2 minutes with Julia Turshen
Occupation: Author, recipe writer
Latest Book: Small Victories (Released September 2016)
City: More like a hamlet in Ulster County, New York (2 hours north of NYC)
You studied poetry in college, how did you transition into recipe development and writing cookbooks?
I’ve always loved to cook and loved food, so I’ve been writing about food since I was really young. For school reports, I used to write about the food in whatever book we were reading. In college, food came into my poetry so much. So the transition into writing about food and writing recipes wasn’t really much of a transition, but more of an extension. I also have this theory that every recipe is a little poem. You have to be similarly economic with your words and as descriptive as possible without being overly-descriptive. It’s all about word choice for forward movement.
Small Victories is a bible of instructions and inspirations for the home cook, how did the idea for the book come about?
I can only describe it as a slap-your-forehead, Oprah-esque aha! moment. I had been thinking about the recipes for so long and then one day thought that identifying the small victories in each one would work well as an organising principle and also a title. I have always looked for the small victories in every situation, even if it’s just finding a great parking spot. Identifying them and celebrating them isn’t just a great way to approach life, it’s a wonderful way to become a confident home cook.
Which recipe from the book would you recommend for all home cooks to add to their repertoire?
It’s so hard to choose just one! But I would start with the No-Sweat Vinaigrette, which consists of putting a few things in a jar and then shaking it and then you can dress anything.
What's a normal work day for you involve?
What’s normal?? Every day is different for me, but it usually involves at least a few hours in the kitchen (whether I’m developing or testing recipes, or just making a meal for my wife Grace and myself) and a few hours on my computer either in my home office or at the kitchen table. I am always writing down notes for recipes and stories and also answering email. A lot of email.
What cookbooks are on the shelf in your kitchen?
I actually don’t keep cookbooks in my kitchen, I keep them in my home office and by the bed. I’ve always read cookbooks at night, ever since I was little. I find them so relaxing! And I’m always consulting them while I’m writing…way more than when I’m cooking. Anyway, I have so many! Two of my old favourites are Lee Bailey’s Country Weekends and Edna Lewis’ The Taste of Country Cooking. A new favourite is Vivian Howard’s Deep Run Roots (it’s almost out!).
24 hours in NYC, where should we go?
Breakfast at Eisenberg’s in the Flatiron, lunch at Via Carota in Greenwich Village, and dinner at Tanoreen in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn. If you have time, wait in line for a slice of pizza at DiFara’s.
Follow Julia on Instagram @turshen