This week, we’re joined by author, podcaster, and cook, Julia Turshen, who tells us about the familial folklore of her family’s history with baking. We talk about how bread baking is matriarchal, dough starters as a connection to the past, and the romance between a miller’s son and a baker’s daughter,
Content Warning: This episode contains conversations about food, religious persecution, death, theft, politics, and illness (HIV/AIDS).
Julia Turshen is the bestselling author of Now & Again (named the Best Cookbook of 2018 by Amazon and an NPR ‘Great Read’), Feed the Resistance (named the Best Cookbook of 2017 by Eater), and Small Victories (named one of the Best Cookbooks of 2016 by the New York Times and NPR). She also hosts the IACP-nominated podcast called ‘Keep Calm and Cook On.’
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Amanda: Welcome to Spirits podcast, a boozy dive into mythology, legends, and folklore. Every week, we pour a drink and learn about a new story from around the world. I'm Amanda.
Julia S: And I'm Julia.
Amanda: And this is episode 140, Bread and Family with Julia Turshen.
Julia S: A different Julia, but still a great one.
Amanda: Absolutely. I almost mismanaged a file when I tried to upload two files titled Spirits 140, Julia.
Julia S: Yeah, it happens sometimes. I'm sorry.
Amanda: I know this was pre-multitudious days and now I have Brenda making sure I make no mistakes.
Julia S: Thank you Brenda. We love you.
Amanda: You know who else we love?
Julia S: Our new patrons.
Amanda: Our new patrons; Allie, Chris, Rachel, Kylie, Megan, and Kat. Thank you so much for joining. We're so happy to have you.
Julia S: We are. We are. Drinks are on us later. Not Right now because it's like ten o'clock when we're recording this.
Amanda: We're at work. It's true and as always, thank you, we love you. To our supporting producer at Level Patrons, Phillip, your Skyla, Mercedes, Samantha, Marissa, Sammy, Josie, Neil, Jessica and Feel Fresh.
Julia S: As well as our legend level patrons, Amanda, the stars in our skies, the bread to our butter, Ala, Cody, Mr. Folk, James, Jess, Sarah, Sandra, Audra, and Jack Marie.
Amanda: Thank you everyone so much. We would love to share our drink with you, which is delicious. Julia, please tell us what we're drinking.
Julia S: So this week I crafted an anchor and crossbones, which usually I pick something a little bit more thematic to the episode. But because Julia was talking so much about the bread of her childhood and growing up with bread surrounding her, I wanted to pick something that reminded me of my childhood. So these always reminded me of breakfast sweet buns, the maple syrup covered, super warm and toasty. So I usually make them with an amber ale, specifically anchor steam beer and then a maple lacore. But you can basically use any amber ale for it. It's delicious and reminds me of home.
Amanda: Or even like really good maple syrup, frankly, it's like just as sweet.
Julia S: Yeah. Honestly, you could probably do regular maple syrup and then a whiskey on top if you really wanted to get fancy.
Amanda: Oh, we're getting toward fall, Julia, and fall is when I put maple syrup in everything.
Julia S: Oh, I know it.
Amanda: Listen, people, if you've never put maple syrup on coffee, get on it.
Julia S: Yes. This is when I start using hot honey for everything because I want to be getting a little warm, a little Cayenne and everything just makes everything toasty and I appreciate it.
Amanda: Delicious. Speaking of great taste in recommendations, do you have any books, podcasts, music, movies to recommend to us this week?
Julia S: Yes, I do. I went to the beach this weekend and I took a book that has been sitting on my bookshelf forever, and I just haven't had the time to pick it up. But it was Space Opera by Catherynne M. Valente and and oh my God… of Depthless. Yes. Oh my God. And Amanda, it's about… I'm only like a couple of chapters in it at this point, but I'm already gushing. It's about earth finally gets recognized by other scenting aliens. But to prove our sentience, we get invited to basically euro vision, but if we don't, when we die-
Amanda: In space?
Julia S: In space and the main character is just like a pansexual, beautiful. It's basically like our modern day Freddy mercury. And I love it so much.
Amanda: Oh my God, that sounds absolutely perfect.
Julia S: It's very, very good. Highly recommend.
Amanda: Well Julia, over the weekend I was reading an artifact that I uncovered from my childhood during my recent move. It's a Zeen that I wrote about neo pets when I was 10, and we actually scanned and uploaded it for all of the multi crew members to read. It is amazing. There is like a riddle me this page, there is a word search. There is a helpful guide to free items in Neo BIA, as you can tell, nothing has changed. And most excitingly to me on the back cover was like, “Hey, so, guys, I want to make issue too but I have to get some content and stuff. So like write me letters. If you read this and you like it, please tell me.” And it was just like, it was the most podcasts or call to action via a 10 year old that I've ever seen.
Julia S: Please tell them what you told me about how you distributed Z Magazine.
Amanda: Well, I faxed it to the people who wanted it, Julia. I did.
