All Episodes

April 13, 2024 61 mins

We kinda like food, but talking about the kitchens we grew up in involves a lot more than that. Anney and Lauren chat with journalist Michele Norris about how this became the prompt for her new interview-based podcast, ‘Your Mama’s Kitchen,’ and why those early experiences are both so evocative and instructive to us today.

See for privacy information.

Mark as Played

Episode Transcript

Available transcripts are automatically generated. Complete accuracy is not guaranteed.
Speaker 1 (00:09):
Hello, and welcome to Savior Prediction of iHeartRadio. I'm Annie
Res and I'm Lauren Bvogelbaum. And today we have a
special episode for you because we are interviewing Michelle Norris. Yes,
and it was such a lovely time. I still keep
going back to it.

Speaker 2 (00:25):
What a good human.

Speaker 1 (00:27):
Yes, yes, and my mom is a huge fan and
we talked about my mom and here, So it was
a very lovely, delightful time. Oh.

Speaker 3 (00:36):
Yes, Michelle is an absolute hero of a journalist of mine.
But a little bit of background here, Okay, So we
got this exciting email a while back because Michelle Norris
has started up this new podcast called Your Mama's Kitchen,
in which she talks with a range of familiar voices
about their family kitchen experiences and how that shaped who

they are today. Previously, Michelle was a correspondent for ABC
News in like the nineties and early two thousands, one
a Peabody for her coverage of nine to eleven, went
on to be the first black woman host at NPR
doing All Things Considered, and has been working since then
on a number of projects that are really passionately interrogative

of American experiences and American psychees and yeah, so we
got to digitally sit down with her to talk about
her new podcast and why this core question tell me
about your Mama's kitchen gets kind of everyone to open
up and talk about very serious issues in personal but

friendly ways. Yeah.

Speaker 1 (01:46):
I have to say, I asked myself this question and
I got a lot of answers I was not expecting,
and I recommend everybody do it. It's amazing what it reveals.
But all right, let us get in to the interview.

Speaker 3 (02:10):
Our opening question to people is usually Hi, who are you?
Because A, we want to make sure that we get
the way that people say their name out loud on Mike.
We've got that down in your case. But also B
it's interesting to hear how people define themselves.

Speaker 1 (02:26):
So, Hi, who are you?

Speaker 2 (02:29):
I'm Michelle Norris. I am a storyteller and a story
collector in the storyteller category. I'm a longtime journalist. I
hosted a little show on NPR called All Things Considered
for about a decade. I've worked at the La Times
and the Chicago Tribune and the Washington Post twice early

in my life as a cub reporter and now as
a columnist. As a story collector. I host a show
called Your Mama's Kitchen where we talked to really interesting
people and learn a lot about them by learning about
the kitchens that they grew up in. I also run
something called the Race Card Project, where for fourteen years

I've asked people to tell me about their thoughts, memories,
triumphs laments perspectives on race and identity in just six words.

Speaker 3 (03:23):
So you're usually talking with other people about them.

Speaker 1 (03:28):
Can we talk a little bit about you?

Speaker 2 (03:30):

Speaker 1 (03:31):
Oh that's good. It would have been awkward if you'd
said no. So right.

Speaker 3 (03:36):
People know you as a journalist, but food journalism isn't
particularly your background. However, you were already interested in food
and cooking before you started this podcast, right.

Speaker 2 (03:47):
Yes, yes, And you know, in the years that I
hosted and in PR, I always tried to find reasons
to talk about food on the air. During the holidays,
it was natural, you know. We did a series of
segment with Dory Greenspan and used her as a way
to help listeners explore their own kitchens, but also tried

to find something thematic that we could talk to. But
I just I love to cook and I love to
be in the kitchen. And I do think that there
are times when we can tell stories through food. So
during Katrina, you know, when we're talking about what was lost,
culinary memories were lost, social capital that was built around memories,

but also kitchens. You know, the people who worked in
the Lower ninth Ward who could send their child up
the street to Miss Louise's house because she would always
be able to get them breakfast because their mama worked
the early shift, and they could go to someone else's
house and get breakfast in the morning before going off
to school. Stuff like that was a way to tell
a story. I remember in Katrina. One of the stories

we talked about was I was there with Andrea Shue
for several weeks after the flood, and I remember that
there were people who were heating up a can of
vegetables in the sun on the pavement and they just
kept moving it, you know, and they'd been eating cold
stuff out of a can and they were just and

it didn't seem you know, particularly safe for healthy necessarily,
but you know, nothing was safeer healthy and the once,
you know, after Katrina, so I have tried to find ways,
whether when I was covering education talking about school lunches.
Whether I was working at the La Times. One of
the first stories I did as a very young reporter
was on what we now call food deserts, but how

in certain parts of the city you could not find
a tomato. So you know, I haven't been a food
journalist quotation marks, but I've been trying to find ways
to tell stories through food.

Speaker 1 (05:50):
And the way that you did, the inspiration you had
for this podcast was as people who are in audio.
When I heard this story, I was like, Yes, that
makes so much sense. Can you tell that story for
our listening?

Speaker 3 (06:06):

Speaker 2 (06:06):
Sure, So those of us who were in audio have
to get levels from the people that we talked to, right,
And because I have such a low voice, the engineers
at MPI state I had a lot of smoke in
my voice that they have to really ride the level
because I'm also a little bit of a low talker,
and so they'd need someone to talk long enough to
match the levels. And the standard question that people ask.

Speaker 1 (06:29):
Is what do you have for breakfast?

Speaker 2 (06:34):
Everyone asked that question what do you have for breakfast?
And most people don't have big breakfasts. They mean they
say toast, they say coffee, they say oatmeal, They often
just say nothing, you know, I had nothing and breakfast,
you know nothing, And so I needed, you know, the
person who had avocado toast with watermelon relish and chili

flakes and a little drill. I never found that person, right,
I always had the person who said nothing, or coffee
or latte or something very short. And so I started
to ask a series of other questions. Tell me about
your first summer job. Do you use paper or plastic
when you go to the grocery store? What was your
first summer job, what was your what did a Saturday

night like? What did you do for fun on a
Saturday night? What was a Saturday evening like wherever you
grew up? Or tell me about your mama's kitchen. And
over time, the one question that worked every single time,
not just to get the level but to render the conversation,
but to like loosen people up, was tell me about

your mama's kitchen. Because you'd see it. Their eyes would
just go, oh wow, yeah, my mama's kitchen. And then
they'd start talking. And then they start talking so much
that we'd have to pull them back to whatever it
is that we were actually bringing them in to talk about.
And so for years I had nursed this idea that
would be a great podcast is to just begin every conversation.

