I’ve been a subscriber and occasional contributor to Cooking Light magazine for years. I’m not necessarily a low-cal cook but I do value healthy eating.That’s how my parents raised us -- to eat balanced meals and cook at home (that’s where the good food is). Who’d know that such an ethos would evolve into a dream career for me? But it remarkable has, along with my interests in culture, history and heck, the human experience.
Last spring, Cooking Light magazine’s editor in chief, Hunter Lewis, invited me to be a regular contributor: Would you like to have a column in the magazine? Uh, YESSSS!
But then I countered: Would I have to talk about Asian food all the time?
Thoughts ran through my mind. I’m considered an expert in the subject, particularly with Vietnamese cooking, but I’ve always contended that cooking knowledge is generalizable: When I think about key techniques or philosophies, it’s easy for me to identify cross-cultural intersections.
A Chinese dumpling wrapper shares similarities with that of a pierogi and ravioli. A banh mi roll and bolillo are darn similar! Maggi Seasoning sauce has traveled the world, and its natural foods cousin are Bragg Liquid Aminos and to a certain extent, coconut aminos. Because I’m overly curious (labeled precocious in elementary school), I enjoy crossing borders and building bridges.
I love going down rabbit holes and engaging with people (strangers and friends) to discuss food. Many of my discoveries work their way into this blog or my cookbooks and classes. I’ve been keeping other “a-hah!” moments to myself, thinking that I have no outlet for them, that they do not fit my “brand” -- something that's ever evolving, despite many people thinking that I’m basically good for just Vietnamese food, or hardcore DIY cooking projects.
Hunter sees things more broadly. He’s known me since he was test kitchen director at Saveur magazine and we’ve continued to work together as his career took him to Bon Appetit, Southern Living, and now Cooking Light. He’s succinct. In answering my question, he simply said, “Write about your obsessions.”
“Carbon steel skillets!” I blurted out. As a former restaurant chef, he loved them too and soon we were engrossed in a geeky conversation about their performance in searing proteins, how they compared to cast iron, woks, and stainless steel, how they're great for healthy cooking because you often use less oil.
That conversation seeded my debut as a Cooking Light columnist. It’s a tremendous honor because few people get columns, especially as food media is shrinking these days. And I get to release (unleash) more ideas and insights that I’ve amassed to help people cook better and lead more fulfilled lives.
The September issue of Cooking Light marks the launch of their redesign. I’ve not received my subscription copy in the mail but I got a sense of things by reading this story from AdWeek on how things were tweaked to refresh and grow the magazine’s impact. Cooking Light reaches millions of people, many of whom are women around my age and education level. So in many ways, the new column allows me to connect with like-minded people.
Then I went to Costco and there was the September issue. Impatient, I bought a copy to look for myself and send to my parents! I got two (2) whole pages. So awesome!
My first story is online for your perusal: Why You Need a Carbon Steel Pan. It includes recipes for the fast salmon (plus a cool trick from French chefs) and a lovely vegetable side, too! Together, the salmon and veggies are a fabulous fast dinner.
I just noticed that my friend Ann Pittman, Cooking Light executive editor, and I are both on the cover. Hers is the genius idea of a snack tray dinner for busy families.