Interview with Lan Pham Wilson of morestomach
In this Why I Cook column, I’ll ask Lan questions about why she cooks! I loved learning more about this talented blogger and think you will too!
What primarily draws me to Lan’s blog and always keeps me coming back is her breathtaking photography. I love the dark+dreamy+cozy feel of it, and her shots are always beautifully styled and perfectly composed. I honestly get a little emotional looking at her work sometimes, because Lan has such a knack for creating a specific mood and capturing it in a way that makes me want to pull up a chair so I can be a part of whatever she’s making.
Although not everything Lan makes is vegan, most—if not all—of it is dairy-free, and some is gluten-free, and she makes notations clear for her readers. Read on below to see a few of Lan’s culinary creations, find out who her culinary hero is, then head over to morestomach for more! (BAM!)
When did you start to cook and what about the process itself kept you interested in it?
i cooked after college from a purely survival perspective. i wasn’t too discerning with what i ate, as long as it was easy and cheap and could feed me multiple times. it wasn’t until i was around 30 that i decided to pay attention to ingredients, and with that came the progression of where the food came from. it was also around this time that i realized that i am lactose intolerant. for awhile my focus was on how i could make the same foods i loved without dairy, and then i realized that i needed to stop thinking about all that i was missing and change my thought process to all the things i am able to consume. i realized that i’m not limited and in fact, so many new ingredients make fantastic alternatives to dairy, i’ve hardly missed it.
Describe your process of recipe development. How do you come up with fresh and new ideas on a regular basis?
i freely admit that i am ruled by what is available in my pantry. i try not to come up with something that requires special sourcing or going to a store i normally would not go to. if it’s hard for me to find, then likely it’s hard for others too, and that definitely wanes my interest. as for coming up with new ideas, i really am inspired by other people, reading specific food-related articles, and the seasons. i keep fairly strict to what is natural for the season and will not go off that too far.
Define your own style of cooking.
efficient aka Very Lazy. i know basic techniques to make soups, stews, sauces etc. from there i play with flavors and ingredients. i’m not looking to revolutionize cooking, i’m a simple girl with simple aspirations. i also have a habit of cleaning as i cook. i like having a stew/soup/sauce simmering on the stove but the counters and sink already cleaned and stuff put away, so that i can then go to sit on the couch and enjoy whatever smells emanating from the kitchen.
Describe the best vegan dish you’ve ever made.
Lentil tacos or mushroom stroganoff. both dishes make regular appearances at the dinner table and they’re season-less in that they can be made anytime of the year. the former is great in that no tacos are ever assembled the same, i can add whatever fillings i want according to whim or ingredient availability. the latter is great to warm and cozy up to during cool months, but can be lightened up to enjoy when it’s warmer. most important, both are quick & easy to throw together.
If your current self could give your past self one piece of sage cooking advice, what would it be and why?
butter and milk are not the end all be all. beans and legumes and NUTS are delicious and cheap, resistance is futile. also, the expenditure for the $150+ rice cooker is a very good investment.
Do you have any culinary heroes?
Yotam Ottenlenghi. it is dramatic for me to say this but i do believe he has single-handedly revolutionized israeli/mediterranean/arab food for me. i was fairly ambivalent about the foods in that region of the world, either from not having any good samples or just being more focused on asian foods, but when i received his Jerusalem cookbook it was like a revelation. beautiful dishes, using simple techniques and ingredients, filling and healthy. it also helps that it’s my husband’s favorite cuisine and my experimentations and offerings from Ottenlenghi’s cookbooks have always been favorably received.
If you could choose anyone to cook with in the kitchen, who would it be?
Luke Nguyen or Nigella Lawson. both have a carefree way about their cooking, maybe a little messy for my liking, but i’d gladly clean up after them. also Frances Mallman … have you seen him in action? the man is able to cook anything with fire.
If you could throw a party for anyone, who would be there and what would the menu look like?
Graham Norton, Kevin Hart, David Chang, Shawn Brock and April Bloomfield
the first two make me laugh until i cry, and they have wildly different comedic styles, but i love them. the latter three are chefs i discovered from Mind Of A Chef and their enthusiasm for food is infectious. i would love a down home bbq shindig on a farm or urban lot next to my condo building and basically chow all the live long day. there’ll be white tea sangria AND beer, likely something roasting plus fresh vegs and salads. and corn on the cobb, non-GMO, cus i love corn and i only can have it when my csa has it and the time frame is always short. same with fresh peas.
Name one vegan ingredient and kitchen gadget you can’t live without.
Ingredient: Miso or tahini — miso offers a great flavor profile, complex and simple at the same time. tahini is versatile, i’ve used to make salad dressing, dipping and even in baking. i’ve also eaten it as is. Gadget: Chopsticks — although it’s not really a gadget, it’s a tool that’s easier for me to use than a fork or spoon. i cook with it, i eat with it, and everything in between.
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