Julia Turshen's Feel-Good Kitchen

By Heather John Fogarty

 

Julia Turshen might not remember exactly what you talked about the last time she saw you, but she’ll almost certainly remember what you ate. “Food is a wonderful way to navigate life,” says Turshen, a bestselling cookbook author whose latest is Now & Again (Chronicle Books, 2018). “Cooking enriched my life in so many ways and has given me an evocative bank of memories. Food is such a powerful tool.”

 

 

Valley Girls

Part of its power, she says, is the way in which food can bring people together. It’s not just the actual experience of serving a meal around the table, but also in building relationships on a community level. Turshen and her wife, Grace Bonney, founder of the Design Sponge blog, live in New York’s rural Hudson Valley and volunteer weekly at Angel Food East, a nonprofit that delivers more than 250 meals a week to local homebound and chronically ill residents. Nearby farmers often drop off fresh produce, which challenges Turshen and all the other volunteers to get creative. And they have forged strong friendships. “It’s not just about the community you’re servicing, but also the community you build,” she says. “We have grown very close to other volunteers.”

 

Creative Leftovers

Her weekly charity also planted the seed for her latest cookbook, which is something of a love letter to leftovers. “Indirectly, our cooking at Angel Food East is what inspired Now & Again, as we often cook with something we hadn’t planned for, thanks to all of this great donated produce,” Turshen says. “I love reinventing leftovers and repurposing them. As a home cook I find it very practical but also fun and creative.”

 

Food Fighter

Her accessible style of fresh and healthy home cooking, as well as writing that is equally unpretentious and encouraging, has garnered her a cult following. Favorite recipes include a decadent chocolate “Healthy, Happy Wife Cake”; her practical advice ranges from “Seven Things to Do with Leftover Wine” to “Give Back + Do Good.” This past April, Turshen used her platform to launch “Equity at the Table” (EATT), a website focused on giving creative women and gender-nonbinary food industry professionals a place to be seen and heard. In this sense, she has used food to build a community platform, giving voice to the underrepresented. “Whatever platform or credibility I have, it feels very important to make some room and pass that microphone to someone else,” she says. “If a door opens for me, I want to hold it open for someone else.”

 

Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner

It also means challenging herself to reexamine the faces seen around her own table. When friend and fellow cookbook author Nicole Taylor asked her, “When was the last time you invited someone to dinner who didn’t look like you?” Turshen was struck by the simplicity of this gesture as a means of connecting with and supporting one another in the community. “It’s such a simple question, and one that I found to be a really important challenge,” she says. “Invite people to dinner. Think of what we can accomplish at our kitchen tables, getting to know each other and understanding one another. Cooking for someone is the biggest gesture of love you can offer.”

 

 

Article by Mosaic and provided courtesy of Morgan Stanley.

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