Why I Write About Food 020: Adriana Kroller of Changing Plate

Adriana started writing about food to document her new life when she moved to Germany. Little did she expect that it would take her back to her roots in Costa Rican cuisine. From frittata made with foraged stinging nettles to a simple Costa Rican rice and beans, her recipes are as much a celebration of flavors and diversity as they are a discovery of foreign lands and cultures. 

Tell us about Changing Plate.
I'd left my 23-year career as a stylist, friends and busy city living in the US to pursue a new beginning in Germany with my husband. I had an empty life pallet, a chance to recreate myself, which was both an extraordinary and daunting opportunity. The question I had to answer was, what will inspire me enough to rebuild a life around? I was left having to find what that new source was going to be in a very large empty space without direction, friends or even a language.

So... I started cooking, thrilled to finally have the time to make my way through my cookbook collection. But I also had to learn the ways of a European kitchen which was a lot more than I could learn in a cookbook. It came from watching other people and asking a lot of questions. The process took on a life of itself and I found my inspiration so I began Changing Plate as my creative space to document and share everything I was learning, in the kitchen and through my travels. What I found ironic was that I thought it was going to be about moving forward, from the perspective of the "new me". It never occurred to me to include the foods from Costa Rica (my home country) that I'm most familiar with until recently and it's a very exciting add, because there's so much inspiration from a beautiful part of our world.

Why do you write about food?
I write about food because I believe it to be both one of the great human equalizers and most beautiful forces in the world. It not only heals and nourishes our bodies, it's a creator of memories; a familiar flavor, scent or even the sound of a simmering lid can trigger a memory that can take us back to a moment thought to be long forgotten. Food is capable of teaching history and culture from any corner of the world, and coming together to share meals brings us to a different state of mind where we are more open and kind with each other. Food is inspiring and I won't ever run out of things to say.

You've lived in many different countries throughout your life. How has that influenced or changed the way you eat and cook? 
Living in different countries and cultures throughout my life has created a large mental cooking pantry and there's nothing I'm not willing to try. It also means I mix and match different cuisines a lot. For example, my mother and I learned how to make kimchi from a Korean friend when we were living in the South Pacific in exchange for us teaching her how to make Gallo Pinto, Costa Rica's traditional breakfast. To this day I love topping Gallo Pinto with kimchi; they go together perfectly. I've also found the more I know about other culture's food the more creative I can get.

Tell us about where you live in Germany now, which you described on your blog as a "1250 year old farming village on the foothills of the German alps".
Originally I thought we would move to Munich as city life is where I'm most comfortable but life had other plans. We went to see the house we now live in, in an area called "The Priests Corner" due to its unusually high concentration of monasteries and churches, not thinking it would really be a place for us but it was something to do on a rainy Sunday afternoon. Maybe it was the long stone walls that surround the 1250-year-old still active monastery or the panoramic backdrop of the Alps but I immediately felt a sense that this was where I was supposed to land. I've since been told a few artists, authors and musicians have come to live here and have gone on to create beautiful things through the inspiration they felt.

Personally, I think it's being surrounded by nature and peace that helps ideas come forward that might otherwise have gone unheard or gotten lost. I've evolved so much these past couple of years and feel like I'm still working on that, so I'm not going anywhere anytime soon. The people can be tough; they're conservative and don't open up easily but when they do you've made a friend for life. My friends here have taught me everything I know about German food, culture and traditions, even Italy since it's close by, which I include in my kitchen and life everyday.

Your home country is Costa Rica. What's the most important Costa Rican dish for you to pass on to your daughter?
As you may have guessed I have a love for all cultures, and for me it is very important to keep my Costa Rican and American culture in our home as a stabilizing force as I continue to move around the world, and the only way to really do that is through food. Costa Rica has largely a vegetable-based cuisine so I make sure to keep as many of the tropical fruits and vegetable in our home as I can; it can be challenging near the Alps but I've managed. I especially love Gallo Pinto, our traditional breakfast I mentioned earlier, and it was my daughter's first meal!

What are you currently reading?
Reading and writing are two of my favorite pastimes so I'm always digging though books and reading a few things at once. I just finished On the Bookshelf, a post on my latest food reads but I'm currently re-reading Shantaram and absolutely loved Recipes for Love and Murder, a fun South African mystery novel that doubles up as a great cookbook. I knew nothing of the South African cooking culture going into the book and I learned quite a bit. I'm also waiting on my preordered copy of The Basque Book: A Love Letter in Recipes from the Kitchen, a book concentrating on foods from Spain's northern region, plus Costa Rica once belonged to Spain so I like to tie the two similar cultures together.

What's your favorite recipe on Changing Plate?
So far my favorite recipe is Costa Rican Black Beans and Rice, simple good food that has been served on my family table my entire life. Black beans and rice are the two core ingredients my home country's traditional foods revolve around, so to me not only are they delicious and can be used in so many ways but they are also soul food.

Question from Rachel of Bakerita: Do you plan out your editorial weeks or months ahead of time, or are your recipes and posts more spur of the moment? (Click here to read Rachel's interview)
Sometimes I schedule recipe posts, but most of my food experiences are wrapped up in events so I mostly post as I go and write about the experience. For instance I'm foraging for nettles this Thursday for the first time and though I have a recipe in mind, I'll want to write about it while the experience and what I learned is still fresh. For me it's a great time to add the energy into my writing. 

Visit Adriana's website at www.changingplate.com
Recommended Recipes:

Honey Vanilla Cheesecake with an Almond Crust
Patacones (Fried Plantains)
Costa Rican Rice and Beans