I was so fortunate to get a few moments of time from the ultra sweet, ultra humble Christy Jordan to chat about her site, her cookbook, and southern family life. Christy started her site, SouthernPlate.com, to aid a friend who had never had Banana Pudding, bless her heart. Christy went to work and created a step-by-step illustrated recipe and the rest is history. She set out with a goal of 500 readers and garnered a whopping 50,000 page views in the first month. Today her site gets more than 10 million page view every month and she has a Facebook following of more than 11,000 “family members”, as she calls them. Her brand new book, Southern Plate, hit store shelves officially on October 5th and is currently headed for a spot on the New York Times Bestseller list.
SB: Southerners are huge family folks. Tell us a little bit about your family and what it’s like on an average day in the Jordan household.
CJ: I don’t think we’re much different from other families, really. We wake up and hit the ground running before scattering to all directions for the day. But we start and end as many days as possible around our dinner table giving thanks for having each other.
My husband is an engineer who can build entire space stations but can’t manage to boil water. That’s fine with me, too, because I dearly love to cook.
My son is a smart as a whip eleven year old who is into Robots, Legos, and reading. My daughter is almost six and she is waffling between being a princess when she grows up or “just a Mama”, as she says it.
SB: Tell us a little bit about Southern Plate and how it got started. What made you start a food blog?
CJ: I had a friend who had never had homemade banana pudding. I was mortified by the thought of anyone living a life without homemade banana pudding! The problem was, she didn’t know how to cook. If someone isn’t familiar with cooking you can’t just hand them a recipe and expect them to be able to make a pudding from scratch. So I decided to do a step by step photo tutorial and put it up on my little personal blog. The next day, the company who owned the blog site featured it on their front page! I was so excited that I quickly followed with a tutorial of Fried green tomatoes and then my mother’s Mandarin Orange cake, both of which were also featured on their front page.
I called my husband one day after all of that and said “I bet if I got my own website I could get four or five hundred readers!”. So I played around with names and finally settled on Southern Plate, with the lofty goal of acquiring five hundred readers. That first month I received over 50,000 page views. In 2009 alone, SouthernPlate.com received over 43 million views.
SB: How do you come up with all of the delicious recipes on Southern Plate? Are they all family hand-me-downs?
CJ: Most of my recipes are handed down through my family. I come from a very long line of wonderful Southern cooks. Every now and then I do develop a recipe on my own and it usually blends right in with my classic Southern food heritage.
SB: I think I can probably answer this one my self, but who was/is your biggest influence in pursuing this delicious path?
CJ: Mama. Grandmama. Great Grandmama. The most impressive people I’ve ever met in my life. No one can hold a candle to them.
SB: How do you find time to be a blogger, cook, author, and most importantly… a wife and mom?
CJ: Everything is a balancing act and I’m no better at it than anyone else. It’s all about priorities. Sometimes I have to focus on work but I try to do that when the kids are in school. There are days (like today) when I have a to do list a mile long with Southern Plate but my kids are home from school and you have to be able to look at them at any given moment and realize they are more important than all of this. So this afternoon I’m shutting down and taking them to the park. Southern Plate will be fine, but my kids are growing fast and I don’t want to miss that.
I try to involve my kids as much as I can, even having my 11 year old guest blog for me from time to time – he’s a great cook already! They both like to help me out in the kitchen so they are often a part of tutorials. Once my husband gets home we eat supper, have some down time with the kids, and then it’s back to work for a few hours as soon as they go to bed.
It gets a little hairy sometimes but the kids always come first and my readers understand that. In fact, I know they’d be disappointed in me if I ever put anything before my family – that’s not what Southern Plate is about.
SB: How did the new book come about? Have you always wanted to do a cookbook?
CJ: The book will feature classic Southern recipes. I tried to set it up as an all inclusive “go to” book for Southern cooking. Granny’s fried pies, old fashioned chocolate gravy, light and fluffy biscuits and all of the great classics that Southern generations of the past grew up with. I present them in their original form because I feel strongly that classic Southern food is perfect just as it is. It’s also one of the simplest and most inexpensive styles of cooking, which certainly doesn’t hurt!
The photography is something I’m personally most excited about because I know folks who are used to seeing my photos on Southern Plate are going to be blown away. I had an opportunity to work with one of the best Southern food photographers around and even had a food stylist and prop stylist come to my house for the shoots. I told them before we started “Now y’all can’t make this food look all fancy and we can’t go serving anything on china. We need to use my everyday dishes and make it look just like it would if Granny had made it.” They really stayed true to that, too. The resulting photos are both heartwarming and mouth watering. I can’t wait for you to see!
I’ve also included a collection of the kind of stories Southern Plate has come to be known for. I have to chuckle when I say this but I often say the overall theme of Southern Plate is “Aren’t we lucky we’re not rich?” I enjoy feel good stories that help us to focus on how wonderful our life is right now. I mean really, I have my family, my home, and food on the table. I can’t imagine life getting any better than this. Once my son asked me if we’d ever be rich and I was taken aback by that because I feel strongly that we already are. Money doesn’t make you rich. I read a quote once that said “Instead of thinking of all the things you don’t have that money can buy, think about all the things you have that money can’t buy.” That really resonated with me because I’m a firm believer in realizing where your real wealth lies. I come from a long line of people who were financially poor, but richer than Midas in every way that mattered.
SB: If you had to boil everything down to one, which recipe do you think says the most about who you are?
CJ: It’s not necessarily the recipe but the story behind it. I think it’s this one…
SB: What’s next for the up-and-coming superstar Christy Jordan?
CJ: I have no idea where I’m headed next, mostly because I never dreamed I’d be where I am! I have a lot of exciting opportunities on the horizon and will be glad to see where they lead me but I don’t take this too seriously. I love it, don’t get me wrong, but if it all ended tomorrow I have my family, a roof over our heads, and food on the table so I’m good. The rest is just gravy
Christy- Thanks for your time and I wish you the best of luck – I know there are HUGE things in your future! It’ll be awesome to say I knew you when!