Julia S: Oh my God, it's incredible. So if you were looking for quality content like this, I would highly recommend signing up for the MultiCrew. You can go to MultiCrew.club and sign up. It is worth it, solely to read Amanda's 10 year old scenes about neopets with like the full neo pet rankings.
Amanda: It's true, it's true.
Julia S: It's very impressive.
Amanda: Well, Jules, you know that we love a personal mythology, so I'm not going to keep our listeners any longer before you enjoy episode 140 Bread and Family with Julia Turshen.
Amanda: We are joined today by Julia Turshen, who is a podcaster, chef and author, someone whose work I've admired for a long time. And when I saw your beautiful new cookbook, Julia, I thought this might be a really good time to invite you on the show. So thank you very much for making the time.
Julia T: Oh, thank you for having me. I've been looking forward to it.
Amanda: Oh good. It's an absolute pleasure.
Julia T: Well, thank you so much.
Amanda: Yeah. Our first other, Juliet, I think.
Julia S: I know.
Julia T: Oh, Really? Wow.
Julia S: Yeah, we've been doing this for three years, but I've been the singular Julia.
Amanda: I still have the last Amanda, if there's another one here, we're going to have to fight. Only one walks away.
Julia T: You can tell me JT if you want, if that helps.
Amanda: That's all right. We won't confuse our listeners too much. It'll be fine.
Julia T: Too beautiful.
Amanda: So JT, tell us what we are going to be learning about today.
Julia T: That was great. You did that very seamlessly.
Amanda: Thank you.
Julia T: We are going to be learning today about… that was a weird sentence. I am going to talk about bread baking, and about my grandparents and their bakery. And to me, that is the folklore of my family mainly because I never met my maternal grandparents. So everything I know about them is through storytelling.
Julia S: I love familial folklore. It's such a beautiful concept.
Amanda: And we love a personal mythology, so I can't wait to hear all about it. Please, jump right in.
Julia T: Okay, awesome. Yeah, I mean, I'm so excited to get to talk about them, because just like I said, that is how I know them. It's my knowledge of my maternal side of my family is through storytelling, and I've received those stories from my mother, and then from her two sisters, my aunt Debbie, my aunt Renee, who are both sadly no longer with us. But so much of my relationship with them, was built on asking them to tell me stories about how they grew up and where they grew up.
Julia T: And my mom and her sisters grew up in a bread bakery in Brooklyn and that kind of legacy of bread baking in my family is something I feel just very, very closely tied to. It makes me feel just, yeah, super connected to who I come from and where I come from. And it starts before my mom and her sisters, and it starts in those “old country”, because my grandparents, my mom's parents were both born in Eastern Europe. And they were both from basically what is referred to as Belarus, but borders have changed.
Julia T: But deep in Eastern Europe and they left the area after a bunch of terrible pogroms. So they fled religious persecution. It was before World War II. They got to the United States in a not very linear way. They went first through France, which is my sidebar is where my mom got her name Rochelle from, because they heard… I think they saw on some postcard, as the story goes, they saw about the town or the city called La Rochelle. And then my aunt Renee also had her French names. So their names came from that kind of moment.
Julia T: And then my grandfather went to Pennsylvania, where he had it was like an uncle or something. There was some family there, but the paperwork wasn't in place for my grandmother to go with him on that journey. And my grandmother made a detour through Cuba and she spent a year in Cuba by herself. And I think about that year very often and I wonder about it so much. This is before email, before the internet, before it was very easy to check in on your friends or family who are far away.
Julia T: And I just, I wonder what that year was like for her so much, and I'm so curious about how she spent it, but anyway, I don't really have the answers to those questions.
Amanda: I was about to ask if there were family stories about their time in Cuba.
Julia T: There's not much. And I asked my aunts and I've asked my mom, and it was before any of them were born. I mean, I've applied the probably super romanticized lens to it. But I imagine it as this kind of like amazing year in her life of just total like independence, but I mean, who knows? I have no idea. But anyways, so she got back together with her husband in Pennsylvania and then my aunts were born there, and then they left Pennsylvania and moved to New York. And my mom was born in the Bronx and then the family made their way to Brooklyn.
Julia T: But I mentioned baking, bread baking, the bakery was that lineage goes really deep. So my grandmother was actually a baker's daughter and my grandfather was a flour miller's son.
Julia S: Oh, meant to be.
Julia T: Yeah, exactly.
Julia S: The perfect combo.
Julia T: Yeah, in my family we say it was Kismet, which is basically, yes, like meant to be. So yeah, they were totally, totally meant to be. And I think the life they built and lived was one that they were, I would say, were very much continuing from a time well before them. So yeah. So they moved to New York. They had my mom, they moved to Brooklyn and then they opened a bakery called Rachicks, which was their last name. So yeah, my mom has made a name I guess. And Yeah, Rachick Bakery. I believe it was just called Rachick Bakery, not Rachicks, but I think everyone referred to it as Rachicks, which is a very small detail. But I always think it's interesting how that happens, like it becomes the possessive of the family, which was fascinating. Yeah, and so… oh, I meant to say you asked about any stories from Cuba. There aren't any that I know. I'm sure there are many, but none that I know. But there is one photograph that exists of my grandmother, and she looks unbelievable in this picture.
