Julia Turshen is a writer and cookbook author who has written books with the likes of Mario Batali, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Dana Cowin. In 2016, Turshen released her own cookbook, Small Victories, featuring “recipes, advice, and hundreds of ideas for home-cooking triumphs.” A regular shopper around the co-op, we asked Julia to sit down and chat about food, cooking, and life in the Hudson Valley. She kindly obliged.
First things first. We asked Julia how her cooking journey began. “I’ve been cooking since before I can remember,” she says, “the way most kids watch cartoons… I watched cooking shows. My parents worked in publishing my whole life, so there were a lot of cookbooks around for me to explore.” She adds, “My parents didn’t cook much. You know busy New York City folks– LOTS of takeout.” She laughs. “I had an amazing babysitter named Jenny, though, and she loved to cook. Jenny and I spent a lot of time in the kitchen together. She was a very special person in my life. One of her recipes is included in Small Victories.”
Was this instrumental in Julia’s cooking philosophy, we asked. “Oh yes. I’ve always been a home cook, so I always think about cooking from that perspective. I keep it simple. Simple food with lots of flavor. That’s what I do in my kitchen, and that’s how I framed Small Victories.” So, how did Small Victories come about, and what does the name refer to, we wondered. “Well, I’ve been thinking of doing my own book for a while. I’ve had so many recipes hanging around, it just wasn’t the right time until now. I named the book Small Victories because it’s a term that I love to use. Each recipe in the book contains what I like to think of as a small victory. A little piece of knowledge, or a trick that will make cooking not only these recipes, but any recipes, a bit simpler.” Well, we’re all for that!
So, how did we come to find Julia shopping at the co-op after spending her whole life in NYC? “My wife, Grace, has been coming up to the Hudson Valley for a long time, she’s always loved it. We wanted a place outside of the city, so eventually we took the leap and bought a house! We actually discovered the co-op when we passed it by on the way our closing. It looked interesting, so the next morning when we woke up as homeowners with no coffee we headed to the co-op. We’ve been shopping here ever since.”
“I love to see what’s happening in the produce department. Learning about what’s local and seasonal is always fun. Pawpaws were a revelation!” She says, “My favorite thing at the co-op, though, is probably the bulk department. You can find things in there that are hard to come by in the area. I like that I can go to the co-op and get everything I need for a great meal.”
We asked Julia to leave us with a bit of advice for those of us still finding our motivation and inspiration as home-cooks. “Don’t try too hard! Your home is not a restaurant. Keep it simple. Sometimes, I think, there’s nothing better than a baked potato.” She adds, “I’ve always been a fan of the chef, Lee Bailey. He has this “rule of four” that really helps take a simple dish to the next level. Essentially, everyone thinks of a meal as a protein, starch, and a vegetable. When you add a fourth element, say a really good pickle or some cornbread… that makes a meal special. You don’t need a cabinet full of fancy tools to make a great dinner. I consider my hands the greatest tool I have– Though a good cast-iron pan really helps.”
We’d like to sincerely thank Julia Turshen for participating in this month’s newsletter, and for including two recipes from Small Victories for our enjoyment. We’ll be carrying a limited number of signed copies at the co-op soon. It was such a pleasure getting to know her a bit better, and we hope to collaborate with her again soon.