From the Desk of Alicia Kennedy
From the Desk of Alicia Kennedy
A Conversation with Melissa Clark

A Conversation with Melissa Clark

Talking to the longtime New York Times writer and prolific cookbook author about creativity, learning from chefs, and how to test a recipe so it becomes classic.

When I was considering who to bring on for these four weeks of sponsored, public interviews, I had the idea that I wanted to talk only to folks who develop recipes for public consumption to get a deeper understanding of how this work is done. Nigella Lawson was an obvious fit, because she not only creates wildly successful recipes but is simply a glorious writer’s writer; Paola Velez was perfect because she’s expertly and accessibly translating the pastry chef’s technique toolbox for a broad audience.

And, of course, I thought of the New York Times’ Melissa Clark, who’s worked on many cookbooks both on her own—including Dinner in French—and with chefs—such as a favorite of mine, Claudia Fleming’s The Last Course—and written recipes that become people’s family staples, as well as others that go viral for the wrong reasons. On top of recipe work, she’s a journalist who’s reported on sustainability in food—how does it all fit together, and how do the flavors and geography of her lifelong home of Brooklyn color it all?

We talked about all of this and more. Listen above, or read below.

This episode of From the Desk of Alicia Kennedy is brought to you by Gastro Obscura: A Food Adventurer’s Guide by Cecily Wong and Dylan Thuras from Workman Publishing. Tour each continent through the book’s encyclopedic entries on some of the world’s most interesting foods and places. Did you know that in Puerto Rico, the rice that sticks to the bottom of the pot is called “pegao” and it takes years of practice to make it well? Learn about this and more in Gastro Obscura: A Food Adventurer’s Guide, on sale now.

Alicia: Melissa, thank you so much for being here.

Melissa: Thanks for having me. [Laughter.] I'm so excited to talk to you. I really am a fan.

Alicia: Oh, well, mutual.

But can you tell me about where you grew up and what you ate?

Melissa: I grew up in Brooklyn. Brooklyn, New York. And we ate a lot of different things. My parents were big foodies. They were Julia Child disciples in the ’70s, so we ate a lot of French food. 

I mean, we took advantage of Brooklyn. Even back then, Brooklyn was just a—it was a melting pot. There was so much that you could eat. And so, we did. We ate Jewish food, ’cause I grew up Jewish. We ate bagels and lox. We ate appetizing sour pickles, Russian food from Brighton Beach. There was Brooklyn Chinatown, which was just happening and we ate—we went there all the time. And also to Manhattan Chinatown, and we got dim sum; [it] was a big part of my childhood. We went for dim sum at least once or twice a month, at eight o'clock in the morning, ’cause you had to get there early to get the good stuff. You didn't want the chicken feet to be gone. 

We ate Di Fara’s pizza. A lot of Italian food also was part of my upbringing. My mother grew up on a block in Brooklyn that was Jewish on one side and Italian on the other. And so, that was a big part of her childhood. And so, she brought that into my childhood as well. 

We ate Caribbean food. Brooklyn also, around where I grew up in Flatbush, had a, has a still growing Caribbean population. And that was a huge part. I always had a lot of Caribbean babysitters when I was a kid, [who] would come meet me after school. They would cook just these wonderful spicy dishes that I remember. An amazing coconut patty. Just these coconut, little sugary pastries that I loved. 

Gosh, so what else did I eat? I mean, I would try anything. I mean, I remember trying sushi when I was 12. And it was not a thing back then, because this was a long time ago. And it was like, ‘Oh, wow! Uni with quail egg.’ And it was delicious.

Alicia: I love that. 

It's so interesting to hear how much food was in your childhood, how important it was. When did you make the choice for food to be kind of the focus of your life, your career?

Melissa: Well, I always knew I wanted to be a writer. That came first. That came at a young age, I wrote stories. For a while, I thought I was gonna write about history. I mean, I just had these obsessions. I would want to write about the thing I was obsessed with. 

But the thing that kept coming back was food. And no matter how I tried to tell a story, my central metaphor was food. It was my lens. It was the way I interpreted everything in the world. I mean, I think a lot of food writers of my age will say, ‘We found M. F. K. Fisher.’ We're like, ‘Oh, there is a path!’ And that happened to me. 

