About four years ago, Linda Miller Nicholson was a food blogger who happened to have a picky 5-year-old who wouldn’t eat his vegetables. These days, her son is eating healthier, and she’s ditched the blog, opting instead for a social media presence on Instagram (@saltyseattle) with a cult fan base of more than 82,900 followers. Her followers eagerly await her next pasta creations — unique and beautiful noodles, like argyle lasagna and emoji ravioli. She just finished a book that will be released in 2018 showcasing the pasta. If Nicholson’s name doesn’t sound familiar, you might know her by her nom de guerre, Salty Seattle. Lately, this pasta persona has gained a ton of popularity by appearing on television shows like New Day Northwest, and nationally on programs hosted by Mario Batali and Harry Connick Jr., and regularly as a guest host on the Food Network’s Facebook Live account.
How long have you been making pasta? I’ve been making regular pasta since I was 4 years old. It has always been this massive passion of mine. Then I moved to Italy and lived there for several years in my mid-20s. Before that, I always stuck to more traditional noodles, like fettuccini or pappardelle. When I lived in Italy, it kind of opened my eyes to the massive breadth of noodles out there.
What made you transition into making colored pasta? I tried to incorporate vegetables into my son’s diet when he was going through a particularly picky phase. I just had the idea to start pureeing all of the vegetables that I wanted him to eat into pasta dough. Lo and behold, that turned into this massive rainbow palette of colors to work with. It was great for us to get together and have fun in the kitchen — it was sort of like Play-Doh.
Did you try other methods of trickery to get him to eat his veggies? He just totally put his foot down. He could see that I’d tucked spinach under the cheese on his pizza. He would not drink green smoothies. I battled it out with him. It is weird what you get criticism for when you put yourself out there online, but I have gotten criticism from people who said I should just put (the food) in front of him and make him starve; he’d eat it eventually.
Wow, you have trolls? You get compliments, but you also get a lot of haters. I’ve had people go off on diatribes about what a terrible parent I am because I catered to my child’s food whimsy. It is so interesting what people will say.
How do you handle that? I think that I’ve become a lot more inured to it in the last year than I was initially. When you get your first 200-ish troll comments, you can’t help but internalize them. But then you start to realize that people are going to find fault with everything, and all it does is just reflect back on them.
You must get fan mail as well, especially from parents of picky eaters, right? I cannot tell you the number of emails and messages I get from people whose children are on the autism spectrum who are just at their wits’ end because maybe that month their child is only drawn to the color blue. A lot of kids (with and without autism) will love the rainbow aspect, and the funky texture of the pasta. If you have the luxury (of being able to make your own pasta), and your kid is really drawn to purple and yellow, and you have the ability to make that happen really efficiently, why not make a purple and yellow pasta if it is going to make them so happy?
You’ve featured pasta clothing on your social platforms. What was your thought process when you started the pasta clothing? The fact that (both fashion and pasta dough) are ephemeral sort of ties to how things are in 2017 — everything moves really quickly. The most popular means of consuming information right now is probably Instagram, and that is just one picture with maybe three seconds of scroll time. So, things have to be really visually arresting, and you always have to be thinking about that next thing.
How does pasta translate to fashion? Fashion is cyclical and textile-based, and I think pasta and textiles have this kind of commonality. When I’m draping a sheet of pasta across my arms and working with it, I can’t help but think that I am working on a big piece of fabric because it has sort of the same hand-feel as drying leather.
What is it like to wear the pasta? It is really ephemeral because it doesn’t last for more than maybe half an hour. People ask if I will make this part of a fashion show or something. I still haven’t fully figured out how it would work. For certain, the models would have to be seated and just constantly misted to try to keep the dough alive. As long as the audience is OK with some potential wardrobe malfunctions, then I think it would be fine.
How much flour do you go through? I would probably say about 30 pounds of 00 flour a week. This also is considering custom orders, then recipe testing and development (for my upcoming book), some personal, and then just working on the business end of scaling things. It’s definitely not all for personal consumption.
What about eggs? I raise my own chickens and ducks, so I have my own eggs. Prior to getting the chickens, when I was ramping up this pasta stuff, I realized how many eggs I was buying in the store. I thought owning chickens was really a matter of practicality for our household. Then we added ducks because their eggs are just rich and delicious. I have 40 birds between the two species, and I probably get 20 eggs a day.
Where does the spare pasta go? I feel like nothing really ever goes to waste around here. You can make crackers out of pasta dough, which is one of my favorite things. But if I have touched dough with my hands for 6 hours, the idea of eating it is kind of gross. So, I’ll take the pasta paintings out and just put it in the middle of the chicken pasture. It is so funny to watch them eat it.
You just finished writing your first book. Tell us what we can expect. There is just a ton of saturation of color all made from really awesome natural ingredients with a bunch or really cool ways of weaving it all together. I think when it was all said and done, it was around 90 recipes with over 25 different colors.