Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Guest Interview with Tiffany Strelitz Haber

Today I'm very excited to present picture book author Tiffany Strelitz Haber. Tiffany is the author of The Monster Who Lost His Mean (Henry Holt/Macmillan, Spring 2012) and Ollie and Claire (Philomel/Penguin, Spring 2013), a fellow Apocalypsie and a fellow member of the KidLit Authors Club.

About Tiffany
Tiffany Strelitz Haber was born in NJ, raised in NYC, has traveled extensively and lives for adventures. She will taste any food she is served, be it fried Witchetty Grubs on a stick or Calf’s Brain Ravioli, and loves being high in the air or deep in the sea. Her obsession with rhyme began at the age of 3, when a nursery school admission scout asked her, “What is a flower that rhymes with nose?”, and she proudly shouted “Rose!” Twenty-five years later (give or take), now married with two sons and coming off of a long career in finance, she has reconnected with her love of words and rhyme as a writer. Tiffany resides in central New Jersey and is available for children’s workshops everywhere.

Tell me about how food figures into your writing. Do your picture books deal with eating either imaginary or real foods?
Um…I’m kind of *not* allowed to write about food anymore. Or at least not for a while. I have one picture book revolving entirely around cheese. Another involving a *very* hungry porcupine whose penchant for dining on inanimate objects gets him in a bit of a situation. Oh, then there’s the detective who’s all about pickles. Plus, both of my forthcoming picture books actually mention food in their opening stanzas; eyeball soup and hot buttered biscuits and jam, respectively. So yeah…I might need to lay off a little. It’s really not intentional, though!

What kind of meals do you like to cook at home? Any ingredients you always have on hand?
I hope this doesn’t make me a fake foodie, (fauxdie?) but I am just now getting into actual cooking. For as long as a can remember, I’ve watched cooking shows on television, read cookbooks, loved to learn about different sauces and marinades and cuts of beef; when I lived in NYC, I sometimes brought takeout menus on the train with me as reading material because...well, because that’s what I wanted to read. But now finally, at the ripe old age of thirty-bleep, I am starting to put it all to practice. And it’s awesome. My kids love to help, and I think it’s such a cool family activity incorporating math, science, sharing, creating, experimenting, getting your hands dirty, cleaning up—it’s pretty perfect.

What kinds of food fuels a typical work day for you?
If I’m going to be in front of the computer all day, I don’t like to feel too full…so I’ll just nibble on air popped popcorn, rain-blo, spree, sour patch kids, maybe a big, giant, fresh salad.

For some of us food-obsessed types, the agent or editor lunch is one of the highlights of being published. Have you gone anywhere memorable with either one?
I’ve only had one agent/editor lunch (it was with both) We went to Sala 19 in NYC, and my order was: half a roasted portabello mushroom sandwich with red peppers, creamy goat cheese and a beautiful green salad. It was delicious, but also one of the few times food took a complete back seat. I was just thrilled to be sharing a meal with my editor and agent!

Who is your favorite food writer? Any favorite food scenes from novels?
I’m a big Anthony Bourdain fan for reasons too numerous to mention. ;-) There were so many incredible food references in The Hunger Games trilogy. From stale bread, to sauteed dove breasts with bacon drippings. Awesome.

Now for the signature Pots and Pens question: If you had to choose a single book and a single food item, desert island style, what would you pick?
Book: Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick. It’s actually two stories set 50 years apart. One is told entirely in text, and the other entirely through drawings. The stories intersect at the end, and the sensation is that of being caught inside a silent movie. It’s beautiful. I just finished it, and my first thought after turning that final page was that I couldn’t wait to do it all over again. Food: If I had only a single food item on a desert island? Well that’s easy. Dim sum brunch, of course! That counts as 1, right? ;-)

No-Bake Kahlua Torte
So, the recipe I am sharing is one my Grandma Edith taught me. We used to prepare it for family celebrations when I was little. It's perfect for kids to help with, it takes no time at all to put together, and you don't even bake it! Oh, and it's so freaking delicious, you'll eat the plate when you're done. Warning: no need to proceed without a love of Kahlua.

3 cups heavy whipping cream
1/4 cup coffee liqueur
2 packages Bordeaux cookies
1/3 cup chopped pecans, toasted

In a mixer bowl, beat cream until soft peaks form. Add coffee liqueur and beat until stiff peaks form. In bottom of 8" springform pan, arrange 9 whole cookies and one or two more broken cookie pieces as needed. Spread a generous 3/4 cup whipped cream over the cookies. Repeat layering four more times. Refrigerate four hours. Remove sides of pan and press pecans into sides of torte. Eat!


  1. Pretty tasty sounding recipes. Thanks for sharing this interview. How do you keep from eating the kalua torte before it gets to the fridge?

  2. Hi Bill,

    Oh, all the kahlua and cream goodness needs to soak into the cookies. It's definitely worth the wait!!

  3. My daughter can't wait for your book to come out! Thanks for an awesome interview!

  4. Aw...thanks Cole! And big hugs to your daughter! xox