Riley Haun is The Herald’s Food & Drink writer.

Riley Haun is The Herald’s Food & Drink writer.

Butcher, baker, food-content-maker?: New Herald food writer brings industry experience

Riley Haun has worked on a farm, in a slaughterhouse and behind a deli counter. Now, she’s writing about the Snohomish County food scene for The Daily Herald.

Food has kinda always been my thing. Growing up in Homedale, Idaho, the first cooking skills I picked up were chopping onions and browning homegrown ground beef for what we (very generously) called tacos, comforting piles of packet-seasoned meat and shredded romaine that I could, I admit, still eat every night to this day. On weekends when it was too windy or cold to do outside chores on my family’s small farm, like mucking cattle stalls or pulling tumbleweeds out of the electric fence, I would stay in and bake from my mom’s early-’90s Betty Crocker cookbook. There is a waffle recipe in there that’s barely legible to this day, the batter drips accumulated over the years gluing the pages together.

My family’s tastes were never what you’d call “adventurous;” the chocolate chip cookie recipe on the back of Nestle Toll House bags got a lot of mileage over my teen years. I always wondered what new and thrilling options would be available for me to sample when I got Out There, out into the real adult world.

In college at the University of Idaho, I worked as an assistant to a local butcher. Sometimes I wrapped steaks in white paper and chatted with local hunters over the finer points of turning bear into bratwurst. Other times, I was tasked with hosing down the imaginatively-named kill floor. I’d been part of every step from farm to table growing up, but working in the meat industry was my first big eye-opener to the hard-earned skill and layers of compassion inherent to making food happen.

Over the next few years, I served organic food and steamed oat milk lattes behind a local grocery store’s deli counter. I rose at 4 a.m. each morning, braving the icy, pre-plowed Moscow streets, to bake bread and scoop cookies for the store’s bakery, and then started waking at 3 a.m. to laminate croissant dough and mix scones at a cafe in nearby Pullman, Washington. I loved working in food, so much so that I almost chose baking over writing for my career. The satisfaction of dusting a gorgeous pain au chocolat with powdered sugar and sending it on its way, knowing your blood, sweat and tears mingle with the massive block of European butter worked into its perfect honeycombed crumb, is like nothing else. (But I won’t lie to you — the unbelievably early mornings required as a baker were a factor in choosing writing as my life’s work.)

I started at The Daily Herald late last year reporting on city governments and the environment and was quickly welcomed into the fold of talented young journalists on the paper’s staff, each of whom clued me in on their favorite bars and late-night joints and coffee shops. I first got to know most of my now-friends in Everett over queso tacos at El Mariachi in Everett, where my long-held belief that watching each other dribble consomé and salsa verde down chins and hands is the fastest way to cement a friendship was well and truly tested. When I learned former food writer Taylor Goebel would be leaving for the East Coast, my heart broke to see a new friend go so quickly — but boy, was I eager to apply for her job. I’m so grateful I’m getting the chance to build upon the amazing work Taylor did here and to make it my own. (And of course, we sent her off on her move with more queso tacos.)

Moving to Western Washington in October has so far offered me more than I ever could have dreamed from back in Idaho. Just within a 15-minute drive of my apartment in south Everett, I can grab a black sesame boba tea from Mustache Milk Tea in Lynnwood, stockpile ube cream-filled donuts at A1 Donuts in Everett, hightail it down Evergreen for some to-die-for garlic naan and tikka masala at Curries and fill up on bibimbap at K Fresh on my way back down Marine View. Of course, that’s just in Everett, and only on one or two main streets, and I fear I will never make it through the ever-expanding list of places I want to sample around Snohomish County. But dang it, I’m going to try. And I truly can’t think of any better way to immerse myself in my new home than through its food.

I hope you’ll stick with me as I figure out this new role, and I hope you’ll send me your local recommendations and tips and recipes. I’m so glad to be here, and I can’t wait to taste every single bite Snohomish County has to offer.

Riley Haun: 425-339-3192; riley.haun@heraldnet.com; Twitter: @RHaunID.

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