Better Choices in 2024: Sunday Supper or Taco Tuesday? (with Samin Nosrat)
When chef and cookbook author (“Salt Fat Acid Heat”) Samin Nosrat bought a house in Oakland, she aspired to host big Sunday dinners with friends. Then COVID hit, those dinners got postponed, and Samin spiraled down into deep loneliness and depression. She tells Sam how she turned her sadness around by reigniting that passion to gather, cook, and eat together. Sam also asks Samin why so many new year resolutions center around eating, and gets a sneak peek inside her next cookbook!
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Samin Nosrat, Samantha Bee
Samantha Bee 00:00
It’s almost impossible to talk about the new year and starting fresh and not talk about food. The two are so intertwined that everywhere you look, this month, you’re going to be bombarded with 10 tips for salads that will change your life for 15 recipes for breakfast soup that are going to make you like evacuate gold bars as if the secret to happiness and success in the new year just depends on finding the perfect meal to serve. And of course, eating well is a great and somewhat easy way you can choose to make small changes in your life that do have a big impact, like food might not solve your work issues or your love life or the economy or presidential candidates. But yeah, a great orange. A tan jello in January might just actually make your goddamn day. And so, you know, while some food fads and headlines might drive us crazy, I think that looking at food and the new year makes a ton of sense. There’s a reason that so many people recommit to cooking for themselves in the new year. Why people finally opened the new appliances, They were gifted in December and decide Yeah, maybe Okay, well, we’ll figure out how to use this fancy liquor say, maybe I will, I shall learn to based something. Does my dough need a pillow? While it rests? It feels good to choose to do something for ourselves. It can lead to community and it is literally nourishing, I think nourishing to the body and to the soul. When I was growing up my main idea of baking was eating chocolate cake mix dry with a spoon in my room. Sure, yes okay, but if Gwyneth Paltrow told you, she did it, you’d want to do it too. Okay, yhen, all of a sudden, I remember wanting to learn how to be a good cook. I had a boyfriend whose mom was an excellent cook. And I wanted to be like her. I mean, like very, very far away from him. But as good a cook and as easy a cook as she was, she was just effortless. And also, as a teenager, a friend of mine had gifted me a subscription to Gourmet magazine. And that really was life changing, I decided I wanted to know how to do what they were doing on all of those beautiful pages. Rip Gourmet Magazine. And I think that some 35 years later, I maybe have accomplished that. I’m sure there were many, many pizza bagels along the way and sometimes I still sometimes mistakenly use parsley instead of cilantro in my cilantro rice, which turned out weird. But mostly, I’m not hearing too many complaints.
Samantha Bee 03:05
This is Choice Words. I’m Samantha Bee, this month, we’re looking at how we make better decisions in 2024. My guest today is Samin Nosrat, the incredible cookbook author and host of salt, fat, acid heat and we talk all about our food choices in the new year. And of course, celebrate the new year bringing in Citrus season. So take a listen and make good choices.
Samantha Bee 03:38
Hi, how are you?
Samin Nosrat 03:41
Oh, I’m so well.
Samantha Bee 03:42
I have to tell you something, I am such a big fan of yours.
Samin Nosrat 03:48
Samantha Bee 03:49
I was actually just, I was just I was just telling everybody that I was rereading your cookbook. I collect cookbooks and I read them and I loved them. And yours is so special, it’s.
Samin Nosrat 04:03
Samantha Bee 04:04
Very special, such a good read, I love you.
Samin Nosrat 04:08
Samantha Bee 04:09
I love writing about food. I’ve always lovely ever ever since I was a teenager, I’ve loved people writing about food. You might, did you grow up loving food writing, as well, because.
Samin Nosrat 04:19
I didn’t grow up, didn’t know that there was such a thing called Food writing. But I’ve always loved reading and yeah, like from, you know, very early childhood. I’ve loved being read to and read in stories. And I think that that’s an important foundation of my well work and myself.
Samantha Bee 04:39
I know that you already know this because many people have told you this, but you got what it takes. It’s like to know what I be like just some people are just so goddamn good at it, and I anyways.
Samin Nosrat 04:55
I just, I mean it’s so nice of you to say that and it’s a very funny moment because I’m trying to finish the draft of my next book right now. And it has been so hard and I think the biggest difficulty has been my own brain. Just, I’m like, why am I even doing this? Why do people feel nobody wants to hear this? You know, there’s a lot of that. And like, do people need another like, chicken schnitzel recipe? They don’t know, they do?
Samantha Bee 05:22
I do, I’ll take it I’m ready to receive.
Samin Nosrat 05:26
And also, because with the first book, I was on such a mission for, you know, almost 20 years, I knew I wanted to tell that specific story. And then now, I don’t have that sort of, like 20 years of fuel, like me so it’s a little bit different, but.
Samantha Bee 05:43
Different experience, but I mean, you’re just your voice is so true and clear, and like, it just it rings my bell, I think is what I’m saying, and so I’m glad you’re here. I have a camp did definitely promise my producers that I wouldn’t just spend one full hour asking you what you ate this week, we’ll see if I keep that promise.
Samin Nosrat 06:03
I’m trying to think if there was anything particularly good.
Samantha Bee 06:06
But in essence, the show is all about choice, so we are going to talk about choices that we’ve come to big choices that we’ve made little choices, you know, do you are you good at? Are you good at making choices? Are you like good, good decision maker, what’s your process like?
Samin Nosrat 06:20
I’m both really good and really bad, so I think it just depends on the circumstances. I am an over thinker and an over researcher, so I can really go down a rabbit hole of weighing all the options, but then also, I think I do have an ability to listen to my instincts, and listen to myself and tune in to that. And it’s gotten better, as I’ve like, gone to therapy for many years and just learned how to like, tune into my own body, and what my body’s trying to tell me. But so I think it just depends like is it if it’s about like buying, like, this morning, actually, I was Googling binoculars, and I.
