Interviews

Parents Who Cook: Laurie Colwin

Laurie Colwin celebrating her daughter Rosa's 4th birthday in 1988.

Laurie Colwin celebrating her daughter Rosa's 4th birthday in 1988.

Have you read anything by Laurie Colwin?

She was an American author based in New York City, who wrote novels and also penned a column in Gourmet magazine for a few years, writing about her kitchen life in such a warm, witty, and approachable way that it was impossible then, and remains impossible now, for the reader not to develop a strong connection to her. These essays were published as two collections, Home Cooking: A Writer In The Kitchen and later More Home Cooking: A Writer Returns To The Kitchen, which have become cult reads for admirers of quality food writing, sharing shelf space with the work of M.F.K. Fisher, Edna Lewis or Alice B. Toklas.

Ms. Colwin died unexpectedly in 1992, at the unfair age of 48, and left a daughter, Rosa, who was only eight at the time. Rosa Jurjevics is now thirty and works as a writer, animator, and multimedia producer — she founded Big Creature Media a couple of years ago — and I had the opportunity to get in touch with her last fall, when Open Road released Colwin’s books as ebooks for the very first time, and offered the contact to promote this release.

I immediately jumped at the chance to feature Laurie Colwin, whose writing — both fiction and nonfiction — I greatly admire, as part of my Parents Who Cook series, in which I explore how children shape and inform a cook’s kitchen life. This is the first installment in which it is the child who speaks, and I am grateful to Rosa for sharing such touching and uplifting memories from her childhood. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do.

Please consider downloading one of Laurie Colwin’s wonderful books from Open Media, and do share any of your own memories or tips about cooking with and for children!

clotilde

Can you tell us a few words about the kind of child you were, and the kind of mother your mother was — both in general and with regards to food?

Rosa Jurjevics

I was a headstrong kid and spoke my mind – asked or not. A teacher once wrote on a school report that I was the tallest in my class and that my mother had referred to me as her “Viking child.” I’m not sure if this was a nod to my Baltic heritage (though Latvians were not Vikings, to my knowledge) or simply to suggest that I was a bit brutish in manner and stature. I admit to being both of these things as a child!

My mother was a similarly opinionated person, and she seemed to like having an opinionated kid – even when we clashed over, say, what was and was not appropriate for my school lunch. Open dialogue was encouraged, but I was a handful (to say the least), and there were definitely many times that I wore my poor mother out with pestering, arguing, or throwing fits.

I adored my mother’s cooking. It would have been hard not to. She put so much care into it, so much thought, and really loved to do it. People flocked to her table, and were so happy to hang out in the kitchen as she cooked. She would constantly ask her dinner guests to taste things and give their honest opinions of them. She wasn’t a showy cook, or one who kept her methods to herself, but instead really delighted in sharing food, recipes, and conversation.

Still, there were times when it was hard to be the kid who ate the “weird food.” My mother had very strong opinions about things that were good and bad for kids and for people in general. Keeping perishables in plastic was bad. Making jam from scratch was good. She didn’t like to budge much on the subject of good and bad. Though a lot of my classmates and neighborhood chums learned that they loved gingerbread and salmon and asparagus at my house, I envied them their Oreos and American cheese slices and radioactively colored “juices” nonetheless.

There were times I wished that I could just be “normal” and get chocolate-laden granola bars in my lunchbox (a pink, formerly Barbie-themed plastic trunk with the doll decal scraped off and cat stickers in its place) instead of a kiwi fruit, or have Wonderbread on my sandwich instead of slices from a Bread Alone boule. Some battles I won (fruit roll-ups, the kind that involved peeling Little Mermaid characters from their centers) and others I lost (no store-bought cookies!), and so I continued to be the first-grader with the goat’s milk yogurt and smoked Gouda. Years later, an old friend told me how jealous she’d been of my lunch. “All I got was tuna fish,” she told me. “And maybe a yogurt. Your food was exciting!” And she was right.

Laurie Colwin and her then 2-year-old daughter Rosa in 1986.

Laurie Colwin and her then 2-year-old daughter Rosa in 1986.

Continue reading »

Parents Who Cook: Aria Beth Sloss

Aria Beth Sloss is a writer, and the author of the novel Autobiography of Us, which has just come out in paperback.

She also happens to married to Dan Barber, a hero of mine and the iconic chef of Blue Hill in NYC, where they both live. I’ve been in touch with Aria ever since I published this fridge Q&A with Dan: I had mentioned her novel was about to be published, and she thanked me and offered to send me an advance copy, which I thoroughly enjoyed.

