the kick-ass women interview series is meant to inject a tiny little bit of modern day feminism into this blog. i figure when my ideology and the subjects of this blog intersect, it’s not just an opportunity to spread positive vibes and support great women in the creative industry, but it also presents an interesting story that might be inspiring to you in other ways, too.
i met barbara and johanna two years ago, when i interviewed them for a tv-show that unfortunately never made it on the air. and while that is a shame, i never regret the time and effort i put into that project, as it handed me the perfect excuse to meet a lot of interesting people, like these two women. barbara and johanna founded the belgian blog about food ALLE DAGEN HONGER. it led them to hosting intimate dinners all over antwerp, and organizing food festival KRACHTVOER – a second edition of which will take place in the fall of this year.
they are currently also writing a book about food and the people behind it, and i can’t wait to read it. whenever i hear these two talk about their passions, food and plans for the future, i come away feeling inspired and motivated by their can-do mentality. i had a lot of fun catching up with them for this interview (and another special project of mine, more on that later!) and i hope you’ll have the same feeling reading it.
w h a t ’ s t h e m o s t i m p o r t a n t t h i n g y o u ’ v e l e a r n e d i n y o u r l i f e s o f a r ?
barbara – i’ve learned to focus and prioritize. for a long time i was a person who had three plans for one evening. i said yes to everything that sounded fun or exiting. so an important thing i’ve learned is to say no to certain things. this evolution had a lot to do with alle dagen honger. before that, my work was always a means to get by. i enjoyed it, but it wasn’t a goal in itself… when we started the blog, for the first time i felt this inner drive and fulfillment from what i was doing. i was surprised, because i reckoned i just wasn’t a very ambitious person, but i simply hadn’t found my goal yet.
sometimes it’s hard to believe that so many great things can come from one small idea: real things, meaningful things that have an impact in the offline world. but all this also means working really hard. most of my free time in the last three years was taken up by alle dagen honger. this meant saying no even more and disappointing people. that was hard to deal with, but i guess it’s the only way… you only have 7 days a week and 24 hours a day, so you have to make pretty radical choices.
jo – listen to your intution. when we are asked a question for the blog and we don’t know what to do with it, barbara will ask me ‘jo, what does your uterus say?’ of course it’s meant to be funny, but in the end we take a lot of decisions purely based on how we feel about it. my intution is often my guide with bigger decisions, too. but it’s something i’ve had to learn. i used to shut down when i had doubts. when my thoughts and my feelings didnt tell me the same thing, i was left paralyzed. by now i’ve learned that when this happens, it’s because it’s not the right path for me. i think you should have the guts to listen to yourself and ask what you want, instead of what others want from you. luckily, i also think this gets a lot easier when you grow older.
w h a t a r e y o u t r y i n g t o t e a c h y o u r s e l f ?
barbara – i’m trying to be less afraid. i realize that this is a never-ending endeavor for me. i’m a person with a lot of anxieties, although i hope most people don’t notice this about me. i’ve always been like this – my mother tells me that my first drawings were very dark depictions of the universe. she tells me i had a profound existential fear as a kid. i got up five times at night to ask how it was possible that the world wasn’t falling out of the universe into black nothingness! today i’m blessed with a great lust for life, but i’m also still battling those fears. i won’t let them paralyze me, and i try to make things simple and live a happy life. i have great friends, family and good fortune, so i have a lot to be happy about.
jo – i’m learning how to live together with my boyfriend! we’ve been living under the same roof for about a year now, and we regularly discover things about each other in which we’re different. that is normal, of course, but it’s not always easy. when you go and try to change each other, it stops being fun very quickly. giving each other space is a much better tactic, because all of those differences make you complementary, and that is exactly what makes for a good relationship.
w h o h a s b e e n y o u r m e n t o r t h r o u g h o u t y o u r l i f e o r p r o f e s s i o n a l c a r e e r , a n d h o w ?
jo & barbara – we’ve been very important to each other in our professional lives. we both really value our collaboration.
barbara – it’s the first time i’m working with someone who i feel is truly compatible. jo and i have different qualities and talents, but the same philosophy and interests. this makes it easier for me to let go of certain things, because i know jo is better at them than me. it has been quite the exercise for a control freak like me, but it’s really relaxing now we know who is better at what.
jo – barbara is also the only person i can take criticism from, and vice versa. we can be very up front with each other, but we can both handle it. working as a team makes us stronger, we dare to do things that we wouldn’t do if we were alone. it’s easier, you feel less vulnerable. if something fails, you’re not hit as hard when you’re a team. you can make a joke about it and move on. and we’re really happy to have mayken with us. she’s the image cook of our team, makes beautiful illustrations and does the lay-out and graphic design for everything that we put out there, so it all fits into our universe. without her, everything we do would look very plane! it’s great karma that we found her, she was barbara’s upstairs neighbor who we asked to join us, but we didn’t really know each other before we began working together.
n a m e a c h a l l e n g e t h a t y o u d i d n ‘ t t h i n k y o u c o u l d o v e r c o m e , b u t y o u c o n q u e r e d a n y w a y .
jo – getting my philosophy degree. starting those studies was the first time i really challenged myself. those first exams were horrible! sometimes i would lie on the floor for hours, literally paralyzed by fear. but by putting my standards high, i learned to trust in myself. i think then is when i learned you should do what you think you should do, and not let yourself be stopped by anyone – including yourself.
d o y o u h a v e a n i c o n – s o m e o n e y o u l o o k u p t o o r w h o n e v e r f a i l s t o i n s p i r e y o u ?
jo & barbara – during our years with alle dagen honger we’ve met a lot of people who inspire us. some of them we’ve met in real life, others WE’VE INTERVIEWED or even collaborated with. some of them are distant heroes we admire, whose books or blogs we read and can only dream of meeting for real.
dorien knockaert is a culinary journalist for de standaard. we’d been following her work with great admiration for some time – reading HER BLOG and articles and loving her book. we always thought we’d get along really well, so we were very happy when she agreed to work with us on the krachtvoer food festival. she’s really a kind of mentor to us, helping us out and always giving us advice.
we also asked kobe desramaults, chef of IN DE WULF, to join our krachtvoer think tank, and we screamed really loudly when he said yes. we think MICHAEL POLLAN is the best food writer around. his books are well written, wise, funny reports of his quest to find out how what the impact of modern ways of producing food is on the world and how we can eat better on a large scale.
or wait, actually RUTH REICHL is the best food writer around! jo and i both loved her books before we starting writing about food ourselves. ruth was the restaurant critic of the ny times for a long time, and she writes about her life as a critic, but she has also written a book about her life, in which you learn how her love for food and cooking has grown and evolved. it’s great to read, because you really get a feel of the food scene in the us in the 70s, with the rise of local food, restaurant gardens, the first years of chez panisse in california, and so on.
barbara and jo’s food blog ALLE DAGEN HONGER // and their food festival KRACHTVOER
photos taken by stephanie duval at NORMO in antwerp