Samantha Bee 07:04
Have opinions about binoculars.
Samin Nosrat 07:06
You know, and I was like, I got so overwhelmed by the research that I was like, I’m just not gonna buy any I’ll just borrow some from someone. But then I think other things where it’s maybe more important or meaningful, I do have a good ability to like, tune in and sit with myself and figure it out.
Samantha Bee 07:22
When you have like a choice that you’re making really like making a decision, like some big thing. What is your body? How does your body communicate to you?
Samin Nosrat 07:32
How does it, like what I wish there was like, my finger went to the button.
Samantha Bee 07:36
Once it turns green.
Samin Nosrat 07:37
Yeah, no, it’s been a really long, painful and mostly boring process of many years of therapy. And I have the best therapist, he’s so good to me. And for me, and he really has against my wishes, insisted over and over that. I tune learn to tune into my own body and I’m like, what, can you just give me a list of stuff to do? You know, like, more efficient? , totally, and so he’s, we’re always the answers always coming back to my own body, which in the beginning felt very awkward, like, but now I’m basically like, trained in it. So I understand, you know, if I have like, I might rant about something to him, and then he’ll be like, Okay, well, where do you feel this so then I have to get quiet and sit with it. And almost always, for me, the places where I feel things are in my belly, you know, or in my heart. So if I’m feeling really lonely, almost feel like a tightness in my chest. Or if I feel like a sad sadness or anger that derives from loneliness that often is in my chest. And also if I feel good and seen and loved that’s in my chest. And then in my belly is where like, I feel anxiety, or unsettledness you know, right stuff like that.
Samantha Bee 08:57
What do you find? Where do you feel excitement? I can tell you where I feel that I feel it in the weirdest spot, so I have to let you know what I mean like enthusiasm. I was feeling it in my hips. I feel like there’s like someone has poured Perrier into my hips. Just like good, just like effervescent, I’m like little.
Samin Nosrat 09:16
I think that makes sense though. I’ve been really tuned out to like my pelvis and my hips almost my whole life and so only in this last year have I started even feeling anything there, but I kind of make sense that I think you would feel excitement there.
Samantha Bee 09:28
Like a free song, like a nice, like a Topo Chico, pour it into my jeans oh, that’s disgusting I’m sorry.
Samin Nosrat 09:39
So it’s just fizzy water.
Samantha Bee 09:40
It’s fuzzy water.
Samin Nosrat 09:41
There’s no sugar at.
Samantha Bee 09:44
All right, here is a really big month for people. For me, it’s actually more September than January. But I accept that we.
Samin Nosrat 09:51
I understand to.
Samantha Bee 09:52
I accept that we think of things differently in the month of January.
Samin Nosrat 09:57
I don’t have the January thing either so.
Samantha Bee 09:59
But yeah, if people do like a dance like in the culture, I think it’s more of a cultural, but we’re gonna so we’re going to take them on to kind of like focus on the the larger concept of making just good decisions because we all want that. And people make resolutions for the new year I don’t personally I’m not a resolutions person are you, no?
Samin Nosrat 10:20
I can’t hold to anything like No, doesn’t even last one day.
Samantha Bee 10:24
Not even one day.
Samin Nosrat 10:24
I learned like don’t do that to myself.
Samantha Bee 10:27
No, I think it’s weird to postpone making a good decision until another time.
Samin Nosrat 10:33
Samantha Bee 10:34
Not today, in exactly in 17 days, I’m gonna, I’m gonna start getting.
Samin Nosrat 10:41
It’s weird, it’s really weird.
Samantha Bee 10:44
But I just want to unpack that with you a little bit. Because like when I actually think of January, think of citrus. It’s my favorite fruit season.
Samin Nosrat 10:52
I love citrus.
Samantha Bee 10:53
Do you not love citrus?
Samin Nosrat 10:55
Is it’s like, deeply meaningful to me, so I agree with you.
Samantha Bee 10:58
Okay, when you think citrus, what are you? What do you where does your brain go?
Samin Nosrat 11:03
So my grandparents in Iran had a citrus orchard. So citrus I always feel is like, in my blood. And there are there’s not a lot I know about my family. There’s, there’s not a lot I’ve been told. And so, but I visited that citrus orchard. And, you know, like I have picked sour orange blossoms with my grandmother and made an orange blossom water. They’re just sort of some core memories that I have. And then I grew up in Southern California where there were citrus trees everywhere. So we’d go to my other grandparents house and there were orange trees in the backyard or we’d go visit orchards and pick fruit and Iranians love putting lime and lemon on everything like super acidic things, and there are these specific sort of varieties of oranges and limes that are really precious in Persian Cuisine, they’re sour oranges, like the Seville oranges, which we squeeze over fish. And then there are sweet limes, which is another thing people will eat the whole fruit. And so my dad would like drive down to Tijuana to get us those fruits when I was growing up, so I have a lot of sort of citrus memories. And then now my best friend inherited the citrus and avocado ranch in Southern California that her parents bought in the 70s showing says they were the first Jewish avocado renters in Ventura County. And I don’t know if there’s just I like where I live. I bought this house in 2019. And I had to buy it kind of quickly and stuff and then, and I was so excited about it was my friend’s house. And then afterward, I found this list on my notes app that was like, my dreams for buying a house one day, which I had never thought would be possible for me some sort of just a miracle. And the most sort of like prominent thing on the list was a list of all the fruit trees that I wanted to have in my yard, and this house already had all the fruit trees including, you know, Meyer lemon and lime and regular lemon and Satsuma and stuff.
