Ten years ago if you had told me I’d be a food blogger and cookbook author, I would have chuckled and patted you on the head. Until I was about twenty-seven, the only relationship I had with food was what I cooked for myself to make sure I could fit into sample sizes for modeling work. I had always pretty much subsisted on pasta (tortellini!), but that stopped working when it came to fitting into size 2 clothes. But the financial upside of being unnaturally thin at almost six feet tall was a good enough incentive for me to reel in my love for pasta and teach myself how to eat more cleanly. I focused on integrating more vegetables into my diet, but also not starving myself because, to paraphrase the Hulk, “you wouldn’t like me when I am hungry.” After a few years of experimenting, I got to a place where I could cook myself very healthy meals that provided the same satisfaction as a bowl of my weakness—tortellini drowned in pesto and olive oil.
Learning to cook and feed myself in a new way was the unwitting first step on my road to foodie-ism. The second one came a few years into modeling, when I experienced what I call my “Quarter-Life Crisis.” I suddenly freaked and decided that disappearing into Africa was the only way to clear my head. I volunteered at Oria and Iain Douglas-Hamilton’s Save the Elephants camp in the Samburu National Reserve. There I was put in charge of stocking the camp’s food supply. Within days, I was flabbergasted (and slightly disgusted, to be perfectly frank) when I realized the incredible quantity of food that humans consume. I remember one morning in particular, while I was counting the supplies, when I thought, “What the hell, we’re out of that already?! God, if fifteen people are going through this in a week, imagine what a city like New York goes through, or London, or Beijing!” Still today, when I try to imagine that quantity of food, it is so large that I can’t. (Don’t even get me started on the amount of food waste—that just makes me want to cry.)
A few years later, I got accepted to the London School of Economics for grad school. I didn’t feel some major calling toward academia, mostly I applied there on a whim. Hey, if I got accepted into the biomedicine program, wouldn’t that be impressive?! Oh shit, I got accepted. No one was more surprised than me. In addition to my requirement courses, I took classes in environmental politics and cultural theory. There was zero strategy or vision in my curriculum choices beyond interest, curiosity, and recommendations from friends. But my random approach to classes really bit me in the ass when it came time to propose my dissertation topic: What connects public health, environment, and cultural phenomena? After weeks of wracking my brain, the answer became clear: food. I wrote my dissertation on the future of feeding urban populations with a particular focus on a biotechnology proposal
known as vertical farming. I can feel your eyes glazing over as you read that, so I’ll just say it was through researching that I came to realize that food is much more than just what’s on my plate. It connected me right to all the large, complex, inertia-inducing issues that kept me awake at night, like climate change, water (or lack thereof), the state of the oceans, human rights, animal rights, and beyond.
But in spite of knowing all I knew, I was IMPATIENT.
Every time I stood in front of my supermarket’s egg aisle, I was filled with befuddlement, frustration, and confusion—this cocktail of feelings inspired me to start Impatient Foodie. What I want is simple: eggs that are healthy for me and come from a healthy, happy chicken. Yet I find myself reading the damn cartons for at least ten to fifteen minutes, weighing my options with an inner monologue that goes something like: “These eggs are organic, but not certified humane. Those are certified humane, but not organic. This carton says their eggs are organic and the chickens were cage-free, but no humane certification. These are organic and have that non-GMO butterfly seal. . . . Wait, how does that make sense? Isn’t that redundant? Whatever, don’t get sidetracked—FOCUS. These just have cute chicken cartoons on the carton with lots of great words and promises, but no official seals of any kind. But, still the cartoons have to mean something, right?! No one could be that cynical or dishonest . . . could they??” Time ticks by, my shopping list doesn’t get any shorter, and at some point I throw my hands up in frustration and just toss whatever egg carton into the cart. Then I move on to the next thing on my list, which inevitably involves its own set of mind-bending questions and moral quandaries. My close friends and family stopped shopping with me a long time ago.
And to be totally honest—and at the risk of hurting what I am trying to help here—my frustration doesn’t come to an end when I go to the farmers’ market. Sure, I might spend substantially less time and energy fretting over sourcing, but I’m pushing my way through hundreds (if not thousands) of other customers, stopping by multiple cash-only (why?!) stalls, lugging bags to and fro, and dodging the usual NYC characters, hawkers, and maybe even some singing Hare Krishna. The chaos and lack of convenience grates on my patience. If I’ve had a bad day or the weather isn’t within my Goldilocks range, I might skip the farmers’ market all together and use a food delivery app.
But you know what—except for a few saints out there—aren’t you at least a little bit like me, deep down?
The Slow Food movement and its thought leaders—like Michael Pollan, Mark Bittman, Alice Waters, and Joan Gussow—have shown how the ripple effects of what we eat go wide: Food isn’t just about personal health, it affects the rights and protection of farm workers; the quality of soil, water, fossil fuel usage, carbon release, and sequestration; animal rights; the health of our oceans, and more. And who doesn’t want to be part of that? I know that I do. I want to have a positive role in helping to reshape the food system to be healthier, more sustainable, more transparent, more humane, and more democratic for all. I totally understand
and see how the food choices I make affect not only my health, but my future children’s health, and the planet’s health.
