Feed The Resistance | Julia Turshen
Feed The Resistance
Recipes + Ideas For Getting Involved
By Julia Turshen
Suzy Chase: Welcome to the Cookery by the Book Podcast with me Suzy Chase.
Julia: Hi, I'm Julia Turshen, my new cookbook is called Feed The Resistance: Recipes and Ideas For Getting Involved.
Suzy Chase: On the one year anniversary of Donald Trump becoming the president of the United States, Feed The Resistance is our instruction manual for nourishing activism. We're definitely living in a time of upheaval, and for you the movement comes in the form of feeding people.
Talk about how this book was born out of momentum.
Julia: Yeah. It was very much born out of momentum from the most recent presidential election. I mean, I basically found myself like many people I know and lots that I don't know personally, just feeling a lot after the election. Feeling scared, and angry, and all of the above.
I am basically really uncomfortable when I'm not doing something, and I felt really pulled to do something, and to contribute something meaningful, and with some purpose. Hopefully also something positive and proactive.
So, I was doing some work in my own community regarding sort of food and activism. Then, I thought that work could be a bit more exponential if I put it into a book, and also reached out to a community much bigger than myself.
So, I'm super proud that Feed The Resistance includes some many amazing contributors and it's definitely a community effort.
Suzy Chase: Adam Rapoport has a quote on the back of your book that says, "As a food writer, you're often told to 'stick to food'." Did you get any push back from your Editor or a Publisher?
Julia: You know what, I didn't and that's something I'm super just happy about and the whole process of creating the book ... Just a little background on my publisher. I had published my cookbook last year with Small Victories, and I was on deadline writing another cookbook.
When I pitched Feed The Resistance, and they were so game, and it made me feel just really supported by the people I work with, and kind of made me feel like our values are aligned. I realize how fortunate I am to be able to feel that and say that. So, there is no push back from them.
Suzy Chase: So, you said you pitched them last year?
Julia: I pitched them ... It was like the end of February.
Suzy Chase: So, how long did this book take?
Julia: A minute, it was super, super fast. Lots of ... Most cookbooks take kind of like a minimum two years from sort of the proposal stage, to a book being on the shelf. Some books take even longer. This book was definitely in the fast lane.
Yeah, I pitched it, it was like the end of February beginning of March. So, it was about a month basically after the inauguration. We are in Fall right now, so it happened super fast. My pitch was like a one page email.
Then they got on board and from that day until handing in the final manuscript, which included contributions from over 20 different people testing recipes all that; I basically did it in a month, which is a little bit intense.
Suzy Chase: Yeah.
Julia: I think that the drive I felt to put this book together, and the momentum it was made with I think it definitely carried it.
Suzy Chase: I interviewed Pierre Thiam a Senegalese cookbook author and he ... Love him. He talked about something called Teranga, which translates to hospitality, sitting around the bowl sharing food and conversation.
What are some ways we can express activism teranga through food starting in our own kitchen?
Julia: Sure. I love that concept and he writes about it so beautifully in his book. I think that kind of spirit of ... To me it's sort of like a spirit of generosity, which I think is kind of the backbone of cooking. I think we often cook to feed ourselves, but I think more often than not it's to feed ourselves and the people around us-
Suzy Chase: Yeah.
Julia: I think that kind of spirit of sharing, and just of having kind of ... There is that great phrase "The welcome table", I think that kind of approach to food and to how we eat it is vital towards activism. Because I think activism is the work of communities, and it's the work of individuals who are supported by their communities.
I think our tables offer us such an amazing place to start that within our own homes on a day-to-day basis. That's really powerful. So, to me it means that's sort of taking care of yourself and the people around you; your family, whoever it is you live with, your roommates, your friends.
I think it extends to thinking about who you invite to sit at that table. Nicole Taylor who's a fellow cookbook author and someone I'm just lucky to call a friend. She asked me a question that I just keep bringing up because I thought it was so simple and powerful, and she asked me, "When was the last time I invited someone who doesn't look like me over to eat?"
