How Julia Turshen Figured Out How to Pitch Her New Cookbook
In Conversation with Kendra Winchester on Reading Women
Kendra talks with Julia Turshen, the author of Simply Julia, which is out now from Harper Wave.
From the episode:
Kendra: The subtitle is 110 Easy Recipes for Healthy Comfort Food. So for you, what does “healthy comfort food” mean? And how did that affect your approach to building the recipes for this cookbook?
Julia: Healthy comfort food to me means having a healthy, comfortable, comforting relationship with cooking and eating. This is a healthy cookbook that’s not about weight loss, and it’s not about restriction or deprivation of any kind. It’s very much about just feeling really good and feeling good while we’re cooking . . . you know, putting the music on or whatever it might be, having ingredients that are easy to find, and also just feeling good when we’re eating—eating food that is fun to eat, is full of flavor. And also gives you lots of nutrients and all these wonderful things, but without being hit over the head with any of it.
In terms of how this all came to be, like writing the recipes, it’s interesting because I love food from all over the world, and I’ve worked on books that are from different parts of the world, represent different cuisines. I’ve worked with different chefs and authors on that. I’ve eaten at all sorts of restaurants during my life—not really over the last year, but in the before times. I’ve gotten to travel and stuff. I’ve felt really inspired by so many different types of food. And that means I’ve always had a hard time describing what kind of food I make when someone’s like, “Oh, what kind of food is in your books?” I always just say, “Oh, it’s home cooking.” Like it’s food that’s easy to make at home. But I’ve had a hard time describing exactly what the recipes are. I tend to just start talking a lot, as I’m doing right now, and I don’t know how to describe it.
And one day, my wife, Grace, was just like, “Julia, you make healthy comfort food.” That’s what you make. And it just felt very clarifying for me. I’m like, oh, yeah, that is what I make. It’s food that is from different places, but it all comes back to healthy comfort food. And on a logistical level, it doesn’t leave out any ingredient. I use sugar in my desserts. I use butter. I use sour cream. I put sour cream in so many recipes; I just love sour cream. I’m not afraid of fat or sugar. I’m definitely not afraid of flavor, but I’m just very considerate of what I use and how much I use, and I make sure it all serves a purpose. And I think it comes back to what we were talking about earlier, when Grace was first diagnosed [with diabetes], and that I get to just apply a lot of care and consideration with what I’m cooking. I think that comes through in the healthy comfort thing.
Julia Turshen is the bestselling author of Now & Again (Amazon’s Best Cookbook of 2018, an NPR ‘Great Read’), Feed the Resistance (Eater’s Best Cookbook of 2017), and Small Victories (named one of the Best Cookbooks of 2016 by the New York Times and NPR). She also hosts the IACP-nominated podcast ‘Keep Calm and Cook On’. She has coauthored numerous cookbooks and has written for The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, Vogue, Bon Appétit, Food & Wine, and more. Epicurious has called her one of the 100 Greatest Home Cooks of All Time and The New York Times has described her “at the forefront of the new generation of authentic, approachable authors.” She sits on the Kitchen Cabinet Advisory Board for the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History and is the founder of Equity At The Table, an inclusive digital directory of women and non-binary individuals in food. She lives in the Hudson Valley with her wife and their dogs.