Jessica Merchant has achieved every food blogger’s dream: an audience that averages 3.7 million readers a month and her own cookbook.
The author of the How Sweet It Is blog (howsweeteats.com) has just released her first cookbook, “Seriously Delish.”
Merchant’s success story is similar to that of Julie Powell of “Julie & Julia” fame. Like Powell, Merchant was stuck in a boring office job when she began to blog in 2009. What she envisioned as a lifestyle blog ended up focusing on what she made for dinner. Unlike Powell, Merchant’s success didn’t come after The New York Times wrote about her blog; nor did readership spike after a mention from a famous blogger.
“I had to work extremely hard,” Merchant said last week from her home outside Pittsburgh. “It still does take so much work.”
Slowly but surely, Merchant’s just-between-us-girlfriends writing style and beautiful food photography have won fans. The writing comes naturally, but photography is a skill she’s had to learn through practice.
Merchant, a former personal trainer, is a big proponent of all things in moderation. Her recipes are a mixture of healthy and indulgent: acai bowls and lemon-chia seed waffles for breakfast and homemade potato chips with Siracha barbecue sauce and Greek yogurt blue cheese dressing for dinner.
Merchant spent two years developing new recipes for the cookbook while still shooting and writing for the blog. Only a few recipes that have appeared on her blog made it in the book, like her mother’s lemon chicken Romano.
Merchant, who is expecting her first child, realizes her life in the kitchen and with her husband is about to drastically change. For now, she said, “I’m relishing just the two of us, even if it’s just making dinner and we sit on the couch to eat it.”