Quick Bites: Melissa Clark

While I finish up a special giveaway celebrating Melissa Clark’s new title Dinner in French: My Recipes by Way of France along with a Dutch oven from LeCreuset (see below), I thought it would be the perfect time to share our latest Quite Bites featuring Melissa.

Melissa Clark is a food columnist for the New York Times Food Section, where she writes the popular column: A Good Appetite and has starred in over 100 cooking videos. She’s also written 42 cookbooks, the latest of which, Dinner In French, explores French cuisine with her characteristic Brooklyn je ne sais quoi. She’s also the recipient of two James Beard Awards and two IACP awards (International Association of Culinary Professionals), and her work has been selected for the Best American Food Writing series. Clark was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, where she now lives with her husband and daughter. 

Q: What first triggered your interest in cooking and tell us about your first cooking memory?

I was raised in a foodie household. Both my parents cooked out of Julia Child’s books, and I grew up on their homemade attempts at terrines, baguettes, and Provencal fish soup (which I soundly rejected until I got to college).

My first cooking memory is trying to make pancakes out of the Joy of Cooking. But I was too impatient to let them fully cook in the center. But I ate those half raw disks with their gooey insides drenched in maple syrup anyway. To my 7-year old self, they were delicious.

Q: If you had to describe your cooking style, what would it be?

Brooklyn whimsical, laced with anchovies and garlic, showered with heavy cream, and brightened with lemons, then roasted on a sheet pan until the edges were crisp.

Q: Tell us about your cookbook collection, how many? What you look for in a cookbook.

I’ve never counted, I’m too afraid. But let’s just say there are LOTS (the caps are imperative here). It would take several photos to show my collection because they are tucked all over the house: in my office on the nice shelves I had built for them. In piles on the floor. In another two bookcases in the kitchen. The only place they are NOT is next to the bed, because I never read cookbooks in bed.

I’m always looking to learn from a cookbook – to find a flavor combination I hadn’t seen before, or learn about another food culture. That’s thrilling. Photography is nice but less important to me – unless it opens up the text and shows me something new.

Q: What is the best part of your job? Do you sometimes feel like working with food all day keeps you from wanting to get creative in the kitchen?

The best part of my job is the research, the learning, and the cooking. The hardest part is the writing. And while most of the time I love to experiment and get creative with our dinners at home, when I’m tapped out, those are perfect nights for anchovy or sardine toast, comfort food that practically makes itself.

Q: What is your go-to for a quick dinner?

See above! Anchovy or sardine toasts and salad. Done.

Q: Cookbooks are selling and show no signs of slowing down. My thought is that they provide an escape from today’s pressures and open the door to endless possibilities. People often ask me why all the cookbooks? I respond with “Cookbooks open the door to different cultures, offer me the chance to explore another city or region of the world and provide me comfort.” Why do you think cookbooks are thriving?

I agree about culture – cookbooks are a path to exploring another culture, in a way that we can all relate to. Even if you can’t break bread with someone if you can imagine doing it by reading a recipe. And that gets you closer, I think, that just reading the newspaper or a magazine or even a novel. It brings you directly to the table.

Special thanks to Melissa Clark for taking time out of her busy schedule to respond to our questions. Look for the promotion before Monday!

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  • Kristjudy  on  March 19, 2020

    Great review!

  • MFJ196  on  March 19, 2020

    I adore Melissa Clark and have several of her cookbooks, and ditto for Amanda Hesser (who I believe is one of her NYT colleagues). Lovely interview, showcasing her personality so well. Her podcast is equally delightful…

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