I mean, I remember reading The Gastronomical Me. And I thought, ‘Well, wow, this woman is taking food seriously,’ in a way that wasn't just recipe writing, although there was recipe writing in that. There was culture and emotion, human emotion and connection. And that was the part that really interested me. I love reading novels. I read a lot of 19th century novels. And I love the way that—I mean, I love to understand the connection between people. And to me, so much of that happens at the table. And so much of that happens around food.

Alicia: And how did you kind of make it happen? Especially because you do occupy a space where you do journalism. You do food writing. But you're also doing recipes, which is the kind of, I guess, the classic food writer model. But how did that come about for you? 

Melissa: I was really lucky. So much of life is chance, right? Who you know and where you are. 

And so, it was who I knew and where I was. And I was lucky enough to work as an assistant for a man named Rick Flaste, who was, at that point, the science editor of the New York Times. He edited the science section, but he was also doing some stuff with the food. There was a new section that he was developing called “Dining In/Dining Out.” And I was his assistant. 

I helped him write a cookbook. He was working on Pierre Franey’s cookbook. Pierre Franey used to have a column in the Times called the “60-Minute Gourmet.” And Rick was working with Pierre, and I helped him edit the recipes and do all the—I helped him with the testing. I helped him just, with the research. And through that connection, I was able to learn about how to put together a cookbook. But I was also able to look—have a foot in at the Times, which, of course, is invaluable. I had my first article then. And now, going since.

Alicia: [Laughs.] You've worked on so many cookbooks, both with chefs and as the author yourself. What is your process for working on a cookbook versus working as a staff writer? What is your workflow like when you're working on a book?

Melissa: They're really different. And sometimes it's hard to juggle it all, because you get in one mind-set. And it's like, ‘Ok, I'm in cookbook mode, but I have to interview a bunch of people. And I’ve got to get on the phone.’ And so, the hardest thing for me is balancing my time and getting everything done. 

I'm a keeper of lists to try to remember. I have kitchen days, and I have writing days. And that's how I balance it. I mean, and it's not just cookbooks. It's developing my recipes for my column, and developing other recipes for the paper. And so, on my kitchen days, I try not to distract myself with the journalism stuff. 

And on writing days, that's when I'm on the phone. That's what I'm calling my sources. That's when I'm actually sitting down and making myself write, which is as we all know, the hardest thing. And I just try to divide and conquer, keep the days separate. So that's how the workflow goes. 

But I do find myself using—I mean, my brain goes back and forth, right? So it's as I'm thinking when I'm talking to sources, maybe I'm also thinking about—maybe something they say will trigger something about a recipe, and I'll come up with an idea. And when I'm in the kitchen cooking, my mind is buzzing. And maybe I'm thinking about an article that I'm writing at the same time.

Alicia: Well, how do you keep inspired in recipe development? That's a question I'm asking everyone, because I think I'm wondering if—how do you keep it going for so long? [Laughs.]

Melissa: I mean, I just want to eat everything. I want to try everything. And so, if I'm lucky enough—the pandemic’s, I have to say it was hard during the pandemic to get inspiration, ’cause I wasn't out and about the way I like to be. It was just me in my kitchen and my family. And so, I read a lot. I mean, I always read a lot.

I mean, I get inspired from all kinds of things. So going out in the world and eating at restaurants and eating people's food is a big part of it, and trying different things. If I see something on a menu that I've never had before, that's the dish I'm going to order. ‘Ok, I have to try this.’ Even if it doesn't necessarily appeal to me, but it's the thing I haven't had. And maybe I’ll like it. And I actually have a pretty broad palate. I like a lot of things. 

Yeah, yeah. So there's that. And then, reading. Just, I'll read menus, I love to read menus. I read books, of course. Whenever there's a food scene in a novel, I'm like, ‘Oh, well, what did they eat? How did they prepare that?’ 

I just read Romola, which is George Eliot, about—it takes place in 16th-century Florence. [Editor’s note: Melissa emailed right after the interview to say it’s actually the 15th century.] So Renaissance Florence. There's not a lot of food in that book. But there was one scene, and I'm like, ‘Well, how did they do the pheasant?’ And so, then I have to go down the research whole, which is super fun for me.

Alicia: What are some of the lessons that you've learned in doing cookbooks with restaurant chefs that maybe make that flow into your work for home cooks? Basically, what can home cooks learn from the work you've done with restaurants and chefs?