In the beginning, I thought it would be interesting to
talk primarily to because at the time I was working
in news, I thought newsmakers, So, you know, to talk
to the head of a country, the head of an
organization and go, you know, that's usually talking about policy
and feeding people and land reform or something like that,

to kind of loosen it up. And then when we
actually created the podcast, we you know, took a more
what you might say, commercial route by talking to fairly
famous people who do all kinds of things. I still
would love to every so often talk to someone you
know in the policy world, you know, whoever is the
equivalent of Oppenheimer today, tell me about your mama's kitchen.
I still think would be fantastically interesting. But the thing is,

the question works on anybody, and we ask some version
of that question that's asked in a slightly different way
just so we don't get redundant, but the basic question
is the same. Let's hear about your mama's kitchen, and
that question leads to completely different journeys, you know, depending
on who we're talking.

Speaker 3 (09:04):
To oh, yeah, we of course we love this question.
You know, we love anything even vaguely surrounding food. But
it also really struck me because one of the one
of the questions we've asked chefs and restauranteurs is what
did you eat when you were growing up? It's actually
made some of them kind of defensive, you know, like

we've been having this small conversation about their professional lives,
and then all of a sudden they kind of clamp
up and go like, oh, you know, like we didn't
have a lot of money growing up, my parents were busy.
But that response in itself speaks so much to how
conversations around home kitchens are about a lot more than food,

which is really the point of your show.

Speaker 2 (09:47):
Yeah yeah. The theory of the case is that we
become who we become as adults in part because, in
large part and very large part, because of what we saw, witnessed, absorbed,
and took in while in the kitchen. And it's not
just about the food that was served up. Because I believe,

and I firmly believe now after during forty episodes, that
we learn about generosity in the kitchen, we learn about
justice in the kitchen, we learn about philanthropy, we learn
about grace, we learn about retribution and fairness. The kitchen
is where the bills pile up. The kitchen is where

the loudest arguments happen. The kitchen is where the world
comes in in a way that we debate it and
examine it, whether it's from the radio on the window
seal or the TV that many of us have in
the kitchen, or just the debates and the conversations that
we have about the stuff that's happening in the outside world.
It's where you learn about feminism, even if you weren't

studying feminism, because you realize, you know, gender roles are
so prevalent in the kitchen. It's where a lot of
people figure out how to become American or how to
hold on to that little piece of themselves that they
let go of when they go out in the world
and they're trying to be American. But when they come
back home, this is where they get to be Latvian,

and this is where they get to enjoy Nigerian food,
and this is where they get to still speak Italian
or Cuban accented English, you know, whereas when they go
off to work. They're trying to be American code switch. Yes, yes, codes.
We call it code switching now, but it's been going on,
you know, since the beginning of time. So it's this
just wonderful, yeasty portal, you know, to understand people. And

we've talked to fairly famous people, you know, Sheall Obama,
Connor O'Brien, Matthew McConaughey, I mean knows that. And in
every case, even though these are people who have had
their own TV shows, written several books, you know, been
on the cover of People magazine, they say something to
us that they've never said to anyone before. And I

am humble enough to know that that's not just my
skills as an interviewer. That is really because we're asking
a different question. We're allowing them to talk about something
that they haven't talked about before.

Speaker 1 (12:13):
Exactly. And I think you have touched on so much
that we want to come back to. But one of
the things I believe people a mistake people make is
that when they think about food on just a day
to day level is that they divorce it from these
deeper themes of politics of class history, race, gender, when
that couldn't be further from the case, and it's clear

just based on if someone thinks about it for a second,
they're telling a story they've never told before. Have these
conversations that you've had brought some of those themes to
light on the show?

Speaker 2 (12:46):
Oh yeah, yeah, yeah, absolutely absolutely. I talked to Michelle
Obama just first. You know, the show is with higher
Ground production, so it made sense that Michelle Obama would
be the first the first guest. She's a dear friend
of mine and we talk all the time. So I
learned a lot about her. The world has learned a
lot about her because she's written two books, and she's

been on you know, Jimmy Fallon how many times and
you know, name the show, she's been on it a
few times. However, when we sat down and started talking
about missus Robinson's kitchen, her mama's kitchen, there is new
stuff that came out that she hadn't talked about before.
You know, one of her cousins who came home with
these feminist ideas, and how everybody else in the family

is like, well, wait, what what's going on? You know here,
and a young Michelle Obama was watching that, you know
and learning, you know, from that She talked about having
to have her hair tamed, you know, to go out
in the world, and you know what that does to
your concept of fitting in and what it means to
be beautiful on someone else's standards. When we talked to

Matthew McConaughey, he talked about the woman who cooked for
his family, who was a black woman and who was
his closest confidant and how he kept in touch with
her throughout life and as a young actor, she was
the one who could tell when he was what would
you call it in the cut as an actor, like

she knew when he told this great story about how
he did something and he put a hat away as
an actor, and she said, I knew you were totally
in character because you would never put a hat away.
And we learned that he kept in touch with her
all her life and has kept in touch with her kids,

and you know, and so it was it was really interesting.
We talked to Matthew and Matthew McConaughey and Camilla Alves.
McConaughey loved, loved talking to the two of them. And
she's from Brazil and she's known as a model, that's
what people know her. As and as Matthew mcconnie's wife.
She's so much more than that. You're probably familiar with
her own food vertical that she runs, but she's a

country girl. She comes from a farm in Brazil, and
she talked about in her family, normally the farm hands,
the people who work the land eat over there in
the distance, and in her family, they invited them to
eat at one big, long table, and so the people
who own the farm and the people who work the