Julia S: Oh my gosh.
Julia T: And she has like this huge necklace on and this almost… I mean I, I know nothing about clothing and fashion, so I'm the wrong person to ask, but she has this shawl thing. She just looks like pretty amazing and just super cool. It almost looks like if I didn't know that was my grandmother and knew more about her, I'd probably think she was like a singer or an artist, or something. I mentioned that because that's the one thing I know from that time. But then when I see pictures later from the bakery and from when my mom was young, she looks totally different. She looks much more… there's not jewelry, there's not that fabulousness. I think her life became probably a lot more just super practical, which is interesting. So, yeah, so that's the one thing I knew about that Cuba time.
Julia T: So anyway, so Rachicks Bakery, Avenue J, Midwood, Brooklyn. It was a totally Jewish bakery, but it wasn't a kosher bakery. And, I think that's important to mention because that's what it was. But also that meant that I think it invited a lot of people into the bakery. It wasn't specifically for Jews who kept kosher, it was a real community bakery. It seems like what they specialized in was really everyday stuff like bread and cookies. They made plenty of cakes. There's great pictures of the cakes. It wasn't a super fancy bakery. It's not where you're going for like pastries. It's where you're going maybe a couple times a week to pick up your loaf for maybe for a little treat after school or something like that, or after work.
Julia T: And I like to think that they made the kinds of things that families bought to be part of their routines. I think the bakery is very much part of its neighborhoods fabric. And I've heard from other people when I've gotten to talk about this before, when I have been in a space with anyone kind of my mom's generation who grew up in Brooklyn, they're like, “Oh yeah, we got our Rye bread or Rachicks, or my family got our whatever it was.” And that feels so meaningful to me that their food, their baked goods, the stuff they made, it was like a regular part of people's lives. And that to me feels, really amazing and what the role has been of bread in so many families.
Julia T: And I was thinking about what else could I share about their bakery? Yeah. What I wanted to mention, in addition to just what they baked and everything, was a real sense of giving that I feel my family had. And they really use the bakery to give back in ways that I feel like I'm only beginning to connect the dots, that I feel very connected to. And I think it happened in really simple and small ways, which I feel like is the way lots of giving can and should be. And it should happen in lots of ways, it should happen in big ways. For sure, it should happen in big systematic ways, but I think also these small everyday ways that I've really learned from my grandparents or things we can all do.
Julia T: So I'm sitting here and talking to you right now. I'm sitting at my desk at home. I live about two or three hours north of the baker's location depending on traffic. I'm in a very rural area. I'm very separate from where the bakery was, but I'm sitting here looking at the window that is above my computer and I'm staring at this little, yellow plastic piggy bank. I could probably hold it in the palm of my hand. And it's this funny little object and it says Rachicks Bakery. It has the address and the phone number on it. And then it says the 25th anniversary and there's change in it. I don't know who put the change there. I have no idea how you could ever get it out. There's no opening besides the tiny little slot.
Amanda: I wonder what year those coins are from.
Julia T: I know. Yeah, I bet. I bet. I could probably do the math at the bakery. But yeah, it's this is like one of my most prized possessions I have. And it's something my mom gave it to me. I think she was cleaning out her… all the things she held onto one day and thought I might like it. And she was right. And it's something that I look at every day and it's so meaningful to me because it's this little thing that holds change. And it reminds me of my grandparents at the bakery had what were called in Yiddish, which was the language spoken in the house my mom grew up in, they had what were called Pisco boxes, which were like small little collection boxes.
Julia T: I think a lot of kids on Halloween and stuff, you get those little orange boxes from, what's it called?
Amanda: The UNICEF ones.
Julia T: Yes, UNICEF boxes. Thank you. From what my mom and my aunts told me, the Pisco boxes were like those, like a little box that you could collect change and different community organizations would drop them off at the bakery and they would leave them on the counter, the bakery. So when you bought your loaf of Rye bread or you bought your lemon Chiffon cake, or you bought your butter cookies or whatever they might be, and you gave however much money it cost and you got your change. Those boxes were there and you could give your change if you wanted.
Julia T: You see this in grocery stores and stuff like that today, but the pisco boxes were… it was such a community driven thing, and I love thinking about them and looking at the little piggy bank above my desk reminds me of them every day because it just made it so easy for customers who had a little something to give to give it. It was just automatic. And I love that sense of giving back that happens just intrinsically, and without having to have to calculate too much.