Melissa: At the beginning of my career, that was a huge focus for me. Right now, I don't write cookbooks with chefs. I haven't done that since I went on staff in 2012, because it's a conflict of interest at the Times

I miss it. I miss writing about those chefs, because I learned so much. And, I mean, it's like you're entering someone else's entire world. It's not just their dishes. It's their whole world. And that kind of connection is so valuable. You're spending months with them. And it's not just what they cook in the restaurant, but what their mother cooked, right? And what they grew up eating, and all of those influences. And it's all there in their perspective. 

The thing that I learned that I treasure the most, is it really—I learned that every chef does it differently. And that, I think a lot of us—I mean, not anymore. This is changing, thank God. But certainly when I was coming up in the food writing world, there was this idea that there was one kind of technique. How you chop an onion, and this is how you do the garlic. And that was the thing you had to learn. 

But that's not what chefs do. They all do it differently. Some chefs like to chop onions one way and some like to chop another way and slice—sometimes, they slice root to stem. And sometimes, they slice across and get half moons. And they have reasons for it. It's not random. I mean, sometimes their reasons aren’t good reasons. But they have their reasons, and it's understanding why they do it that way. 

And then, so it gives me license, first of all, to feel I can have my own way to do it in the kitchen. And that is the one thing I try to get across to people. And so, I try to take what chefs do, and then translate it and show what they do and also give home cooks license to do it their way. 

I have a lot of emails from people who say, who would want to change it, and they're worried. And I just want people to cook the way it tastes good to them. And any way that I can show them the reasons behind things and explain it, then that's—if I can help someone get something delicious to serve to themselves and their loved ones? That makes me happy. And that's the aim. Learning from chefs is one way that I can help that.

Alicia: Well, one realm of cooking that people are especially afraid of is baking. And I wanted to ask, ’cause it's one of my favorite cookbooks of all time, The Last Course with Claudia Fleming, that you worked on with her. How did that come about? What was that? And were you surprised that it kind of had a cult classic status?

Melissa: Yeah, totally. 

I mean, it was the book that was gonna take off, right? But I wasn't surprised, just because Claudia is a genius. And I feel like her recipes are so smart. And she's just smart. 

And I got that cookbook, because we used to have a column in the New York Times, when it was a dining section, that was called “The Chef.” And this was so perfect for me, because I love—this is what I love to do. I would work with a chef and it was a recipe. So, it was eight weeks. And you wrote in their voice about the recipe, and then you gave the recipe and you would test it. 

And I worked with Claudia. And she and I just hit it off. We were just like soul mates. We love so much of the same things. We became good friends. And she was working on a book. And she had another writer kind of, who—they were working on this book together. But luckily, the other writer was kind of busy with her stuff. And I got in there. I was like, ‘Well, Sophie can't do it. Can I do it? I really want to do it.’ It just worked out. 

And Claudia was a taskmaster in a very good way. With most chefs, I go, I work in their kitchen, and then I go home and I test a recipe, right? But Claudia made me bring in everything I tested to her to try. So I remember I was taking the subway to Gramercy Tavern with my pots de creme and my—and that was great. And plus, it was so fun to work with her. And sometimes, she would come to my house and test too. But we did so much of it hands-on. 

But that has informed the way I write cookbooks. Because right now, when I do my cookbooks, I make sure if I have recipe testers, then they do it in my house. And I got that from Claudia, because I can really see what one person thinks tastes right isn't necessarily what I'm looking for. Not to say it's wrong, ’cause it's not wrong. I'm trying to give my vision. And of course, when I was working with chefs, I was trying to help them get their vision across. And then you at home, do what you want with it. But you have a sense of what it's supposed to be—or, not what it’s supposed to be. But what I had in mind.

Alicia: Of course, yeah. 

And you do write recipes for such a huge audience, which I think seems to me very daunting [laughs] to do. Have you seen your kind of recipe development work change over time? What have been the changes you've made to your own approach? And have there been changes you've adapted to kind of happening in the culture, in the world? How have you changed over time?

Melissa: Oh, God, I'm changing all the time. Yeah, I mean, you can't stand still. And people change, and tastes change. Tastes change a lot. I look at some of my old recipes and I'm like, ‘What was I thinking? I wouldn’t make that now.’ And it's important to change with the times. 

So, I used to write recipes. And I would have my—one of my best friend's voices in my head. My friend, Robin. I’d always say she was my muse, because she's a really great cook but not confident. And so, a lot of what I did was in trying to instill confidence in the way I wrote recipes. And I still do that. 