Dan and Aria had a little girl last year, and of course, as part of my Parents Who Cook series, I had to ask how the household’s cooking life has changed since then. Aria shared her approach and tips with great generosity, and I hope you enjoy delving into it — and trying the two recipes she provided — as much as I did.

clotilde

Can you tell us a few words about your daughter? Age, name, temperament?

Aria Beth Sloss

Edith turned one last month. As divine retribution for all the times I scoffed at parents who ascribed real, complex temperaments to their infants, Edith has been the person she is now since the day she was born — cheerful, opinionated, determined, and hilarious. I never dreamed someone so small could make me laugh so hard.

clotilde

Did having a child change the way you cook?

Aria Beth Sloss

I’m embarrassed to answer this, because the change has less to do with the way I cook than the fact that I find myself cooking at all. I’ve always been a baker; my husband is a chef, so for many years, we had the perfect arrangement. Then we found ourselves with this new member of the household, who couldn’t, turns out, survive on cake and cookies.

When Edith started eating solids, around six months, we took what felt like a huge leap in faith by deciding to forgo purees (my heart was in my mouth for most of the first month’s meals) and give her modified versions (less salt, no windpipe-sized beans, etc) of what we ate instead. [Note from Clotilde: this is an approach often referred to as baby-led weaning.] Anxieties aside, it seems to have suited us all very well.

We found ourselves with this new member of the household, who couldn’t, turns out, survive on cake and cookies.

When my husband is home for dinner, he makes dishes very similar to those he made before our daughter was born — beautiful omelets, grain and roasted vegetable salads, tartines with a soft cheese, a lacing of vinegar, and a sprinkling of herbs — and we all eat them together.

On the nights he’s at the restaurant, I’ve developed a few fail-safe recipes: lentil soup (who knew babies like soup?), less aesthetically-pleasing but acceptable omelets, avocado mash on toast, baked sweet potato with miso butter [recipe below!], and a few simple pasta dishes like soba with toasted sesame oil and broccoli. Plus, I’ve started experimenting with sprouted wheat flour, which makes baked goods a lot more nutritious.

Aria and Edith in the kitchen at Blue Hill.

Aria and Edith in the kitchen at Blue Hill.

Continue reading »

Parents Who Cook: Lucy Baluteig-Gomes

Lucy Baluteig-Gomes is the French designer behind Rose la Biche, a poetic line of handmade clothing that’s both easy to wear and one-of-a-kind — think petals cascading from collars, ruffled hoodies, and tulle neckpieces.

Lucy and I have known each other for years — we first met at a C&Z get-together in San Francisco in 2006 — and I have followed her adventures excitedly as she moved from San Francisco back to Paris, before relocating to Barcelona where she lives now. Lucy is a mother of two, and I am delighted to have her as my new guest on the Parents who Cook series.

clotilde

Can you tell us a few words about your children? Ages, names, temperaments?

Lucy Baluteig-Gomes

I have two kids: my son Oscar is 6 years old, and my daughter Brune is 3. While they have two very different personalities, they get along very well and are very protective one of another.

Oscar is sweet and sensitive, calm and responsible. He’s sociable and like to make people laugh. He cannot stand injustice. We like to joke that he’ll win the Nobel Prize for Peace one day.

Brune is a lively little girl, playful and full of energy, with a strong personality. She has quickly understood that a smile can get her almost anything she wants, and she uses this trick as much as she needs!

clotilde

Did having a child change the way you cook?

Lucy Baluteig-Gomes

Not really. Once the baby phase was over, I quickly made a point of cooking the same meal for the whole family. First because it’s more practical, but also because I cherish mealtimes very much — that’s my conservative side.

We talk about the meal, the vegetables or spices we’re eating, we comment on whether we like them or not, and then we chat about everyone’s day. I like that time when we’re all gathered around the table, and my husband and I try our best to make it happen on weekdays, even if it means eating late.

Plus, I come from the Southwest of France, a region where food is taken very seriously, and in my family, cooking is almost a religion. In the end, I might have slightly modified some of my recipes to make them more kid-friendly (like preparing fish into fishballs) or quicker (like a great 9-minute risotto in the pressure cooker). But all in all, I didn’t really change the way I cook.

Lucy's children

Continue reading »

Parents Who Cook: Matthew Amster-Burton

Matthew and Iris
Matthew and Iris outside Kawajiro, an eel-skewer restaurant in Tokyo.

Note: I am delighted that this column was recently featured on Food52: On Green Pancakes and Cooking With Kids.

Please welcome Matthew Amster-Burton, the newest guest in my Parents Who Cook interview series!

Matthew is a talented writer whose humor I love, and who writes just as well about personal finance as he does about food (he was included five! times! in the annual Best Food Writing anthology).

