Alana Chernila on Popsicles for Dinner and Kicking Everyone Out of the Kitchen

Alana Chernila on Popsicles for Dinner and Kicking Everyone Out of the Kitchen

Jan 6, 2016 by Christine

We usually skim cookbooks and get right to the recipes. But Homemade Kitchen is on our nightstand and we’re nodding along to everything. Could you tell the Huckle & Goose crew a little about the book, about you, and how you amassed all these kitchen skills?

Oh, I’m so happy to hear you’re enjoying it over there—thank you!
So this is my second book, and it really came together as an answer to the question of why I cook, and why it’s worthwhile to cook at home. My first book, The Homemade Pantry, was all about making pantry staples from scratch, and I found that the questions that came up from readers were mostly based around the frustration that came from wanting to cook more from scratch but not being able to meet their own expectations and hopes. I totally get that! I don’t always love to cook, and I don’t glide through my kitchen blissed out all the time. I work, and I’ve got a limited grocery budget and kids with their likes and dislikes and sometimes I just want to throw up my hands, too. But I believe that cooking and eating provides an opportunity to do this one basic every day thing that we have to do in a way that helps us live the life we want to live. So I wanted to write a book that was useful and packed with recipes, but also a helpful guide for others find a way to cook and eat in ways that help them to live well. Sometimes that process is really about easing up on ourselves, and that became a focus of the book, too.

And the skills! Cooking is such a lifelong education. I’ve always cooked, but I feel like every time I open a new book or I cook with a new friend, I learn something new. I’ve found the key to that education is trying not to be afraid of failure. It will go wrong- it will always go wrong! But sometimes it will go so so right. The space in between those two is where most of the good education happens.

Take us through your meal-planning and shopping process for the week. (How do you get organized? Do you have certain days you do certain things? etc.)

In an ideal world, I meal plan and shop on Sunday, and then I tend to do a second shop on Thursday. From May-October I work at the Farmers’ Market, and I end up getting the bulk of my food there and being much more improvisational. The summer tends to be far more spontaneous, and when it’s hot I’m not above serving popcorn or popsicles for dinner. But during the school year I try to know what’s for dinner ahead of time. I feel like we all need that stability. I think meal planning can do wonders.

What is your go-to pantry meal when you’re in a time crunch?

Pasta, always pasta! It’s a magical food. You can toss it with anything and it’s a dinner that makes everyone happy.

I’m not a __________ (insert fruit/veggie) person, but I learned to love it because of this recipe.

Oh—cilantro! I’m one of those cilantro haters. But this year, I decided I was done with that. I’ve been training myself and eating a little bit at a time, and it’s been working. I started with having it in pho, and that’s my favorite place for it. I also put it into my falafel mix, and I’m good with that too. I think I’m okay if it’s cooked. But I’m going to keep getting better about it. I want to be able to eat anything. I’m not one for rules or boundaries around food.

What makes you really want to be in your kitchen? (Habits/rituals you’ve cultivated, certain tools or food items, or something about your kitchen, etc.)

I love cooking alone. Especially if it’s that certain moment when the light’s coming into my kitchen in the right way, and I’ve had the opportunity to clean up before I begin. The right music, just me, and a quiet kitchen. It’s taken me some time to admit that that’s how I really love to cook, but now that I’ve embraced it and kick everyone else out, I’m loving my kitchen a lot more.

We love how you write about cooking/eating locally and seasonally in a non-eyeroll-inducing way. Why is it important for you?

I love how food can taste like a season. Seasonal cooking is so individual, because we each have a calendar of food and memory bound up in our experiences. So it might be a perfect apple in September or that first asparagus in April, but it also might be store-bought egg nog in December or that special tart your aunt makes every Passover. Of course it’s great to eat seasonally and locally because it’s often less expensive, food tastes better, and it can help to support our local economies, but if we broaden our idea of seasonal eating to include all the ways it can make its way through our kitchens, it can be more inclusive. And I always need to remember that food is meant to bring people together, not drive people apart. If any food rule or trend inspires judginess, I think it’s one to throw out.

Thanks so much, Alana!

You can read more from Alana here and here.