But I think I also maybe took a little bit too much for granted. I assumed a knowledge that not everybody has. So I've tried to become, without being didactic about it, but just giving it a little more visual cues, a little more—

And a lot of the way that I keep changing the way I write recipes is I read the notes on the New York Times recipes. Every recipe that I publish, I read the notes, because I want to understand what works for people and what doesn't. What they misunderstood and what I didn’t make—

And if they misunderstood it, it's my fault for not making it clear enough. I mean, sometimes. Sometimes it's just, they read it wrong. But you know what I mean? I have to try to understand where my audience is at. And it's like, ‘How do you know your audience? The people who write to you, and then through these notes.’

So, I'm constantly changing what I'm doing and recalibrating, and figuring out the best way to get the exact color of onion across. What do I mean? What is brown caramelized? Lightly golden? What does that mean? And how do I get there? And how do I help people get it to the exact right point? And when do they add salt? 

And another thing I just started really doing is putting in points in the recipe where you taste, ”cause people have to be reminded. I mean, I don't. I have my fingers in everything all the time. But I think people have to be reminded to taste. And then, do you like it? Do you not? If not, here's what to add. And so, that's another way that I'm constantly changing.

Alicia: And you've also done some reporting on sustainable seafood. And how have you made adjustments to your recipe work to give people kind of an eye toward eating more sustainably, if you have? 

Melissa: Oh, I have. Absolutely. I think about that a lot. I don't do beef recipes that much anymore. Very rarely, or lamb. So, I don't eat that. As I'm trying to change my diet, I eat a lot less meat. Actually, I have a cookbook coming out in March where every single recipe has a vegan or vegetarian variation, except for ones like pork chops. That one. Gonna make that recipe. 

But who would do that? I did, because that's how I want to eat. That's how I think a lot of people want to eat, and I want to help people—I want to help flexitarians move a little bit more toward the veg if I can. 

And in terms of sustainability, and also seafood, I try not to do salmon recipes. It's hard to get really—I mean, you can get sustainable salmon. There's a crisis with our oceans right now. I'm desperately trying to get seafood lovers to eat more shellfish, more bivalves because that is actually a sustainable option. I write about that a lot. And it's funny. You have the small number of people who really love their bivalves, and then the larger number of people who are a little bit freaked out by it. So, I'm just trying to nudge people in that direction. 

And it all reflects the things I really care—I mean, I really think the environment is our number-one impending crisis. And we can help. Food writers can help. We can make a difference. Maybe it's not a huge difference. But I know that the work I do can be important in that way. And I'm trying to make sure that—in a gentle way, not a preachy way, absolutely. I want people to have fun in the kitchen, right? So that's kind of where I'm trying to just push it a little bit.

Alicia: Well, I love bivalves, so. [Laughs.] Even though I'm a vegetarian. Yeah, I eat oysters and mussels and everything. And it's hard to explain to people that. But it's like, well, not only do they not have a nervous system, they are a very sustainable choice that goes completely along with the idea of eating for the environment and eating sustainably. And obviously, they're so good for you too, which is a bonus. [Laughs.] 

Melissa: I guess I didn't think that you did. And I'm happy to hear that, because I feel labels about the way people are eating. Vegan, vegetarian, flexitarian. I just feel it has to be flexible. It has to be, work for—also for your body. Some people can't, need a certain amount of protein or meat or a different way. And you just need to pay attention to the environment, pay attention to your body. And then also, enjoy everything.

Alicia: [Laughs.] 

Well, yeah, I was a strict vegan for a while and I didn't eat any of that. And then oysters really opened me up to getting back to that and making it part of my diet. And yesterday, I was at a restaurant here in San Juan where they were serving a lionfish ceviche because the lionfish is invasive.

Melissa: Invasive! Yeah, you gotta eat that. Exactly! And that kind of eating is so important and amazing. And yay for that restaurant for having it on their menu. Not salmon and tuna. 

Alicia: Exactly, no.

It's really cool, ’cause they're also—they're educating everyone who comes in about the lionfish that are destroying the reefs and why you should eat it. Of course, for me, I'm still like not—it's hard for me to eat something that has eyeballs. [Laughs.] No, but I'm super happy to see that and hope to see more of it. But yeah, it's interesting. 

To the same kind of notion, so many people really swear by your recipes, repeat your recipes over and over. It's very popular to talk about your recipes on Twitter. [Laughter.] How do you create a recipe that—this is, I guess a silly question—but, that works, that people go back to. I know you probably can't think of it that way. When you're doing it, you have to think of it in the moment as just a job, a recipe, doing the best thing. But what do you think makes your recipes so repeatable for folks?

