115 episodes

A weekly food and culture podcast from writer Alicia Kennedy, who talks to writers, chefs, and more about their lives, careers, and how food fits into it all.

www.aliciakennedy.news

From the Desk of Alicia Kennedy Podcast Alicia Kennedy

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    • 5.0 • 3 Ratings

A weekly food and culture podcast from writer Alicia Kennedy, who talks to writers, chefs, and more about their lives, careers, and how food fits into it all.

www.aliciakennedy.news

    A Conversation with Millicent Souris

    A Conversation with Millicent Souris

    You're listening to From the Desk of Alicia Kennedy, a food and culture podcast. I'm Alicia Kennedy, a food writer based in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Every week on Wednesdays, I'll be talking to different people in food and culture, about their lives, careers, and how it all fits together and where food comes in.
    This week, I'm talking to Millicent Souris, someone I have long wanted to make my friend. Millicent is to me just wildly cool. She talks about food equity and drinking bourbon, and there was no one I would rather talk to you about the dichotomy of being politically engaged with food justice, and also stocking your pantry with very nice olive oil. She's also one of my favorite food writers period; her pieces in Brooklyn Based, Bon Appetit, Diner Journal—they kind of redefined the genre. As a longtime line cook who now runs a soup kitchen and food pantry in New York City, she's someone who simply knows food—its highs and lows and is cool as hell. Did I say that already? 
    Alicia Kennedy: Hi, Millicent. How are you, Millicent?
    Millicent Souris: I'm doing all right. How are you, Alicia?
    Alicia: Did I say your name right? 
    Millicent: Yep! 
    Alicia: Actually, we should have done that before. [Laughs.]
    Millicent: I know. Yeah, my name is Millicent. And is Alicia correct for you?
    Alicia: Yes. Alicia is correct. 
    Millicent: Great.
    Alicia: Yeah, I'm Alicia sometimes, but only if you're a Spaniard. [Laughs.]
    Millicent: Fair, I'm not going to pretend…
    Alicia: Yeah, yeah…well, can you tell me about where you grew up and what you ate?
    Millicent: Yeah, I grew up in Baltimore County, north of Baltimore City, and in Towson, Maryland, and Lutherville, Maryland—which is of course home to John Waters and Divine, and also in North Baltimore County. 
    So my dad's parents had immigrated from Greece, so I grew up eating Greek food. And then my mom's family had a dairy farm, so I grew up drinking—when I was up there—unpasteurized milk, which I would say about 10 years ago, I made the connection was raw milk. And country food, you know—my grandfather would grow his own corn and tomatoes and zucchini, and that would be summertime. We ate a lot of crabs in the summer, because it's Maryland, and then also, like, oysters were definitely a part of my mom's family. Like we'd have oysters stuffing and raw oysters at Thanksgiving, because her dad would bring them and shuck them. 
    But then also because it's the ’70s and ’80s, straight-up s****y American processed food, was a gift, you know, for our household because my mom worked and my dad worked, and there's three of us. And, you know, even on the farm, my uncle and his wife, they would buy Steak-umms, even though they had ground beef from the steers that they sent to slaughter. You know, we would drink Tang, and we ate Stouffer’s lasagna, so it was a real hodgepodge, I think, of all that stuff. 
    And then there was, when my mom left my dad and there was the episode called “divorce food,” which was Lean Cuisines and Hamburger Helper and La Choy and a lot of Mandarin oranges in tins. 
    Alicia: Wow. Yeah. Was that on behalf of your mom’s side?
    Millicent: That was on my mom's side. And then my dad would just take us to his friends’ restaurants or bars and we’d eat there. 
    Alicia: [Laughs.] My parents, when they got divorced, I always say, when I knew something was going wrong was when my mom started to make instant mashed potatoes. 
    Millicent: Yeah…
    Alicia: I was already like, 20. So it wasn't like I was a kid. But you know it was always seared in my mind that the instant mashed potatoes were the beginning of the end.
    Millicent: It's the tell…it’s the tell… except I, when I did eat instant mashed potatoes and I think I was 21 I first had them, I was like, What is this magical stuff that just turns into mashed potatoes? 
    Alicia: No, it's super cool. 
    Millicent: It's…I mean, science. It's science.
    Alicia: Yeah, well, you know, as you were just talking abou