Samin Nosrat 11:03
So oh my God. Oh, you have a Satsuma tree.
Samin Nosrat 13:08
That was not producing yet.
Samantha Bee 13:10
Okay, that’s it, but it’s there. And it probably is like, I mean, I’m sure it has a beautiful fragrance.
Samin Nosrat 13:16
Oh, yeah has blossoms yeah, totally and then I’ve I also last year planted oral Blonko grapefruits which are these big, beautiful white grape fruits that are so sweet and blood oranges too.
Samantha Bee 13:27
Oh my goodness. this is I know I knew that my mouth was gonna be watering and it already is that so I just from talking about fruit, just from talking about fruit because I feel like for me that it seeing going to California for the first I grew up in Canada where we grow apples, which are fine. I love that but going to California for the first time of my life. I was like, there are lemons.
Samin Nosrat 13:53
Just on the street.
Samantha Bee 13:54
On the street, like what is good what is this place from this land? Yeah, how can this exist? So far from like a desert landscape or just a flowering fruit tree that’s just like sitting there and no one even wants the fruit. There’s just like too much of it there like it.
Samin Nosrat 14:11
Has so much fruit, there’s always food on the street tumbles.
Samantha Bee 14:14
All over the sidewalk everyone’s like these stupid lemons I’m like, counting them do you? I mean, why do you think that food plays such a significant because it really is so part of that January conversation. It’s like we’re doing it differently. We’re getting off to a good start and food is always so much a part of that for people. Why do you think that people center it in their kind of like fresh start their vision of themselves and starting fresh?
Samin Nosrat 14:47
Well, I think the thing about food that’s so interesting as as a person who whose career has to do with food I find this really sort of fascinating and in my earlier in my early days a young cook. This used to drive me nuts. But actually now I think it’s a beautiful thing, which is that everybody has a relationship to food. And everyone in a way is a food professional, because everyone is an expert in their own, you know, everyone’s been eating their whole life, right. And food is such a sensory experience eating and cooking. You know, the best eating and cooking sort of engages all five senses. And that means you create memories around it, and you create ideas around it. And so we all have this sort of body of knowledge inside of us. And we all have very strong feelings about what we like and don’t like, and, and then you, if you’re a person like me, you go somewhere and are trained in the quote, unquote, right way to do things. And so then, then when somebody tells you well, that’s not the way, you know, my mom made beans, or that’s not the way, whatever I’m like, well, when I was a baby cook, I’d be like, well, you’re wrong, your mom’s?
Samantha Bee 16:00
Mom is so stupid.
Samin Nosrat 16:01
Yeah, and so and now, I actually think it’s this wonderful opportunity for me to connect with people, because as long as I’m open and not defensive about it, and so I think it’s that same part of ourselves, that sort of comes into play in January, I think, also, we can’t like ignore, there are a lot of like, marketing forces at play, there are a lot, there’s like capitalisms hitting us over the head with like, trying to get us to sign up for a gym membership or whatever, so when you’re getting all sorts of messages from the outside, I think in a way, like our most tender and vulnerable place is where we eat, and, and what we eat and our relationship to food. And that can be used for like openness and big heartedness. Or it can be used to make us feel small. And I think in a lot of ways, like, the capitalist machine does the latter.
Samantha Bee 17:01
But yes, the capitalist machine is so happy to tell us that we are big piles of garbage.
Samin Nosrat 17:06
Yeah, there’s something wrong with you, and you need to buy this thing, and this thing will fix it.
Samantha Bee 17:11
We liked you during the holiday shopping season. But now you’ve just deer to trash. […]
Samin Nosrat 17:19
Yeah, and I also think that same part of us that has the relationship to food and memory is really highly activated during the holidays, because that’s when you, you know, see your family and eat these things and have these traditions you’ve been doing your whole life and so and then, and then it’s kind of like this prime moment, when you’re like, fully vulnerable and kind of tired for a while eating or something and then they like, come in and get your.
Samantha Bee 17:46
Big citrus coming to get.
Samin Nosrat 17:49
I mean, if it was just big citrus, we’d be I’d be fine with that.
Samantha Bee 17:52
We’ll be right back with Samin Nosrat right after this.
Samantha Bee 18:12
Okay, usually start the show by asking my guests for like a life changing choice, you know.
Samin Nosrat 18:18
I have one prepared.
Samantha Bee 18:20
Oh, you are oh my god hit me with it.
Samin Nosrat 18:22
Okay, so because I’m assuming you wanted it to have to do with food?
Samantha Bee 18:27
No, I mean, I don’t make any assumptions also.