But it’s also true that when I stand in front of the suffocating amount of options at my local market’s egg aisle, or I get bulldozed way too many times at the farmers’ market, I also just want to lie down in my bed, claim ignorance, and order my meals on a food delivery app. What it comes down to is that I want to participate in food activism, but I am also impatient, overworked, time strapped, tired, I often feel stretched very thin . . . and sometimes—I’ll admit—I am lazy as hell.
For a long time, I felt alone and ashamed of this duality in me: How can someone want to participate in something they know is important but also feel like the whole “think globally, shop locally!” thing can be a real time-sucking drag? I felt doubly ashamed because I studied these very issues at the London School of Economics, so I could not claim ignorance or lack of understanding. And while I wish SO VERY HARD that my knowledge would override my impatience, that is sadly not the case all the time. And the more I tried to silence or squash my impatient side, with rationales like “but it’s good for you and good for the planet!” the more the impatient voice would rise. But I kept quiet about my inner eye-rolling because everything I read and heard was more in the vein of, “Isn’t the farmers’ market so lovely?! Let’s listen to this guy talk about his small-batch pickling technique for forty-five minutes! Aren’t these sweet, small-batch jams so incredible?! Let’s bake them in a homemade pie, made from scratch. Or, better yet, let’s spread the jam on homemade sourdough bread that takes fifteen hours to make! Don’t you just love spending your entire day dealing with or talking about food??” Hell NO. Oh, erm—sorry, I mean, no I don’t really enjoy that so much, but I am so glad you do! (That’s a more mature response, right?)
There was also a fight between the slow-food recipes I was finding and the busy life I was constrained by. I dreamed of making that amazing slow-braised dinner I saw on the Bon Appétit website, but by the time I got home I only had the time and energy to eat something more along the lines of what I could order for takeout on my phone. I started self-flagellating because I felt like a total “foodie fraud.” The idea of laboring over anything in the kitchen for more than one hour (or, really, thirty minutes, pretty please?) is plainly unrealistic for me.
If you feel the same way, this cookbook is for you. The recipes herein are all inspired by the simple philosophy: Good, thoughtful, healthy meals need to be easier, faster, and more fun.
My goal with Impatient Foodie is three-fold: 1) To serve up Bon Appétit–style meals in Buzz-Feed time. 2) To encourage people to shop at farmers’ markets whenever possible, to cook at home, and to engage with their food in a time when home cooking is on a downward trend across the nation. I think this is the first step toward awakening understanding of the larger issues at stake; I know it has been for me. 3) To have Impatient Foodie be part of an honest conversation between the leaders of the Slow Food movement and those of us living in cities, doing our best to participate, but feeling a little, well, stretched. I know it’s not ideal to say that people are impatient, addicted to convenience, and
lazy: Just don’t be impatient! Don’t be lazy! I think that will change someone’s shopping habits for a couple days, maybe a few weeks, but certainly not forever. Eventually, all those realities come cascading back in, no matter how much we lament or resist or despise them. Basically what I have to say is this: Enough with the aspiration!!!! In order to change the food system, let’s look at where we really are, what human nature really is, how people are trying and failing, and figure out how can we meet in the middle to work toward a common goal—a sustainable, more transparent, more equitable food system.
This cookbook has been designed with time constraints and impatience in mind. To make the book extra user friendly, we based our recipes around ingredients. For example, did you get inspired to buy beets at the farmers’ market only to realize you have zero idea what to do with them when you got home? We’ve got your back with four beet-centric suggestions for you that include an appetizer, a main, a side, and even a dessert. Or maybe you have a mini mountain of herbs slowly, sadly wilting in your fridge after you used just four leaves as a garnish? We’ve been there too, and have a number of suggestions for how to use them ranging from soup to dessert. There are a total of twenty-one main ingredients in here with nearly 100 recipe suggestions for impatient cocktails, appetizers, mains, sides, and desserts that are delicious and that you’ll be proud to serve and share.
For the record, I know this is a not “perfect” cookbook. I am sure my luminaries like Pollan, Bittman, Waters, or Gussow would not be impressed by some of my choices, like the use of store-bought cake mixes to streamline baking (it’s just too much otherwise). Sometimes coordinating the recipes to only seasonal ingredients was impossible at maximum, and totally maddening at minimum. But you know what—I’M TRYING. And also, recipes are always flexible! If you can’t find a certain ingredient at your market, skip it! Or sub in something else that’s there that you know will be yummy. Cooking is all about your own personal flair.
In a nutshell, Impatient Foodie is my attempt to reconcile my earnestness and desire to do my part with my extreme impatience (and, let’s face it, occasional laziness). I know that I am not alone.