Julia T: And to me there's something in the repetitiveness of that and the impact it can make. And bear with me, this might not be a real thing, but I think there's something like that that reminds me of bread baking, of this like taking a little bit of the dough each time you're baking, not using quite all of it and saving that little bit of the dough to start the next batch. That's the starter and you keep it going. and you just take a little and give it back to make the next thing. AND there's something I think just embedded in bread baking that is the generosity of spirit and lineage.
Julia T: Every loaf of bread that is made with like a natural starter has a little bit of every other loaf of bread that came before it. And to me that is like incredible. I can never quite get over that. And I think I studied poetry in college, so I get really into the what things are called. Maybe that's why you're paying attention. Yeah. Maybe that's why I was paying so much attention to the apostrophe earlier that probably no one cares about. But to me that's like a big deal. So I always think it's really interesting, all the words in different languages. people use to describe like a bread starter.
Julia T: And for anyone who's never made bread or doesn't know the process, the starter is basically a little bit of natural yeast which exist in old dough or just in the air too. it's this mixture of flour and water that you use to start your next loaf of bread and it's what gives your bread rise. It's what lifts it up. it's basically carbon dioxide. There's all different names for starters in different languages, but it's often referred to as the mother, and I always have thought that's unbelievable. There's something like matriarchal about bread baking and the mother starts every single loaf. I could really go down that rabbit hole.
Julia T: But anyway, that kind of sense of every loaf having a little bit of every loaf that came before it. And that thought alone makes me feel so connected, makes me feel connected to the people who came before me. And I think a lot about this with my grandmother in particular because when she was a young girl in Odessa, I mentioned she was a Baker's daughter, just as my mother is, my grandmother's family's bakery, it also served as a community oven, because not everyone had an oven in their homes.
Julia T: And this is very typical all across the world. You hear about this in baking communities from everywhere, from Syria to Mexico, everywhere. Not everyone has an oven, so bakeries serve not only to provide bread or whatever they're baking, but it's also the one place in town that has an oven. So when my grandmother was a little girl, neighbors would come in the morning, usually on Fridays, like before Shabbat, and they would leave pots of meat so that they could cook in the oven and they could pick them up later in the day when the meat and vegetables, whatever was in their pots was cooked.
Julia T: So the bakery was this place where everyone in the community was able to cook their food, which was incredible. And the story that I love most about my grandmother is that when she was a really young child, everyone in town would drop off their pots of meat to stew slowly all day. And my grandmother as a little girl, would sneak in there and before the pots went into the oven, she would open them and take some meat from the pots from the really wealthy families and move a little bit into the pots from the families that didn't have as much.
Julia T: And to me, my grandmother was Robin Hood. She got that. Again, I'm probably totally like romanticizing this, but I don't think she asked anyone if that was okay. I think she just did it. That's something I think about a lot, that kind of idea of asking, maybe not for permission but for forgiveness, if necessary. And I think, again, when it comes to certain ways of giving back and to being impactful for your community, for making change in any type of way, sometimes I think you just have to do it and not ask for permission.
Julia T: So I love thinking about my grandmother as this young girl, just doing that and just making it happen, and making sure everyone was well fed and maybe breaking the rules a little bit, but just not speaking up about it, just doing it. That head down action oriented type of feeling is just something I try to keep in mind a lot. Just do it, just make a difference. And, yeah, so that sticks out to me and it reminds me of a different but similar story that was much, much later in my grandmother's life.
Julia T: So that was when she was a little girl in Eastern Europe. So much, much later in life as an older woman in Brooklyn. And this was after my grandfather died and after he died, the bakery, my family's bakery continued to run mostly because my uncle Marvin, my Aunt Debbie's husband, who was very much treated as like a son by my grandfather. He didn't have a son and my Uncle Marvin became his legacy, I guess. And he taught me Uncle Marvin how to bake, and my Uncle Marvin took over the bakery after my grandfather died.
Julia T: So the bakery was still running and my grandmother who's no longer with a husband and was living this similar life, but I think slightly different. My mom and my aunts talked a lot about how she came out of her shell after my grandfather died, which was amazing. And it sounds like she became a lot, I don't know the right word, Saltier as she got older. And so anyway, so one day she's walking down the street to work. she lived I think just around the corner from the bakery, and when she would leave for work, it was very, very early in the morning. Bakery's open quite early in the day, so I'm pretty sure it was still dark out. It was probably 02:00 or 03:00 in the morning, something like that.
Julia T: And she's walking down the street in Brooklyn and I guess she recognized two teenage boys… oh she didn't recognize them. Sorry. She recognized the television set they were carrying. Two boys were walking down the street carrying a T.V. set, and she recognized the television set. She recognized it because it was hers. I don't know if it had some, like a sticker or something on it, but she knew it was her T.V. After she left her apartment, they had broken into it and stolen her television, and they were walking up to… I don't know, wherever they were bringing it.
Julia T: This story I just loved so much. I think it tells you so much about who my grandmother was. So her reaction to that, this little old lady who's probably not that… I don't know if she was up for any kind of fight or anything like that. She walked right up to these two young men who had just stolen from her, and she said to them, “Go put that T.V. back and come with me to the bakery. I'm going to feed you.”