Samin Nosrat 18:31
Even though so, and this is one of those ones where I only understood fully in retrospect that I had made the choice exactly. But so, my, one of my dear friends, her name is Greta when she left the Bay Area and moved to New York about 10 years ago, which is where she has a lot of family and friends. She started this practice of having a weekly dinner on Sundays. And I had met Greta in the food world and so she’s, she’s a totally good cook but she’s not a professional cook. She understands how to set a beautiful table, she understands. You know, she just understands, like how to create a special gathering, but also like, this was a practice at her house every Sunday. So it was not, you know, the fanciest always or anything, it was just a standing dinner, standing invitation to her friends. And it was a way for people to come over and just be together. And it was this kind of I saw the first time I went I felt so something was really I mean, it was so wonderful something was very confused. I at some part of me was confused. And it took me a while to put my finger on it and it was that you know, I’ve been sitting at tables like that like big gatherings of people since I was 19 years old and I first started cooking and working in restaurants like that’s what cooks do on their day off, and restaurant people do on their day off. But somehow something felt very different about out the way Greta was doing it. And eventually I realized it was the first time that I was sitting at a table where there was as much or more attention paid to what was happening around the table as what had been put on the table. And so did everyone feel comfortable? Did everyone feel welcome, like did we all have, you know, a sense of togetherness, and there was just this way where over time, people kind of instinctively knew, like, Oh, this is not a time and a place where we’re on our phones. It was there was no decree about that but it just became that there were just sort of these traditions that like, we’re born into this thing as she held on to this ritual for a few years. And I live in Oakland so I was just coming to New York a lot. So I started building my trips around Sundays to make sure I was always there on a Sunday. And eventually, I was like, wow, I really want to create something like this for my own self, but at the time, I lived in this tiny apartment, I was traveling so much, there wasn’t a way for me to like, envision how that could happen. And then I had the like, amazing luck of being able to buy this house. And the first thing I did when I bought this house was I hired a friend of mine, who’s an amazing woodworker to build me a huge dining room table. Because I was like, I’m gonna have Sunday dinners, I’m gonna have Sunday dinners, it’s gonna be great. So he built it, and then he delivered it. And the next week, it was COVID, and so I was like, well, I guess no one’s gonna be sitting at this table for a while. And so then, you know, there I’m, like, sitting all lonely inside of this table that I’ve like, had built for me in this house that I’ve earned this money to buy and I just was like, what is my life about, and I got really depressed for a lot of reasons throughout COVID, and in, kind of, by the time everyone was vaccinated, and and a little bit after that, I was really in a deep, deep depression I’m working on the recipes for this book one day. And I live around the corner from a farmers market. And so my friend texted me and said, Oh, can we come see you? I’m here with my kids can we come see you after the farmers market? We see you and your puppy. I was like, oh, of course so she came in that morning, I was testing this recipe for I was trying to make like a all pet store Style Pork braised. And so, but I had really, like, pushed myself down into this mental rabbit hole of darkness. And I just, even though I had bought this beautiful piece of grass fed pork and all this stuff, and it was in the oven, I just was like, this is gonna be so bad. I did it wrong. I’m a terrible cook, and all this stuff, so she came over and I was like, feeling so bad about myself and I was like, and then I’m gonna have to eat all this pork by myself for the next 36 meals like.
Samantha Bee 22:36
I just got myself up here.
Samin Nosrat 22:39
Yeah, and like, and then every time I eat it, I’ll just feel bad about what a bad cook I am. And then she said, well, we’ll help you eat it and I was like, Oh, okay. And she said, I said, when she said, how about Tuesday? And so I went over there, and I had we had this pork, we had a taco night. And it was actually everyone was like, why were you mad about this park? It’s so delicious, and I was like, well, it wasn’t the thing I wanted or whatever but also, because it throughout COVID had been so lonely. And just, there was just the sense I had like, oh, there’s kids running around, you know, I’m together with my friends, and they’re, like, want to come back next Tuesday and I was okay, so we just kept doing it on Tuesdays, and it became this like, amazing thing in my heart. And there, you know, Wednesday was the day they got their farm box delivered. So like, our goal usually became to just like, use up whatever we had, and we text back and forth about it. It was never like a grand thing, and I’m testing recipes so sometimes, like, I would bring the majority of the things and sometimes, you know, last year my dad died through in the hospital, like this really complicated long thing. So for probably six months, I didn’t bring anything I just kept showing up, and it took me a while and then I realized like, oh my god this whole time. And so I was so focused on trying to figure out how to do this Sunday dinner that I didn’t see that we had made Tuesday dinner I was like, Oh, it’s just on the wrong side. I was just looking the other way you know? And and so then we’ve like and then as we’ve all sort of talked about what it is that we feel that we’ve built together it’s it is a choice and it is so special and they’re kind of these it’s at the core of my life like I don’t you know I don’t I oh it’s like in my calendar forever, I don’t plan anything that night. We have we have a lot of friends in common so people come through we meet new people like we get to see what you know was interesting on Tiktok and cook that and talked about it together we cook old standards. I make the chicken, the kids loved last month and they hate it this month. You know sometimes the dinners a bus sometimes there’s a tantrum, sometimes we order pizza like it’s not. There’s no sort of hard and fast rules, except we do it and so I think choosing to that and committing to that has been a life changing thing for me.
Samantha Bee 24:55
Oh my god, this is one of the most incredible answers I feel no one has ever given me this is a beautiful, you just built, you like exit, you almost accidentally built something.
Samin Nosrat 25:09
Samantha Bee 25:10
That’s so pure and just.
Samin Nosrat 25:13
S beautiful and like I’ve spent a lot of time understanding, you know, Ezra Klein, who I love listening to his podcast, and I think he’s on some sort of similar journey about his values with me, because like, he’s been having a lot of interviews in the last few years about community and gathering and rituals and Shabbat and those kinds of things. And so I’ve actually, like, on my own, had read a lot of the same books that he’s talking about. And so he had this one beautiful episode about Shabbat with this author of this journalist Miriam Shulevitz. And it was so amazing. And at one point, he asks her, why do you think like people, when they say, I’m gonna have a digital Shabbat, or digital, like detox or something, or just not use my phone on whatever, one day a week, that never works? Whereas these other rituals work? And so, and I’ve always been wondering, like, what is it about this Tuesday dinner that we like, what are the forces that have allowed us to keep doing it? Because I know in other times in my life, I’ve tried to start traditions, and rituals, and there are a lot of things that like, just make it fall apart. And, and she said, Oh, well, when you like, do a digital Shabbat, or whatever, digital detox, or any of those kinds of things. That’s not actually you’re not getting anything, you’re giving something up, it’s like going on a diet.
Samantha Bee 26:34
You took rioting yourself, it feels like exacerbation.
