In the interview, Calvocoressi speaks candidly to Epicurious Senior Writer Sam Worley about the circumstantial struggles that made this cookbook a labor of love for her. Late last year, she and her partner realized that they would no longer have much of a budget for cooking and needed to downsize accordingly. Facing these struggles head-on, Calvocoressi took to Facebook and decided to source recipes from friends—fellow poets, activists, and community organizers—who, like her, cook craftily on a budget due to necessity. She took this braintrust and compiled it into a cookbook that could be deployed for use by anyone in a similar situation.
The resultant book is appealingly user-friendly. Its recipes call for ingredients that are easy on the wallet and relatively low-touch, opening with Calvocoressi’s own shakshuka and expanding its reach to dishes ranging from Moroccan Spiced Chickpea Stew to Icelandic Meatballs. Almost all begin with a lucid personal anecdote of some sort. The book itself is more cosmetically unvarnished than any contemporary cookbook I've seen, which is refreshing; some recipes even have drawings in lieu of traditionally handsome recipe photos taken in a studio.
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Calvocoressi hopes that the book will be the first of many volumes. "I think more and more, our tables are going to be the places where we talk about how we are going to live in this country safely and humanely,” she told Worley. “Hopefully this cookbook can also be a way of organizing people to do that.”
Now that the cookbook is out, Calvocoressi is calling for people to print it, bind it, and distribute it to food kitchens and social justice-oriented organizations. Calvocoressi asks that anyone who sells the book refrains from profiting off it themselves, though. It's a nod to her own philosophy of creating a “new economy,” characterized by an altruistic sense of giving and lack of desire to reap profit purely for ourselves. It’s a sentiment that may be best summed up by the phrase on the book’s final page: “You always have a place at this table.”
The New Economy Chapbook Cookbook Volume 1: Inexpensive, Healthy, Hopeful Feasts for 2017 is available via PDF here.
Mayukh Sen is a James Beard Award-winning food and culture writer in New York. His writing has appeared in the New York Times, the New Yorker, Bon Appetit, and elsewhere. He won a 2018 James Beard Award in Journalism for his profile of Princess Pamela published on Food52.