Amanda: Oh Man.
Julia S: Wow.
Julia T: That story I think about all the time. Her reaction to confronting these young men who had taken something from her was to feed them. And to me, that was her, that was the bakery. It wasn't just a place of business, it was a place for the community. That same woman was the one who as a little girl was moving the meat from one pot to another. And in the work I do, I try to think a lot about community and about social impact in the work I do. And I just have to think about my grandmother whenever I need any kind of guidance in that area.
Julia T: And how she used food and the bakery, not just to support her own family, her immigrant family in Brooklyn, but to be part of the community. And to me, that is foods highest power. It doesn't just create community, it sustains it. It keeps the bread going. So, yeah, I feel like that is what I wanted to share about the bakery and about my grandparents. And getting to talk about them, it's definitely how I feel connected to them even though I never knew them. And I looked down a lot on my left arm, I have a tattoo of a loaf of bread, which my mom actually drew for me. And it's very funny because a lot of people look at it and think it's a mailbox. It's a very simple wine drunk.
Amanda: You're like, well, it is a way that I deliver meaning and-
Julia T: There you go, I love that. Yeah, that's going to be my new line. But yeah, that's obviously like literally a part of my body, and it's something I see every day, and it just makes me feel super connected. And I think as a cookbook author, I spend most of my time thinking about food and I love food more than anything. I'm a person who wakes up in the morning who's already thinking about what I'm cooking for dinner or while I'm eating breakfast. I love food. It's my whole life.
Julia T: But really what I love and what keeps me going, and keeps me driven and motivated in my work, what keeps me interested is nothing to do at all with food. It's about the stories and about the people, and about that feeling of connection that food can provide for us. So every loaf of bread I see or eat, or get to make, yeah, just makes me feel so tied to these people, these amazing people whose hard work and whose shoulders I absolutely get to stand on. So, yeah, that's a little bit about my family.
Julia S: I love it. Thank you. Thank you so much for sharing those stories with us because I really appreciate hearing where your sense of community came from and also like where your love of food came from.
Amanda: Yeah. I feel like I have such a vivid picture of your grandmother in my head and I can't imagine with so many other stories and years of lore, what your impression of her is like. And she sounds so present in your life. Jules, we are sponsored this week by Third Love who are on a mission to make sure everybody has a great fitting bra.
Julia S: I have one of those right now. I'm wearing it.
Amanda: Me too.
Julia S: Twins.
Amanda: I love it so much. We know from our experience on Third Love that they have a great fit finder quiz online and you may be saying like, “Hey, I know that the best way to get a bra would be to be fit by somebody in a fitting room. So how is an online quiz going to do the same thing?” And over 12 million people with boobs have taken the quiz and found it to be really helpful. It's actually very fun and even though it takes less than a minute to complete, they ask you a lot of questions. Like what is your best fitting bra? What's good about it? What's bad about it? The Cup, the band, the straps, all those little details that like, hey, an individual size doesn't express the full picture of how our bras fit and what might be wrong with them.
Amanda: And let me tell you, the bras are great. They are really comfortable, they are high quality. Even the strapless one does not make me want to die. I'll be wearing it at Julia's wedding and I'm very happy that I found a bra like that. Today, our listeners can go to thirdlove.com/spirits to find your perfect fitting bra and get 15% off your first purchase.
Julia S: Yeah. Again, that is thirdlove.com/spirits to find your perfect fitting bra and get 15% off your first purchase.
Amanda: Thirdlove.com/spirits for 15% off today.
Julia S: Now, Amanda, we're leaving in less than a week now for podcast movement. Less than a week.
Amanda: Woo, so sweaty.
Julia S: And it's going to be very sweaty, which is why I am planning my outfits in advance.
Amanda: It's very smart. You got to be sure you're like economical with your space. You got to have that like Cardigan, that jacket to put on in the Convention Center and then to walk outside and like not want to die.
Julia S: And you know what helped me really plan out these outfits?
Amanda: Is it Stitch Fix?
Julia S: It's Stitch Fix. You got it in one. So Stitch Fix is an online personal styling service that delivers your favorite clothing, shoes, accessories directly to you. I sent a message to my Stitch Fix stylist. I said, “Hey listen, I'm going to be in a conference center in Orlando in just a month. Please help send help." And they did. They absolutely did. So all you have to do is you have to complete a style profile, which means you tell them what you like and they're like, “Oh sweet, we'll send you some of that.” And then your personal stylist will send you a handpicked box of items that are based on your style and your preferences.
Julia S: So there is no subscription required. You can decide which months you get in, which ones you don't. You can say, “Hey, I want one in October, but not in September.” It's great. Shipping and exchanges and returns are always free. Plus the $20 styling fee is automatically applied towards anything you keep from your box. And I always keep more than one thing. So it's always good. You can discover new styles and also unique pieces with Stitch Fix. I have this incredible skirt that I'm going to be wearing down to Orlando that is palm fronds and it's like wavy and beautiful, and I'm so excited to wear it. I'm delighted. So thank you Stitch Fix.