farm all ate together without the kind of class divisions
that you normally see in a situation like that. And
that told me so much about her compass, you know,
the compass that was set in her heart and in
her psyche very early in life. Learned so much about
her in her view of the world. And so, you know,

these are the kind of stories that that we surface.
I'll tell you one last one about Conan O'Brien. You know,
I run this other thing called the Race Car Project.
And it's interesting because your mama's kitchen was going to
be the part of my life where I'm not talking
about race and identity, and yet and yet, good luck,
yeah yeah, and yet identity is formed in the kitchen
in part and so so many of these conversations. It's

like these two projects are in conversation with each other.
I mean, it turns out tell me about your mama's
kitchen is like a six word you know. I didn't
even realize that until recently. I was in San Antonio,
said you know, six word question. I was like, oh
my goodness, and blow hoops. But when I talked to
Conan O'Brien didn't expect the conversation to hinge on identity.

The white guy read here, you know, just wasn't expecting that.
But he told this great story about his mom, who
was one of the first women to graduate from law
school at Yale. Comes from middle class family. I believe
it was Worcester. She wound up going to I think
it was faster. I'm getting old and I'm not remembering

everything exactly right. But then went on to DL thank you,
thank you, back checking this, but they elbre do remember.
And she graduated, and then she went to a white
shoe law firm in Boston, fancy law firm in Boston,
one of the only women there, one of the first
women there. And when they had meetings with clients in
the Big Wood paneled boardroom that you can picture, you know, right,

like the kind like the guys from trading places, you know,
the big like mahogany walls and leather seats. Because she
was a woman, and probably because she was an Irish woman,
they made her sit at a coffee excuse me, at
a card table. They made her set at a card
table outside the door.

Speaker 3 (17:25):
They put her at a kiddy table.

Speaker 2 (17:26):
They put her kit in the room. They not even
in the room, and they said, but they wanted her
close by because she was so smart that if they
had to ask her a question. They didn't say stay downstairs.
They said, says, we might have something to ask, but
you can't come in the room because we don't want
the clients to see you because they may not be
ready for that. And he told that story, and I
you know again something about his compass right because he

watched his mom go through that stick, through that rise up,
through the firm, earn respect, hold respect, change the firm
from the inside. And he took those lessons and that's
part of who he is. That's part of Conan's DNA,
and it explains, you know, as you get to know him,
the way he builds a staff, the sort of little

love notes he sends to people. The kind of you know,
stand up guy that he is is in part from
watching what his mom went through. And one of the
lessons that I take from it that I really think
hard about for the young people that I'm trying to raise,
the young adults that I've sent into the world. The
thing that I remember about that story is there are
a couple of guys in the room that were lawyers

who said, you know, I'm good, I'm going to go
eat my tunea fish sandwich outside with her. I'm going
to go sit at the table with her. And I thought,
you know, that's the young That's the person I want
to raise, right, I want to raise the person who's righteous,
who says I don't need to be close to power.
If this is what power does you know? I'm I
would rather be out there with.

Speaker 1 (18:54):
Her, absolutely, And that relates to something else that you've
spoken about. Is one theme, one thread you've picked up
on a lot in these conversations, as people kind of say, oh,
I didn't think my mother enough or I didn't think
about this enough, or something like that. And you've also
spoken about how you worried about gendering this space, but

that ultimately with the title, but that ultimately it's largely
women who are still doing this work. For most of us,
it has been a gendered space. So you went with
the title your Mama's Kitchen. Can you talk about that?

Speaker 2 (19:33):
Yeah, I mean I was worried about that because you know,
it seems to just double down on the idea that
cooking is women's work. And I was a little bit
worried about that. But I understood that if you wanted
to if you wanted to get someone's origin story, and
you wanted to do it in the kitchen, women were
doing most of cooking, so you know, and frankly, your

mama's kitchen sounds better than your mama and daddy's kitchen,
you know, mamminem's kitchen or something like that. So so,
you know, we decided to just go with it and
let the story take it where it takes us. And
it doesn't mean that men are not present in the kitchen.
We also learn about learn about men. In some cases,
they are the primary cooks. That was the case with
Matthew Broderick, that was a case with Leslie Jones. Their

you know, their fathers come into the story. You also
learn about men who cook when fire is involved. So
there are a lot of people who we talk to
who talk about dad barbecued, and you know, Jeff Tweety
told a great story about his dad. It was basically
a chance for him to hold court. Like he wasn't
even paying attention to the barbecue. The pork steakes were
always overcooked, but it was a chance room to be

outside and you know, drink beers with his buddies. So
it that that kind of you know, comes into play.
But it's basically holding a mirror up and capturing what
you see. And what you see when you hold a
mirrorp and you're looking backwards in your life is in
most cases women are doing the cooking. But it's also
where you learn about how women maybe we're taking a

space and turning it into a realm of their own.
It was the one place maybe where they had full control.
It was the one place where they could grow a
business on the side by baking cakes for somebody else
or creating a world of respect around what they sent
out of the kitchen. It was a place where they

could teach their kids in ways that the lessons wouldn't
take in the dining room or in the rec room
or in any other room. And it was a place
also we are learning where men earn the money, but
women controlled it. And we're learning that over and over
and over and over and over again, where you know,
the paycheck would come home, there would be some passing

of the baton, and it was women who actually sat
down and did the family budget and went through the
you know, before we had apps that did everything for us,
went through that ledge and added everything up and figured
out how to save money, how to grow money, how
to put a little bit of money aside, how to
maybe squirrel away a little something for themselves. And those

are aspects of family life that maybe you read inside
novels or you get if you know, really are the
one person in your family that sits down and talks
to people at the family gathering. But I love, I
love pulling out those little tendrils of American life because
they're so present in so many of our lives. But
they're the kinds of things that we don't talk about.
And when we think about saying thanks Mom, it's usually,

you know, we think about the food, the cupcakes, the
big holiday dinners. But there's a lot of stuff that
mom was doing, you know, often from that kitchen table,
the command center, you know, to hold it all together.

