Dear friend and reader,
For this special introductory post, let me ask the questions for you.
1) Who are you and what is this thing here?
Right now at this very moment, at this very nanosecond you are reading the maiden installment of Get Your Mise Together!, a culinary advice column aimed to answer the tough questions about food, the restaurant industry, food writing, mouthfeelings, et al. Think one part Butterball Turkey Talkline, one part Christopher Kimball (minus all of the ranting about Vermont), and two parts Dear Sugar.
My name is Soleil, and I am sometimes called a writer.
2) Why would I trust you to know anything?
That’s an excellent question, ghost reader! So right now, I’m the garde manger cook at a busy and historic restaurant in New Orleans’ French Quarter, and all I think about are salads. I used to work with food in other contexts, too: I worked as a pastry chef, a glorified sandwich artist, a farmhand, a saute cook, a food writer, and a not-so-good food blogger. Even in undergrad, my final papers tackled the obscure histories of cheesemaking and Jell-O molds.
I go to bed counting deboned quail in my mind; when I wake up, I smuggle flavor combinations out of my dreams to put on my menu. At the same time, I’m perfectly happy eating a whole box of instant mac ’n’ cheese by myself (though with a few extras mixed in).
3) Why are you doing this?
I want us to have a conversation about food and cooking: what it means for us, and what it means to know it. I want cooking to be less of a fetishized idea; I want fewer people in the world to think, ‘I could never make that.’ I want more people to know the beauty of cooking while also acknowledging the lived experiences of the many people who have been denied opportunities to experience it in that way.
At the same time, this column isn’t just going to be about me giving you a listicle of directions for making cheesy tater tot hotdish. There are plenty of other places on the internet where you can find such things. I hope to make this a space for thoughtful and important food writing that leaps beyond the food-worship and class unconsciousness that plagues the genre: I want to write about you, myself, and the world at large. There may be super-special guest contributors too, so keep an eye out.
4) What’s so feminist about a culinary advice column?
If you’re reading this, right now, you are probably at least a little bit on-board with the idea of a feminist food publication. You probably have some inkling of how little headway intersectional feminism has made into this genre of writing. Let’s face it: food writing that does not in some way acknowledge the spectrum of women’s experiences — as working people, as privileged people, as people who live in food deserts, as people of color, as people who have had their food choices shamed by others — is not feminist. On the contrary, food writers often see their genre as an ideology-free space that is free from the inelegance of identity politics and class issues.
This advice column is feminist because it aims to tackle all of these things; not all at once, of course. But there is a consciousness here that will not be harnessed by some misguided attempt to privilege the culinary object above all else.
5) What do you need from me?
Send me your queries! Ask me about what you should make for dinner; what you can pair with roasted beets (spoiler: a whole lot of shit); what kinds of shoes cooks like to wear; why there aren’t more female-identified chefs in the media; why there seem to be only chefs in the media; what you can cook for only a dollar. Ask, and odds are you’ll receive an answer, right here.