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A fork in progress McMaster alumnus Rachel Katz shows students on a budget the joy of cooking

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Photos C/O @forkinprogress

Rachel Katz often shares her cooking and baking with other people. After a time, people began to tell her that she should start a food blog. While Katz decided a blog would be too much to handle whilst being a full-time graduate student, she figured Instagram would be a manageable platform. So last summer while she was working one job and had relatively free evenings, she started her food Instagram, Fork in Progress.

On the account, Katz shares photos of the recipes that she’s tried. Unlike many other food accounts, her unfiltered photos project accessibility and make anyone scrolling feel like they could get in their kitchen and make the same meal.

The recipes that Katz tries are not necessarily easy, but she believes basic kitchen confidence can be applied to make more complicated recipes. She looks for recipes with very specific instructions that she can follow along with. She also looks for versatile recipes that she can add her own flavours to. In her captions, she highlights her innovations and provides tips.

One benefit to Instagram for her is the interactivity. It is easy for her followers to ask her questions and provide feedback. The platform also makes it possible for her to share step-by-step videos that break down the recipes into easier steps. This is to prove to people that anyone can learn how to cook delicious dishes.

“I was frustrated with a lot of students… saying ‘oh I have no time to cook’ or ‘I don’t like cooking’… [But] food is so important, food is delicious and there’s a kind of pride that you get from making your own food that you don’t really get from anything else,” Katz said.

Katz understands how difficult balancing food with student life can be. The McMaster grad lived in residence in her first year where the meal plan limited the choice she had over what she ate. In her second year, she shared a six-person student house with a tiny kitchen. In both years, she didn’t feel like she had a fully functional space where she can cook her own meals.

For Katz, this resulted in patterns of disordered eating. In her second year, she committed to recognize these patterns in herself so she can create healthier eating habits. Preparing her own meals has been one tool in repairing Katz’s relationship with food.

In her third year, Katz moved into a two-person apartment with a nice kitchen. In her new kitchen, Katz explored cooking more. Working at the Silhouette also encouraged her as she began to regularly bake for the office. This practice allowed her to receive feedback on her food and grow as a baker.

 

“I don’t use words like clean… or like detox, cleanse… [T]here are all of these other food bloggers out there who use those lines and a lot of recipe bloggers who have these crazy extravagant recipes. But there wasn’t really anyone to fulfill the student niche for people who wanted to cook actual meals but didn’t really know where to start,” Katz explained.

While developing a healthy relationship with food is important to Katz, food is also a tool that she uses in her relationships with others. Cooking is an activity that she likes to do with family and friends. Her food-related memories stretch all the way back to her childhood.

Katz grew up eating a lot of homemade meals. She is inspired by her mother, who is an accomplished home chef and baker. Not only does she adore the chocolate chip cookies that she grew up eating, but she also admires her mother’s diligence. Her mother can spend months trying to perfect a recipe.

 

Now an adult, Katz is making her own food memories, many of which include food she’s made for others. For her, cooking for people is a way of shaping their experiences for the better. By making a caramel corn cake for her partner’s birthday, she was able to make the day more memorable. When she makes her mother’s birthday cake this year, she will make that day more special.

However, as the name of her account indicates, Katz is still growing her skills in the kitchen. She wants her followers to continue learning, experimenting and trying new things.

“[H]aving a name that has associations of things that are not quite perfect, that I’m still learning but it doesn’t mean that I don’t know anything, I think… that embodies the mentality that I’m hoping I can encourage people to take with food and feeding themselves,” said Katz.

For this reason, Katz is not focused on monetizing Fork in Progress, as she and her followers operate within a student budget, she does not want to promote products that are inaccessible. While she would consider a column in a publication, she believes the account can only remain authentic by staying fairly small.

As long as she’s a student, Katz wants to continue spreading positive messages about food and cooking. She wants Fork in Progress to show students that they can make their own cakes and eat them too.

 

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