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It takes a village to make a website. This week, we're introducing you to Associate Editor Ali Slagle, whose love for cookbooks (she helped edit the Genius Recipes cookbook in a former life at a publishing house!) and #happylists is infectious.
That poised lady with sprouts on her egg salad is Ali (and the girl with stray hairs and a wrinkly shirt is yours truly).
The kind of lady whose dream Saturday morning is actually what her Saturday mornings are like, Ali is the good life in person. She lives with her cat, August, speaks with a calming, enveloping warmth, and has a natural gift for food styling that one can only imagine comes from a lifetime of artful plating in her own kitchen. Ali is aces at her job because it's completely obvious that she loves every minute of it—the cooking, the meeting people, the listening, and the writing—and her sunny Californian disposition has beamed all kinds of good mojo into our editorial team.
Ali's passion for cookbooks, the kind with covers and pictures and pages, is one of her defining qualities as a Food52 editor (and I think she'll be flattered to know that I think of her as our team librarian). And she knows every trick for hard cooking eggs. But my favorite of her ideas was when she got us started writing lists of things we like. Have you seen these posts? They're going to be the best feel-good read of your week. And despite our differences (see: egg salad), Ali's name would definitely be on my list. Here's a little more about her:
Would you say that you still eat like a Californian (whatever that means)?
I think it’s more the snowy winter than this coast specifically, but my propensity for eating heavier, creamier, more beige foods has surprised me. Sometimes, I go days without a green vegetable, which used to incite bodily pain and undeniable cravings. You could say I’m evolving, becoming more nimble—though I still am having trouble with the intense creaminess that is mayo and sour cream.
Favorite food? Favorite dish that incorporates it?
Can my favorite food be lemons? Because that may be the truth. When I think about how many dishes need lemons to be good and how they’re so crucial in these situations—and how the answer to so many dull dishes is a squeeze of lemon—I get wide-eyed like a child with a balloon. Add to the mix that they’re not super hard to find, nor expensive, and that each part of the fruit brings something different to the table, and I’m like a kid opening presents from Santa.
Ali is always up for a trip to the farmers market, whether prepping for a shoot or making Diana Henry lunch like it's no big deal.
Most likely to be found on a Saturday morning in NYC doing ___?
If it’s a perky Saturday morning, I’ll stroll to the Fort Greene farmers market, grab some produce and She Wolf bread, then continue the meander to Green Grape Annex and get some work done.
Sluggish Saturday mornings? We don’t need to go into detail.
Of all the things you've worked on at Food52, what are you most proud of?
Sims, bringing the tough questions. I’m very proud of a very collaborative project that is in its infancy and we can’t talk about just yet, so I’ll say I’m most proud of how anything I’ve worked on has been touched by so many people who I admire and learn from greatly and daily. And they make me laugh. And I love them. Turn me off.
Where on the planet is your happy place?
There are so many nondescript places that are my happy spots. Typically, I find them when I’m walking or looking out the window of a car and see a smattering of buildings, pathways, nooks, and/or trees and flowers that make me smile. My places can be inside, too.
If we’re going with one spot, it would be the kitchen at my mom’s house. It has beautiful bones—calming yellow walls, clean white cabinets, moody green slate countertops, warm wood floors—and lots of plants and lots of windows. The Los Angeles sun is always beaming through in the big, open space. It has every kitchen tool and pantry ingredient and enough counter space for me to cook or bake anything I want. And it’s also where I’ve had some of my favorite meals.
Left: Ali's version of homemade jam includes thyme; right: she acted as the standing judge of our black and white cookie competition.
How'd you get into cookbooks? How often do you cook from them?
It was such a graceful, sequential series of events, you’d think I’d planned it—or hoped for it. But when the journey to cookbooks started in high school, my dream was still to travel the world all the time—with what money and many other logistical matters yet to be resolved.
Throughout high school, I “traveled” by working at a travel bookstore and, when I was about to move to the Bay Area for college, asked the co-owner if she knew of any book internships up north. I already loved non-fiction books—travel guides, especially—but was really happy to take any internship that taught me how books were made. Natalie blurted out some name, walked away, and started punching an email to someone at some publisher in Northern California that I’d never heard of. Turns out it published lifestyle non-fiction—a little travel, but lots of cookbooks. It was like someone knocking on my head saying, “Um, cookbooks, remember?” Because I grew up with a library full of them and a mom and grandma who never weren’t cooking, and I’d taken on the same joy from cooking and hoarding cookbooks that they have.
When I moved to New York, I had to seriously pare down my cookbook collection. My library is now the Food52 cookbook library, where I read books at the end of some days and go home with ideas about ingredients or cooking methods—or simply happy from a good story or a beautiful photo or a well-designed book.
Spirit punctuation, and why?
So I had a lot of difficulty with this question and decided to open it up to some pals. Here is a truncated transcript of the very roundabout conversation, where the most impassioned decider said comma:
If we’re talking dreamy-but-still-able-to-support-myself: this job. I know, roll your eyes.
If we’re really dreaming, running a coffee-shop-bar-bookstore with a garden out back and a cat (and maybe some customers who are people other than my friends) inside.
Ali enjoys picnicing even in grey weather (left), which is probably the Bay Area in her, and makes friends (right) wherever she goes.
What nook of the office do you most prefer?
The front couch’s only downside, in my mind, is you’re the first person guests see when they get off the elevator, so you must take your feet off the coffee table when you hear the elevator dings. You also must limit the number of plates of food and cups of coffee you have surrounding you, but, other than that, it’s comfy and well-lit. (And you can doze off and the elevator noises will wake you before anyone sees you doing so.)
Recipe we'd be shocked to learn you've never made?
There are a lot of big, classic meats I haven’t made: ribs, fried chicken, pot roast, lamb, duck—a Thanksgiving turkey. But then again, I really like sprouts and green things, so maybe this isn’t surprising.
Please quote a favorite passage from a cookbook, recipe, or ramble.
This is the bowl chapter intro in EAT: The Little Book of Fast Food by Nigel Slater.
Is there anything else you'd like to know about Ali? Anything you'd like to share? Tell us in the comments below!
First photo by James Ransom, all others by Ali Slagle & editor friends