He co-hosts the one-of-a-kind Spilled Milk podcast with Molly Wizenberg, and he is the author of the book Hungry Monkey: A Food-Loving Father’s Quest to Raise an Adventurous Eater, and of the recently kick-started and published Pretty Good Number One: An American Family Eats Tokyo.

Pretty Good Number OneMatthew has a nine-year-old daughter, and as you’ll see, his approach to feeding her is playful, relaxed, and full of inventive tricks. I hope you enjoy his answers as much as I do.

Can you tell us a few words about your daughter? Age, name, temperament?

Iris is nine and a very easy kid. She likes to go to school and we get along well. I’m enjoying this while it lasts.

Did having a child change the way you cook?

Yes, for better and for worse. I got a lot more reliable about cooking dinner at home and serving it at a reasonable hour. I’m much less likely to cook a complicated all-day dish than before Iris was born: I was too exhausted to do it for years, and then once I had the energy back, I found I didn’t miss it, so I’ve gone on cooking mostly simple food. A lot of parents seem to make this transition.

On the downside, I’m probably a little too accommodating of Iris’s tastes. There are certain dishes I would enjoy serving as a main course that I know Iris would hate, though these are fewer and fewer as she gets older. Recently, for example, she decided she likes spicy foods again after abandoning them at age two. Thai curry is back on the dinner roster. Finally!

Do you remember what it was like to cook with a newborn? Any tips or saving grace for new parents going through that phase?

Nearly everything about having a newborn was awful. My advice: if people offer to bring you food, take them up on it. Nobody should ever feel guilty for any shortcuts they take to survive the first three months of parenthood.

Continue reading »

Parents Who Cook: Camille Labro

Camille, Cléo, Noé
Camille Labro with Cléo, 6, and Noé, 8.

Camille Labro is a French cook and food journalist who writes for M, the weekly magazine published by Le Monde. On her blog, Le Ventre libre (“the free belly”), she shares her gastronomic adventures and joys, and explores ways to eat better in an urban environment.

She is the mother of two children, and I am delighted to have her as a guest in my Parents Who Cook interview series. Read on for her many inspired tips! (Interview conducted in French and translated by myself.)

Can you tell us a few words about your children? Ages, names, temperaments?

Noé, 8, loves to read, eat, bike, and roller-skate. Cléo, 6, loves to read, eat, dance, and draw. They are both very sociable, adventurous with flavors as with experiences, full of existential questions, and very jealous of the gastronomic meals I eat without them: they devour the pictures while calling me every name in the book.

Did having children change the way you cook?

Not really, but it has given me structure, and has forced me to cook more regularly and to think of the nutritional qualities of the meals. I’ve set a rule for myself ever since they started eating more or less everything: I prepare balanced meals with a small first course (usually a raw vegetable), a dish (protein + carb + vegetable), and a simple dessert (yogurt or fruit).

Do you remember what it was like to cook with a newborn? Any tips or saving grace for new parents going through that phase?

When my children were very young and I was still breastfeeding them (I did for nine months each), I wasn’t working very much, so I had time to cook. I would place the baby in the bouncy chair next to me and talk about what I was preparing. In general, he/she was very attentive and liked the movements, the noises, the smells (better than a mobile!). And if he/she was getting impatient, I would give him/her a stick of carrot to suck on or a crust of bread to gnaw on.

Otherwise, for parents who work, I think the main tip is to prepare lots of things in advance. Pick one day a week, Sunday for instance, to go to the greenmarket and cook lots of dishes that you’ll freeze: stews, soups, gratins…

And there are other simple things you can do, like wrapping small steaks or fish fillets individually for freezing (you can transfer however many you need to the fridge in the morning and have them thawed by dinnertime), freezing pesto in ice cube trays (one ice cube per person for a dish of pasta), washing and drying all your fruits, vegetables, and greens in advance so they’ll be ready to use. It takes some logistics to alleviate the workload for the rest of the week.

As for dinner parties, it’s hard to pull them off when you’re a young parent… But you can always invite your friend over to cook dinner! I’ve done that often when I was feeling overwhelmed: you like to cook ? Come eat at my place. I’ll take care of the shopping and set the table; you’ll cook while I take care of the baby. It can be done as a group, too, with other young parents, and you take turns playing the different roles. It’s fun, convivial, and a good way to show solidarity!

Camille Labro
Camille Labro photographed by her son in her kitchen.

Continue reading »

Get the newsletter

Receive a free monthly email with a digest of recent entries, plus exclusive inspiration and special announcements. You can also choose to be notified of every new post.