Food ladies are my ladies. Put me in a room with someone who swoons over the creative act of cooking and the joys of feeding your family as much as I do and watch a deep friendship form. There are so many of these ladies out in the world whom I just don’t know – but slowly, we’re connecting. A fellow food lady unites me with a new food lady and the community grows and grows. For so many years I had not found my peeps, so I feel especially grateful to now continue to find them, and to be on a mission to keep the tribe alive and growing — spreading the good word, connecting, laughing and cooking together!
After co-hosting the kickoff FEED Supper this past fall with CEO of FEED Projects Lauren Bush Lauren, Lauren mentioned Daphne’s Oz, natural foods chef and co-host of “The Chew” on ABC, and asked if I knew her. I did not. So Lauren, one food gal, sent an email to Daphne, another food gal, and a trio was born. At the time, Daphne was about to release her third cookbook, The Happy Cook. She and I swooned over one another via email for a good few months, trying to align a cooking date together to both get to know one another personally and intimately, as cooking tends to foster, and to shoot for EyeSwoon.
Dates were scheduled, dates were cancelled, we were busy, working, cooking, mommying, but we kept trying, and finally after multiple attempts we settled on a day to cook at Daphne’s home in late fall. However, in late fall I was also scheduled to shoot seven consecutive days of my own first cookbook. It entailed all fall and winter dishes, 50 in total, two seasonal tablescapes, lifestyle images for the book, and hosting the entire crew of eight in my house, since that’s where we were shooting. It was seven 12-hour days of cooking and creating from 8 a.m. until 8 p.m. Although at the time I thought it was a brilliant idea to finally get a date to cook with Daphne, I was EXHAUSTED, to say the least.
After shooting my book, essentially giving birth to my second baby, I completely forgot that the very next day, which would be the eighth day in a row of shooting, I was to get together with Daphne. On Sunday evening as I was driving home from Amagansett, Jordana, my amazing assistant, reminded me of this. I wanted to cry. I needed a day to recharge but I would never consider canceling for so many reasons…it was last minute, disrespectful, and most of all I REALLY wanted to meet Daphne. You see, I already imagined she and I would become FBFFs (foodie best friends forever). Gotta love when life throws you a curveball.
It was virtually impossible to deny how depleted I was, so upon walking into the door of Daphne’s gorgeous apartment, I dropped my bag of props, and in less that a minute, Daphne and I were in deep — real deep. We wasted no time as I basically vomited out all that I was feeling – how excited I was, how fragile I was, how I was so close to this project that I couldn’t even tell anymore what was good or bad, how I wanted to cry and jump for joy at the same time upon the realization that the entire book was shot, how this massive weight I’d been carrying for over a year was lifted, and also how challenging the entire endeavor was. I shared how much I learned about myself, how much I had doubted myself and my abilities, yet ultimately how I really learned how to find my voice and trust my eye. I mean, I don’t even think I realized how much I was feeling and needed to share. There was a ping-pong match of words bopping back and forth at lightning speed.
I sighed the most primal sound of relief as tears rolled down my face and could not have been happier to be exactly where I was, sharing emotionally-charged tales and being understood and supported by someone who just went through exactly the same set of confusing emotions. We decided in that instant that we needed to create a podcast together to discuss the cookbook process. Why does no one talk about how hard it is? Just as a reminder, this all happened — tears and all — within 10 minutes of walking into Daphne’s apartment, essentially a stranger. What an entrance, Athena! I mean, I should have been mortified, but I wasn’t. I knew it! FBFFs already!!! Sarah, my photographer, must have thought we were both certifiably loony – we got in real deep, real fast. And we also found so many more common denominators in our foodie gal worlds, with a plethora of friends in common!
From here, we moved into the kitchen, got to cooking, and my love affair with Daphne continued. She cooks and chats and laughs and multitasks with such ease and warmth, and without thought, in the best of ways. She is the real deal. A glimpse into her mega-stocked fridge had me wanting to dive in and do a post exclusively on the contents. But honestly, just as fast as our cookbook conversation went was how quickly this lady whipped up a snack for us to nibble on, pre-cooking. It was the swooniest treat of labne sprinkled with a duo of La Boîte spices and crunchy, sliced mini Persian cucumbers that has now become my go-to obsession. Daphne pulled out a chicken, stuffed the chicken, buttered the chicken, seasoned the chicken, trussed the chicken, and popped the chicken into the oven, breast side down, (a Daphne Oz trick,) all as she shared her life’s tale of how she found her way to food. She did not skip a beat and I was memorized. The conversation never hit pause. She didn’t have to think about a thing and she moved with speed, confidence and grace in her kitchen. Besides food, we even shared design stories as she took me through the entire renovation of her apartment. I was enamored and truly fell in LOVE with the lady!
My attention turned from conversation fully back to the food in front of us as suddenly there were scallions and olive oil getting chopped and whipped together and okra was coming out with dates and hazelnuts. Woah, woah, woah, I thought, what’s going on here?? Daphne proceeded to tell me about the okra crack – honestly, she said it was that addictive — that she was about to make. She was not wrong. Crack, indeed. I was addicted to her cooking; I was addicted to Daphne. When we got around to sitting and eating, I was blown away by the full-flavored meal we were savoring and how it all came together so fast and efficiently. Boom — in record time the meal was done, and in equally record time, I had found a new member of my tribe.