Speaker 1 (22:48):
We have a lot more of our conversation with Michelle,
but first we have a quick break for a word
from our sponsor, and we're back. Thank you sponsor. Let's
get back into it. Another thing you you've spoken about

that really related to me because we've talked before. It
can be isolating when you're in the kitchen, especially before
I don't know the internet, and you were listening to
the radio. My mom and I used to listen to
MPR when we would cook, and so one thing I
picked up on listening to your episode, the one thing
we've heard before. It's kind of this cook Some cookbooks

or some show will pop up a lot and it
being important, like you've got your Julia Child cookbook and
it just meant so much, or your joy of cooking
cookbook and it just meant so much as that something
that you have seen through doing.

Speaker 2 (23:47):
This Julia Child, Julia Child, it's like we have if
it was a drinking game, we would you know, we'd
be in trouble. I mean, she comes up over and
over and over again. I mean she was she was
the one that women of a certain generation were watching
and deciding to be adventurous, you know, and deciding. I

mean we talked to Hary Condobolo, her mom. His mom
is from India, and she was, you know, experimenting with
American food, and Julia Child was the one who was
her guide and who kind of I think she gave
women permission yeah, you know, to do that, and she wasn't. Yeah,
And what do you think it was about her? Was

it that she was approachable?

Speaker 3 (24:36):
I think it was a combination of both approachable and
also so confident. Even even if she wasn't sure what
she was doing, she was doing it confidently. And I
loved watching video of her because just the way that
she moves, she moves so decisively, and she's she's not
she's not delicate, like she can she can be delicate

in the way that she puts a dish together, but
she's she's this kind of big, powerful lady the right right,
She's the brand of Tarth of the Kitchen, and it's wonderful.
And I'm just like, yeah, like I want to do that,
Like I want to absolutely scatch pocket ship.

Speaker 2 (25:18):
Like let's know, I think that's I think there's something
too that. I mean, I realized, you know, my own
mom was a Julia Child acolyte. We you know, they
love them some public radio. My parents and it's in
the water. I grew up in Minnesota and uh my mother,
you know, African American woman, tall, sturdy herself, Uh you know,

had Julia Child cookbook, had SIMCA's kitchen, which I still
have upstairs in my house. Simka was one of her friends,
and that's how invested she was buying, not just the
Julia Child cookbooks, but the like ancillary stuff, the offshoots. Yeah,
the off shoots. And when we did we wouldn't call

it a kitchen renovation because I grew up in a
working class family, but we did do a refresh. At
one point before my parents got divorced, my mom upgraded
the kitchen and she chose this wallpaper that was kind
of like French provincial. I mean, I think I think
she really was going for a certain look. And we

had these beams put across the ceiling in the kitchen,
and our kitchen was not you know, there was nothing
about our kitchen that said French country. I mean nothing
but she figured out how to get and they were
and this is the thing. They were like foam, but

they looked like would they She got him at like
for your listeners who live in the Midwest, at Menards,
I think, which is, you know, a home improvement store.
And she got some glue and slapped those things on
the ceiling and it just with the wallpaper and just

gave the you know, and then and got the copper.
We didn't have copper pots, but we had copper uh
gello molds, gelatin molds. Yeah, and put those up on
the and you know, and tricked her kitchen out so
that it had this kind of save, a kind of
you know, quality to it. And it not until I

have started doing you know, all these podcasts and listening
to Julia Child's name come up over and over again
and I really kind of put that together. Oh wow,
Mom was Mom was really influenced by her in a
very strong way. And now I want to put some
I want to put some beams up across my kitchen.

Speaker 3 (27:55):
I do I I do have some something old copper
jello molds from my grandmother that yeah, I really need
to really need to incorporate into the core.

Speaker 2 (28:04):
And they all did everybody have a fish. It was
like the circular fish, you know what I'm talking about,
the fish that was like in a crescent shape.

Speaker 3 (28:13):
Yeah, it's kind of swimming in its own tiny world.

Speaker 1 (28:17):
Yeah, I can.

Speaker 3 (28:19):
I ask you how you find the process and the
feel of podcasting as opposed to radio or TV. Is
it different for you or.

Speaker 2 (28:30):
Yes? But I'm glad I've done both those things to
prepare me for podcasting.

Speaker 3 (28:36):
Oh huh.

Speaker 2 (28:38):
I learned as a longtime host where we had to
consider a whole lot of things before four pm every day,
which is an early deadline in journalism. Most people are
not putting their work to bed until about six or
six thirty. That you can throw almost anything at me
and I will figure out how to have a conversation

about it, you know. So I'm glad I have that
deep inside me and that I can turn something around quickly.
I'm glad that I worked in television because I understand
what lights do and what you know. We don't do
a lot of stuff that is recorded for now that
may change, but I also understand how to neutralize that,

you know, so that people aren't playing to the camera,
aren't aren't freaked out by the camera or kind of
forget about the camera. But I like I liked the
intimacy of radio, and I love the deeper intimacy of
podcasting that it is more free form, that it's not

as carefully scripted, and that people can come as they are.
I've talked about this before, so you may have heard
the story. But I'm someone who had a bit of
a speech impediment as a kid. I struggle with pronouncing
certain words. I will stump more than most people. I

just kind of work it into the way that I talk,
and I talk with my hands all the time because
that helps me process. I mean, there's just all kinds
of things that I do that help me, you know,
the brain mouth processing. In a formal setting like public radio,
where we are expected to have a certain pristine sound,
that could be problematic. And so my fixed file was

just thicker than everybody else's. And the story that I tell,
because it's true, is that if you listened in the
second or the third feed, meaning in central time, or
on Mountain Art or on the left coast, on the
West coast, we were perfect. Because every every time you

mispronounced proves Misharaff's name. Every time you mispronounce the name
of a Chinese village that experienced, you know, the after
effects of the earthquake, and do you know, you got
a chance to go and have another take at it,
and then it was perfect by the time it reached
the audience on the western part of the country. In podcasting,

