Five-time James Beard Award winner Dorie Greenspan knows about good taste. In her 13th cookbook, Everyday Dorie: The Way I Cook, on shelves now, The New York Times’ On Dessert columnist draws inspiration from her own pantry to create a collection of recipes designed for any kitchen. Before she drops by Harvard Book Store on Dec. 4, Greenspan chatted with us about kitchen fires and finding inspiration at restaurants.
How did you first get involved in the world of food? I got married as a junior in college. I was 19 years old and I hadn’t learned how to cook and wasn’t given the chance to since I had burned down my parents’ kitchen when I was in 7th grade. So I started as soon as I was married. We didn’t have much money, so going out wasn’t possible, and I really wanted to learn since I wanted to have the kind of place that people would come to and spend time with us.
What’s behind your latest book, Everyday Dorie? It’s my 13th book and it’s a really good title because it’s everyday food that truly is the way that I cook at home. I was working on the book, making recipes and inviting friends over and living my regular life—but this time taking notes—and when I finished, I looked at the recipes and realized that I was using very basic ingredients and I was being very practical. And that was because I was living not in Paris or New York City, but in a town in Connecticut where I need to get in a car and drive an hour round-trip to get an ingredient if I’m missing it. So this is really my fridge and pantry book.
Where do you draw inspiration from when creating a recipe? Everywhere. It’s when I’m traveling and I see something. It’s inspiration from ingredients. Often if I go out for dinner, I might find something that really interests me knowing that it’s not a dish that I’m going to make at home but there might be a little idea from it, something there that I can draw from.
You reside in both the United States and France. Where do you think has the better culinary scene? I think New York has a really exciting restaurant scene. It’s really diverse. You can pretty much find the best of any kind of cooking you want in New York. But Paris has the best pastry scene for sure: Great pastries, great breads and the rumblings of a whole new cooking scene.
What culinary achievement has been most meaningful to you? It’s really hard to choose because this is not the field that I expected to go into. I came to this late, so the fact that I’ve won any awards or had any measure of success is still kind of surprising to me. Every time something wonderful happens, I cry and it’s a pinch-myself experience. They all come as such surprises and they all touch me so deeply.