The fourth-ever issue of this newsletter was called “Nancy Meyer’s Kitchen”. If you know me, you’re aware this “Coastal Grandmother” aesthetic — one defined by Nancy Meyers movies’ well-appointed kitchens, Ina Garten’s fabulous dinners, cashmere, linen, and expensive beachfront property — is long-embodied in my life. Since college, actually, when I attempted to decorate my dumpy Gainesville, Florida townhouse with Tiffany blue wall paint and ginger jars from HomeGoods.
We even had a supper club, where my then-boyfriend, our friends, and I would spend all day scouring the local farmer’s market and a hippie grocer called Ward’s, then bring back our bounty to fire up the rickety stove and concoct the food from whatever cookbook we were currently obsessed with.
I’m sure I have a picture of those days somewhere.
It was a time that holds a lot of fond memories for all of us, but it turned out to be formative, too: Travis is now Chef Travis Sowards, the Executive Chef at Tom Collichio’s Temple Court in New York. Robbie went on to attend the Culinary Institute of America and become a chef in Portland, Oregon. And we had two Chris’s — Chris Pabst went on to become a food safety microbiologist and the Chris Sand, an accomplished home cook.
The latter is still my best friend to this day, and his twin brother Ryan Sand, who was often a guest in our Gainesville home, went on to work for and lead kitchens for culinary legends like Daniel Boulud and Thomas Keller. He’s now a partner at Major Food Group, which is why we got to have a blowout meal at Carbone over my birthday last month.
And of course, I went on to spend the next 10 years of my life writing about food, food culture, and the people who cook and cultivate it, which rolled into a career making food images, marketing food halls and liquor brands, and all of the other things that experience spawned.
The one thing all six of us have in common: we all grew up watching OG badass cooks and learning by osmosis. That is to say, we all spent a lot of time with our Moms in the kitchen.
One neither needs to be coastal nor a grandmother to be a Coastal Grandmother, you see. As Nancy and Ina taught us, it’s an ethos defined by one central truth: it all really does begin in the kitchen.
And guess what? I still host a lot of dinner parties. And I do it the exact way my Mom does, facing out over the kitchen island with my guests across, while I cook.
In 2020, when things were just about as bad as things could be, my Mom, rather heroically, swooped into my little Ansley Park condo and gathered my little COVID social pod. I watched as she prepped from-scratch creme fresh the night before (as instructed by Ina) and stood aside as the spectacular display of her cookery transpired the next evening for all of my friends, who were absolutely agog.
To me, there is no better way to show someone I love and care about them than to make them a meal and enjoy it over a long, wine-soaked evening around my table — and I got it from my Mama. TikTok might have coined it “Coastal Grandmother”, but I’ve been living this life since birth, baby.
My boyfriend today is from California. His parents live in Carmel, and his Mom gives me all kinds of Nancy Meyers’ coastal main character energy, too. We are surrounded by iconic female strength from all sides, a proud byproduct of the women who raised us… Nancy and Ina included.
So this Mother’s Day, I invite you to channel that energy: gather with your family, given or chosen, and break bread around a dinner table. Here are a few of my and Mom’s favorite things to help you do it. Tie it up, deliver it with some groceries or wine, and make memories to long outlast the meal.
The Ferarri of kitchen gear for the high-tech composter, a sleek dispenser for homemade sparkling water (great for summer cocktails), a sturdy and well-priced set of cook’s tools, and a microgreen growing kit for the Mom who loves a good garnish.
A spice grinder for the chef who likes her greens rolled and smoked, a killer starter set for the Mom whose cookware hasn’t been updated since Father of the Bride came out, the chicest toaster money can buy, a grain flaker for the Moms who insist on being analog.
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