5 Questions

5 Questions with Todd Porter + Diane Cu (Plus a Giveaway!)

By • November 1, 2013 • 37 Comments

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We're sitting down with our favorite writers and cooks to talk about their upcoming cookbooks, their best food memories, and just about anything else.

Today: Todd Porter and Diane Cu, a.k.a. the White on Rice Couple, talk photography, food, family, and the endless possibilities of urban gardening. Plus, we're giving away 5 copies of their new cookbook, Bountiful!

  

Some people grow food. Some cook it. Some take pictures of it. Then you have the rare few who do all of the above -- and do it well. Enter Todd Porter and Diane Cu, the inspiring couple behind White on Rice Couple, who have translated their love of photography, food, gardening, and one another into a successful blog and a new cookbook. (We’d be jealous of how multitalented they are, but they are just too nice.)

Bountiful tells the story of this unlikely couple -- she’s a Vietnamese immigrant, he grew up on a cattle ranch out west -- and shares cooking techniques, gardening tips, and a full collection of seasonal recipes, all photographed so beautifully you will wish you were as photogenic as their sweet potatoes.

"The people who give you their food give you their heart," says the Cesar Chavez quote in Bountiful's opening pages. It's a fitting quote for a couple who dedicates their lives to sharing food with others.

How has cooking brought you together as a couple?
It allowed us to spend more time together outside of work. Cooking has always been something that we looked forward to because it allowed us to be creative, learn, and explore together in the kitchen.

How you develop new recipes? What is your process, and what inspires you?
Seasonal ingredients definitely inspire us. But we're lucky to be in Southern California where we have fresh, local produce all year round. So when we develop recipes for the blog, we try think of dishes that can be relevant to our readers in other parts of the county. Strolling through the farmers markets and seeing what comes out of the garden definitely inspire up new ideas. But we're also fans of comfort foods, so anything with cheese and chocolate give us focus and direction. 

More: Get Todd and Diane's recipe for spicy roasted cauliflower with sriracha and sesame.

 

 

Gardening plays a central role in your lives. Is there any hope for the would-be urban gardeners without yards?
Yes! A garden can be any size, including small pots. That's how we started over 17 years ago. Our first garden consisted of a few herb pots in our second-story apartment: mint, basil and thyme. Collecting the leaves from those tiny little plants felt like a huge accomplishment and gave us the encouragement to do more of it. 

Your cookbook is a love letter to vegetables and fruit -- is there a vegetable that you just don't like to eat?
So far, we haven't found anything. How a vegetable is prepared definitely determines how it tastes. When all else fails, we just dip it in fish sauce or cheese dip and we're fans.

More: Combine cheese and vegetables with these great gratin dishes.  

What is your process like when you're shooting? Do you divide up the styling and photography, or are you constantly collaborating?
Working together is always a collaboration and takes patience and open-mindedness. At the end of the day, we still have to live together. For editorial or advertising shoots in a studio with clients, Diane will normally cook, style, and prop the dishes. Todd will photograph and manage all the files. We both love to cook, so any pre-prepping for recipes or recipe developing is shared between us both. For travel, location, or documentary shooting, we both shoot equally and always collaborate on who will get what shot and what area to cover so that we don't miss any moments.

Book cover, portrait, and cauliflower photos by Todd Porter and Diane Cu; apple photo by Beth Kirby

We're giving away 5 copies of Bountiful! To enter, tell us in the comments: How does food bring you and your family or friends together? We'll pick the winners by Wednesday, October 6 at 3 PM EST.

Tags: 5 questions, white on rice, bountiful, gardening

Comments (37)

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5 months ago cookinginvictoria

The kitchen and the act of preparing food and eating it is the lifeblood of our home. Everyone -- including my eight year old daughter -- weighs in on meal planning and gets to choose at least one dinner menu every two weeks. My daughter also takes great pride in writing the week's dinner menus on a chalkboard in the kitchen. Our family takes the time to eat dinner together, pretty much every night. Sometimes this is tricky when evening extracurricular activities such as soccer and piano lessons intrude, but we are determined to have this family time together, so we make it work, even if means having an early (or late!) dinner. During our evening meals, we talk, we tell stories, we describe our favorite parts about the day, we discuss world events, we have spelling contests, and, of course we eat simple, but delicious food. I always look forward to our evening ritual -- it's the most relaxed and fun part of the day for me. I feel like it has really cemented our family bond in countless ways. :)

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5 months ago Alex

Food creates shared experiences and turns friends into family.

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5 months ago AntoniaJames

AntoniaJames is a trusted source on Bread/Baking.

If life were a symphonic score, our nightly family meals would be the downbeats in each measure, giving structure, meaning and coherence. ;o)

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5 months ago Mahdi

Food brings family and friends together like magnets. The party or gathering always ends up in the kitchen area, and guests always stay longer when you provide sustenance!

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6 months ago Jessica

Food is a big part of our family, we love to share recipes and surprise each other with new ones at big dinner parties.

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6 months ago Lily,Sheng

Food brings us cooking together! There's no cultural or generation divide when we're all in the kitchen, watching one another and bouncing ideas off of each other.