Amanda: Julia, you always rocket. I am so excited to see what you wear. And listen, whether you were like “women's” or “men's” clothing, Stitch Fix has options for you and you can switch back and forth. I will often buy masculine styles and also feminine styles, so it's great to know that both of my bases are covered.
Julia S: Yeah, thank you Stitch Fix for being versatile and also sending new really cool pattern stuff. I appreciate it. So you can get started today by going to StitchFix.com/spirits and getting 25% off when you keep everything in your box. That's stitchfix.com/spirits for 25% off when you keep your whole box. stitchfix.com/spirits.
Julia S: And finally conspirators. We wanted to close out this little refill by giving you a taste of Head, Heart, Gut, which is our new original show for Multitude. Our weekly show featuring all six Multitude hosts. We're so proud of it. We are so excited. Schneider is doing a great job editing and everyone here contributed to making the show the awesome, fun, friendly, and yet very competitive show that it is.
Amanda: It got very competitive in that first episode. I will tell you that right now.
Julia S: Oh, it sure did. And this week kicks off around two, which we did Pokemon starters for the first month. This month is primary colors, which you might think it's just, “Oh, it's just personal preference.” No, there is a right answer and it is my answer.
Amanda: Well, no spoilers about it. It gets really intense. I may or may not have judged that round and hoo, boy, it's super exciting. You can join the MultiCrew at MultiCrew.club to get access to this brand new weekly show for Multitude and a ton of other things like live streams, like voting rights to future episode topics and like naming plants, all kinds of fun stuff, as well as a actual physical engraved name plate on our wall in the Multitude studio for those in our magnificence tier. That's MultiCrew.club.
Julia S: Also, Amanda designed Glitter Enamel pins and you need one of those right away.
Amanda: We're going to be rocking them at a podcast movement. We can't wait.
Julia S: I am so excited.
Amanda: So here is a quick taste of Head, Heart, Gut, and then we'll get back to the show.
Speaker 4: Friends, Romans, artisans, podcasters, kids on a school bus, lend me your ears. This is Head, Heart, Gut, a friendly debate show where there's no right answer. Just the best answer.
Speaker 5: Every month we take an iconic set of three items from pop culture or the world we live in and pit them against each other. First, each of our contestants will present their choice, answering the questions on our definitive survey of greatness.
Speaker 4: At the end of each episode, the other contestants will score them based on their head, heart, and gut. And we will ultimately decide a winner of these three survey rounds.
Speaker 6: And before we turn up the heat with a special guest judge who lays down a ruling in a formal structured debate.
Julia S: This week I, Julie Schifini.
Eric Silver: I, Eric Silver.
Amanda: I, Amanda McLaughlin.
Mike Schubert: I, Mike Schubert.
Eric Schneider: I, Eric Schneider.
Brandon James: I, Brandon James Groogle.
Julia S: I will be arguing this week.
Eric Silver: And I'll be arguing on behalf.
Amanda: I will be arguing on behalf.
Mike Schubert: I will be arguing on the behalf of charmander as the best starter Pokemon from generation one.
Eric Silver: Let's get it going.
Julia S: Could you walk us through your decision to become a chef? Was that something that you always felt and how did you reconcile that with your family legacy? Did it a part of you ever want to go a different direction?
Julia T: It's so funny you asked that. And it was funny because when even however long ago, half an hour ago, whatever it was when you were like, “Oh, can I introduce you as podcaster, author and chef?” And I'm like, “Yeah, sure.” And I actually don't really identify as a chef at all. And it's the kind of thing that, I mean, it makes a lot of sense, I think to describe me as a chef and I will absolutely take it. But I'm a home cook. I am a lifelong home cook. To me, a chef is someone who works in a restaurant, or who's responsible for running a professional kitchen, and I take a lot of pride in the fact that I don't, and that I guess I should have said something earlier.
Julia T: But it's interesting to be asked that because I have cooked since before I can remember, since I was a young, young kid. I have always felt what I can only describe as like a magnetic pull to the kitchen. I didn't have any type of, I don't know, playroom or something like that when I was a kid. I just wanted to be in the kitchen. It's really the only place I've ever wanted to be. And then in my home kitchen, I've never wanted to work in a restaurant. I think home cooking is like the lifeblood of humanity. And that sounds really dramatic, but it's also really true.
Julia T: And it's also where I just on a much more personal like everyday level, the kitchen is where I feel my best. It's where I feel safest. It's where I feel most curious. It's the place that gives me a lot of feeling of control. I get to decide what to cook and how I'm going to make it, and all those things. And I get to feel that sense of control in a world that doesn't offer us that sense very often. So I've felt that way since I was so young. So this is a really long way of answering your question, which is to say I've honestly never considered anything except for food.
