Nothing Fancy: Unfussy Food for Having People Over
By Alison Roman
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.
Alison Roman: Hi, I'm Alison Roman, a cookbook author of Nothing Fancy: Unfussy Food for Having People Over.
Suzy Chase: I was trying to sum up your job description. It's very multifaceted, you have cookbooks, a biweekly column in the New York Times, and a monthly column in Bon Appétit magazine. Talk about how cookbooks are the truest expression of how you are.
Alison Roman: Yeah, so with having so many recipes in so many different places, I always say that cookbooks are the truest expression of myself. Because, while every recipe is pretty true to myself in terms of flavor profile, and effort, and visually speaking, I feel like each of my columns is sort of tailored to the publication, and that includes voice, writing style, and type of recipe. It's got to fit where it's being published.
Alison Roman: But my books are just being published with my name on it, it's my own column for my own publication, and I feel a little bit more free to just have it be exactly tailored to myself. And so I can be a little bit more personal, I can be a little bit more casual, I can be a little bit more relaxed when I'm writing my own books.
Suzy Chase: The busier you got, the less complicated your food got. I think you've found the recipe sweet spot for all of us home cooks out here. Talk a little bit about that.
Alison Roman: Well, I feel like I am trying to get people to cook, and I realize that time and effort are probably the biggest hurdles for people deciding whether or not they want to cook something, just basically for having people over or just for a weeknight for yourself. And so I just use my own life as a real good measure for what I think people are willing to do, just because I also am busy, and I have a small kitchen, and my resources can be limited. So if I'm willing to put in the time to produce something, I think that you will be too.
Alison Roman: And I think the biggest difference for this book versus the columns is that the book is really a good mix of things that require zero prep but maybe take two to three hours of hands-off time, and things that are ready in 30 minutes but maybe require a little bit more effort on your part during those 30 minutes. So rather than just cut and dry sheet pan dinners or weeknight meals, it feels a little bit more elevated, a little bit more interesting, a little bit more mixed. But I'll never ask you to take a long time and do a ton of work at the same time. I feel like it's always one or the other for me.
Suzy Chase: And we thank you for the substitution recommendations.
Alison Roman: Oh yeah.
Suzy Chase: We thank you. So it's "having people over", not "entertaining". When was the first time articulated exactly what you wanted this cookbook to be about?
Alison Roman: I feel like it was when I was writing the proposal for it, which is really ... I mean, the book was already sold, so it was really just an exercise for me to articulate what I wanted the book to be about. But I think it was just becoming so overwhelmed with people, because I knew that I wanted to do this book, and my publisher was like, "Entertaining books don't sell well," and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. "It's very Martha Stewart, people get stressed out." And