Samin Nosrat has written one of the most-talked-about and celebrated cookbooks of the last year, Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat. Her trophy shelf includes a James Beard Award for General Cooking and the Julia Child First Book Award. It’s an amazing effort for an “uncookbook” that she’s spent 15 years working on.
While in college, she saved for seven months to eat at Chez Panisse, the Californian farm-to-table restaurant run by Alice Waters – this life-changing meal convinced Nosrat that she needed to work there. And although she started with entry-level duties, such as cleaning the restaurant, she was very excited just to be on staff: “I can’t believe they’re letting me vacuum the floors at Chez Panisse!”
Nosrat has brilliant stories about cooking at the restaurant (the numbers on the dials had worn off the ovens, so you had to wave your arms in front of them to work out the temperature), as well as visiting the oldest pickle shop in China and meeting an eighth-generation butcher in Chianti, Italy. She’s also taught Michael Pollan how to cook (and dumpster-dived baguettes with him) and writes The New York Times “Eat” column, where Nosrat has confessed to being a bread hoarder and shared a recipe for a breakfast soufflé (aka soufflazy).
Nosrat is delightful to talk to and it’s worth listening just to hear her description of the feasts you enjoy at Iranian New Year and the green unripe plums that her mum snacked on while they were growing up. “For my family, the best compliment for any food was that ‘this tasted like Iran’.”
I also loved her very impassioned thoughts about women, food and media coverage – particularly the “intense double standard” that women face.
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Photography courtesy of Aya Brackett and Allen & Unwin.