Happy September! Since it’s the first day of a new month and back to school time, it seems like the perfect day to begin something new. You Pick Six is a new interview series where I email several questions to interesting New Englanders and let them decide the six questions that they would like to answer.
There are so many fascinating people in the New England area. With this new type of interview, I hope to learn a few things and share some of these people with you.
Let’s get this first interview started with writer Anastacia Marx de Salcedo, who has a new book out called Combat-Ready Kitchen: How the U.S. Military Shapes the Way You Eat.
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What is a favorite simple recipe to prepare at home?
I don’t have a favorite recipe; I have a favorite way—actually ways—to turn vegetables delectable, and those rely on two workhouse appliances, the toaster-oven and the blender. The toaster-oven is great for roasting. I cut all sorts of things— cauliflower, eggplant, okra, peppers, Brussel sprouts, zucchini—into bite-size chunks, toss with olive oil and sea salt, and cook at 400 °F for anywhere from 20 to 40 minutes. I serve these at parties as finger foods and people can’t stop eating them. My other infallible vegetable cookery method is a smidge more complicated, which is to braise in water or stock such standards as asparagus, broccoli, carrots, and mushrooms; make a white sauce (aka New England soul food); puree the vegetables in the blender; and then mix everything together in a soup pot. Great winter night fare!
What brings you peace every day?
Running. Laughing with my kids. Being in bed with my husband.
What is some of the best advice you’ve ever received?
When you can’t solve something, keeping reading. Thanks, Dad!
What three people do you admire most?
I admire many ordinary people, drawing from them a collection of the qualities that seem necessary to live a good life. Some of those are courage, optimism, and dedication. Personally, I’m always asking myself if I’m being a good role model for my children. If I’m behaving in a way that I’d like them to emulate, I feel good about my decisions.
What is the best meal you ever had and where was it?
Tiny, just-dug, hot potatoes sprinkled with kosher salt eaten from a plastic sandwich bag; a hard-boiled egg (undoubtedly laid that day), also with kosher salt; and sweet coffee eaten in a small, Ecuadorian mountain village at sunrise. Why was it the best? I was hungry. I was happy. It was a moment of purity.
Tell me about your book.
My book untangles the profound influence the US military has had on American food science and processed foods. If you’d told me ten years ago that I’d be writing about this topic, I would have been very surprised. But one day I started thinking about a sandwich—specifically that its components all had a rather long shelf-life—and that led me down a rabbit hole into the military’s involvement in our food system. The book’s got a lot of important 20th century food science in it, although it’s been digested by me, the ultimate layperson and written in lay terms. Writing about it made me realize how scarily little we humanities types often understand about how the material world works. Time to change that, y’all!
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Thank you so much for participating Anastacia!
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Photos provided by Anastacia Marx de Salcedo. Credit: © Jorge Salcedo.