Food Studies WEEK: Interview 5 – Writer / Cookbook Author

foodstudiesWEEK Last spring, I was going through a bout of particularly persistent anxiety with a tinge of depression that left me constantly panicked, but lacking the motivation to do anything about it. It felt like I was going down the wrong paths in many aspects of my life. My therapist recommended more physical activity, so I started walking the 40 minutes to and from work. And I started listening to podcasts, my favorite being Radio Cherry Bombe on the Heritage Radio Network. I listened to dozens of conversations with inspiring women in food entrepreneurship, journalism, and social justice. Radio Cherry Bombe opened my eyes to all the career possibilities out there for women interested in food, and is probably a large part of why I started in the NYU Food Studies program.

On the other side of those conversations was Julia Turshen, host of Radio Cherry Bombe. Her kindness and intellect always shone through in her interviews, and you could tell she really loved each individual story and treasured her guests. I was enamored with her passion and looking for guidance, so I reached out on social media, and Julia graciously agreed to chat with me about my career path. While I'm still figuring it out, I'm definitely a step closer than I was back then, and I certainly owe her a debt of gratitude.

julia turshen

In addition to her podcast work, Julia is most well known for being a home cook and writer, and one of her early claims to fame was coauthoring a cookbook with Gwyneth Paltrow. Since then, she has written her own cookbooks, including Small Victories, which was named one of the best books of 2016 by The New York Times and NPR. I have my own personal copy which she signed at an event last year, and its one of my most prized possessions.


This year, Julia has been an active voice for social justice, particularly with her new cookbook Feed the Resistance, named the best cookbook of 2017 by Eater. I haven't purchased my copy yet because I suspect it is being gifted to me this holiday season, but if I make it through December and remain book-less, it will be my first purchase of 2018. Also, she's donating all proceeds from the book to the ACLU.


I think that's enough fangirling for now. I only asked Julia a few questions since I know she's a busy lady, so without further ado...

Q: How long have you been in the food industry?
A: 10 years formally, but really my whole life.

Q: How did you end up here?
A: For me it wasn't so much that I ended up in this field. I honestly never considered anything else and can't imagine not doing what I do. I have loved food and cooking since before I can remember. I studied writing in college with the intention of writing about food and working on cookbooks.

Q: What are the biggest challenges in your work?
A: For me personally, it's challenging not always knowing what's next and managing irregular income. I think the largest problem the cookbook industry faces is a severe lack of diversity at every level from authors to agents, editors, photographers, and publishers.

Q: What do you like most about what you do?
A: Getting to tell stories.

Q: Any advice for budding writers?
A: It's always important to remember that writers, even those of us who don't employ anyone, are small business owners and we need to set ourselves up as such. Get an accountant, start an LLC, etc.

Q: If there was one thing you could change about your industry, what would that be?
A: I would change the range of perspectives and backgrounds of the folks in the rooms where the decisions happen.