    • 1 hr 2 min
    A Conversation with Andrea Hernandez

    A Conversation with Andrea Hernandez

    You're listening to From the Desk of Alicia Kennedy, a food and culture podcast. I'm Alicia Kennedy, a food writer based in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Every week on Wednesdays, I'll be talking to different people in food and culture, about their lives, careers, and how it all fits together and where food comes in.
    Today, I'm talking to Andrea Hernandez, the oracle behind the newsletter Snaxshot, which explores food and beverage trends with humor, broad insight, and gorgeous graphics. 
    Nothing about the conversation went according to plan. I had to reschedule because of Puerto Rico's archipelago-wide blackout, my usual recording software wasn't loading, my laptop and Andrea's AirPods were dying, and we went totally off the prepared script to discuss the limits of tech that doesn't cross borders, having to be self-motivated as independent workers, adaptogens, commodification of culture, and much more. 
    Alicia: Hi, Andrea. How are you?
    Andrea: I'm good. I'm actually doing good. [Laughter.] Thanks for asking me, how about you?
    Alicia: I'm good. I'm good. I know, you've had some power problems lately.
    Andrea: I was honestly, yesterday, I was like, Oh, God, because yesterday, I woke up with no electricity. And then at night, the power went out too. And I'm like, I don't know if we're gonna be able to do this. I was gonna have to— I don't know if tomorrow will be okay. But thank God, there's been no issues. I don’t wanna jinx myself. [Laughs.]
    Alicia: Right. Well, yeah, we rescheduled this because there was a blackout in Puerto Rico and then there have also been problems in a lot of other places as well. It's interesting, because someone messaged me in the Pacific Northwest, in Oregon, and was like, “We're having bad weather, I don't know if the power is going to hold.”
    And I feel like this is something that's underestimated and that's not as discussed, I think, because people in New York and LA don't have these problems right now, you know, and so I did want to talk to you about that, about how do you get your work done, and how do you keep your kind of resolve because also, as independent writers—as I know, of course—we are self-motivated completely with kind of, these unpredictable issues that happen. 
    Andrea: Yeah, it really sucks at times when, at night, because it's like, well, I don't really have anywhere else to go. My phone has been sort of like what I default to, which is, like, so funny that you put yourselves in these positions, like I've literally, like, learned to do like, writing on Substack on my phone, which is like the most tedious thing—I wish they would like improve upon that experience. But I'm also, you know, before my laptop battery died, I will literally use my phone as a hotspot, for whatever, [how long] it can last. 
    But yeah, I think—it's just so funny, because I talk to a lot of people from literally all over the world, people from Sydney and London and all these places. [And] they are always surprised. They're like, Wait, like, you're in Honduras? And I'm like, yeah, and they're just like, so shocked. They can't believe that someone from an unknown hub could be putting out work that's recognized in their places. 
    So I think, to me, it's like, you mentioned something, like the self-motivation. It's so true. I talk to people, constantly, that there's no hack. You need to get the work done. Nobody else is doing it for us; we don't have a team so that we can default to—it's on you. So you have to figure it out, and I think growing up, my parents taught me that sort of resiliency of, you have to figure it out. Like, there's no backup. So, you have to…there's a saying, it's called the “the law of the wittiest,” “la ley del mas vivo” in Spanish, which is like you just have to be streetwise and figure out, Okay, this isn't working, let's try to figure out which angle to work at, whatever. And so I think that's my approach to everything. And I again, we’ve got no power—okay, coo

