Why We Cook: Women on Food, Identity, and ConnectionBy Lindsay Gardner Intro: Welcome to the number one cookbook podcast, cookery by the book with Suzy Chase. She's just a home cook in New York city, sitting at her dining room table talking to cookbook authors and this is my first book, Why We Cook: Women on Food, Identity and Connection.Suzy Chase: Why We Cook celebrates those who are dedicated to not only practicing their craft, but also changing the world of food for the better. You spotlight 112 inspiring women who are shaping the contemporary food world as professional chefs, farmers, journalists, authors, and more with essays, interviews, quotes, and recipes. Talk a little bit about the process of choosing each woman and how the book is organized.Lindsay Gardner: The book is an illustrated collection, and as you said, includes recipes, essays, profiles, as well as Q and A's with not only women in the professional culinary realm but also home cooks. It was a goal of mine from the beginning to make the book as inclusive and far reaching as possible in terms of selecting people to participate in it and also reaching out to people to see if they would even be interested in participating in it. I'm not in the culinary world. I am a home cook and an artist and I think saying that I feel like or I felt like an outsider would be maybe a little too strong for how I think about it but, you know, I'm not part of the culinary industry. So when I reached out to a lot of the chefs and food writers that are included in Why We Cook, to be honest, I had no idea if I would hear back from them. So every time I heard back from anyone at all, it was a thrill. And then on top of that, when people started saying, yes, it was like a double thrill.Suzy Chase: So you not only curated this gorgeous book, you illustrated it to such charming and thoughtful images. I would love to hear about that.Lindsay Gardner: Thank you. This has been the most creatively fulfilling project I've ever worked on let me start there. It has been such a joy to get, to make art in this context. It felt really collaborative and because I was involved in not only the writing process and the curating and working with all the contributors so closely, I felt so invested in everything that they were contributing to the book. So working with people over time to figure out what the topic was that they were going to write about. For example I got to know those stories so well, and by the time I actually came to the illustrations, I felt super invested in them and it felt super fulfilling to me because I, I just felt like I was really honoring their stories through illustration. So the book was actually really fun because with so much different kinds of content, it was kind of a puzzle to put it together.Suzy Chase: One of the great things about writing it and illustrating it was that as I was finalizing the manuscript in late 2019 and all of the various pieces from the contributors, I was also sketching all of the illustrations for each piece. And so when it came time to lay out the book, the designer that I worked with at Workman, her name is Sarah Smith. She was amazing and endlessly patient, she took all of my sketches and she took all of the manuscript. And with those pieces laid out the entire book, which as a first time author, I didn't know how that part was going to go. And it was kind of like overwhelming to think about how that would work, but she really laid it out. So that by the time it came time to make all the final paintings, which happened mostly in 2020, I knew exactly where the illustrations were going to go. I knew if they were going to span both pages of a spread or, you know, bleed off the left lower corner, we had worked together to sort of like map all that out already. It just felt so enmeshed with the actual words on the page and as an illustrator, that is so satisfying. Um, it was just such a joy from start to finish.Suzy Chase: I want to chat about Anita Lo and Carla Hall and I think your illustrations really captured their personalities. Like Anita, she's very artistic with her approach to food. And then Carla is like always upbeat and fun. And I think you really captured that in those specific illustrations.Lindsay Gardner: Thank you. You know, selecting imagery to work from for the portraits specifically was a really interesting process. I was in touch with all of the photographers that took the source imagery for those illustrations. But the personality that comes through in imagery is so clear sometimes. And I actually had the chance to interview Carla Hall for the book. And she was, I mean, her personality just emanates right through her voice. And so I felt like this image when I saw it, I, I felt like, well, I've never met her in person, but I've spoken with her and this is exactly how I picture her. Totally. And she is so joyful, so friendly and same with Anita. My interactions with her were all on email, but all of our, like there was personality in those emails. And when I found the image of her that I painted from, I was like, that is what it felt like, quiet and thoughtful. So I mean that relationship, I think that we can develop through imagery is really powerful too.Suzy Chase: To celebrate Women's History Month. I'm thrilled to chat with you about this wonderful book. So you cited a study in 2018 that said from 2003 to 2016 respondents who identified as women spend an average 50 minutes a day cooking. Whereas those who identified as men spent an average drum roll please of 20 minutes per day. Likewise women make up