Samin Nosrat 26:37
Exactly, and it doesn’t feel good, right. And there’s no community support system, there’s no ritual, but these other things, because they have specifically Shabbat has like the sort of infrastructure of religion, but you don’t have it doesn’t have to be religious or Tuesday dinners are not religious. It they what it has is a sense of holiness. And what holiness is, is this feeling, it basically is like specialness, it’s something that you get to look forward to that you are all creating together. And so the examples she also said is like, with Shabbat, the whole community, you know, participates, and so every, like all the shopkeepers close our shop, so one shop keeper is not going to feel like, you know, he’s losing all the business. Because everybody’s participating, or there’s just all when everyone participates, when everyone’s committed when it’s not just all on one person. There’s, you’re not, there’s not forces where you are yeah, you’re not like going against the current to create this thing, you’re going towards something.
Samantha Bee 27:40
It’s additive, so you’re like feeding yourselves, but you are like, big picture feeding. Yeah, at your bandwidth and your soul.
Samin Nosrat 27:49
There are three kids who are there every time and then other kids come through too. And like kids are unpredictable, and you don’t know what they’re going to eat, and you don’t know what they’re going to be feeling. You don’t know, you know what I mean? Like, there are tantrums, there are like, you know, all sorts of things that happen. And that’s just what part of it is, but I think we have this sense that, well, there’s always next week, you know, it you there’s it removes the pressure from it feeling like it has to be perfect. Because there’s another one coming. And so sometimes, you know, the food I make sucks, or sometimes, you know, there’s just a way where like, it doesn’t all, they’re not all winners. But that doesn’t actually feel like a failure, because there’s there’s more next time and I think, whereas a lot of times if you have a dinner party, or if you’ve put something on your calendar to hang out with a friend, who you haven’t seen in a long time and date is still like weeks away. There’s almost this pressure that builds up of like, we only have three hours, like what are we going to talk about? What are we going to do you know, and so that a lot of that pressure has been removed. And then now we have traditions like I always ask the kids what they want, what’s their dream dinner for their birthday and interview them in advance. And so then we like we make the kids dreams come true. And a lot of times the kids will make like flower arrangements for the table. It’s just a thing that we are making together. And there’s no map for it but it just feels special, and it’s ours.
Samantha Bee 29:16
That feels so special to me that is and also those kids will probably grow up and be like, Oh, we have to have a course we have a weekly dinner like, this is just part of this, how we grew up. That’s how we grew up with his people all around to just this like wild dinner thing that we did. And it was just easy. The fact that it can be kind of breezy and no pressure. I do feel like it’s people are very, I mean, the whole like kind of like the advent of just that like Martha Stewart style entertaining was totally great and beautiful.
Samin Nosrat 29:53
Social media has only like created way more of a pressure.
Samantha Bee 29:57
Way more of that. So actually, I love to watch people make a giant casserole in a big tin foil pan, totally, that is the most insane thing. I don’t really want to eat it. But I sort of want to be there when everybody else is eating it.
Samin Nosrat 30:15
And just like there’s also like, all sorts of community activists since the beginning of time have been like, a soup pot, or a pot of beans, or whatever. Like there’s there’s a guy who’s like, famous in New Orleans for his red beans and rice every week. You know, like, I think, I mean, I think there’s probably more than one guy but like, there’s one guy I know who does it. You know, it’s doesn’t have to be extravagant, it’s like the food is not the vehicle, right? Maybe the food is the vehicle for the meaning maybe is what it is, but the food’s not crucial.
Samantha Bee 30:43
Sometimes you have a potluck, and everybody brings Swedish meatballs, everybody, it’s just a pots totally Swedish meatballs and then one person brought a box of doughnuts and you can have fun.
Samantha Bee 30:50
At least the meatballs can sit in the doughnut.
Samantha Bee 30:59
It’s the perfect union of two wonderful foods. I love this story, I love that you’re doing this. I love that you’re talking about it. I think it’s very, it’s very motivating for people because it is hard to like erase all that is those ideas about being a perfect host and like having children who are like doing the right thing or like separating the children. I don’t like to do that either I like everybody to just be there and be perfectly imperfect, it’s fine.
Samin Nosrat 31:28
Yeah, there’s no there’s no nothing fancy about no, we about this, yeah.
Samantha Bee 31:33
Which is nice, food turns out badly. Totally, it really does even though like the best efforts are just not rewarded with deliciousness.
Samin Nosrat 31:43
Yeah, I was gone I was on the east coast of the writing residency for six weeks. So I missed it was really hard, like I missed six on Monday, six, I missed six Monday dinners, and it was so sad, so when we came back, it also like I just wanted to come home and eat my own cooking after that. And so I was like, I’m gonna cook this one. I’m gonna cook this one, I’m gonna make spaghetti and meatballs, which is funny because I actually don’t feel like meatballs belong on spaghetti, but it felt like a good thing to eat with kids and so I made the spaghetti meatballs and the other thing was I had COVID in July, and I still have like a sort of recycling, taste and smell distortion. It’s not at all times but like, I think it’ll eventually go away but that was one of my one of the things that happened to me, so when I was making spaghetti meatballs, my tastebuds were off. And so I made the dinner and brought it over and it was so salty, like, like, and then after house like that’s where I cook the pasta, I just actually, I just hadn’t put salt in a pot of water and so long, so I put so much. And every everyone was like, This is really good for me. I was like something’s wrong. I couldn’t read, I was like, something’s wrong.
Samantha Bee 32:54
I’m trying to read your facial expressions, and no one’s really finishing no one’s asking for seconds. \
Samin Nosrat 32:59
Samantha Bee 33:04
Samantha Bee 33:08
Hold that thought more with Samin Nosrat after one more break.
Samantha Bee 33:28
What made you because you’re just you’ve mentioned that you you know, it’s like writing it the writing process or like developing a cookbook is so I think it’s probably a slow process for the fastest writer.