I think that question could also be someone who doesn't think like you. I think the kitchen table, the dining room table is a place where just a lot of story-telling happens, and therefore a lot of connection, and compassion. I think it's a place where we can begin to understand each other. That's really powerful.
Suzy Chase: So, I live in New York City, but I'm originally from Kansas, and I find that I censor myself more when I'm in Kansas. I think being an activist in rural Kansas is different from being an activist in New York. Kind of like Nicole was referencing that we have the same mindset here.
What is one proactive and productive tip that you offered in the book to bring us together?
Julia: Sure. I mean, that's such good point you make 'cause I think ... I spent most of my life in New York City, and I now live about two hours north of New York City, which isn't very far but it feels kind of a world away. I live in a really rural kind of agricultural area.
I definitely understand that, what you're describing about what you feel when you go home to Kansas. I'm an openly gay Jewish woman living in rural American, more or less.
So, I get that and I think there's ... It's very easy to talk to people who agree with you and-
Suzy Chase: Right.
Julia: ...I think it's a little bit harder when that's not the case. But, I think that's really where there's potential for real connection and compassion.
Anyway, I just got carried away, what was your question? A tip about how to do that-
Suzy Chase: Yeah. I remember in your book you talked about in your hometown go to a restaurant owned by immigrants, or by people who don't look like you. Can you talk a little bit about that?
Julia: Sure. Yeah. I think really ... I mean, basically to me it comes down to just thinking deeply about food 'cause that's something that connects all of us. Every single person in the world needs to eat, it's something we all have in common.
I think when you start to really think deeply about it, I think you come to understand that pretty much every single decision we make about food ... And we make a million decisions, what we're gonna eat, when, where, with who, all the fun decisions about recipes, all that kind of stuff. I think when we start to really think deeply about it we realize how political all of these decisions are.
So, I think we can take that as something really could seem maybe overwhelming but I think it's empowering. So, maybe if we're not eating at home, and we're going out to eat consider going to a restaurant that's run by someone who doesn't look like you.
Who's from a different background, who maybe doesn't share your same ideas about certain things. Take that as an opportunity to really better understand them. If there's something on a menu and you don't know what it is, ask about it, ask about what it means to whoever is preparing it. I think food offers us these chances for just really true connection.
Suzy Chase: Who are some of the contributors in this book?
Julia: Sure. There is amazing contributors, there is over 20. It's this really incredibly diverse group of contributors, they're from all over the country. Some are chefs, some are writers, some are activists, some aren't really in the food world necessarily. They come from all just sort of different backgrounds.
A few that come to top of mind ... I mean, they're all amazing. One is, Jordan Lexton who is the Executive Director of Drive Change, which is just this really unbelievable organization based in New York City. Essentially, it's a Food Truck Program that employs ... I believe what they refer to as returning citizens.
So, it's folks who are coming out of the criminal justice system, and for the most part they work with pretty young people. Drive Change just got this incredible grant, I think they're getting something like $3 million over the next three years, to basically build like a commissary kitchen, and just scale the work their doing, and just really use food as this way to provide opportunity and connections. So, Jordan is definitely one of my heroes and I'm so glad Jordan's essay is in the book.
There is this chef Preeti Mistry who's based in Northern California who has two restaurants. Preeti gave a recipe for her pretty unbelievably delicious tikka masala macaroni and cheese.
Hawa Hassan who I know you know and have met, Hawa's awesome, and she runs her company Basbaas Sauce, which is a line of Somali condiments. Hawa gave us her Somali pasta sauce, which is like this incredible recipe that sort of speaks to who she is as a Somalian refugee, and the background of the country and it was colonized by Italians.
So, pasta sauce was what she grew up on, but, also the fact that it's involved in the spice trade so all the incredible spices that go ... So, it's this recipe that sort of allows her to really explain who she is, and where she comes from. She's from a family with a ton of siblings, I believe Hawa's one of 10. So, it's this idea of feeding a group of people.
So, I mean, I could go on and on but basically every contributor just basically told a really personal, and moving story about who they are, and what they believe in one way or another.
Suzy Chase: Hawa's pasta sauce is the best pasta sauce I have ever tasted.
