Amy Rogers: Food Appreciation, Everything Seasoning and a Recipe for Writing a Recipe

Taste Buds with Deb - Episode 63
July 3, 2024
Photo by Sonja Langford

“I always say my favorite recipe is anything someone else makes for me,” food writer Amy Rogers told the Journal. “I am a passionate food appreciator, but at the end of the day, it all comes down to the simple things.”

While Rogers said she enjoys a fancy meal as much as the next person, for her the most heartfelt memories and the most satisfying food experiences are around the things she grew up with, such as roast chickens and noodle kugels. And she can still make an amazing matzo ball!

“I watched my mother and my grandmothers do it so many times,” she said. “And there were no secrets to it: it was just about being patient. chilling the dough and making sure that all of your matzo balls are the same size.”

If they’re not all the same size when they start to puff up, some of them will cook faster than others, she explained. If you cook them too long, they’ll fall apart. If you cook them not long enough, they’ll be soft on the outside, but they’ll be raw on the inside.

“Roll those little matzo balls into the little walnut size,  put them right in the boiling water and try to get them all in as close to each other at the same time as you can, so they all cook at the same rate.”

Some of Rogers’ earliest memories were cooking with her family and gathering around food,  whether it was for a holiday meal or a bagels and lox brunch on a weekend.

As a writer, she explained, it was inevitable that her passion for food and stories would meet.

“I’d been working as a journalist for a pretty long time, and one day I sat down and I noticed that food kept showing up in my stories,” she said.

For example, she was writing about what it’s like to raise a family on minimum wage. The biggest challenge for the family she was profiling was having enough good, healthy, appealing food. Other times, Rogers would start an assignment that had nothing to do with food and it ended up a food story. For example, she was profiling a family who had moved to the US from Serbia in search of medical care for their children, and they ended up opening a bakery.

When she started embracing that angle, the food writer label started to stick.

“I will always tell people that I’m not a chef and I’m not a fancy cook; I’m just someone who appreciates good food,” she said.

During the pandemic, when everyone was trying to make do with whatever was in their pantry, Rogers discovered the one ingredient that makes everything delicious: everything bagel seasoning.

“So much of Jewish cooking, whether it’s European based or Middle Eastern based or even just American based, has in it garlic. onion, salt, pepper and sometimes sesame seeds,” Rogers, who makes her own combinations, said.

It’s terrific on a bagel, of course, but you can put it on your toast with butter, pasta, green beans, almost anything. Mix it with oil and vinegar and you have a salad dressing.

“I used it as a rub on some chicken … a little paprika and bagel seasoning; it became such a thing,” she said. “It has all the flavor profiles … it’s my favorite one-size-fits-all flavoring.”

Rogers, who also teaches workshops on “how to write a recipe,” said a recipe can be as simple or complicated as you want.

“Most people have in their family legacy, a person who … made the best pie or made the best something, even if they didn’t write it down,” she said. “So there’s already a process of handing down stories from generation to generation within our families and within our faith communities and within our ethnic communities.”

A great place to start with food writing is “My favorite food growing up was …” or “I remember my family making this.”

“Those kinds of little snapshot recollections become very, very meaningful,” she said. “You don’t have to go out there and taste a bunch of fancy wine or learn about restaurant food to really be engaged in writing about food from the angle of storytelling.“

Rogers’ recipe for writing a recipe is below.

Learn more at AmyRogers.net.

For the full conversation, listen to the podcast:

Amy Rogers’ Recipe for “How to Write a Recipe”

A recipe is more than a mere list of ingredients. The best recipes share delicious details of what makes them special. They’re a great way to preserve and pass down traditions. Perfect for family historians, genealogy aficionados and home cooks. No experience necessary!

What you need to write a recipe:

– An interesting title. Instead of “Blueberry Compote,” I make “Elaine’s Best Ever Blueberry Dessert.”

– Details about why it’s good, who made it and when (these are called headnotes).

– List of ingredients and their measurements.

– List of equipment.

– Instructions and times for cooking, chilling, etc.

– How to serve and store.

– How many servings it makes.

For example:

“Elaine’s Best Ever Blueberry Dessert”

Photo by Amy Rogers

Each summer when I was a child, my mother prepared a rich yet effortless dessert that remains my favorite to this day. I can still picture her in the kitchen of our house on Long Island. She’s wearing her summer ensemble of white slacks, a sleeveless blouse and sunglasses on top of her head, where she left them after shopping at the farm stand nearby.

1 pint of blueberries, washed, drained, and chilled

1 small container of sour cream

1 handful or more of brown sugar

Put the blueberries in a pretty glass bowl or divide them into two bowls. Top with sour cream and sprinkle generously with brown sugar. Serve immediately.

Makes 2 servings, enough for one mother and daughter.

Debra Eckerling is a writer for the Jewish Journal and the host of “Taste Buds with Deb.Subscribe on YouTube or your favorite podcast platform. Email Debra: tastebuds@jewishjournal.com.

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