    • 46 min
    A Conversation with Angela Garbes

    A Conversation with Angela Garbes

    You're listening to From the Desk of Alicia Kennedy, a food and culture podcast. I'm Alicia Kennedy, a food writer based in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Every week on Wednesdays, I'll be talking to different people in food and culture, about their lives, careers, and how it all fits together and where food comes in.
    Today, I'm talking to Angela Garbes, the author of Like a Mother: A Feminist Journey Through the Science and Culture of Pregnancy, and the new Essential Labor: Mothering As Social Change. We discussed how her past as a food writer continues to inform her work, what mothers who are creative workers need to thrive—spoiler, it's basically what all workers need to thrive—informal knowledge building, and the significance of having an unapologetic appetite as a woman. Subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or adjust your settings to receive an email when podcasts are published.
    Alicia: Hi, Angela. Thank you so much for being here.
    Angela: Thank you so much for having me, Alicia.
    Alicia: Can you tell me about where you grew up and what you ate?
    Angela: Sure. I grew up in rural Central Pennsylvania. So—people can't see this—but this is roughly the shape of Pennsylvania, my hand. And I grew up here in what I call the ass crack of Pennsylvania. And it was a very small town, about 4,000 people. And I was one of very few people of color. And my parents are immigrants from the Philippines. You know, I would say that from a very young age, I was, like, born different. But, you know, we have a fairly typical…like, my parents are both medical professionals. So we had a pretty typical, I would say, fairly typical as you could get, middle class upbringing. 
    And as far as what we ate, I look back on it now and I think of it as like a perfect combination of like 50 percent American, quote unquote, American convenience food, like a lot of Hamburger Helper, a lot of Old El Paso soft shell tacos, a lot of Little Caesars Pizza, a lot of Philly cheesesteaks. 
    And then the other half we ate Filipino food: sinigang, adobo, arroz caldo, tinola... and, you know, I remember my dad, like, hacking up pig's feet, you know, I would come downstairs and he'd be cooking up things like that. And so when I look back on it now, I think it was—I mean, I love Filipino food so much. But I also, I mean, I love all kinds of food. And I kind of eat anything. And it's partly, I think, because I was just exposed to a lot of things. 
    But my parents, you know, we lived in this really small town, and they couldn't get all of the ingredients that they wanted to make traditional dishes. But they kind of improvised with what they had. And because they were so committed to cooking Filipino food, sort of against the odds, I would say, you know, we did a lot of…there were not vegetables that [were] available, like you couldn't get okra or green papaya. So we would use zucchini, and, you know, frozen okra to make sinigang. But it was such a way for them to stay connected to their cultures and I feel so grateful to them because what they did was really pass that down to me, from an early age. I was like, Oh, yeah, this is—this is my food, like, this is who I am. And I've never lost that. And I've always loved [it] and, yeah, so it was sort of this wonderful, healthy mix, I think. 
    Alicia: For sure, and, you know, it was so interesting to realize, because I don't think I'd realized it before, that you were a food writer. [Laughs] Until I got into your books, I was like, Wait…
    And Like a Mother, your first book, starts out like, so…like, such a rich piece of food writing. And I'm like, Wow, now I understand. And then I realized, I'm like, Oh, she is a food writer. So you know, you've come to write your two books about motherhood, but you know, you're also a food writer, and you're writing about food in these books as well. How did you become a food writer?
    Angela: First of all, thank you for saying this now because I miss food writing. And I think at hea