a large portion of the culinary world. Women often face racism, sexism, and harassment, which have been increasingly documented in the me too movement, which leads me to ask you, when did you have the first calling in your heart to put a book like this out into the world?Lindsay Gardner: It really hit me in 2018, early 2018. And of course I had been reading some of the me too stories that had come out at that time or the year before, um, and were still coming out and in the Bay area, that was also something I was reading about, but it also was stemming from a deeply personal place for me, which was really just thinking about my own role and balancing all of the different pieces of my life with my family and my profession and my partner. And I kind of just was thinking to myself, like, how does this all fit together? And why does it matter to me so much? It's something I care. So cooking is something I care so deeply about. And why do I spend so much time here? And why do I think about it so much? What is this all about? And I was also really thinking at that time about the overlaps between the creative processes in my life. So in what I was doing in my studio as an illustrator and painting and what I was doing in the kitchen when I was cooking and how those two things were related, because I felt that I felt deeply that they were. So I just started exploring that. And then as soon as, as soon as I started exploring that more deeply, I came across this research and I thought it was so interesting because of course in my day-to-day life with my, um, women friends in my life, I know these statistics to be true, regardless of the, of the good intentions of their partners. In many cases, the women that I know are the ones that are spending the most time doing the bulk of domestic labor, even if they love to cook, um, even if they don't love to cook. So that's kind of where it started for me. And that just really, when I found these statistics, it just really made me want to dig in. And I wanted to know more because I thought if this is happening in the domestic level, in people's personal lives, there's so much that ties that to women in the culinary industry. And how are those two things related? So it really all started there.Suzy Chase: Speaking of domestic, as a home cook, I was so very interested, your survey of over 350 home cooks on pages 10 and 11, it was comforting and dismaying at the same time to see that 90% of the women surveyed do the majority of cooking in the home. I now know for a fact that I am not alone. Another interesting stat was that 69% of the women invent their own dishes, use recipes and use cookbooks, all three, while 31% of the women were self-taught cooks. Do you see our roles in food preparation within the family evolving?Lindsay Gardner: I love that question. It's something that my husband and I talk about all the time in our own family. And I think that is something that has definitely been impacted by the pandemic and in various ways for various people because of different situations and levels of privilege. Really, we're very fortunate in our family that my husband and I are both available at mealtimes to help with cooking because of what our jobs are and that's not true for everyone, especially right now. I think that it'll be really interesting, you know, I'm not sure if your question was specifically related to the pandemic moment, but I, I also don't know that we can ever really go back after this. Like, I think that our habits as home cooks have shifted this year in a way that I at least hope sticks to a certain amount. I think that obviously I can't speak for everyone here, but I know that my relationship to shopping for ingredients has changed my understanding of the food system as a whole has changed. And the people who are putting their lives at risk to give us the food that is available to us. I feel like I have such a different perspective on shopping, eating, cooking, using the ingredients in my pantry. I don't know if I ever will be the same kind of home cook after this. And I think that has really impacted our relationship, not only to the food that we cook for ourselves, but how food functions in community and the food systems that are at work in our nation. So it's kind of like a web of levels and I think it is ever changing, but I think especially after this year.Suzy Chase: I'd love to chat about a few women you profiled. The first is Leah Penniman of Soul Fire Farm. She says everything from sunshine to plate needs to be infused with fairness and dignity and reverence. I would love to hear about her.Lindsay Gardner: Yes, Leah Penniman is a black Creole, educator farmer and food justice activist. She's also an author, and she founded Soul Fire Farm in upstate New York in 2011. Soul Fire is a black indigenous and people of color centered farm, and all of their work is dedicated to ending racism in the food system. So they run a number of different kinds of programs. They're all focused on food sovereignty and education and bringing groups of people who have been separated from the land over time, back in contact with the land and learning about historical farming traditions and all kinds of different youth programs. I mean, it's really, their work is so comprehensive and Leah co-founded it. So she has been doing this work for yearsSuzy Chase: On page 27, you have a recipe from Abra Berens for Buttermilk and Butter Lettuce Salad. So I had her on my podcast and the beguiling way she talks about peas and kohlrabi is compelling,Lindsay Gardner: Is so amazing. I