Julia: Isn't it amazing? Yeah. It's so good I love it.
Suzy Chase: It was great, the spices are out of this world.
Suzy Chase: I think everyone needs to make that recipe on page 71.
Julia: Yeah. It's wonderful, and it's also whatever it's worth my way with Grace is. She's a type 1 diabetic so we're very mindful about kind of things we eat in our house, some carbohydrates and all that stuff. So, on its own even without the pasta it's still like just [crosstalk 00:13:05]
Suzy Chase: I bet, you could just drink it.
Julia: Yeah, and we just need its own greens or like-
Suzy Chase: Totally.
Julia: That's so, so delicious. Anyway ...
Suzy Chase: Do you think this movement fundamentally boils down to morals like the basic love thy neighbor? There seems to be some much hate these days.
Julia: Yeah. I mean, I think it's ... I totally agree, but I wish it were that simple-
Suzy Chase: Yeah.
Julia: But, I think that ... I mean, I do believe in that kind of phrase that love wins, but I think that we ... To me what's really important is to ... I think in being ... In expressing kindness, and love, and having opening our hearts, and doors and all that stuff to our neighbors, and kind of loving your neighbor without expectation, I think it's ...To me the emphasis on that is like ING, on loving and just being active in our acts of kindness and being sort of passive about it-
Suzy Chase: A verb.
Julia: Yeah. I think really making an effort to express these feelings through actions. I think that's how we really make a difference. I think it's not just be open to this idea of ... If it's about food, and the things were talking about, and this idea of who we invite to our table I think it's actually inviting them.
I think it's showing up to things we're invited to, maybe situations that might make us feel a little comfortable. But, sort of pushing those boundaries. I think emphasis on the action.
Suzy Chase: What's up next for you with this book, are you gonna take this discussion to other cities?
Julia: Yeah, I'm doing a bit of traveling for the book, which I'm really excited about mostly because the places I'm going to. I get to meet up in person with lots of people who contributed from the book, and get to better know their communities, and the places they come from.
So, I'm super excited about that, and I definitely hope that this ... Not hope, I plan for this book to be something that's sort of continues and evolves. To me it's ... Just for me personally, it's been the beginnings of many important conversations that I definitely want to continue.
Suzy Chase: The proceeds go to the ACLU, how did you choose that particular organization?
Julia: It's such a good question, because when I first pitch the book and was thinking about it, I definitely wanted the book in and of itself to be an act of resistance, like buying the book would support something meaningful.
I don't think any one organization stands for all people, or all issues and ... So, first we talked about maybe picking a few organizations, but that just became sort of really complicated and like a paperwork sort of world.
Anyway, I just kept coming back to the ACLU 'cause I think it sort of cast a pretty large umbrella under which so much and so many of us fall. I think the protection of civil liberty is just vitally important in general, but specifically to the resistance movement.
Suzy Chase: Where can we find you on the web?
Julia: I have a website, which is just my name, so it's Julia Turshen, J- U- L- I- A T- U- R- S- H- E- N.com, and there's all this stuff about the book, the tour, and all that kind of fun stuff there. Then, I'm on Instagram and Twitter my handle is my last name @turshen.
Suzy Chase: How did you get that?
Julia: My name?
Suzy Chase: I wish I just had my name.
Julia: You know-
Suzy Chase: Were you an early adopter?
Julia: I don't even know that I was but I haven't ... I never met a Turshen that I'm not related to. This is not and I think maybe I've disappointed some of my cousins, and stuff by being the first to just claim our last name online.
But, there's not a ton of us, so I guess it wasn't taken.
Suzy Chase: It's awesome.
Suzy Chase: As you wrote in your New York Times up-head piece, "When it comes to feeding the resistance there's no such thing as too many cooks in the kitchen."
What a pleasure it was to have you on Cookery by the Book Podcast. Thanks so much.
Julia: Thank you so much for having me, I really appreciate it.
Suzy Chase: Follow me on Instagram @cookerybythebook. Twitter is iamsuzychase, and download your kitchen mix tapes music to cook by on Spotify @cookerybythebook. As always subscribe in Apple Podcasts.