how many relationships I have made on this journey. I knew St. Augustine on an intimate level prior to writing my first book, but it has just grown deeper with every restaurant and business owner I connect with. It is really something magical.
Because I chose to self-publish through Amazon, I was able to maintain complete creative control of my book. I wrote, photographed, and designed it. This gave me great satisfaction.
What are some of the challenges that you have faced as a vegetarian?
I was pretty much born a vegetarian. I'm a thinker. I couldn't process the idea of eating a dead animal. I don't like the smell of meat, I don't like the taste of meat, and I don't like to look at meat. That has always been true. So for me, I am not missing anything. When people ask me how to transition to becoming vegetarian, I don't know how to advise them, but I am pleased it is something stirring in peoples' consciousness.
What is the most difficult and the most rewarding part of your job?
Putting myself out there and asking restaurants to trust me with their recipes was a real education. This did not always go well. Now that I have a finished product, this year's book is easier to connect to the restaurant community moving forward.
I am not a salesperson, so I am learning how to broach local retail establishments to sell my book. My dream is to have it available in local Publix grocery stores.
What do you enjoy most about living in the North Florida area?
Water everywhere. Outside all year long. Really friendly people. Less hustle. I could go on and on.
What do you like to do in your free time?
What's fun is that some of my work time and free time have collided in a lovely way. For instance, I love spending time with my husband and son and we love to go out to eat. So, I am able to experience those book-related activities with them much of the time.