think she has changed the way that I look at vegetables. Her book Ruffage is so comprehensive and I think gave me a different insight into using all the different parts of vegetables. With enthusiasm. Not because I feel guilty or something, I love the way that she writes. I love the way that she talks about food. It was really fun to work with her on this. And so she is actually the chef at a farm in Southwest Michigan. So she does these well before times she does these great farm dinners. And I know she's looking forward to getting them started up when it's safe to do so again.Suzy Chase: You tackle creative ruts, which I think we're all in right now. Can you share a couple of ways to overcome creative ruts?Lindsay Gardner: Definitely. I loved this question. It's something, if I had more time, I would've liked to take this conversation even deeper with more of the contributors in the book. I thought just as an artist, it was really interesting to hear how professional chefs deal with their own creative rats. And it was so refreshing to hear from them that a lot of the things that they do to overcome their creative ruts are the same things that I do to overcome mineSuzy Chase: Wine. Lots of wine and crying. hahaLindsay Gardner: Yea. Eating out when that's possible, of course, travel, going to museums. I think, you know, one thing that is sort of a thread between everything everyone has said, and something that I can identify with is when I'm in a creative rut, I expand my own horizon and everything that the five chefs included in the book on this question said is really about that. It's getting outside of your own bubble travel, going to a forest, walking museums, eating at someone else's restaurant, or even traveling through a cookbook, which is another thing a couple of people brought up, which I, I also found really refreshing because honestly, before working on this book, I hadn't really ever thought about how chefs also love cookbooks, which sounds so strange, but it just hadn't occurred to me in that way. And so I loved hearing Tanya Holland say that she loves to look at the work of other people and look through cookbooks when she's in a rut.Suzy Chase: One profile that I just adored was of Celia Sack. So she sees cookbooks as an especially important form of storytelling. And I do too. That's why I have this podcast. Can you tell us a little bit about Celia and her depth of cookbook knowledge, which I think is really deep.Lindsay Gardner: It is amazing. I've referred to her a couple of times as a walking library, Celia is such an unassuming person and she knows so so much. She was one of the first people I interviewed for why we cook. And she was so warm and welcoming and just like casually toward me around her personal library. That includes books that span literally centuries. I was just star struck by getting to meet and talk with her. And she just couldn't have been more friendly or relaxed about the whole thing. Of course. So she actually started her career as a rare book specialist and has a whole history in and knowledge base in modern literature. She opened her store Omnivore in San Francisco in 2008. And the experience of walking into Omnivore books is a little bit like walking into a jewel box or the way that I imagine that would feel it is a small shop, one room and every nook and cranny is covered in books about food. And it's super cozy and inviting. And Celia has over the years of having the store. Um, not only has she developed this vast knowledge of historical cookbooks and contemporary cookbooks and everything in between, but she's also developed so many relationships with everyday home cooks like me and some of the world's most famous chefs. And she has these relationships that I think she really is a part of in terms of building people's collections. And to me, she's like the hub of a great wheel between people and food and knowledge and history. It was totally inspiring getting to know her. And I definitely recommend trying to visit omnivore in person if you ever have the chance.Suzy Chase: So when I think about women in food, Dorie, Greenspan is one of the first women that comes to mind. You highlighted her in your kitchen portrait. So first describe the kitchen portraits that you included in this cookbook.Lindsay Gardner: There are 10 kitchen portraits in the book, and I included them because I really wanted to highlight some of the more well-known figures in the book, in their actual kitchen spaces. In my imagination, I thought I would really love to see these people in their kitchens because to me, the kitchen is such an intimate homey space. It's where all the magic happens. And it's where I imagine all of these particular women feel the most connection to what they're doing. So it was really important to me to be able to show them in that environment through illustration. So yeah, there are 10 of those throughout the book. Um, and that's what that little mini series is.Suzy Chase: So Dorie talks about two of her kitchens, the one in New York and the one in Paris. I will read her quote about her New York kitchen and can't help, but wonder how this resonates with so many other home cooks. She wrote "I've lived and worked in our New York apartment for decades. I learned to cook and bake in that kitchen. And I became a writer there too. This is where I would bake with our son and where the two of us would sit on the counters and talk over things that were important then, and still seem important. Now it's as though the kitchen and I are partners, we've been together so long that