    • 50 min
    A Conversation with Jami Attenberg

    A Conversation with Jami Attenberg

    You're listening to From the Desk of Alicia Kennedy, a food and culture podcast. I'm Alicia Kennedy, a food writer based in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Every week on Wednesdays, I'll be talking to different people in food and culture about their lives, careers and how it all fits together and where food comes in. 
    Today, I'm talking to Jami Attenberg, the author of seven novels, including the best-selling The Middlesteins. Her latest book is a memoir called I Came All This Way to Meet You, which grapples with ideas of success and living a nontraditional life. We talk about the ups and downs of the writing life, along with her move from New York to New Orleans, why she chose to write a memoir right now, and how the pandemic has shifted her relationship to travel.
    You're listening to From the Desk of Alicia Kennedy, a food and culture podcast. I'm Alicia Kennedy, a food writer based in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Every week on Wednesdays, I'll be talking to different people in food and culture about their lives, careers and how it all fits together and where food comes in. 
    Today, I'm talking to Jami Attenberg, the author of seven novels, including the best-selling The Middlesteins. Her latest book is a memoir called I Came All This Way to Meet You, which grapples with ideas of success and living a non-traditional life. We talk about the ups and downs of the writing life, along with her move from New York to New Orleans, why she chose to write a memoir right now, and how the pandemic has shifted her relationship to travel. 
    Alicia: Hi, Jami. Thank you so much for being here. 
    Jami: Hi. It's so nice to meet you.
    Alicia: Can you tell me about where you grew up and what you ate?
    Jami: Yeah, I grew up in the suburbs of Chicago. I’m 50, so I grew up in the ’70s. And I'm Jewish, and so there was an emphasis on deli when we could get it. There wasn't a lot of deli going on out there where I grew up. I grew up in Buffalo Grove. So closer to Skokie is where they, where you can get deli. 
    And then, a lot of Italian food. A lot of pizza. I don't know if you've ever heard of Portillo's before. That is an amazing Chicago chain, and the Italian—Oh. I want it right now, just thinking about it. They had this croissant sandwich with Italian beef that was really delicious. 
    My mother would be upset to hear me say this, I do not recall having a lot of emphasis on healthy food in my household growing up. We were also latchkey kids. You come home and you sort of scramble for what you could find in the house, that kind of thing. I mean, there was food there.
    So, I don't know. When I look back at it now, I just think it was that there was not a clear path to, not a clear aesthetic necessarily. It was a lot of what was around.
    Alicia: Yeah.
    Well, it's interesting that you say your mom wouldn't like that. In your memoir, you write about her making chicken noodle soup from scratch and insisting she'd done it. And it's interesting, because it brings up obviously—memoir, where your memories don't match up with other people's memories and the question of that. How was it to reconstruct those kinds of things? I liked that in the book, that you enacted the problem of memoir in the memoir with this kind of like, ‘Whose memory actually is the memory that's the memory?’ [Laughs.]
    Jami: Well, I have a brother. So I think he would back me up on certain things. And he's a wonderful cook, and he’s very health focused and really into the farmers’ markets and has a big tomato festival in his house every year. It was like a goal of his to kind of learn how to cook and be connected with food in a different way. I mean, I'm not blaming my parents for it. They had, of course, a million jobs and things going on. 
    So I mean, I tried to be as honest about it as I could. I mean, I think my mother genuinely wants to have cooked, made chicken noodle soup for me from scratch. I do not recall it at all. I don't think that happened. So when that did happen, it felt

    • 34 min
    A Conversation with Daniela Galarza

    A Conversation with Daniela Galarza

    You're listening to From the Desk of Alicia Kennedy, a food and culture podcast. I'm Alicia Kennedy, a food writer based in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Every week on Wednesdays, I'll be talking to different people in food and culture about their lives, careers, and how it all fits together and where food comes in. 
    Today, I'm talking to Daniela Galarza, the writer behind The Washington Post's Eat Voraciously newsletter, which goes out Monday through Thursdays offering suggestions for what to cook for dinner. We discussed how she went from pastry kitchens to food media, writing recipes for a broad audience with plenty of substitutions, and walking around Walmarts to see what kind of ingredients are available everywhere.
    Alicia: Hi, Daniela. Thank you so much for being here. 
    Daniela: Hi, Alicia. Thanks for having me.
    Alicia: Can you tell me about where you grew up and what you ate?
    Daniela: I grew up in the suburbs of Chicago, a few different suburbs. And my mom immigrated to the U.S. in her early adulthood, and my dad from Iran. And my dad moved from Puerto Rico to the mainland in—when he was 9 or 10 years old. And they met in Chicago and realized they had—I guess, they both loved to cook. Or they both loved food. And so growing up, I ate a lot of both of those cuisines, and also a lot of things that they kind of made up together. 
    And then, when I started going to school, I started—my brother and I, who’s younger than me, started complaining that we weren't eating enough American food. I loved the Puerto Rican food and the Iranian food that I was eating. It's interesting that I, as a kid, just wanted macaroni and cheese and, from a box. And, I don't know, hot dogs, and—What else? Oh, and baked pastas. I wanted all of this Italian American food, which was so foreign to my parents. And they did their best to try to figure out what we would eat. That manifested in really interesting mas- ups. My dad's take on spaghetti and meatballs was spaghetti, really, really overdone spaghetti in, I think, a canned tomato sauce, and then a fried pork chop on top. And it would get cut up for me. Yeah, there were a lot of translations into American food that I ate.
    Alicia: Wow. 
    Well, and you've had such a long and varied career in food. So I wanted to start at the beginning. Why food? And how did you start your professional career?
    Daniela: I don't know how I always knew I wanted to work in the food, in food, somehow doing something with food. I think I always gravitated towards the kitchen. It wasn't always a happy place in my home. I just loved eating.
    Something I get from my mom that I'm more aware of now is a pretty sensitive sense of taste. And I think that that contributed to my enjoyment of eating different foods and different cuisines, whether I was cooking them myself or eating somebody else's at a restaurant or at their home. And that enjoyment—
    I remember my parents. My dad was a bus driver for the Chicago Transit Authority. And my mom did many, many different jobs when I was growing up. And it was very clear that both of them worked to work, to pay the bills. And I came away from that experience never wanting to work a 9 to 5 and never wanting to work to just pay my bills. I wanted to figure out how I could work, how I could do something I loved and make a living out of it. 
    And initially that was me wanting to go to culinary school. And I had a lot of notions of like, ‘Oh, I'll open a restaurant.’ Or ‘Oh, I'll be like a TV chef like Julia Child,’ whoever I watched on PBS growing up. And my mom had these very strong feelings about like, ‘Oh, you want to be, want to cook for people?’ And in some cultures that—there's a stigma. There's a class attached to that kind of service industry work. And I remember being so puzzled by that when I would hear that from family members just not understanding it at all.
    Until I went into working in restaurants and saw how restaurant people are treated, saw how you wer