Julia T: And I have wanted to work on cookbooks just as long as I've loved cooking. And I think that's because I was exposed to cookbooks at a really young age. I'm a self-taught cook and I taught myself through cookbooks, through reading them, through looking at them before I could even read. I would just look at the pictures. And also, a big part of my education was public television and watching just hours and hours, and hours of cooking shows, and that's really how I learned.
Julia T: And my parents actually worked in publishing when I was growing up. My dad still does book design work and my parents worked in magazines, so I grew up in a house where printed matter was being made. The work they brought home, from the office was images and words that they literally would cut and paste, and put together. So I saw from such a young age that people make things like books and magazines, like they don't just exist. There's people who make them. So I feel grateful for so many things in my life, including that I was exposed to that knowledge at such a young age.
Julia T: And I've really never considered doing anything else and I feel like this lucky Unicorn of a person that I've known what I've loved to do since I was really young, and I now get to do it. That's something that I definitely don't take for granted.
Amanda: I know Julia, that you do a lot of work in a… I don't know how to characterize it, but Angel Food East, is at a food pantry? Is it a community kitchen? And anyway, I see it on your Instagram and to me that's like, “Oh well, this is like a Shepard, someone who cooks for people.” But I totally see how that might be more aligned with like a natural extension of just the hospitality of the home kitchen for you.
Julia T: Yeah, so Angel Food East is, it's a local organization near where, Grace, my wife and I live, that we've been regular volunteers that for, oh, I don't know, like two or three years now. And, basically what it is, is like a local meals on wheels program. We make homemade meals that get delivered to clients who are home bound for a number of reasons. And the organization was started over 25 years ago to serve clients in the community who were living with HIV/Aids. And it's grown to include clients who are essentially just home bound for whether it's illness or age, whatever the reason might be.
Julia T: And we serve about 60 clients, so it's a pretty, I would say manageable size. When I used to live in New York City, I did a lot of volunteering with God's Love We Deliver, which serves like close to 2 million meals a year. So I've seen it on that kind of scale, and the work we do at Angel Food East I think really does make a difference in the lives of the clients we serve. For sure it makes a difference in our lives.
Julia T: And I do love it because of that size, because we basically, every Thursday morning, we get to the kitchen, it's run out of a church kitchen, and we get there, usually a little bit before 8:00 AM. And we, together with some other volunteers who are part of our shift, who are also just really fun to be with. We all make a meal from scratch and we package it into these containers that we then seal, and those get put into bags with some other food. And this whole other team of volunteers comes in to deliver everything.
Julia T: So our part of it making that one meal as part of their bigger bag of food, that all happens in like two hours. And so, we get to make this meal and package it up, clean it all up within this two-hour window. So having it be 60 clients means we can make the whole thing from start to finish, which is like very, very satisfying to get to do. Yeah. So that's the work we do and I now can't remember the other part of your question, I'm sorry, about-
Amanda: Yeah, just like hospitality and serving people.
Julia T: Hospitality. Oh yes. Okay. Sorry, I got carried away thinking about the numbers. Yeah, I mean, I-
Amanda: It's like a combo question and hypothesis.
Julia T: Okay. Got It. Yeah, exactly. I mentioned doing stuff at God's Love, We Deliver before we moved here. I've helped out a lot at a lot of different food pantries and soup kitchens, and those sorts of places, and that has always been, yeah, a part of my life for a number of reasons. One is quite frankly, I grew up with a lot of privilege and I know like deepen my bones that with that comes a certain amount, a lot of amount of responsibility. I think if you're in a position to give, I just can't imagine not giving in some way.
Julia T: And I think the decision is not whether or not to give, it's just figuring out what's the best way for you to do it. And for me, it's through food, because that's what I love to do. So it's when Grace and I go to Angel Food on Thursday mornings, I look forward to it. I love our shift. I love the task of figuring out what to make based on what we have. I love the people we cook with. I love getting to cook that much food that quickly. It always feels like we're on like a tiny episode of like Amazing Race or something. Like are we going to pull it off? And then we do.
Julia T: One thing that I do wish we had a little bit more in that particular role was more interaction directly with the folks who are eating the food that we cook. We are a bit removed since we are just in the kitchen. We delivered to one client, but that's something I've been thinking about a lot more. Like is there a way to be more involved in that? But that's like a sidebar. But, yeah, I think it's all about figuring out what's the thing that you would be delighted to keep showing up for? Because that's what makes the work sustainable. Like you have to enjoy it.
Julia T: And one of the most amazing, amazing, amazing parts about our work with Angel Food East was that for the first two years of us being there, it coincided with getting to work with this really remarkable friend, Georgine, who sadly passed away about six months ago. And Georgine had been volunteering at that 08:00 AM Thursday shift for years before we got there. And when we showed up, getting to meet her was just one of the biggest gifts of my life. And I know that's true for Grace as well.