we know each other's moves." I mean...Lindsay Gardner: It really, it really couldn't say it all more succinctly when Dorie responded to this was in a series of emails going back and forth. And when she wrote that, I think my jaw was like, actually literally on my desk, it just was so touching. And for someone who has achieved so much in her career to bring her relationship to her own kitchen, back to that sentiment, which is really about all of the things that happen in a kitchen, including cooking, but also about all the other things and to sort of personify the kitchen that way. I just, I, yeah, it really, it really hit me. I spent times like Dorie describes in my kitchen growing up with my mom that feel that way to me, I think about my own kids now, and the time that we spend together in our kitchen and all of the things that happen there that are related and unrelated to cooking.Suzy Chase: I have this lamp will in my apartment. I have everything that I grew up with in Kansas, but that's a whole other podcast but it's crazy but I have this little red lamp that was on our kitchen table. And for example, when I would go out really late, my mom would keep that lamp on and I turn that lamp off and I'd, you know, tiptoe through the kitchen. So kitchens have so many memories.Lindsay Gardner: Absolutely. And I'm actually, I'm glad you brought that up because it reminds me of another page in the book about home cooks, identifying their most treasured kitchen objects. I loved this question. I loved asking this question. I loved hearing back from people, what they picked out of their memory banks and it was really, it was honestly one of the hardest sections of the book to edit and narrow it down because I could have chosen hundreds of things that people mentioned. But I think there is this relationship to that quote that you just picked out from Dorie, which is that objects in our memories and in our daily life become imbued with so much meaning over time that like that one ball jar really is that special because it was there when you were, you know, crying at your kitchen table as a teenager. And it was there when you made granola for the first time for your son. I mean, there are ways in which I feel like these objects become sort of like the silent observers in our lives. And I loved getting to illustrate them because I feel like illustration is so personal and lens this air of storytelling. And so it was really like bringing these sort of stories together through objects and illustrations. Um, on this part of, or for this part of the book was really, really exciting.Suzy Chase: Pamela said, "I have my grandma's egg beater, which I love. I also have a fondness for old kitchen gadgets. I love the design and high quality they all seem to have." I love this.Lindsay Gardner: And another one on that page that I adore is Kate from Maine who talked about bookmarking recipes with, um, postcards from loved ones. So that every time she opens a cookbook or flips to a recipe, she finds, you know, a postcard from years ago or a good friend. And she actually matches the person that wrote the postcard with a recipe that feels the most fitting,Suzy Chase: Oh my God, how much time does Kate have on her hands though?Lindsay Gardner: She has a couple of really beautiful quotes in the bookSuzy Chase: In terms of hope for change for women in the future. What did you take away from putting this book together?Lindsay Gardner: I have learned so much in the last three years over the course of making this book and I continue to learn by being in conversation with the women included in it. And honestly, in learning about women everywhere all the time who are doing this work, who aren't in this book, I think that the women included here are at the forefront of the changes that are unfolding in the culinary world, knowing their stories and getting to know them has changed the way that I think about food and cooking in my personal life. It's changed the kind of home cook I am. It's changed how I think about food traditions and it's changed the way that I think about ingredients and my impact on the environment and how I relate to my community mean it is endless. And I think it really, to me, when I sort of look back at the process of making the whole book, um, it really speaks to how there isn't a part of our lives, that food doesn't touch, it's powerful. And it gives me a lot of hope.Suzy Chase: Now to my segment called Last Night's Dinner, where I ask you what you had last night for dinner.Lindsay Gardner: Well, I'm thrilled that you're asking me this question because I had the joy of being Abra Beren's Buttermilk and Butter Lettuce Salad last night for dinner, for an event that we were doing together, but it was great because I actually had the chance to finally make that salad and eat it and it was delicious and Abra also offered a recipe for a wonderful Spatchcock Chicken that was baked over sort of a bread and tomato and garlic bread pudding, stuffing kind of situation. And the two things together were just really amazing.Suzy Chase : So where can we find you on the web and social media?Lindsay Gardner: So you can find out more about the book at WhyWeCookBook.com and you can also find me on Instagram @LindsayGardnerArt, and that is Lindsay with an A.Suzy Chase: Well wonderful Lindsay. Thanks so much for coming on Cookery by the Book podcast!Lindsay Gardner: Suzy, it's been so fun chatting with you today.Outro: Subscribe over on CookerybytheBook.com. And thanks for listening to the number one cookbook podcast, Cookery by the Book.