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6 months ago Keegan Wheeler

Food is tradition. Having a family or friend dinner with a group of people who have been in each others lives for many years is a narrative in tradition based mainly on the food prepared. I love holidays when we pull out my Grandmothers Christmas bread recipe. My Mom and I spend a day baking and reminiscing about what a wonderful lady she was.

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6 months ago Heather

Every day, my co-workers gather in the Common area for food, laughs, and a break.

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6 months ago Sandy

Every night my family and I try to sit down and eat together. It's especially important for my husband and I to instill this habit in our children who are very young. Once a month our cousins make a point of gathering together and throwing a potluck dinner. It's a great excuse to spend time together and share our love of food.

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6 months ago arcane54

Food has been a central part of my family connection and is now how many of my friends gather -- to share a meal, tell stories, toast one another's successes and life's milestones, sweeten the bitter, and soothe broken hearts. Food is how I love the people around me.

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6 months ago Poppies and Papayas

Food brings my friends and I together to celebrate having survived another day, week, or quarter of graduate school, and to find some time to enjoy the meals that we preach as future dietitians.

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6 months ago Hannah

Food brings our family together every Friday night for shabbat dinner.

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6 months ago EmilyS1220

As an eclectic family (we represent German, Lebanese, Italian, and Chilean)cooking and food brings us together because we all have different specialties and knowledge. We love learning new tips and recipes from each other and have a great time doing it!

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6 months ago Jen P

Food brings the women of my family together through the endless consultations and discussions that accompany the cooking of a large family meal. We don't have that closeness at any other time.

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6 months ago Andria Sheridan

As the daughter of a chef and the grand-daughter of an exceptional cook I often felt that the culinary gene just skipped me. They seemed to understand without trying the combination of flavor profiles, the chemistry behind baking and able to create magic from sheer nothingness in the fridge. It wasn't until I had a home of my own, a hungry husband and a child on the way that I finally attempted to learn to cook beyond my comfort zone. It was the drive to find whole, delicious and local food for my family that forced me to expand my boundaries, master the recipes and eventually break free to create my own. Taking my young family's feedback and adapting it to suit all their flavor preferences while maintaining a whole foods lifestyle and striving to raise adventurous eaters has been my goal. I am finally at a place where I am not longer intimidated by my Mother and Grandmothers's kitchen because I found that elusive element I was always missing, passion for and about food. I have tried to bring this to my children and it has been exciting in the last 10 years to have cross generational cooking ages 5-85 in the kitchen, each of us bringing a new element to the recipes we prepare.

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6 months ago Karin Ward

As family we always liked to gather in the kitchen to watch my grandmother cook because her food was so good. Yet, she would never let us write any of the instructions down. She liked to keep her recipes a secret. My cousins used to hover around her in the kitchen and they would commit certain aspects of her recipes to memory without writing anything down. Once grandmother saw a pen and paper she would begin to add incorrect ingredients for instance mayonnaise in oatmeal. We also liked to spend time with my grandmother in her garden which was filled with vegetables (potatoes, watermelon, cucumbers, tomatoes, red cabbage, sugar snap peas and almost anything that she could fit in the garden) and flowers. In time, we would spend time with her in the garden, pulling weeds and picking ripe vegetables off of the vines during the harvest time. Since grandmother has passed away we still maintain gardens and we gather at each other's homes to bring in the harvest from the gardens in the fall. Grandmother's traditions passed down to us and we maintain them at our own homes and with each other. Although I am willing to share my recipes. :-)

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6 months ago Karin Ward

My grandmother grew up cooking for her 12 brothers and sisters and after they had left home and after her own children grew up and married, people would still stop by and gather at my grandmother's house, especially, during the holiday season. Grandmother lived in Knoxville, TN and we lived up North. So when we went for a visit, grandmother would always prepare breakfast on the last day of our visit just before we hit the road to return to the North. Grandmother started to prepare breakfast at 5 am. Breakfast included scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage, grits, biscuits (homemade) and gravy, fruit salad, ham and red eye gravy, cereal, oatmeal and fried chicken along with coffee and orange juice. And members of the family (aunts, uncles, and cousins) would stop by to see us off and to eat breakfast as well.

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6 months ago JeanBean

As the youngest of seven children, my mother (though an excellent cook) was thrilled with the efficiency of food from a box. It wasn't until leaving the urban landscape of affordable prepared foods for the mountain west that I had to learn to boil water. I quickly discovered that preparing foods and impromptu dinner parties was a great way meet people and start new friendships. People are more tolerant of learning and experimentation in a home party environment: it's certainly a good laugh when something flames up and satisfying when it all comes together, but always good fun for all.

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6 months ago russeaime

Growing up, my mother insisted we have dinner together every night regardless of what was going on. Often this meant we didn't eat until 8pm (since both my parents worked full time) and it might be a simple meal of spaghetti and Italian sausages. But even the big family events always revolved around food as a way to enjoy things together.

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6 months ago Miss Frizzle

We always had dinner as a family growing up. It was one of the biggest things I missed going to college and living alone as an adult. I now love making food for people. I love seeing how happy people get when they eat good, filling food. It's now one of my favorite things to throw dinner parties and have lazy chatty meals with people and see their happy faces at the end.