A Caramelized Conversation with Eugenia Bone

I’m sitting down with nationally-acclaimed cookbook author Eugenia Bone, who just released her fourth book, The Kitchen Ecosystem. Eugenia is resourceful and innovative, intuitive and noteworthy. Her work has circulated in dozens of publications, including Saveur and Food & Wine Magazines. We are lucky to have her in Memphis next weekend, where she will be signing books, cooking at the Memphis Farmers Market, and preparing a tasting at The Elegant Farmer! Read below to discover her cooking philosophy and why she chooses to continuously visit our city… 

This post can also be found on Choose901.com.

What inspired your most recent cookbook? We love the concept!

I am so glad you do! The concept is really an articulation of an observation. This is the way people used to cook, and the way people who cook a lot, cook now. But here’s what got me thinking about this notion of a kitchen as an ecosystem: Years ago, some friends put together a little party where everyone made dishes from my first cookbook, At Mesa’s Edge. They followed the simple recipes exactly, and everyone enjoyed them very much. However, I was disappointed. I found the dishes weren’t as intense as mine. The flavor wasn’t as punchy. A little investigation and a few phone calls later, and I realized most everyone had used store-bought chicken broth, where I had used homemade. Or store-bought mayonnaise where I had used homemade. That’s when I started to think, hmm, all the components of a dish are like individual species, and the healthier those species are (and in food terms that would mean fresh, regional, and homemade), the healthier the ecosystem. 

What are your five favorite farmers market ingredients for this time of year?

I love the fall foods: brussels sprouts, cauliflower, cabbage, broccoli, beans, potatoes…oh, that’s more than five. Why five? Why not fifteen? How about cranberries, apples, pears, walnuts, broccoli rabe, baby ginger, wine grapes, fennel, and the mushrooms! Hen of Woods are under the Oak trees now.


Every home cook needs…

Fresh water. Which is why every home cook should be out there fighting to protect her local water resources.

How did you begin writing about food, in particular? 

Before I started writing about food I was writing about whatever I could get an assignment for: celebrities, movies, metro, humor…I was an omnivore career-wise. But food was something that I knew a lot about, having grown up in a food family (my dad is Edward Giobbi, who wrote cookbooks and hung out with a lot of terrific chefs) and one of those people who would brave the mankiest little joint in Chinatown if it meant I might get to taste a really rocking jelly fish appetizer. That, and I cooked at home constantly (on a hot plate) and shopped in all the boroughs (on a ridiculously low budget). I began writing about food when I caught a look at an early copy of Saveur Magazine at my butcher’s and realized someone out there thought about food the way I did. I started writing for them and never looked back.

What are you most looking forward to in Memphis?

I love eating in Memphis. The food is fabulous. My mother is from Memphis (Elinor Turner is her name) and I spent a lot of my childhood sitting in my grandmother's kitchen learning how to make corn pones, butter beans, turnip greens, and a proper leg of lamb. I used to go to The Little Tea Shop with my grandfather, who’s office was nearby, and my grandmother used to take me to the polo club to eat peppermint ice cream. But lately when I’ve come to visit, I’ve been floored by the new cooking that is going on here. So I am looking forward to the restaurants, especially Mac’s Elegant Farmer. We are doing some cooking together next Sunday night, November 23.

Here in Memphis, food is a big part of life, and what we eat is such an indication of our culture. What do you think food says about people and, more broadly, cities and their cultures?

Food reflects so many things: the nature of the local economy (Is it regional? Is it global?), the traditions of the people (the holidays foods, and food prohibitions), the values of the society (insular and family oriented, or all about guests?). You can break down a cuisine into these component parts and explain a place. The food in the city of Memphis is the city of Memphis in food.


How do you add sweet touches to everyday experiences (the mantra of Caramelized food blog)?

It always changes. Lately I have been serving up a little plate of sliced feta cheese and dressing it with good olive oil and freshly ground black pepper. The cheese is wonderful as a garnish on stewed meat, vegetables, salads, and pastas. It is a simple, quick, and totally charming addition to a dish (and feta is made from sheep’s milk, which lots of people can manage). All last summer I was making beet granita (recipe in The Kitchen Ecosystem) and serving it before a meal, in the middle of a meal, and after a meal. It was refreshing, always. Come winter, I don’t know. Probably something with nuts. Stay tuned!

Meet Eugenia next weekend at the following events: 

  • Book signing at Booksellers at Laurelwood, November 20, 6:30 p.m.
  • Book signing and cooking demo at Memphis Farmers Market, November 22, 9:30 a.m.
  • Tasting (with wine and a signed copy) at The Elegant Farmer, November 23, Time TBD ($45/ticket). Call the restaurant to reserve your seat at 901-324-2221.

photo courtesy of huffington post