Melissa: Well, I mean, you never know what recipe is going to hit. You don't know what the recipe is that people are gonna really love. ’Cause you just don't. It's when someone asks one of my editors, ‘Well, how do you write a best-selling book?’ Well, if we knew which book was going to be a bestseller, we’d do it all the time. You just don't know what the world—timing is so important. 

But what I do know, what I do have in my control is I can test the heck out of my recipes. And I do. I test and I test. And that's all you can do as a food writer, as a recipe writer is just make sure your recipes work and then take care when you're writing the language. 

I know that my weak point is making sure all the ingredients get in. If I have a list of like 10 spices, I'll leave one out in the description. Ahhhh! So I try to have someone back read for me. I mean, my editors at the Times are amazing. They do all the back reading. For cookbooks, I always make sure that I have a kickass copy editor who's working with me who understands that I have this problem with a lot of ingredients, and sometimes they don't make it. 

So know your weak points, compensate for them. But then to make sure that the recipe itself is rock solid. And again, like I was saying before, I keep retrying to rewrite the way or rethink the way I tell the directions. I write the direction so that it gets stronger and stronger, and people can understand and can have success.

Alicia: And I mean, on the other side of that is when a recipe goes viral because people think it's silly. [Laughs.] Seis leches cake. But obviously I don't think there's anything wrong with that. But how do you kind of—do you think about it? Do you respond to it? When a recipe goes viral for the wrong reasons, what—how do you respond to that?

Melissa: Yeah.

I mean, it's funny. Well, so green pea guacamole was the first one. And that one wasn't even my recipe. I just reported on it. It was Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s recipe. I was totally surprised at the backlash, and I didn't realize the Times had—the way they had tweeted it, maybe, was, you know. That recipe really showed was, that was a cusp of this changing moment where people were like, ‘You know what, stop messing with our food.’ And I understand.

No one owns a recipe. I don't own a recipe. All recipes, whether they're classics or not, you're allowed to do what you want because you're eating the food. However, as a food writer, I have a responsibility to tell the story. 

I think the problem with the seis leche cake was a couple of things. First of all, the photo was not the most attractive photo. And that was the original backlash. 

And maybe I didn't tell the story well enough. That was my fault. Maybe I didn't tell the story of what trends such as cake was well enough, that when I adapted it, it had more narrative sense. And so, that was my bad. But that is my responsibility, is if I'm going to take an authentic recipe—and authentic. What's authentic? 

If I'm going to take a recipe that is, that people are passionate about and is dear to their culture, and I'm going to have my spin on it, I need to make sure to pay enough respect to what it is and what it, how I am deviating from it so that it's a teaching moment and it's done with love and respect. And if I fail, then ok. Then I fail. And then you just move on. 

I don't get that upset about it. I also see it as changing culture. And we're part of that. And I mean, when people attack me personally, yeah, ok. And that just happens on Twitter. I kind of hate Twitter. 

Alicia: [Laughs.] It sucks.

Melissa: Pretty much. [Laughter.] I must say, Instagram people are much nicer. 

But I also can take the criticism, and I can say, ‘You know what? I am learning from that moment. And I'll do it better. I'll really try to do it better next time. But that said, I will continue to change recipes that people love. Because I don't think there is one way to do something. There's as many right ways as there are cooks.’

And I mean, ok, let's just say something Jewish from my culture, like a challah. Or bagel. Let's talk about rainbow bagels. To me, it's like, ‘Alright. Really?’ I might personally think that that is the dumbest thing in the world. But you know what? If people think it's cool, and—it's, I also think it's okay. I personally can, maybe say, raise an eyebrow. But I can also say, ‘You know what, that's—it's out there. And that's ok, too.’

Alicia: You're so, so, so deeply tied to New York. And how do you think that has affected your work and your writing and everything?

Melissa: Ok, so Brooklyn—So, I mean, I grew up here. My family's here, and they're really important to me. 

I mean, I love travel. And I think it's really important to see other places and talk to as many people as you can from other cultures and understand. And I regret that I didn't, haven't lived in more places. 

