Interview with Ashley Ruggirello to learn to eat like Dracula

I don’t know for you, but eating like a monster has always been a fascination. Fan-cookery books to try to recreate the foods of our favourite shows, book series or geek-culture is fun. And if there is a monster that keeps capturing our imagination, it must be the vampire. I knew I was in for a treat when I got the opportunity to read From Dill to Dracula. It is a smart, captivating cookbook teaching the secrets of Romanian dishes while taking us on a folkloric and historic journey through this fascinating country.

I was lucky enough to get to ask a few questions to the lovely and talented Ashley Ruggirello. She not only wrote that great cookbook, but you can follow her simply delicious cooking blog, or creative book design business. She is without a doubt a very gifted person and her passion truly shines through her work. I loved learning more about her inspirations and bookish tastes and I’m sure you will be very taken by her too.

OE: Hello Ashley, thank you for your time in answering some of my questions. I will jump right in. How did your love of cooking come about?

AR: I have to attribute my love for eating food and making food to my grandmother on my mom’s side. As a kid I’d spend almost every weekend over at my grandparent’s house and it was filled with cooking and baking. My grandmother was always so hands-on and let me help every step of the way which instilled not only an appreciation for the food we were making, but gave me a confidence that I can create things… and they tasted good! 

OE: If you could choose just a few ingredients, what would be the flavours of Romania?  

AR: Oh man! Well, if the title of my cookbook weren’t obvious, one of the top ingredients that make up the flavors of Romania would have to be dill! You seriously can’t have too much dill! (Famous quote from my father—haha!) In addition to that, I’d include garlic (because something has to keep the vampires away, right?), sour cream (a great addition to many Romanian dishes!) and Hungarian paprika (despite the name, it’s featured heavily in Romanian cuisine). The flavors are really full and hearty, and are used to accentuate the natural flavors of the veggies and proteins used.

OE: I adored the folklore and history section of your book. The pictures of Romania were beautiful and inspired me to add that country to my travel bucket list. This mix of seriously delicious-looking recipes and legends made your book wonderfully unique. What made you want to add tales of vampires into your cookbook? Are you a fan of vampires/fantasy?

AR: Thank you! I’m glad they did their job 😀 
I’ve always been a huge fan of vampires, for as long as I can remember. I don’t know whether it’s the connection to Romania or the mystery behind them, but I just can’t get enough! That being said, when a lot of people think of Romania they only think of vampires, so I wanted to do a little recon and show that there’s more folklore to this magical country (even more than I included in my book, but will be featured on my blog!)—some a little scary, others a little intriguing. But I couldn’t name my cookbook From Dill to Dracula without heavily featuring these creatures of the night.
I like vampires so much I’m actually writing a book about them! Maybe it’ll see the light of day someday (pun absolutely intended).

OE: What is your favourite cookbook? And why?

AR: I’m going to totally nerd out for a moment and say The Elder Scrolls Cookbook is one of my favorites. I’ve clocked who knows how many hours into the fifth installment in the series, Skyrim, and being able to cook some of the signature dishes from the game is so fun! And they’re pretty tasty! I’ve made their Grilled Leeks recipe on multiple occasions… both in game and in real life! 

OE: What are your favourite fantasy book, film and video game?  And why? 

AR: There are too many to choose! So I’ll go with my defaults: My favorite video game, without a doubt, is 2003’s Beyond Good and Evil. Until the more recent The Last of Us (also an incredible game—definitely in my top five!), Beyond Good and Evil is the first video game where I cried at the ending. There’s so much to it that make Beyond Good and Evil different from other video games, especially of its time. I’m a fan of the mix of combat and passive picture taking. It’s a great gaming experience all around! 
My favorite book is Christopher Moore’s You Suck, which just so happens to be about vampires! My signed copy is one of my most prized possessions. Yes… it’s the second in a series (I didn’t realize it at the time) but it’s a great read as a standalone book.
And I honestly couldn’t tell you my favorite movie/series within those genres, but a two of the ones I tend to go back to are Van Helsing (Richard Roxburg is my favorite portrayal of Dracula) and The League of Extraordinary Gentleman (also happens to have Richard Roxburg in it… is that a trend?). They’re just fun adventures! And they have vampires–ha!

OE: And lastly, what is your favourite Romanian book (even if it wasn’t translated)? 

AR: So, confession: I can’t speak Romanian. I can understand a bit, but my parents weren’t keen on teaching me and my sister while growing up. That being said, since I mostly ready YA fiction, my favorite Romania-inspired book has to be And I Darken by Kiersten White. Give me a good alt-history gender reversal inspired by Vlad the Impaler and I’m happy! Kiersten works magic with her words, so it’s also a joy to read. Highly recommend!

I had a lovely time reading through the cheerful answers of Ashely. For my review of her book you can go here, I do highly recommend it, and I wish you a wonderful next meal 😀

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