Intuitive Cooking: Q&A with Julia Turshen

Writer and podcaster Julia Turshen has co-authored bestselling cookbooks by chefs and authors like Mario Batali and Gwyneth Paltrow. She joins Clever Cookstr to discuss her philosophy of intuitive cooking. 

Kara Rota
4-minute read
Episode #23

This week on the Clever Cookstr, we're joined by Julia Turshen, a food writer and podcast host of Radio Cherry Bombe on Heritage Radio Network. Julia is the co-author of numerous books, including Mario Batali's Spain: A Culinary Road Trip and Gwyneth Paltrow's It's All Good.

Julia's new cookbook, Small Victories, is forthcoming from Chronicle Books in 2016. 

Clever Cookstr: Julia, you’ve done some amazing work in the food and cookbook world. When did food and the language around it become a passion for you?

Julia Turshen: I can't remember when food wasn't a passion. It's always influenced my life, from before I can remember. When I started writing essays in school, every time I had to write about a book for class, I would write about the food in the book. I studied writing in school, combined those two passions, and that was that!

CC: You’ve worked on books from so many well-known chefs and authors, from Mario Batali to Gwyneth Paltrow. What’s it like to now be writing your own, to have no other voice but yours to channel?

JT: Collaborating with different kinds of people on different projects has been so wonderful. The one thing that's difficult in doing that is the scheduling component, and finding time to meet with each other. So embarking on this new chapter (no pun intended), of working on my own book, I'm realizing...that it's equally hard to schedule time with myself. I've been learning how to do that! But overall it's really exciting, and I feel really fortunate to have partnered with a publisher I look forward to working with. I'm eager to work on some of my own stories, my own vision. It's been a lot of fun..

CC: Tell us a bit about the concept behind Small Victories, the narrative, and the food.

JT: I've been talking about it as a book for home cooks by a home cook. It's all technique-driven, so as opposed to a list of recipes, it's a list of tips and techniques, and then the recipes come out of those. So once you master and really understand a certain technique, you can apply that to not just one recipe but a bunch. The goal is to help people become intuitive cooks. 

CC: What kinds of things do you cook and eat on a daily and weekly basis – the ingredients and recipes that are real staples in your life?

JT: I was just joking with my wife that my career is all about coming up with interesting recipes, and yet we eat the same things over and over. We do a lot of roast chicken with roasted vegetables. We cook kale with a lot of garlic, more than I think most people would use. We're big egg eaters in the morning. But all really simple: garlic, olive oil, and salt are often the only clothing the food gets.

CC: You have your own podcast—Radio Cherry Bombe on Heritage Radio Network. Tell us a little bit about that. Why do you think this is such a great moment for food podcasts?

JT: I love it, it's been a great collaborative relationship between Heritage Radio Network, Cherry Bombe Magazine, and myself. As a writer, it's so wonderful to have the opportunity once a week to just have a conversation, and not have to go home and write it all down!

I think we're living in a world that is so connected (social media has brought us in touch with each other), but at the same time I think to find a time to meet and sit in person and have a conversation is something I really value. It's great to have a platform to share that and have the conversation go even further.

CC: One of my favorite things that you do on your podcast is the speed round, where you ask the guest a bunch of quick and dirty questions. So we're going to do that here. Read? Ok, what's your favorite ice cream flavor?

JT: Vanilla. CC: What was the last great restaurant meal you ate?

JT: The most exceptional was a few weeks ago. My wife and I ate at Take Root, which just got a big boost of press and their first Michelin star. It's run by two women and it's really high-end food in a very comfortable setting. I think what they're doing is amazing and it really stood out.

CC: What was your first favorite cookbook?

JT: Lee Bailey. All of his books, but especially Country Weekends.

CC: If you had 15 minutes to make dinner, what would you grab?

JT: I would probably reach into the refrigerator and see what was already cooked, because there's usually something. I'd take whatever that was, so grains, vegetables, or leftover roasted meats. That would probably end up in a frying pan with a fried egg on top.

CC: What's the one piece of kitchen equipment or appliance that you think everyone should have?

JT: A chef's knife, a cutting board, and a frying pan. That's all you need.

That's all for today. Don't forget to check out Julia's podcast, Radio Cherry Bombe. Join us next time on the Clever Cookstr for more tips and tricks from the kitchens of the world's best cooks. 

About the Author

Kara Rota

Kara Rota headed children’s programming at Chicago’s Green City Market and studied food politics at Sarah Lawrence College. Kara has been a featured speaker at numerous venues including Food Book Fair, the Roger Smith Food Conference, and the Brooklyn Food Conference. She has written about food for Irish America Magazine, West Side Rag, Recipe Relay, and Food + Tech Connect, and is the former Director of Editorial & Partnerships at Cookstr.com.