Samin Nosrat 33:42
That I don’t know, it’s extra.
Samantha Bee 33:44
It seems like it’s an excruciating process for a regular person who’s writing it’s like can be you know, it’s not like.
Samin Nosrat 33:52
Writing is like the worst job in the world actually.
Samantha Bee 33:57
Touches a lot of people.
Samin Nosrat 33:58
I can’t imagine doing anything else.
Samantha Bee 34:00
But it’s terrible and great, whatever what made you like, I guess what, what, flip the switch and you were like, alright, I’ll do where you like, I have an idea for a cookbook. I don’t even want to say it out loud. Because somebody’s gonna want me to make it or where people are where your publishers like you got to do a follow up.
Samin Nosrat 34:22
I mean, I I actually had an idea for a follow up book that was almost as big in scope, as salt, fat acid heat, and so that was actually the book that I sold. And like planned to make and so I worked on that for over a year, and then I sort of had a break a breakdown. And I realized like, I can’t spend it’s going to take me another 20 years, to I just realized, like what it would take for me to accomplish that. And I was like, I don’t have this in me I’m so tired so at one point, I was like, I can’t do this I was like, take the money back. I don’t want it, yeah, and they were like, it’s okay you can actually do whatever you want. Just sit with it and figure out what you want and I was like, Okay, I was like, I will never do another, I just was so dark, it was dark times. And then I have I have like a British agent and an American agent. And so one day, my British agent was talking to my American agent, and she said, oh, I made some things like salmon last night, and it’s just every time I cook any of the recipes, they’re just everyone loves them. And they’re so simple. And I don’t understand why Samin always insists on making everything so hard for herself. Like she could just write a book of recipes. And people would her recipes are so simple and good, and people would love them. And so then she told that to my American agent, who then told me and I was like, are you kidding me? I was like, has Felicity even met me? That is the biggest insult in the world, I would never just write a book of recipes I hate recipes. Like, you know, and I had a whole tantrum about it. One week later, one week. I’m in my kitchen and I’m making this like cabbage slaw with miso dressing that I had made all COVID long. And it was basically I was reverse engineering the slaw from this fancy deli near my house. And I’m like making this thing and it’s so delicious, and it’s like tangy and gingery in so good, creamy. And it’s like a cabbage, it’s like half a cab in the last like five days. It’s just so cheap, and easy and fast and so good. And I’m like, Man, people should know about this. I was like, If only I had a way to help people.
Samantha Bee 36:28
If only we lived in a world. Whoops hi everyone.
Samin Nosrat 36:35
Oh, god dammit, and so then I said, so then I was like, in my head, I said, I said, what if I just don’t tell anyone I had this idea. And for a while I keep it to myself and I just think about what I would put in to a book of recipes, because part of my part of my desire to not make recipes is that or just are like a recipe for only cookbook is that in the publishing industry, there are a lot of I’m sure this is true in many industries. But in the publishing industry, there are a lot of sort of tried and true ways to make something. And there are a lot of people who believe that the only way to make something, and I had really come up against that with my first book, which is very different. And so and I entirely rejected it, basically, because I was like, I have a different way for this thing, which needs to be presented in a different way. But if I was going to make a book of recipes, I didn’t have an argument for a different way. And so what they usually like is like, you know, the chapters that like sort of correspond to like, the courses and meal or time of day or something, and then and then some amount of photos and like, you know, and then you write a little introduction for each recipe. And I just was like, I don’t think I could do that. Also, it felt like a betrayal to my own self, because I had spent all of my career up to that point, trying to teach people how to not use recipes. So I was like, Oh, I don’t know about this, like, so I sort of just kept it in my little heart. And I had a little dark thing in my notes app. And I would just like write down like, oh, I would definitely put this and I would definitely put this and these are the things I cook for myself. And these are things I cook for my friends. They’re all super simple. I have some level of embarrassment, because they’re not like Instagrammable foods, most of them. It’s just like, I’m at home eating, you know, steamed rice and broccoli. And then people come over and I share and they’re like, why is this broccoli, so good, and I’m like, I put salt in the water, you know, like, I or I make these condiments and like the condiments are what makes things good, or the dressings are what makes things good. But the stuff I do is mostly very simple. And so it doesn’t really it’s not like picture worthy, really. And so I had I had like anxiety about that. So I just kept doing it. And eventually I came up with a list and I sent it to them. And they were thrilled. And so I was like okay, this is what I’ll do with this, what I’ll do, and then it’s still has taken a few more years of working on it. And eventually, once I saw it and I had in a way like the title of the book kept changing in my head. And eventually, one day I woke up I’ve had a lot of grief and loss in my life, especially in the last few years. And I have these documents where I like keep little quotes for myself in case I want to use them in my writing. So I had opened one of them and one of the quotes there was it said actually have it on my wall, now it was eating is a small good thing in a time like this, which is a line from a Raymond Carver story called a small good thing where this little boy dies and the parents are grieving. And they end up in this bakery and the baker starts like pulling rolls out of the oven and he says that to them. He’s like, you can’t really like it’s just it’s like there’s a big darkness but you can have the small good thing. And I to me, I’m like it’s always a time like this somebody’s always suffering. Someone’s always grieving there’s always a hardship and like we just need the small good things and so I thought oh my maybe I’ll call my book a small good thing. And then, but then I was like, people wonder why this big book is called a small. So I ended up with the title good things sort of as a as like a as an homage to that and, and I was like, okay, I feel good about this. And the next morning I woke up and I was like, oh, all good things must come to an end. I was like, That’s my dessert chapter allows like, oh, like, Good things come to those who wait, that’s seasonal vegetables. I was like, good things take time. That’s like yeasted breads, you know? And I was like, you know, good things come in threes. And I was like, that’s my salad dressings plus, like threes salads for each one are good things come in small packages, that’s my condiments, like it all just sort of revealed itself to me in one go. Once I had my title, and then I understood how to organize my book, which had just been this like, unruly mess. And so now I understand what I’m making, which is really helpful.
