An April Letter from the Kitchn Editor: The One Dinner Inspiring Me the Most Right Now
April is a month where I don’t quite know what I want or what I’m doing in the kitchen; is it spring? Is it winter? Why do I still have a cold? Where’s the asparagus? April is a month where I at least (and maybe you?) need a fresh start, a jolt of inspiration.
I had one very significant experience at the beginning of the month that I have been thinking about every day since; can I share it with you?
My friend Bethia invited me to a dinner here in Columbus, Ohio, where I live, benefiting a local refugee and immigrant services organization that offers dinners cooked and hosted by their own staff, who hail from all over the world. This dinner was a cuisine new to me: the Uyghur cooking of East Turkestan. Our chef, Tursunay, was a lovely and amazing cook who had left East Turkestan with her family and settled in Columbus. (The human rights violations against the Uyghur Muslim minority since its annexation by China last century are well-documented and egregious. Tursunay’s own family and friends have disappeared into Chinese prison labor camps.)
It was fascinating to stand in a kitchen and watch a fellow cook — one with vastly different life experiences and skills from myself — talk about what she cooks, where she shops, and how she is teaching her kids (“I tell them, if you know how to cook it’s easy; you won’t be hungry!”). She walked us through the ingredients in her hot pepper garlic condiment, and unspooled perfectly coiled dough from a bowl, teasing it into a cat’s cradle of hand-pulled noodles.
And then we sat down to eat.
I think we all know and could repeat the cliches about food and what it can do (besides, you know, keep us alive). It can build bridges through cultures; it can help us form memories and relationships. Food is a critical part of just living, but it also can help us live in a better way, and this dinner was that truth come to real life. We can get so consumed in the day to day of our lives, and to meet and talk with this other cook, with struggles and joys both like and radically unlike my own was bracing and humbling.
That dinner just revived for me the truth that where life and story meet food, there is something magical that happens — and not magical in a touristy, frivolous way. I mean magical as in necessary for living. When we meet each other at the table we get something we crave deeply even if we don’t know it — some human sense of connecting and meeting across boundaries that transcends cuisine and technique.
We have always hoped to bring a little more human connection at Kitchn, over and above our steady offerings every day of recipes, tips, good advice, news and — yes! — pure fun.
We have always told stories about cooks, whether that’s simply ourselves and our own stories, through the first-person blogger voice that we started with, or our (flashback!) old Kitchen Diaries series, or our Kitchen Tours where we met cooks in their kitchens.
But we want to do so much more. At the end of this month we are launching a brand-new series where we meet cooks like you in their kitchens, gardens, dining rooms, workplaces — wherever they feel food meets their lives. We’re going to talk to people who do interesting things and people who embody the very ordinary, everyday challenges of cooking and eating well that we all face. One of the things I have always found most thrilling about writing and publishing on the internet is its pure democracy; everyone has a chance to tell their story. We can’t always gather around each other’s dinner tables or hear their stories in person, like I did with Tursunay last weekend, but we can do at least parts of that in our storytelling here.
What kind of cooks would you like to meet and hear from? Personally, I’m curious about moms like me and how they make their toddlers try new things (especially on a budget). I am also curious about people whose work I admire — midwives, community organizers, teachers in underserved communities, poets, urban farmers, people who are differently abled or have mobility and physical challenges to overcome — how do they eat to fuel the lives they lead, and how do they solve the problems around eating well and just… making it all work?
We’re really looking forward to bringing the voices and stories of cooks like you onto the site and would love any ideas or suggestions you have for people to feature (email me faith at thekitchn dot com).
And meanwhile, can I just say that getting in the kitchen with a cook completely different from you to watch, learn, and listen may be just the jolt you need this April. I can’t recommend it enough.
What to Look for in April at Kitchn
A few more things to look out for this month!
- Welcome back, Grocery Diaries! This just happened over the weekend but I want to shout out here that our reader food diary format is back! Grocery Diaries follows one reader through a week of spending, cooking and eating.
- The Fast & Fancy Easter: We have some extra-fun Easter recipes and stories coming up this month, including the prettiest, easiest spring table.
- Passover Popovers: We have a lovely menu and wrap-up for Passover but the thing we’re most excited about is Grace’s recipe for her own family tradition: kosher for Passover popovers. (They’re seriously so good.)
- Chicken Champions Wrap-Up: We’ll wrap up our big March Madness chicken showdown just in time for the real-world Final Four.
- Recipe Showdown – French Toast Casserole: This month’s new recipe showdown is French toast casserole, just in time for brunch season.
- Real-Life Stories: We have some personal essays coming up that I am so excited to share with you, including one on finding sobriety in the kitchen, and another on a cook I admire’s cancer journey and how it affected her food choices.
- Frittata Fun: The month of eggs seemed like a good month to go deep on this most-essential recipe to know by heart.
What else would you like to see in April? What are you cooking, and how are you getting inspired?