Cooking Rules

Jessica Seinfeld’s Rules for Home Cooking

The author talks about her new book, Food Swings, the joys of hot bread and learning to cook through Post-it notes.

Congrats on your new book, Food Swings. Have you been working on it for a while? “It’s been about three and a half years. It takes me a long time to do a book. I know a lot of food people create them more frequently than I do. It’s kind of my other full-time job outside of our foundation, the GOOD+ Foundation. And I’m pretty methodical about creating books for people with busy working/complicated lives.”

Are your personal food vices sweets or fried foods? “I love pasta and I love really good warm bread with butter. So maybe I’m more of a carb person.”

Those seem pretty tame for vices. “I can put away a whole basket of bread and a big bowl of pasta. I’m not talking like little bites. And, of course, I love cake. I love it all. I’m really one of those people that’s not one way or the other. I would be thrilled with a chocolate cake. I would be thrilled with a bowl of pasta.”

Did your family enjoy tasting what you were coming up with for the book? “Yeah. It’s really fun to cook for Jerry ’cause he’s so enthusiastic about everything I do, which makes it a pleasure. Obviously, our kids are tougher. Getting them to eat healthier and doing it in creative ways is a really fun challenge for me every day.”

Does Jerry have any Seinfeldian food tics in real life? Like a love of big salads, black-and-white cookies, and marble rye? “That was a television show and he lives in real life.”

That’s fortunate that you aren’t up against that. “I’m not up against anything. I’m actually very lucky because he’s a great eater and truly the inspiration behind this book because he does swing wildly. He’s the most disciplined person and then he goes off the rails brilliantly.”

Are there certain cookbooks that you go back to for reference? “I love Marcella Hazan. I’m a fanatic. I love her so much. I miss her so much. And I like the classics because I like to break down classic [recipes] and make them easier for people. I love the Joy of Cooking because I just remember using it with my mom. I do love Mark Bittman’s books, I think they’re so helpful. Those are my go-tos.”

When you travel do you bring back certain foods? “I love local spices. My friend just came from India and brought me fresh turmeric, which is so exciting. I always get salt. Fresh herbs are really fun but kind of tough to travel with if they’re very dry or if you have a customs person that’s wondering what all that green is in your bag. I try to always bring back wine or olive oil, which is a pain to schlep.”

Did you learn to cook from your parents? “I’ve been cooking since I was really young. My mom was working full time and commuting and taught me to cook through Post-it notes. She would put Post-it notes on the refrigerator door on how to do things, and then she would put Post-it notes on the dishes that she had gotten up at 6’clock in the morning and started to prep. She would leave me the directions on how to get them on the table for dinner. That’s how I learned to cook. And my grandmother was an incredible cook.”

With your own family, was it important to teach your kids how to cook? “I thought I was just going to be a good role model in the kitchen for them in terms of cooking all the time and shopping for the foods that I thought are best for them. Outside of that I didn’t have a lot of expectations. I don’t believe in putting pressure on kids in the food space, but they were always playing on the floor with pots and pans when I was cooking them breakfast, lunch, and dinner. And so subsequently my 14-year-old makes himself eggs all the time for breakfast. And my other son, who is 11, can make pancakes. My daughter and my husband don’t have much interest in learning, but the other two are very comfortable doing it and look after themselves.”

Would you ever open a restaurant? “No. I know too many people who have restaurants who would die to get out of the restaurant business.”

Jessica Seinfeld is the author of the new book Food Swings: 125+ Recipes to Enjoy Your Life of Virtue & Vice

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Interview has been condensed and edited.