Samantha Bee 40:56
Right? I cannot I am excited. Oh, I love this. This is gonna be great. There’s I got someone gave a this is not it’s gonna sound like I’m name dropping. And I’m not I kind of am because this happened. I mean, what can I say? So I worked on this off Broadway play and it was written by Nora and Delia Ephron. Oh, and incredible, like, Oh my God, those women. And I think about Nora Ephron all the time, I’m like, I can’t believe she is no longer with us. But one of the gifts that they gave us at the at the conclusion of doing like our leg of the show, was like a homemade cookbook that Nora would give to everyone.
Samin Nosrat 41:41
That’s so special.
Samantha Bee 41:42
It’s just a spiral bound really small, like maybe five by six notebook of just all the recipes that she makes to entertain, and her little notes. It is so precious, it’s not bound. It’s like just papers with a little plastic cover. It’s like not fancy at all. The recipes are not fancy. And they’re great. And some of them are great. I’ve made a lot of them over the years, because there’s just like, from the heart and what she used to what would she.
Samin Nosrat 42:13
Would make the lineage there for you, which is amazing.
Samantha Bee 42:15
It’s such a gift, so I guess I don’t know what you’re doing is, it is a gift because it’s like, it’s your heart speaking to all of us, and, you know, nourishing people nourishing the people in your life. It’s how I express love for my kids, for my family. Like for people who come over, it’s how it’s almost the only tool in my arsenal. I love to cook for people, I just go here you go.
Samin Nosrat 42:43
I don’t know, I mean, I think right, this is related, this is actually related to a lot of things I’ve been thinking and writing about and back to those weekly dinners, which is the you know, they’re, I think it’s dawned on me that the most precious, I kind of have had my values off. And I’ve been like kind of I had been pointed at the wrong things in life. And there has just been a sort of a seismic shift in how I view life in the last few years. And I understand now that our most valuable commodity is time, like my most precious thing that I have is time, that’s the only thing I’ll never be able to get more of. And so the most precious gift that I can share with anyone is a gift of time, whether that’s time I spend cooking and eating with them, or time I spend in making something for them. And so I understand now, I’m like, Oh, this is actually the thing is the time, right? It’s not how beautifully it turned out, right? That we got to be together or that I got to invest this time in this and you feel that. And so and I think that’s what you’re saying too, is that like, you’re expressing your love through your cooking for your kids. But your that means like you’re spending time with and for them spending time.
Samantha Bee 44:12
And also like foraging to like you’re doing all these like kind of like, eternal, or just like these ancient practices, right? Where like, even if though we’re going to stores or farmers markets or like wherever we’re going, like, myself, I’m sure you my friends. People who care about this stuff are just like well, I have to is very busy today because I have to go downtown. Because there’s this thing that you can only get in the totally oil store. We’re gonna do one thing, just like one thing and I gotta go there and everyone’s like, Dude, this is not, this doesn’t count as busyness and you’re like, no, it’s I’m very busy. Are busy because I’m gonna get finger limes and there’s only one place exactly like what are you talking about? and all of that. I’ve got to get the butter and this. There’s a place in the South Street Seaport that sells this. So we’re going on a trip. I’m really enjoying this conversation because you’re pulling all these threads of like, that makes so much sense to me that really resonates, it’s it is the time, it’s the time that it takes to make something even if it turns out weird.
Samin Nosrat 45:28
Samantha Bee 45:28
I just was like, telling the producers before you hopped on that I was like, yesterday, I had this big vision for our dinner. And it was going to be a very simple dinner. But the key ingredient was that I was going to make like cilantro lime rice, to just kind of bring everything I just needed like a starch just like oh, just like to put at the bottom of the bowl that everyone would just eat. And I messed it up, and I made it with parsley. And I was so green, it was green.
Samin Nosrat 45:57
But it’s not solid.
Samantha Bee 45:58
But I was I don’t even know how I messed up. I thought it was so I didn’t even look at it. I obviously didn’t look at it. And it just was I kept eating I kept trying it. I was like tasting. I was like what is wrong? Why does this tastes like grass. It just tastes like a bowl of grass with Huck is happening. So it took so long to make this goddamn rice that everyone just like, threw in the bottom of the bowl and the ADA in 15 seconds. It took probably took two full hours of just like coming back to it going like I don’t know what’s happening. I need more needs more cilantro, you know? And then everyone just goes, whatever, I don’t know, I digested it and you just have to go that’s part of that’s part of it, it’s not it’s not tomorrow.
Samin Nosrat 46:52
That’s the thing, there’s always meals.
Samantha Bee 46:56
There’s always tomorrow. We don’t need to remember that scene in The Joy Luck Club. I think about it all the time. This is so bad, I’m gonna say this about Lauren.
Samin Nosrat 47:04
Tell me tell me.
Samantha Bee 47:06
Okay, they cook this, the mom cooks this huge feast. Okay, she’s this like, be incredible spread. And the future or like the Son in law or the future fiance. And, you know, part of what she does is she will, it’s so perfect that nothing could possibly be wrong with it. And so she’ll just like at the head of the table, say at every meal. I think it needed more salt, which was everybody’s cue to go. Oh, no, no, no perfect. And he goes, yeah, I guess it could use a little more salt. And it is like the most is such a it’s a crime in this family’s like, scanda. And it’s always very funny in our home if my my husband has like a few things that he makes any makes them really well but like twice baked potato. And we always laugh at him because if he’s making twice baked potatoes, we’re like, everybody get out of the way. Every dish in the house.