you don't do as much of that. And I think
that that's why people actually love podcasts, is because you
hear the imperfections and it sounds like the conversation you're
at dinner. It sounds like the conversation you overhear at
the grocery store. It sounds like America, and it's less
varnished and less less less polished, And for the interviewer

there's some comfort in that. But I think for the interviewee,
it's sort of a come as you are, come in
your pajamas. You know, don't have to button up, don't
have to code switch, don't have to figure out, you know,
your radio voice, don't have to figure out how you
sound professorial. You just you know, tell the story that
feels right to you in the moment. And the other
thing that I like, and I really appreciate about podcasting

is the emotional that you get in a podcast. So
if people are feeling like they just have to sniffle
or just you know, blow their nose because they're feeling emotional,
or they feel like they're you know, you hear you
hear laughter, that sends the needle into the red in
a podcast in a way that you don't in other

forms where people get giggly and silly and you hear
the UM's and the os and but that's the way
people talk. And so I have a respect and an
appreciation for this. And the last thing I'll say about
podcasting that I that I actually dig is that the
barrier to entry is lower. So there are a lot

of voices that we hear that wouldn't be in the
marketplace because normally there'd be someone in a suit deciding yes, no,
you know, be annoyed you, and we don't annoy you.
And in this case, if you have a microphone and
you can get yourself on riverside or squad cast or
you know, one of these places, and you can just
send your voice out there into the world and find
an audience, that's really that's righteous. I like that it is.

Speaker 3 (33:05):
Oh yeah, Yeah, that's that's the thing that we love
about the space too. I mean perhaps obviously from you know,
from from looking at us like in our like weird,
little cubby hole closet kind of situations. But right it's
a it can it can be so at ease, and
and that really brings out terrific conversations with people. Ah,
with with everything else you've got going on though, Why

this podcast?

Speaker 1 (33:29):
Like why right now?

Speaker 2 (33:31):
Well, in part because I found the right partners and
when it's right, it's right on time. And in part
because I think we needed this, you know, I felt
I needed it coming out of COVID, coming out of

the period following not just the murder of George Floyd,
but the daisy chain of you know, black death on
small screens that we had seen and reacted to with
horror and pathos. I just felt like we were really
as a country, as a world going through it, and
it felt like I could do something that allowed people

to experience something that was deep and rich and yes, emotional,
but not rooted in anger and not rooted in kind
of a finger wagging I'm right and you're wrong. You know,
much of what I do as a journalist at this
point in my life, through Your Mama's Kitchen and through
the work that I do at the Race Card Project.

In the book I wrote Our Hidden Conversations is to
try to do one of two things. To allow people
who don't always hear their stories or see their stories
in the marketplace, the communications marketplace, that they don't see
or hear themselves. So I try to provide a pathway
for those stories so that they can hear and see themselves.

But at the same time, I'm trying to also allow
people to peer over the fence and look at life
as lived by somebody else. And I feel like this
podcast does both things. So we have explored so many
different cultures in this podcast and I have learned so much.
I just we have an upcoming episode with Zaragard, who

is so funny, but at the same time, you know,
taught me a lot about the expectations around arranged marriage
and you know how she had to navigate that in
her life and run away from it. And it wound
up being a history lesson and a conversation about food
and of course Our Mama's Kitchen. George Takai the same thing.
You know, he grew up in an internament camp. That
was you could use that episode in a seventh grade

Civics class, you know, to teach young children about what
happened to young children in America when America lost its
way and sent people away to so called in tournament camps.
So we're we're providing this way for this little nugget
of time where people can learn about someone else and
at the same time, maybe, oh, wow, she's telling my story.

He's was he inside my Mama's kitchen? Because we did
that too. And I think in a world where we
are so increasingly siloed and in these kind of cultural fiefdoms,
that we don't have a lot of opportunity to see
other worlds. And I hope that that's what we're able

to do with Your Mama's Kitchen. And that's certainly what
we've tried to do with season one, and it's what
we hope to do with season two is to continue
this and you know, to see the full spectrum of
America through the kitchens of our youth.

Speaker 1 (36:47):
And that really relates to something a question I had
because something I found really interesting about a lot of
your work is because is that it relates. It's these
things that we talk about or don't talk about, or
think about, don't think about. But we're not having these
conversations with the people we love or the people in
our lives. We're going to Google or we're going to

podcast instead. But it's clear, based on like everything you've done,
people do want to talk about this. Why do you
think that food is proving to be such a good
entry point for these tougher conversations.

Speaker 2 (37:29):
Well, it's one thing we all have in common. We
don't eat the same thing, but we all eat, and
the kitchen is something that we all have in common.
And so whether yours was a tricked out kitchen that
had you know, double a mana oven, or had a
double refrigerator, or whether you had multiple refrigerators because you know,

we just talked to Eric Kim and his mom had
secret refrigerators and multiple refrigerators in the garage because she
was making Kim cheat. So you know, in a Korean household,
that's common that there are all kinds of refrigerators. In Minnesota,
people have extra freezers because all the fish that they
catch in the winter, you know, So you may not
have the kitchen may not be the same, but everybody

has a place to eat, even if it is a
pot over a stack of wood logs, you know, and
that's where you cook. It's your kitchen. It's where you
are cooking food. But often we're also people are saying
I love you through food. It's often where people are

doing a favor for someone else through food. And those
are the things that we all have in common. And
so I think that that is one of the reasons
that maybe people gravitate to these stories because there's a curiosity, well,
how did they do it? You know, what was Sunday
supper like for them? How did they celebrate the holidays?

But they call it comfort food for a reason, also
because food is comforting to us food memories. If you
start talking about food, if I start going in on something,
you will start to smell it, and if I'm really
good at the way I describe it, you might even
start to taste it. An hour later, you might wonder,
do I smell fried fish in my shirt? And you didn't,

You were nowhere near fried fish. But because we had
a conversation about it, you can smell that kind of waey,
that little hint of corn meal, and it just sort
of feels like am I smelling it in my hair?
You know, food is just that evocative, and I don't
think we use it enough. It's why, when you know
diplomacy really important, diplomacy happens over food. It's why you

go someplaces they throw bread and salt. It's you know,
it's it is potent, and I wish we could use
it more often. I mean, in my other work at
the Race Card Project, we use food to bring people together.
We just did a contest around food where we asked
book clubs around the country to explain to us why

you wanted to bring twelve people together and dinners on meat,
and tell me why you want to bring twelve people
together to talk about race and identity and maybe difference.
And I'll buy you dinner, and I'll send you a
goodie box, and maybe the two of you can give
me pointers on what I should put in the hostess
goody box, because we're going to send a goody box
for whoever is hosting this. But the stories that we
got from people, and I think it was so popular.

