Local Author Interview

by Brenden Bobby

Photo of Jill Hecker

Interview by Brenden Bobby

Today we are catching up with Jill Hecker, author of Every Dish Has A Story and area local. Jill participated in our Author Talk at the Sandpoint Library this month!

Every Dish Has A Story is a unique perspective on the connection between food and memory. Everyone has that dish that transports them back to a pivotal point in their lives, whether it’s Kraft macaroni and cheese with cut-up hot dogs or grandma’s world famous apple pie. Take a trip through history one plate at a time with this great local read!

My first question is a two-parter: What’s your connection to Bonner County and the Sandpoint area? Can patrons find any of your works here at the library?

I live in and love Sandpoint. I am a snowbird and love the summers here at my house on Lake Pend Oreille.

My book, Every Dish Has a Story, is available at the Library. I am so happy to say that every time I look for it, it’s checked out!

As a bit of a gourmand with tricky food restrictions, Every Dish Has a Story really speaks to me. It’s not something you think about every day, but recalling the taste of my grandmother’s goulash instantly transports me back to the third grade. What first inspired you to explore this idea?

What I love about my book is that every time I share it with someone, they immediately start thinking, then telling me, about their food memories! Being Hungarian, I love that your memory is Goulash. It has a wonderful history (I’m also a food historian). While I never did an episode on Goulash, I did two on Paprikash; both delicious, and I shared wonderful stories about the dish.

So I have a channel on YouTube, YesterKitchen, where I explore dishes from the 1930s – 1980s and tell the stories behind the dishes.

Cooking and food history are my passions. My vintage cookbook collection is vast and I share my collection on my Instagram. I just love sharing dishes from the past especially so these treasured recipes don’t get lost in history.

What started to happen on my channel was surprising and wonderful, and still continues to this day. My audience started remembering many of the dishes I made as something they grew up with. They started sharing their own stories in the comments of the video. It was glorious to hear how the dishes I was presenting made their way through so many homes and families. That was the inspiration of my book, my audience. I decided that I wanted to share personal childhood food memories. They are all different and special.

My book is a hybrid of a storybook and a cookbook. Every chapter is someone’s individual story of the one dish that brings them back to their childhood and every chapter ends with their recipe. They are all different and beautiful. I wrote the book to have many more editions, but am enjoying retirement at the moment.

Some writers have pushed back against the intermingling of digital mediums like YouTube and Instagram for fear it will alter their work, but I appreciate how you’ve used it to enhance your work and really bring your reader into the fold of inspiring and creating the book. Did your readers share any wild dishes or flavor combinations that surprised you? Was there anything that you just had to try based on their suggestions or memories?

I am so grateful. I get family recipes emailed to me all the time. I also have been the lucky recipient of vintage cookbooks as gifts from my fans. One fan emailed me one day a few years ago telling me that the ceramic trivet I was using in my videos was not retro. So she hand crocheted 4 beautiful trivets for me. I now use them any time I need a trivet. I am so blessed with the most wonderful audience that loves cooking from the past as much as I do, and they are so appreciative of learning the stories behind the dishes.

So with all that…… Yes, I get crazy recipes often. One I just filmed and will be released on 9/23 called Cherry Pie Salad. It’s similar to the Watergate Salad but has a cherry pineapple flavor. It’s so good and I would have never known about it without this viewer. Some other crazy ones which are not episodes are Frog Eye Salad (a sweet pudding of sorts including Acini de Pepe, tiny ball shaped pasta, to be the “eyes”and Chinese Cottage Cheese which has no roots in Chinese cooking whatsoever, except maybe scallions.

I have so much fun and am so grateful for my audience. I wish I could make episodes out of everything but with only so much time and thousands of cookbooks of my own and stories I want to share, it just isn’t possible. There is a vicious rumor (started by me) that I may be planning a cookbook filled with family recipes from my audience and families all over the country. No stories in this one, just love and recipes. I do have a true cookbook out as well, but it is strictly an ebook. It’s every recipe I have ever done in episode order through mid-July.

Thanks for taking the time to chat with me, Jill! 

If you’re looking to find Jill online, here are a few places you can look her up, find some great recipes and learn a little about the cultural history we share of food along the way!

Purchase the eBook Cookbook
Yesterkitchen Youtube
Yesterkitchen Facebook Group