Photo by Jenny Neyman, Redoubt Reporter. Maya Evoy works on a recipe for strawberry lemonade at her home in Nikiski to post to her food blog, Alaska from Scratch. Evoy has been blogging since fall 2011 and has seen rapid, exponential growth in readership.
By Jenny Neyman
When the Evoy family left Bakersfield, Calif., for Nikiski in 2011, Maya Evoy was looking forward to the different flavor that small-town Alaska would impart to her family’s lifestyle.
They’d strain out the stress and hustle of life in a busy, crowded city, swap their commute times for equal parts quality time at home with the kids, season liberally with fishing, gardening, berry-picking and their other new favorite activities, and savor the sweetness of life boiled down to a concentration on their priorities. It would mean Maya could trim the fast-food drive-throughs and convenience meals from the family’s menu to get back to cooking herself, from scratch, for her family of five.
Like a soufflé blooming out of its pan, all those aspirations rose to Maya’s expectations, and then some. And then some more. Especially that last one, as these days, she’s cooking for about 200,000 a month.
It’s still just her immediate family at the table being actually nourished by her culinary efforts, but these days thousands more all over the world also devour what she makes, savoring vicariously through her cooking blog, Alaska from Scratch. She started it in October 2011, feeling tepid about the whole thing at first, but interest heated to a boil as quickly and unexpectedly as an unwatched pot of water.
“First, I never imagined I’d be a food blogger, and, second, I never imagined it’d be so popular,” Evoy said. “I think people are so interested both in Alaska and the Alaska lifestyle, and also are interested in real food, and from-scratch cooking is popular and on trend right now. I didn’t know that when I started, or didn’t strategically say, ‘This is how I want to do it to get followers.’ I was never in it for that. I just live out here in small-town Alaska with three small kids and I’m a pastor’s wife, just a normal person, and yet I have readers all over the world. It’s really caught me off guard, and I’m really humbled and honored by it.”
Jason Evoy took a job as pastor at Nikiski Nazarene Church in order for the family to slow down and simplify their California lives. The church he worked at in central California had about 1,000 parishioners, compared to Nikiski Nazarene’s 75 or so in the winter. More in the summer, but not so many more that Jason loses track of people’s names or needs.
“It’s fishing families and miners and teachers and nurses — just great Alaska people in our church. They love each other and the community, and we wanted to be a part of that,” Jason said.
“We were looking to simplify, we were looking to really reprioritize our lives and be more self-sufficient and really focus more on our family and community and all those things that we were missing in California,” Maya added.
Their three kids — sons Brady, 10, and Connor, 8, and daughter, Kelty, 5 — seemed to be spending more and more time being shuttled around, and less roaming around. And Evoy didn’t have time for her hobbies anymore — photography, writing and, particularly lacking, cooking.
“Cooking in California for us was more about convenience. More store-bought ingredients, more drive-throughs and not so much cooking from scratch, cooking real, wholesome food, which is where my heart really was. It’s just our lifestyle didn’t lend to it. Parenting three young kids, it was just about what was easy,” Evoy said.
But that’s not how she grew up. Not easy, in a sense, since she came from a family that struggled financially. But where they were scant in a budget for convenience ingredients and eating out they had a generous helping of knowledge in making the most of what was available.
“I always loved being in the kitchen, that was kind of my safe place when I was a little girl. My grandma put me in the kitchen on the countertop and we would make homemade bread together,” Evoy said. “We were really poor growing up and a lot of my cooking skills came from necessity, just learning to make a lot with a little and to cook with what was on hand.”
Her new home, though far from Southern California in many ways — availability and affordability of some ingredients, for instance — still has a lot in common with Evoy’s culinary upbringing.
“In a lot of ways that works with Alaska because a lot of time we don’t always have everything on hand or fresh produce or things, but then we have some amazing resources to work with — like salmon and halibut and razor clams and mushrooms and berries — so I think my background lends to the environment up here,” she said.