I think we're going to try to do it every
month now. And my publisher's like, why are you giving
away books? You're supposed to be selling books. But at
the same time, if we can get people to come
together over this issue that support that allegedly divides us
and figure out how to talk. I mean, the book
clubs were so interesting. You know they were saying, we
don't know how to talk about this, or we want
to pair with another book club. We know that there's

a great book club over there, and they're different than us,
but maybe we can six of us and six of
them can come together over food and we can have
this conversation. I think food lubricates a difficult conversation and
it enhances a good conversation.

Speaker 1 (41:04):
It's certainly true if people are hungry, then it's not
going to be as cheerful or I'm not going to
go as well as it would go. Food Is there
which speaking of wed love localized specific dishes on Savor
it's one of our favorite things. Is there any dish
that has stuck out to you or that you've added
to your rotation since you've started doing this podcast?

Speaker 3 (41:27):

Speaker 2 (41:27):
There, I try to rotest all the recipes. Is challenging
right now because I'm in a period where I'm trying
not to eat as many carbs of sugar, and we've
had a run of dessert. So it's just been like,
you know, noodle coogles and cream cheese chewy sugar cookies,
and it's like, oh my god, I can't I have
to cook this and I can't eat this. But there

are a couple of things the family just thought were
bell ringers, and one of them was Andy Garcia's Boyo Fricassy,
which was a quick dish. You had to marinate it
overnight and a lot of citrus and a lot of garlic,
and you had to do it in a glass bowl

because it had so much citrus in it. And then
it had surprising I mean, as I was cooking this,
because I tried to do it as they suggest, it
had raisins. We all fall I know what I thought, hmm, okay,

I'm gonna add the raisins. And then it added frozen
peas and it was like, m okay, But it was fantastic.
The raisins plumped up and turned into these little and
they and you cooked it for so long that it
absorbed the wine and the vinegar and the juices from

the chicken and the tomato, and so when you bit
into one of the plump, they turned back into grapes,
and when you bit into one of the raisins, this
little explosion of sweet, savory, vinegary type flavor.

Speaker 3 (43:05):
It was.

Speaker 2 (43:06):
That was a winner. And the peas wound up adding
a little sweetness. So what are you doing with the
peas and the sugar and the peas and I'm sorry
The raisins is to kind of balance all that citrus
and all that vinegar and all that garlic and a
prodigious amount of onions that were in this and so
it kind of balanced it out. That was a that
was a bell ringer. Michelle Obama's red rice. The family

loves it. She said that you could eat it cold
or hot, and she was, you know, absolutely right about that.
We have had it cold and hot. And that one
the family loves. Great for spread, cook it ahead of time,
great for like a brunch if you just want to,
you know, a side dish. Love that one. Abby Wambach

and Glennon Doyle. Abby shared her mother's pasta for thousands.
You can find all these on the on the YMK website,
Your Mama's Kitchen dot com. And that was another one
where it's it's kind of like lasagna. But easier because
she had seven kids and so she had to lazangni
takes a lot of time. Yeah, and it's hard to
find ricotta in some places, and so she used provolone.

And then she added a ton of sour cream. And
my son came in the kitchen I was cooking this.
He's like, what are you doing without the sour cream?
What is that going in the pasta? And I was like, yeah,
it's it's going in the pasta. And then like more
layers of pepperoni, and I know you're making faces. It's

you can't see Annie and Lauren are making faces. They're
passing judgment. There are no judgment.

Speaker 1 (44:48):
They're a judgment curiosity.

Speaker 2 (44:50):
Okay, all right, it looks like judgment to me, looks
like judgment. And it's okay. Because when I was doing this,
I was like, how is this going to work? It
was fantastic. I made three pans of it and sent
kept one home, sent one to my father in law,

and sent one to my son and his wife and
their newborn. Everybody said that they had their feet up
in the air. They just dove into it and loved it.
So that is one that I think is a winner.
And there's there's one that I'll give you a preview.
I just mentioned I talked to Zarnegarde. Her recipe was
and so the you get a preview because this isn't
Erge yet. Her recipe was steamed broccoli. And again I'm

trying not to pass judgment. I'm like, hmm, steamed broccoli.

Speaker 3 (45:40):
Like that's your favorite recipe, okay, okay.

Speaker 2 (45:45):
And it turns out she is a fool for broccoli.
Like if you go to her house, broccoli is on
the menu, but her steam broccoli is not. You know,
because most of us think of steam broccoli and think
of it when it turns that other color. You know,
it's no longer a bright, vibrant kind of emerald shamrock green.
It gets that kind of avocado, you know. Cook too long,

high school cafeteria, you know what I'm talking about, and
the it gets its sad. It's just like I'm ready
for a nap. You know, you kept me in the
pan too long. And it's not doesn't seem aapetizing her.
She does it quickly two minutes, so it's bright and vibrant,

and then she covers it with olive oil. And then
sometimes she what was the word she used. Tempers the
olive oil. She tempers the olive oil by adding seeds
and adding kumin seeds and adding a little Grandma sala,
and adding a few other things, a little bit of chilis,

and basically creates on very high heat very quickly, and
then takes that when it's steaming and fragrant, and then
puts that over the broccoli. Can you smell this? Yeah?
So I talked to her, and I went home and
did it immediately, And okay, broccoli, it's how to level
up broccoli. So I understand why when she was saying,

people don't eat bccoli, and they come to my house
and they eat my broccoli. And I was like, okay,
all right, and I understand, like if you if you
do this, if you do this to broccoli, everyone eat broccoli.
Even remember how George Bush hated brocoli, you probably would
eat this broccoli. It was. It was so that will
probably work its way into my rotation because that was

that was a bell ringer.

