For those of you who don’t know her, Sarah Becan is the author and illustrator behind the blog Sauceome. Now in its third year, Sauceome has grown from its beginnings as a food diary and daily memoir about food, body image, and life into a blog that celebrates food in all its comic (pun intended) forms. Becan’s work is a great introduction to food comics because she tackles every area of food you can think of: memoir, travel writing, restaurant reviews, recipes, food history, and more.
In its written form, the following Q&A misses a lot of what makes Sarah Becan’s work and, presumably, the woman herself so great. She’s funny, wise, and friendly all while worrying that she’s “not great over the phone.” If you like this following taste of Sauceome, do yourself a favor and head over to her blog for a second helping.
Tove Danovich: What was your relationship with food as a child. How did it start?
Sarah Becan: I was actually a really picky eater when I was a kid. It wasn’t until the last six or seven years that I started getting interested in different cuisines and cooking. In my day job I work as a graphic designer and most of our clients are restaurants. I’ve worked with a lot of cooks and chefs through that. But, mostly, it was a slow, gradual thing. I would say in my early twenties I started getting invited to dinner parties and seeing what people could do there. I moved to Chicago and most of the friends I ended up making were bartenders and cooks so I learned a lot about the craft through them as well.
TD: What were your initial plans for Sauceome?
SB: In the beginning I wanted it to be a weight loss project more than anything else. It helped me out in a lot of ways toward that goal. Through the course of actually doing it, that became a secondary goal. Through examining the issues around food and body image and the things I was eating and interested in and making, I saw that loving food wasn’t a “fat girl” trait. It was a normal thing. I could love food without it being a symptom of being overweight. I realized then that I loved food more than most things.
TD: Was there a concrete turning point you remember or was the change more of a process?
SB: It was a gradual shift. I’m ashamed I hadn’t heard about it before but there’s this whole movement called Health at Any Size. Some commenters pointed me to the site and it helped a lot, knowing that the idea was out there. I was so used to this background noise of hating myself and thinking of myself as a project I needed to be worked on, but there were moments when I’d look at myself in the mirror and realize I’m okay.
TD: One of the interesting parts of your blog is the comment community you have. Everyone seems very supportive of you and one-another.
SB: A lot of the commenters that show up are people I’ve never met before. In the early days it shocked and astonished me that weight and body image was a universal issue that affects every woman I know. So when these people of all different sizes and all different backgrounds were talking about how it resonated with them, I was just angry. Why do we raise generation after generation of women who can’t look in the mirror and not actively hate their appearance?
TD: You recently did a travel series for Saveur magazine about Montreal. Can you talk a little bit about that project?
SB: The Montreal piece was just an illustrated version of the way I already travel. When my boyfriend and I go to different cities, the first thing we do is figure out the best restaurants and foods of those locations. Through the comic I had gotten a couple of clients doing food illustration and I wondered if they’d be interested in a story like this. It was exciting because I could make actual plans ahead of time – what days to wander, which days we had reservations at what places. It definitely seemed like a natural progression from the daily blog stuff to an actual trip.
TD: Now you’re dabbling in food history, too?
SB: Food history is another thing I’m naturally interested in. This day and age we have smartphones and Google in your pocket. Any time I’m in a place or at a new restaurant I find myself fascinated by what this food is and where it comes from – I feel like I have to look something up every single time. I’m just generally curious, always wondering about that sort of thing. I love doing all the research and distilling it into conversation-sized pieces. The information in comics are the kind of stuff you can tell people at a bar.
TD: You took a brief hiatus from the blog. Do you have plans for your “return” to Sauceome?
SB: No! I have so much freelance work that I don’t really have the time to update it but I’m doing it anyway because I miss it. Obviously in my early days of the blog (also because it was a food diary) I had to do posts every day. There was no planning. It was the food I ate that day; I couldn’t do them in advance. It’s always been an immediate, spontaneous thing and I don’t think about where it’s going in any long-term capacity. I think that’s still what it’s going to be. A lot of people have asked me to do an illustrated cookbook but I don’t know when I’ll have the time for it. So, yeah, pretty much it’s just going to be spontaneous.
The above interview was edited for length and clarity.