With their food blog aimed at 20-something cooks, college cooking website, and forthcoming book, In the Small Kitchen: 100 Recipes from Our Year of Cooking in the Real World (Morrow, May), Cara Eisenpress and Phoebe Lapine might seem a lot older than their (combined) 51 years. But the women are only “seniors” in the real world, having graduated college four years ago, and they’ve taken their recent college experiences and even more recent real-life experiences, and turned them into a helpful web/print enterprise that should help nervous new cooks feel more confident in the kitchen.
What do you think is the biggest barrier 20-somethings face when it comes to cooking?
CE: I think it’s the expectations they have. Even the people in our demographic who don’t cook that much do watch the Food Network, and see mainly fancy and elaborate food there. Reconciling that with your abilities and your small space, you have to learn not to feel inadequate.
PL: Our website started as a how-to by example. We saw the kinds of cookbooks that are out there. Books like Rachael Ray’s 30-Minute Meals are great resources, but none of them really talk about the different everyday constraints we face as fledgling cooks—like if you got caught at work and you have friends coming over in 30 minutes.
When did you start thinking you should write a book?
PL: As our blog got going, we started thinking long and hard about the bigger picture. The blog’s categories ended up becoming the framework of a book, and [the idea of a book] influenced how we wrote the blog from the beginning, in a more focused manner, always with our audience in mind.
Can you describe your average reader?
CE: It’s the busy, 20-something professional, in the city pretty much. But the most important factor is an interest in wanting to cook. In the end, our book presumes that you want to spend some time cooking. It’s not a “cook outside the pizza box” or “semi-homemade” cookbook. You have limited resources, and you live in a city with lots of takeout options, so why do you want to cook?
PL: Age doesn’t even necessarily play as big a role in it as we thought it did. A lot of newlyweds, working mothers, and first time mothers are facing similar constraints.
Why did you start Small Kitchen College, the spin-off from your original blog, Big Girls Small Kitchen?
PL: We wanted to set up a whole other platform for the generation behind us, who are facing a set of challenges in their own right. There weren’t a lot of great college food sites out there and there’s no place that pooled the resources in the way that we’ve tried to.
CE: We wanted Small Kitchen College to be a place where people in college could have their voices heard.
In which small kitchen did you cook one of your most memorable meals?
PL: We actually had a great joint cooking experience in a stinky little spring break apartment in Costa Rica. We cooked fish burritos.
CE: We basically had no equipment but we had a grocery store. We cooked a meal for 30 or 40 people with these little burners. It was great.