Julia T: I mean, we learned so much from Georgie and she was just one of the funniest sharpest people I've ever met. And we got to be a big part of the last two years of her life with her and that will stick with us for the rest of our lives. And we would've never met her had we not happened to join the same shift. So I think often when there's talk about giving back and community service, and community impact, and volunteering, and whatever word you want to use, there's a lot of different narratives that I think get assigned to that type of work. I think there's a lot of like savior things that get involved, which I think is a pretty dangerous slope.
Julia T: And I think you have to be very aware of why you're doing what you're doing and what the point of it is, and who you're serving and what you're getting out of it. And to be very just thoughtful about all those things. And Georgine, one of her refrains was always that she always felt like she got more than she gave. And yeah, Georgine was just super, super special and she had such a strong personality and a lot of, I would say, confidence without ego, which I think is very, very rare in this world.
Julia T: And so when I think about women who I've learned from and who I tried to of channel their energy and their spirit, it's Georgine it's my grandmother. I think it's women who gave because they weren't doing it to get credit for it. And it was a part of their day. It was a part of their week. It was a part of their routine.
Julia S: Yeah. And when you were talking about the kind of bakery that your family had, that also struck me where it's not the extravagant thing that you get twice a year that really becomes a part of your life and your neighborhood and your lived experience. It's the place that you go three, four times a week where you know everybody, where they know you, we keep tabs on who needs help with the boxes. And yeah, that's such an important part of life that I think we don't see glamorized a lot. But when we look back and then we recall an experience in a time, it's like it's that daily routine that really comes back.
Amanda: Yeah. That's like definition of a neighborhood institution.
Julia S: Totally.
Julia T: Yeah. I mean, I don't think at the end of the day, our lives are made up of our day to day life. It's like of course we remember the big I'll never forget the day Grace and I got married. I'll never forget this big occasion when, I don't know, graduated high school. Like that was great. We have these moments that I think, let us know like, “This was an important moment, like pay attention,” but it's like you graduate from high school once, I got married once. I mean, some people do more than once, but it's like you don't do that every day. It's what you do every day that is what adds up.
Julia S: And I wonder for everyone who is really inspired by this conversation and I think a lot of people will be, how do you recommend that folks use cooking and providing for others to advance what they want to see in the world? I'm so inspired personally by Feed the Resistance, which is a book in a project that you've worked on, and Queer Soup Nights and other things that are centered around food, but ultimately about community building and activism. So if you could just give us either a couple of tips or a little bit of a recap on the kind of work that you do, I think will go a long way with our audience.
Julia T: Sure. Yeah. Well, I really appreciate that. And yeah, Feed the Resistance is a little book with a lot in it. It's a book that I was able to put out in October of 2017. It was definitely inspired by the election a year before that. And it includes recipes and essays from over 20 contributors, 20 of the smartest, coolest, greatest people I know in and around food. AND that book, I mean, honestly one piece of advice is to get the book, and I say that also because all the proceeds go to the ACLU. So just by buying the book in and of that act, you support the protection of civil liberties.
Julia T: So yeah, so that's like a really simple answer. And I don't mean to mean Glib, but that book is just literally filled with ideas. There's list of ideas for ways to get, there's all different things, but I think food gives us one of the easiest and quickest ways to build community. And so, you can use it in so, so many ways. But I think mostly just thinking about the people involved in every single meal you eat. So whether it's the people who grew the ingredients that you bought or the store you bought them from, or the people you're inviting to your table when you have a meal, and what you're talking about with them.
Julia T: Food allows us to have this thing that happens every day where we eat and we have the sense of comfort and familiarity, especially if we're lucky to feel those things and have access to food. And within that, we have the ability to create a comfortable setting to have really uncomfortable conversations. That's what's going to move us forward, is really talking through this stuff, figuring it out, building community, building coalitions. And there's no better place to do that than over a meal.
Julia S: Seeing a kid with your T.V. and saying, “You must be in need. How can I feed you and show you love?”
Julia T: Yeah, yeah, exactly. Exactly.
Amanda: That's beautiful. Well, Julia, thank you so much for sharing so many parts of your life and your mythology, and folklore with us. I am walking away I think with such just so galvanized and so ready to feed somebody the next time I have a chance.
Julia T: Awesome. Awesome. And that could be today, which was so cool.
Julia T: I appreciate you asking me to come on and it's really a gift to get to talk about these folks.
Julia S: It was our absolute pleasure to have you.
Amanda: Well, listeners, please, check out Julia show, Keep Calm and Cook on anywhere that you get your podcasts. And she is @Turshen on Instagram and Twitter. Julia, anything else to promote your newest book or Feed the Resistance once more?
Julia T: I mean, all of that sounds great. Yes, my latest cookbook is called Now and Again, which was really fun. It's all really simple recipes to make whole menus and then ideas for things to do with the leftovers from those meals. So yeah, there's a lot in that one too. But yeah, everything you mentioned is great. Thank you.
Amanda: Awesome. Well, thanks again Julia.