Samin Nosrat’s laugh is delightful and infectious. It’s the kind of warm uninhibited chorus that makes you feel not only like you’ve known the New York Times bestselling author for years, but also that she couldn’t be more happy to talk with you today.
This charming, approachable persona is an undeniable part of the reason why Nostrat’s Netflix series “Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat” — inspired by her James Beard Award-winning book of the same name — has been hailed for changing the food show landscape forever.
In the four-part series, viewers see Nosrat lose herself in the pleasure of a piece of aged Parmesan cheese, giggle as her eyes water while chopping onions and do an adorable happy dance with a friend as they devour a dish while standing around the kitchen counter.
What to expect at Samin Nosrat’s Mesa show
It’s a show that’s as much about food, where it comes from and how to make it, as it is about watching someone simply enjoy it.
The show premiered on the streaming platform almost a year ago, and Nosrat’s been busy in the intervening months. She’s already begun work on a second series and thinking about her next book, called “What to Cook.”
She’s also hitting the road, crisscrossing the country for evening events during which she chats with local hosts about food, cooking and anything else that might come up when she fields questions from the audience.
On Saturday, Oct. 5 she’ll join chef Mark Tarbell at Mesa Arts Center. Ahead of her Phoenix tour stop, we chatted with the author, TV star and chef about what fans can expect. The interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Question: So, what can people expect from this tour?
Answer: We basically laugh a lot (laughs) and then, I mean, each conversation is different, which is something I really love about it.
One thing I’m really excited about that is that I edited this year’s edition of “Best American Food Writing.” I was pretty riled up when I was doing the editing and writing the forward but what I’m excited about is I think it will rile people up when they read it. I did my best to highlight all sorts of different issues beyond what we just consider to be food and I’m really excited to get to talk about the wonderful diversity of the writing.
The other thing I’m thinking so much about, which I’m sure people in Arizona must think about all the time, is climate change and how food affects and is affected by it.
I have been reading a lot about climate change and agriculture and food and I feel like — and I’m so hesitant to say this, but I gotta start saying it somewhere — I feel like the only responsible thing for me to do is become a daytime vegan. And I really don’t want to. Like I really don’t want to but I feel like it’s something I have to do and I feel like it’s what I need to, not necessarily bully other people into doing, but at least model for people. Changing out diets is the single most powerful thing we as individuals can do.
It’s both depressing and exciting. (laughs)
Why getting a show was a ‘whiplash moment’
It sounds like you maybe have been thinking about using your platform to be an activist? Or raise awareness, maybe?
I wouldn’t use the word “activist.” I still do have a relationship with the New York Times so I have not fully jumped into activism. But I do think education and awareness is really important and it’s my job.
I found out that Netflix was interested in the show two days after the 2016 election and it was a really hard time for me. I really felt that that election said to me, personally, that people who look like you are not wanted here. So I was sort of sitting with the grief of that and then found out this thing two days later.
It was a really whiplash moment for me and I took it really seriously and thought really carefully about whether I wanted to put myself in the public eye when the public had made it clear that people who look like me or are from the part of the world that my family is from are not necessarily considered American or welcome here.
I did in the end decide that I did want to do it and I was like, OK if I am going to do this then I’m going to use it to promote the kind of message that’s really important to me, which is one of unity and sharing with people my ultimate belief that we are more similar than different across the world.
So I don’t know that I would use the word “activist” necessarily, but I do think that there are so many things in our daily lives that feel really overwhelming. Changing a habit is really hard. I get how hard it is. I have my own really conflicted decisions about changing the way I eat and yet my brain understands that it’s what we all have to do. Or it’s what I have to do at least.
What being ‘daytime vegan’ means
But vegan? I don’t know if I could give up cheese…
Well, the thing is it’s daytime vegan (laughs)
So, only when the sun is up?
Totally. Basically, statistically, if you give up animal products for two of your meals, you end up using less carbon than if you’re a full-time vegetarian. I think if I fully had to give up cheese and dairy and butter it would just be like, I couldn’t. I would die.
One of the books I’ve been reading is by my friend Jonathan Safran Foer. He has a new climate change book coming out, and he proposes this and his whole book is about his own personal difficulty with it and also the understanding that if you don’t do it, you’re just a person who didn’t do something when the moment required it.
I know you’re working on another book. Can you share anything about what people can expect in “What to Cook”?
Yeah! I mean to be completely honest I have not actually started working on it because I am going to make another TV series first. I’m in the sort of development part, which is like the brainstorm part of the show, so that’s been taking up most of my mental energy.
How her new book will be different from ‘Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat’
But as far as the book, one of things I’ve seen is that people feel kind of stuck about deciding what to make.
Even really good home cooks create a menu for a dinner or a party page for page, word for word out of a magazine spread of recipes. Or because they saw such-and-such-thing on TV or Instagram. I started to think about how there’s so much I can share with those people about how to make their lives easier by understanding what decisions to make about what they should be cooking.
I did my best with “Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat” to teach people how to translate how professional cooks think about how to cook. What I’ve realized is I haven’t really that similar translation about how professional cooks decide what to cook.
I think people have a really romantic notion that chefs show up at work and are like ‘today I feel like making this grand and wonderful creation’ or something. And maybe some people do that. But the constraints of a real kitchen are what chiefly make a professional cook decide what to make. If I can teach that to home cooks I think it would make people’s day-to-day cooking a lot easier.
So that’s what I’m going to do with the book that I have not started writing yet. (laughs)
When: 8 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 5.
Where: Mesa Arts Center, 1 E. Main Street.
Details: 480-644-6500, mesaartscenter.com/index.php/shows/performing-live/samin-nosrat.
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