I really, I really do regret that actually. I mean, I lived in France for a year, when I went to school. I had to go junior year abroad. But I haven't lived anywhere. I mean, I haven't even lived in America in the kind of place where you drive to a mall, right? [Laughs.] That’s not my experience, right? I barely drive. In a way, I have a very small life, ’cause it—

But luckily, New York City, if you’re gonna be here, it’s a good place to have a small life. ’Cause it's a big place. And there are so many people who you can connect with. And there are so many different—I mean, for me, it's like food, food, food. And there's so many—but there's also ideas. There’s so many ideas right here, right? And if I want to learn about something, I can. 

But I do regret. I mean, it is one of my big regrets. And it's something that I hope to change. I mean, my daughter is 13 right now. And the last thing I'm going to do is move her right before high school. That is just not—but my husband and I talk about it. Maybe when she goes to college, maybe that'll be a time for us to live somewhere else. He would like that, I think. 

Then I think about climate change all the time. And I think ‘Well, where is the place that we would go?’ But these are the conversations that I have in my head, I have with my husband. I don't know. I don't know. I do wish that when I was younger, I had done what you had done and just like, ‘You know what, I need to get out’ and gotten out. But I didn't. So, I went to Barnard. I went to Columbia. I just stayed.

Alicia: No, I went to Fordham. Yeah. I was on a track to never leave. And then, all of a sudden—[Laughs.]

Melissa: Good for you for getting out while you could, seriously.

It's what I would tell people to do. If anyone asked me that, I’d be like, ‘Yeah, just go.’ I hope my daughter goes—I hope she goes somewhere. I don't know where she wants to go to college, but I hope it's somewhere different.

Alicia: Yeah. Right. 

But at the same time, like you were saying, it's the best place to be, to do what you do. You have access to everything and everyone, and that's—and that shapes, obviously, how you write recipes. 

And it is interesting to think about that, how broad an audience you have, but you—and you talking about like, ‘Oh, you don't drive to the mall.’ You don't have that experience. But still, you're able to communicate with the people who have to do that, who are driving to a huge supermarket and that sort of thing. Which is interesting. 

I mean, does that factor into how you write recipes? Considering how much access people have to ingredients?

Melissa: Yeah, for sure. I think about that a lot. I mean, I really, that's part of what I get from the notes. 

But people have access to so many things right now, just like me. But think about it. 10 years ago, when we didn't-and we weren't mail. We weren't having things sent to us left and right. And I was very aware back then of what people could get and what they couldn't get. And as things started to become more present in stores, I would start to incorporate them into my recipes. 

But I always try, careful to give substitutions. I don't want you to be driving all around looking for an ingredient for dinner. It's like ‘No, get what you have and then figure out how to use it in the best possible way.’ So I'm sensitive to that, even though that wasn't my experience. 

I mean, yeah, I'm really lucky. I can go—I can within a one mile radius of my house, or maybe two miles and run within running distance. ’Cause sometimes I’ll go running for ingredients. I’ll put my running shoes on and like, ‘Oh, I need malt syrup, and I can get it in a mile.’ And I'll run and get it. That's fun. Yeah, that's sort of the quest of finding the ingredient.

Or I'll need something. I’ll need avocado leaves for something, if I'm making something Mexican. I have to run to Sunset Park, and then I'll get, and then I'm in this whole other place. Then, I’ll spend an hour in the market looking at everything, bringing everything home. But not everybody is able to do that. And I know that I'm lucky. And I also know that is not the universal experience. So if I write about it, I need to write about it in a very particular way so that it doesn't assume anything about anyone. Which I think, is in general, a good thing to do. 

Alicia: Yeah, it's a very good thing. [Laughs.]

Well, for you is cooking a political act? 

Melissa: Oh God, yeah. I mean, we talked about sustainability and the environment. It's completely tied up with politics right now. And what can we do? What can we do to change this? And that is what-—so, it's a political act when I cook. It's a political act when I write about it. It's not obviously political, but I'm working to make a change. I really care about it. 

I want people to cook fresh foods. I don't want them to buy, support the corporate giant. I want them to buy fresh foods and cook something delicious and feed their family. And that is political. And the smallest differences that we can make add up.

Alicia: Well, thank you so, so much for taking the time today. This was great.

Melissa: Thanks for having me. I wish I got to talk to you about you more.

From the Desk of Alicia Kennedy
From the Desk of Alicia Kennedy
Conversations on food and culture, hosted by writer Alicia Kennedy, with guests such as Nigella Lawson, Bryant Terry, Melissa Clark, and many others. Read Alicia's newsletter on similar topics, which has over 17.5K subscribers and has been mentioned by the New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Vogue, GQ, and many other publications.