In ‘Now & Again’ (forthcoming September 4, 2018), Turshen ventures beyond the recipes, into the tricky why’s and wherefore’s of cooking, offering timetables for serving (how long can that chili and cornbread lunch last in your freezer?) options for sides to accompany main dishes, and options for ways to reinvent leftovers.
Here, Turshen deals with some very practical questions of re-imagining a dish once it was served already, by turning what was once a Celebration Chicken into a Coronation Chicken Salad, or your Baked Saffron Rice into Stuffed Peppers.
Julia Turshen wrote to me about changing the bad reputation of leftovers, about what tables she wants to see recipes from ‘Now & Again’ cooked at, and about food and change.
Shira Feder: Why do you think leftovers has such a bad reputation in the food world? What inspired your love of leftovers?
Julia Turshen: Many people view them as just “the same old thing” (a.k.a. boring) and many also view them as “old” (a.k.a. not fresh). I love leftovers because they’re invitations to totally new and transformed meals and you’ve already done the heavy lifting.
What was your goal with this cookbook?
It’s a three-part goal. One is to dismantle the idea that cooking a whole meal has to be daunting or expensive to be successful, two is really prove that leftovers are like money in the bank and can inspire so much creativity, and three is to give readers all of the inspiration and information they need to gather people around their tables because that is the best part about cooking.
I love the idea of food being reborn as other foods. There’s something sustainable about that, but also something hopeful, like everything, even food, is capable of a second act. Was there some philosophy behind the choice to focus on leftovers?
Yes, definitely. In a way, ‘Now & Again’ is a book about food waste without ever saying so. Moreover, it’s definitely and explicitly about reinvention— which is something that is good for us to all be reminded of frequently. Anything, even us, can change.
What kind of tables do you envision this cookbook’s recipes being brought to?
Round ones, square ones! As many as possible. I think ‘Now & Again’ appeals to new cooks and seasoned ones too and there’s really something for everyone.
You wrote in your introduction about food being more than just food, about food being a lens through which to see the world. How does your perception of food affect how you perceive yourself and the people around you?
Food is how I navigate everything and informs all the questions I have about people. Knowing what, when, where, and how someone eats gives you so much insight and really lets you know who that person is. So what does the way I approach food tell me about me? I guess that nostalgia means a lot to me and so does efficiency -— I am always interested in the easiest, fastest way to something good (with as little clean-up as possible).
Shira Feder is a writer. She’s at firstname.lastname@example.org and @shirafeder