    A Conversation with Robert Simonson

    A Conversation with Robert Simonson

    You're listening to “From the desk of Alicia Kennedy”, a food and culture podcast. I'm Alicia Kennedy, a food writer based in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Every week on Wednesdays I'll be talking to different people in food and culture, about their lives, careers and how it all fits together and where food comes in.
    Today, I’m talking Robert Simonson, a contributing cocktail writer at the New York Times, Punch, and other outlets. He’s the author of many cocktail books, including one of my favorites, A Proper Drink: The Untold Story of How a Band of Bartenders Saved the Civilized Drinking World
    We discussed how he went from theater critic to cocktail writer, the methodology behind 2016’s A Proper Drink, launching his newsletter The Mix, and the non-alcoholic beverage scene.
    Alicia: Thank you so much for being here, Robert.
    Robert: Oh, it's my pleasure.
    Alicia: Can you tell me about where you grew up and what you ate?
    Robert: Yes, I grew up in a small farming community in Wisconsin. It had the name Eagle with about 395 people in it. And my parents had moved there for a change of pace and their lifestyle, and we lived on a working farm. So my mother had a huge vegetable garden and my father raised pigs and other animals, so I kind of grew up knowing where all the food came from, all the vegetables came from our garden, all the meat that was in the large freezer in the basement, had once been living on our land, and we sent it away to a butcher and it came back. 
    So I guess this kind of gave me a sort of a trusting attitude towards food, which is perhaps not well founded or well founded and how you look at it. I was very lucky in that respect. My mother was a good cook. She made a lot of, you know, home meals, mainly Germanic, the kinds of things that you would get in Wisconsin. And of course, you know, you eat a lot of cheese out there; you eat a lot of bratwurst. One thing we did every summer that I did not realize was special until the last ten years is, we took one of our pigs and we roasted it whole over a spit and we invited all the family over and we had this day-long pig roast. I think at the time as a kid, I probably thought it was pretty gross. But now of course, you know, that's, that's a very cool thing to have.
    Alicia: [Laughs] Well, when did you end up coming to New York then?
    Robert: I came to New York in 1988. I came here to go to graduate school at Hunter College.
    Alicia: Nice. And what did you study? Did you study journalism?
    Robert: I had studied journalism and English Literature at Northwestern University in the Chicago area. And I came here with the quixotic idea of getting a master's degree in dramatic criticism, which is not, you know, a going concern, not a way to make a living. But that's what I wanted to do. I really wanted to be a drama critic. My family is a theater family; they're a group of actors, directors and designers. I've… I've always been a writer, I knew I would be a writer from the age of 11, or 12. So that seemed what my role should be, although later on, I tried playwriting as well.
    Alicia: What did you take from dramatic criticism that now sustains you as a cocktail writer? Because you really, you've spent most of your career writing about cocktails, right?
    Robert: Yes, about 16 years writing about cocktails. There was a brief interval with wine, and before that, 15 or 18 years writing about theater. At first, I didn't see the parallels, but then they were very clear and right in front of me. Obviously, the bartenders behind the bar, many of them are former actors or current actors, but they are all performers, they are on a stage, we are looking at them, we are evaluating their performance, enjoying the show. The theater has a long and rich history, I always like the historical aspect if anything. And cocktails have been around for a long time, more than 200 years. So there was that history to dig into. There are a lot of traditions and superstitions; there are a lot of rituals

    • 26 min

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