Celebrate International Women’s Day with a Recipe Swap That Circles the Globe

published Mar 8, 2022
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Credit: Photos: Julia Turshen: Melina Hammer, Cheryl Day: Angie Mosier, Courtesy of Nicole Rucker, Courtesy of Claire Ptak, Courtesy of Thalia Ho, Heidi Swanson: Wayne Bremser, Gabriela Cámara: Getty Images; Design: Kitchn

After working as a food editor for many years, I’ve found the connection and community to be especially strong among women who choose food as their profession. And when you think about it, it makes a lot of sense. Food is breakfast, lunch, and dinner — but it’s also a lot more. What we make and what we eat sustains us, inspires us, enriches our lives, and creates connections. Watching women chefs and other food pros build each other up, help each other out, and encourage one another other along the way has been a highlight of my career.

With all of that in mind, I reached out to one of my favorite food people, Julia Turshen, to see if she’d be up for a fun food game in honor of Women’s History Month. The idea was a game of telephone, but instead of whispering secrets Julia would choose a favorite recipe from a favorite cookbook written by one of her favorite women. That woman would do the same and we’d keep the conversation going, adding recipes and books along the way. At the end, we’d have a collection of awesome food from incredible people.

And that’s just what happened. Julia tapped iconic baker Cheryl Day (and her chocolate Bundt cake), Cheryl chose another awesome baker, Nicole Rucker, and then Nicole sent the game across the pond when she called on Violet bakery’s Claire Ptak. Claire passed things off to Thalia Ho in Australia, then the game wended its way back to the U.S. when Thalia tagged Heidi Swanson and her simple-yet-intriguing flower pepper recipe. The delicious adventure ended in Mexico City with chef Gabriela Cámara‘s salsa negra recipe, which Heidi suggests making a double batch of and freezing because you’re going to want to put it on all the things.

On this International Women’s Day it seems especially appropriate to share a story that so clearly shows how we’re all connected. So thank you, Julia, for inspiring me and thank you to all of these incredible women for inspiring each other. Now let’s eat!

Credit: Photo: Julia Turshen: Melina Hammer, Cheryl Day: Angie Mosier
Credit: Angie Mosier

The cookbook: Cheryl Day’s Treasury of Southern Baking
The recipe: Very Chocolate Bundt Cake
“Cheryl constantly teaches me about the elegance of simplicity, whether it’s in what she bakes or how she writes. Her newest book, Cheryl Day’s Treasury of Southern Baking, is such an important book because it reminds us that Southern baking’s legacy belongs to Black women and it’s so important to pay attention to who gets to tell the stories of that legacy. I chose the Very Chocolate Bundt Cake because it was the first recipe my wife and I made out of the book. With each slice we got to think about how much we love Cheryl and how grateful we are for her work and her friendship.”

Credit: Photo: Cheryl Day: Angie Mosier, Courtesy of Nicole Rucker
Credit: Alan Gastelum

The cookbook: Dappled: Baking Recipes for Fruit Lovers
The recipe: July Flame Peach Pie

“I chose Nicole’s Flame Peach Pie. I love the mace in the recipe. It makes me think of the perfect bite of a peach on my grandmother’s porch!”

Credit: Photo: Courtesy of Nicole Rucker, Courtesy of Claire Ptak
Credit: Kristin Perers

The cookbook: The Violet Bakery Cookbook
The recipe: Banana Buttermilk Bread
“Not only is Claire a woman I look up to in terms of her legendary style and baking prowess, but I also love her recipes for their reliability and comforting profiles. Banana bread is life and this one is on my top five list of banana bread recipes.”

Credit: Photo: Courtesy of Claire Ptak, Courtesy of Thalia Ho
Credit: Thalia Ho

The cookbook: Wild Sweetness
The recipe: Dense Fernet Cake
“I love boozy chocolate desserts and I think that Thalia has such a delicate touch but uses the richest ingredients. I always want to bake and eat everything she makes. We met by chance in Paris and have been great friends and colleagues ever since.”

Credit: Photo: Courtesy of Thali Ho, Heidi Swanson: Wayne Bremser
Credit: Heidi Swanson

The cookbook: Near & Far
The recipe: Flower Pepper
“Heidi Swanson can transport you to another world. Near & Far: Recipes Inspired by Home and Travel was published when I needed it most and I cooked my way through it over a season. You can tell it has been loved. My copy is stained, and torn, a little out of shape, with illegible words scrawled across the pages in some sort of half-frenzied attempt to capture what I felt. I don’t like to make the same recipe twice, as there’s just too much wonder to experience, but I come back to this Flower Pepper often. It’s simple but complex, and different each time. And that’s what I love about Heidi’s work — it’s experimental. My notes from six years ago tell me that the first time I made it, I used a mixture of marigold, cornflower, and rose, with some further inscription about pink peppercorns along the spine, perhaps, I thought at the time, a switch for the black. I think now that I should purchase another copy, a clean one, but then I see the strewn flowers in the accompanying photograph, and think, there’s beauty in chaos too.”

Credit: Photo: Heidi Swanson: Wayne Bremser, Gabriela Cámara: Getty Images
Credit: Marcus Nilsson

The cookbook: My Mexico City Kitchen
The recipe: Salsa Negra

“When I lived in San Francisco, my friend Nancy and I would walk to Tacos Cala regularly. It was the perfect little taco spot hidden in an alley behind Gabriela’s Cala restaurant — the food was so good. I got my hands on her book as soon as it was published and the recipe I’ve turned to most often in the years since is a bit of a secret weapon — her salsa negra. It’s the kind of thing that makes everything taste like the best thing you ever cooked. It’s good on, in, or under vegetables, tacos, crepes, in savory tarts … I could keep going. Make double and freeze some.”