Samin Nosrat 48:10
It’s like a Tasmanian devil that’s come through.
Samantha Bee 48:12
It’s like the Joy Luck Club. We’re just and then we all have to comment on the potato. It’s like is this I still i i spiced it, I smoked it. Like we started, we start with a smoked potato. Like if you truly, like complement the potato, and I’m like a make 20,000 meals totally free or one potato for every potato and it but it is a great potato and I love them. But I love those, there’s like a unifying moments those like big grant. There’s small gestures, these huge gestures and it’s all just food that we digest in the lounge.
Samin Nosrat 48:56
Samantha Bee 48:57
But it’s such.
Samin Nosrat 48:58
I think that’s one of the other things that’s been really healthy and good for me as a cook is first of all, you get the pleasure of making something from start to finish and like actually have something because as a writer, it takes years to make something, start to finish but as a cook you do that every day. And but also like there’s not really time to get attached to your product, right? Because it’s gone and then literally tomorrow it’s shit. So like there’s just a way where like, like, yeah, you can pat yourself on the back for a second if you did something nice, but you can’t hold on to that. It doesn’t mean anything if you just walk around being like well, I made really good roast chicken once 17 years ago.
Samantha Bee 49:40
You should have tasted my my pot roast last week, Jack let’s go back in time, that’s actually so accidentally we got to a place where every day is a fresh start. If you’re like cooking for literally every day. It’s a fresh start, ah, totally. I’ll ask you okay, last question. What do you eat when you’re in an airport?
Samin Nosrat 50:06
Oh, this is interesting, right? I am a big on a PBJ so like, I like have a PBJ and all the pockets like, but if I’m like buying something in an airport, Ooh, man, whoo, baby,
Samantha Bee 50:20
I bring my own food. Like if I’m flying from where I live somewhere I bring my, that meal is made from made at home, and it’s annoying to everyone. And they put it in a glass where?
Samin Nosrat 50:33
Oh, yeah, same, it’s like I’m driving. The last time when I was going to the east coast. The girl sitting next to me. I think she recognized me at some point. And she was like, Oh, I think you are I was but I was eating a prepackaged kale salad that I had brought from from the good Deli, she’s like, oh, yeah, I’m embarrassed to show you my food. And I was like, I don’t care what you’re eating. I’m never gonna judge you. You know, I’m never gonna judge anyone for anything, but I don’t know if there’s like a Mexican place. Um, I’ll get like a bean and cheese burrito? Like, it’s very hard to, I mean, it has happened but it’s hard to mess up a bean and cheese burrito.
Samantha Bee 51:05
That’s a good choice, yeah.
Samin Nosrat 51:07
What else would I eat? I don’t it’s not pretty. Airport food’s not pretty man.
Samantha Bee 51:14
I don’t think it has to be that way. I don’t think that airport food has to be bad. And I don’t think that hospital food should be bad.
Samin Nosrat 51:20
Oh, agreed, that’s its own huge own conversation is.
Samantha Bee 51:24
I agree, it’s a horror story really bad. I’ll tell you get on an airplane. If I If there’s nothing else. I’ll have a box of cheeses and a coke, and I’m like, my earpiece is.
Samin Nosrat 51:37
I love, that’s why I love one particular airline is just endless cheeses.
Samantha Bee 51:44
Like, look, man, if this if dinner has to be cheeses and a regular Coke. I’m like,
Samin Nosrat 51:49
I also love regular Coke, that’s like actually airplanes are probably the one of the only places where I’ll like really treat myself to a soda.
Samantha Bee 51:56
Yes, me too I’m like, almost looking forward to it. Because this isn’t real life ever. Anything that happens on the airplane is totally it’s a go, it’s go time.
Samin Nosrat 52:07
Man, I love a cook.
Samantha Bee 52:08
Oh, boy, I might get one after this. God, thank you again, and we spoke, so what a fun. This is a great start. This is a great start to January.
Samin Nosrat 52:19
It totally is it totally is. I think, yeah, just find how I think my like if anyone asked not that they did for some advice. I would be like, you know, your thing is probably not going to look like my thing. And that’s totally fine. But just find a way to like create sort of a sacred time in your life a sacred time.
Samantha Bee 52:38
Sacred time, thank you so much.
Samin Nosrat 52:42
Samantha Bee 52:53
That was Samina Nosrat and I had no choice but to look up one thing, Samina and I both love citrus, and we were thinking of our favorites. And then that led me on a crazy quest of trying to name all the citrus. So I actually had to know how many are there. There are over 1000 types of citrus, dear listener, maybe today, I began my quest to try them all. And as always good news. There’s more Choice Words with Lemonada Premium subscribers get exclusive access to bonus content, like a special outtake from my recent interview with Sarah Silverman. And as we continue in our quest to make better choices in 2024, be sure you come back next week to hear from the fascinating mind of Freakonomics co author Stephen Dubner. We’re going to talk all about how we make decisions in the first place. Subscribe now in Apple podcasts.
Thank you for listening to Choice Words which was created by and is hosted by me. We’re a production of Lemonada Media, Kathyrn Barnes, […] and Kryssy Pease produce our show. Our mix is by James Barber. Steve Nelson is the vice president of weekly content. Jessica Cordova Kramer, Stephanie Wittles Wachs and I are executive producers. Our theme was composed by […] with help from Johnny Vince Evans . Special thanks to Kristen Everman, Claire Jones, Ivan Kuraev and Rachel Neil. You can find me at @Iamsambee on Twitter and at @realsambee on Instagram. Follow Choice Words wherever you get your podcasts or listen ad free on Amazon music with your Prime membership.