Speaker 3 (47:44):
So yeah, I want to go do that right now.

Speaker 2 (47:46):
I mean, most of them. The potato nick is Mark
Bittman's potato nick from his grandmother was a great recipe,
and in some cases we didn't. Actually, in two cases,
and maybe your listeners can help us out, people remember
the foo, but they didn't have a recipe. Oh. Actually,
in three cases, Dean Ice remembered his mom's cabbage, but
he didn't have a recipe for it. Matthew Broderick remembered ratitude.

The woman who cooked for his family made a delicious ratitude,
and he said he's been searching for this ratatude all
her life, all his life, because hers was soft, but
everything didn't blend together. Ratatue is hard because sometimes it
gets too schlurry like, and hers everything had its own

individual texture and yet they all melded together. Uh. And
then W. Kmal Bell talked about his grandmother's fried pies
and okay, again, I wish people could see your eyes,
both of you. Annie, you in particularly you're like ooh

ah fried bye. Oh he's a little of a pie.

Speaker 1 (48:56):

Speaker 2 (48:57):
I'm a piepeene too. I prefer pie overcake. I'm yes,
I want birthday pie. You know, take us fine, but
I rather a birthday pie. So I went all in
on fried pies also, And he was trying to find
his grandmother was from Kentucky, So I learned all about
fried pies and how they were poor folks food. They
were often sent in a lunchbox. They're called different things.

They're called clam lanterns in some places, and pasties and
toasties and other things, and different ingredients. You know, peaches
in some part of the world. In Tennessee, it's a
lot of blackberries tempered with a little bit of blueberries
for sweetness. But he is still trying to find the

fried pie recipe from his youth. He grew up in
spending summers in Mobile, Alabama, but his grandmother is from Kentucky.
So if anybody is listening and has a sort of
Southern particularly Kentucky, you know, idea of what a fried
pie would taste like, the crust on the pie, whether

it'd be fried and lard, or whether we'd have a
little bit of lard in the dough. Pass that on
to Annie and Lauren, and maybe all together we can
pass that to w camal Bell, because he's he still
hasn't found exactly the one. And if you if you're
if you're like him, and if you have a particular
taste of something you remember from your youth, you chase

that high for the rest of your life.

Speaker 3 (50:25):
We've got a little bit more conversation left for you,
but first we've got one more quick break forward from
our sponsors, and we're back. Thank you sponsors, and back
to the interview. The nostalgia with food is so strong.

It's it's amazing how close in our brains, our memory
centers and our centers are, and how all of that
information just really goes like I need fried chicken right now?

Speaker 2 (50:57):
Just is that your Is that your food? It's a food?
What is your like like your rosebud food from childhood?

Speaker 3 (51:09):
Probably I don't know quite how to make my grandmother's
mandel brot, and nobody else makes it the same way exactly,
like you can get a really good piscatti and come
kind of close. But she was really protective about the recipe,
and like, I technically have the recipe, but I feel
like there's a little bit of jeuge that she would

put in there, that she was keeping a little bit secret.

Speaker 2 (51:32):
Well, you know they do that. We talked about this
on the air with Abbie and glennar because she so
that she tries to make her mom's recipe and never
tastes the same and you never give up that secret ingredient.
You don't want anybody else to show up with. Mandel
brought that t is better than yours.

Speaker 3 (51:46):
Yeah. And then a lady who started giving away her
possessions to me when she was like fifty five. I
was like, Grandma, you've got a minute to go. Ma'am like,
but yeah, But for some reason the recipe, she was like, no, no,
that's mine.

Speaker 2 (52:00):
Annie, What what's your rosebud recipe? I'm sorry, I can't
help it. I started.

Speaker 1 (52:06):
I know, I was worried this is gonna happen because
I did the prompt in my head and then immediately
I was like, oh my gosh, I have so many
thoughts about this. I think that my mom. There's so
many things that my mom would make that are just
from a box, and I swear to God, I can't

replicate it. I don't know why. I don't know how,
but they're like cookies she would just cut and make,
and maybe it was the memories of having them and
it being special, but it's not the same when I
do it. It was when she did it. She also
made an amazing freed chicken that I request when I
go home from my birth because it doesn't have it

doesn't have like the heavy oily feeling I feel like
you get at a lot of restaurants. It's like very fresh.
So that that's a big one.

Speaker 2 (52:57):
Okay. I have two thoughts on that. First of all,
the reason that things don't taste the same because she
put love in that her love, and so that was
the ingredient that you tasted. Yeah, and she might have
had She may have done something like put sea salt
on that sliced cookie or something, or my mom would
make Jiff corn bread and I'd make Jiff corn burn.
I was like, does it taste like her? As it

turns out, she was heading all kinds of stuff in
the box, you know, chricken it up a little bit.
But love was probably the ingredient that you tasted. And
even though she cooked out of a box, she must
be a very confident cook because for her to make
fried chicken that is that crisp and doesn't have that,
that means she's cooking with really high heat.

Speaker 1 (53:40):
Yes, and that I have never even tried to.

Speaker 2 (53:43):
Do that, And that takes confidence. Because the reason that
chicken often has that oily because people don't trust their
stove they don't trust themselves, or they don't have the
right you know, they don't have that big skillet. You know,
they don't have the right cook wear, and so they
can't get the skald on the food because they just
can't get that oil hot enough. And it sounds like

your mom was cooking with really high oil so that
it got that crisp. It cooked on the inside, but
it didn't absorb all that oil. And now I want
fried chicken.

Speaker 1 (54:14):
Yeah, that's the fun of a food show.

Speaker 3 (54:18):
Yeah, yeah, the cravings, the cravings are Are there any
other upcoming episodes that you'd like to tease or any
other projects that you've got going on that you can
talk to us about.

