Food memories: Q&A with Asha Loupy
At Primary Beans, we see food as a powerful source of connection, memory, and love. So we’ve invited some of our favorite creators to share their own food memories, and the recipes and people who inspired them. Food Memories is a rotating collection of stories from our favorite home cooks, chefs, and bean enthusiasts, featuring all your favorite beans and showcasing recipes, tips, and bean magic from around the world.
Meet our friend Asha Loupy, an Oakland-based writer and recipe developer whose intention in the kitchen shines through in every dish she creates. Asha’s upbringing in California – as a South Asian adoptee in a family with roots in the Basque-Pyrenees region – gives her a distinct point of view that translates into delicious recipes that honor the ingredients’ origins. She’s currently the beloved recipe editor for Diaspora Co. and a contributor to Bon Appétit, Food52, and more. We had a blast chatting with her about the early childhood memories that cemented her love for cooking, and our shared mission to give home cooks confidence to explore and experiment in the kitchen.
What are some of your earliest memories about cooking and how have they informed your career in food?
Growing up, my favorite part of the week was curling up on the couch on Saturday mornings watching PBS cooking shows, like Julia Child, Jacques Pépin, and Martin Yan. The thing that stuck with me – beyond learning basic cooking and knife skills – is that cooking doesn’t have to be taken too seriously, it’s okay to mess up in the kitchen (delectable things can come out of mistakes, after all), and you can make the most delicious dishes with odds and ends. I still remember Jacques Pépin throwing a bunch of leftover bits of cheese into a food processor to make a cheese spread. Those lessons have become tenets when developing recipes today.
What inspired your early interest in French cooking?
My great grandparents immigrated to California from the Basque-Pyrennes – a region in the southwest corner of France, bordering Spain – in the early 1900s. As an adoptee, it’s always been important to learn about – and celebrate – all sides of myself. For me, food and cooking is such an intimate way to connect with people and places, so learning about French ingredients and regional cooking helped me explore that part of myself.
And, over the years, exploring my Indian roots has become equally important. The breadth of regional cuisines within India is amazing, and for someone who loves food, thrilling. The most fun I have in the kitchen is combining French dishes and techniques with South Asian ingredients, and vice versa. Saag paneer galette, anyone?
Tell us more about your passion for POC and BIPOC food writers being seen as authorities for more than just the cuisine of their heritage.
Heritage is such a tricky word – just like authenticity – because it’s often so distinctly linked to a person’s appearance, or more specifically, the color of their skin. Quite often, the scope of POC and BIPOC recipe developers is reduced through a white lens to assumed familial dishes and the perception of what we grew up eating. But, everyone’s experience is different, and what is authentic to me, especially as a South Asian adoptee, might not fit into someone else’s authenticity box. Just like people, food and ingredients have migrated across the globe, and that fluidity should be represented in food media.
There is a lot more progress to be made within food media, but it’s been such a joy over the last few years to see more and more POC and BIPOC cooks and writers front and center—Samin Nosrat (Salt, Fat, Acid Heat is iconic), Eric Kim, Sohla El-Waylly, Joanne Lee Molinaro, and Illyanna Maisonet are some of my favorites.
How would you describe your cooking style?
My cooking is very ingredient-forward. I don’t love the term “global” when it comes to a style of cooking, but one of the things that excites me the most is learning about different cuisines, traditions, and ingredients. My pantry is much more well-traveled than I am – from North African harissa and Malaysian sambal to French green lentils, Kashmiri saffron, and extra virgin olive oil from California’s Capay Valley. It’s always my intention to honor where an ingredient or product comes from, the farmers who grew it, and the crafters who made it – and, my way of doing that is by using those ingredients to create delicious recipes from my lived experience without erasing the ingredients’ origins.
What's one food item you'd eat on repeat, forever?
Carrot salad – or, in French, carottes rapées – is my favorite thing to eat year-round. The first time I had this salad was in Paris, and I still remember that first bite filled with freshness, crunch, and vibrancy (especially after many meals filled with cheese and butter). Now, I make a version that is based on the classic salad, but bolstered with a ton more tender green herbs and toasted spices like cumin, coriander, and fennel seeds. It’s great on its own, but also tasty tossed with cooked beans or grains, and makes a killer slaw next to grilled meats or on sandwiches.
What's the legacy you want to leave with your cooking?
Being a part of people’s kitchens – and having people trust you and your recipes – is such an honor. My hope is that my recipes give beginners confidence and inspiration, make celebrations more joyous (and delicious!), and provide a jumping off point for home cooks to riff and build on in their own kitchens.
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