Speaker 2 (54:30):
We have upcoming conversations with Tameron Hall and Jesse Tyler
Ferguson who grew up in Albuquerque, and so you know
there we learned about Christmas peppers, like you know, if
you use the red peppers and the green peppers or
just the red peppers or the green peppers. So that

was a culinary adventure and how you want to get
certain kinds of peppers, like he craves certain things when
he goes home because you can get them fresh. Can
now procure them online, but it's really interesting to you know,
to learn about different different parts of the world and
different different things that that people eat. We're also talking
to lean Awaths coming up, so we we have we're

going sort of all you know, all over the place
and in people's kitchens. And what we want also is
to hear from our listeners so we realize that we
have served up something delicious by bringing them inside the
kitchens of famous people. We want to hear from some
of our listeners, like tell us about your mama's kitchen,

because again, it's a way for us to see other worlds.
It's a way for us to see, you know, inside
certain places. And we've asked people to to you know,
send us their their thoughts at your Mama's kitchen at
higher ground dot com and and the stories that they've
center just they're so sweet, you know, about growing up
with a family that didn't have much but figured out

how to feed you know, the loaves and fishes, you
know idea like they're wondering, how did my mom do this?
You know, the refrigerator was empty, and yet she never
said no when people showed up at the door and
magically was able to feed people. We heard from someone
else whose mom was an adventurous cook, and she's like,

can we just have tater touts? Do we always have
to just something I can't pronounce because her mom was
like making baba ganoche and was using gochagungrino before it
was sold at Whole Foods. You know, was always trying
to travel and realizing that her mom they couldn't afford
to travel, but they could travel through food. And all
these years later as someone who does travel and she's

trying new foods and she's realizing that this isn't the
first time I've had this thanks to my mom. I
already have a little bit of a palette from this.
So we hope to hear from from more of our listeners.
We want them to tell us about their mama's kitchens
as well. Oh my goodness.

Speaker 3 (57:03):
Yes, and we have some very excellent listeners here who
share amazing stories with us all the time. I hope
that they will go share their stories with you as well.

Speaker 2 (57:12):
Yeah, they can find the portal on the website and
just upload their own story. I'd love talking to you guys.
It's been a lot of fun.

Speaker 3 (57:19):
Yes, yes, yeah, two, thank you Oh my goodness, thank
you so much for being here. The question that we
usually close on, and I feel like it's cheating because
you are an interviewer, But is there anything that we
have not asked you that we should have, anything else
that you would like to speak to?

Speaker 2 (57:33):
I don't think so. I think we covered a lot
of ground. The only thing you haven't asked me is
where I'm going to get my fried chicken tonight? And
I'm probably I'm really honest, I'm probably not going to
cook fried chicken tonight. But for those of you who
live in Washington, d C. There's this little place called

Broad Branch Market and a woman named Tracy there learned
how to make fried chicken when she was in a
sorority from the woman who cooked in her southern sorority house.
And she makes I've been eating her fried chicken four
years now, and both my mother and my mother in law,
who's now gone to Glory, but both of them ate
that chicken and said, I don't know why you never

make fried chicken again? I mean, why this is? This
is just and you got this up the street? Oh yeah, this,
you know, we're good with this. So Tracy had broadbranch,
who I think is going to eventually write her own
book book one day. She has a precious little market
that's kind of like a silver palette, you know, where

you can get you can get provisions, but she also
has prepared foods. But after Annie, after hearing that story
about that fried chicken, I just now want a piece
of crunchy fried chicken.

Speaker 1 (58:48):
It's hard to escape it is.

Speaker 2 (58:51):
It's not good for us, but it's so good in moderation, right,
it's so nice.

Speaker 3 (58:57):
That's what we say here, Yes, yes, all right, Thank
you so much, Michelle.

Speaker 2 (59:02):
I have loved talking to you. It's been fun.

Speaker 1 (59:08):
This brings us to the end of this interview. It
was so so nice and we could have kept talking forever.
So we hope you enjoyed it as much as we did.

Speaker 3 (59:18):
Oh yeah, and thanks again so much to Michelle for
being so gracious with her time and her stories, and
to Maggie Taylor and the whole team at Higher Ground
Productions for helping us get all of this set up.

Speaker 2 (59:30):
If you would like.

Speaker 3 (59:31):
To tune in to this podcast, you can find your
Mama's Kitchen wherever you get your podcasts. You can learn
more about the race card project at the Racecard Project
dot com. That book that came out about the project
or surrounding it is called Our Hidden Conversations What Americans
Really Think about Race and Identity. And Michelle does have
a memoir out called The Grace of Silence. We didn't

get into it here, but in her memoir she writes
about her grandmother's experience as one of the performers and
cooks who portray Aunt Jemima super, super fascinating and again
just passionately interrogated.

Speaker 1 (01:00:08):
Absolutely and listeners. She called upon you to help solve
some mysteries, perhaps to participate if you would like so,
please please seek this out and if you would like
to contact us about any of it or just in general,

you can. Our email is Hello at savorpod dot com.

Speaker 3 (01:00:33):
We're also on social media. You can find us on Twitter, Facebook,
and Instagram at saver pod and we do hope to
hear from you. Savor is production of iHeartRadio. For more
podcasts to my heart Radio, you can visit the iHeartRadio app,
Apple Podcasts, or wherever you listen to your favorite shows.
Thanks us always to our super producers Dylan Fagan and
Andrew Howard. Thanks to you for listening, and we hope
that lots more good things are coming your way.

Savor News

Advertise With Us

Follow Us On

Hosts And Creators

Dylan Fagan

Dylan Fagan

Anney Reese

Anney Reese

Lauren Vogelbaum

Lauren Vogelbaum

Show Links


Popular Podcasts

Stuff You Should Know

Stuff You Should Know

If you've ever wanted to know about champagne, satanism, the Stonewall Uprising, chaos theory, LSD, El Nino, true crime and Rosa Parks, then look no further. Josh and Chuck have you covered.

The Nikki Glaser Podcast

The Nikki Glaser Podcast

Every week comedian and infamous roaster Nikki Glaser provides a fun, fast-paced, and brutally honest look into current pop-culture and her own personal life.

Music, radio and podcasts, all free. Listen online or download the iHeart App.


© 2024 iHeartMedia, Inc.