13th April 2017
Interview: Ebony-Renee Baker
Photograph: Leah Pritchard
The thing I probably dream about most is an ice cream I had when I went to Portland, Oregon in 2014, from a shop called Salt & Straw. It was my first time in the USA, and I was by myself, and I had this amazing ice cream on the most beautiful sunny day, and just wandered around the streets feeling alive and so curious about the world. I miss that.
Without a doubt, Fresh India by Meera Sodha. I’ve honestly never had a cookbook that I’ve engaged with so much: I’ve made big, garlicky naan breads, plantain curry, a Gujarati dish of corn on the cob in a rich nutty sauce, a cinnamon-rich curry with paneer… Everything has been so perfect. This means a lot coming from me, because I never usually get round to cooking from the cookbooks I buy.
We literally got served spaghetti mixed with unseasoned, barely-defrosted cubes of carrot and little peas. And the wine tasted like piss, I am not joking
I mean, I don’t really go to expensive restaurants, so I don’t get many chances to be disappointed and bankrupt, but in terms of big contrasts: when I was in Bologna (i.e. the gastronomic capital of Italy, even the world) with my girlfriend last year, we stumbled into this little restaurant thinking that all restaurants there would be at least decent, and we literally got served spaghetti mixed with unseasoned, barely-defrosted cubes of carrot and little peas. And the wine tasted like piss, I am not joking.
There are so many! But one of the best has got to be the bit in Moonstruck when Cher forcibly enters Nicholas Cage’s kitchen and cooks him a steak, whether he likes it or not. It’s her slightly prickly, bolshy way of showing she cares.
I love waffles. I love them most of all when they’re heaped with berries and syrup and vanilla cream, but I wouldn’t turn down a good bacon, scrambled egg and syrup waffle, either. There’s a bit at the end of Nora Ephron’s final book where she’s describing things she miss when she dies, and in this list she includes both waffles and the concept of waffles. I couldn’t agree more.
There’s a place in London that might not be the most fancy, but it feels like the most special place to me because I have so many good memories of going there with my flatmates when I lived near there. It’s called Sunday and it’s in Islington. They do the most perfect breakfasts and brunches, but there are also great lunch and dinner options. I still remember this one dessert I had there: it was some kind of milk sherbet, I think. In fact, I have no idea what it was, but I can still taste it right here – sweet, milky, cool – on the tip of my tongue.
My favourite food when I was 10? Digestive biscuits dipped in orange juice
Nora Ephron! OK, so she’s not a cook or technically a food writer, but her essays are full of food and eating and cooking, and those references also find their way into so many of her films. Look at When Harry Met Sally, for example: “I’ll have what she’s having.”
I don’t usually listen to anything, because I find all the noises of the kitchen – the stirring and bubbling and humming and chopping – distract me too much. Having said that, there’s a show on BBC Radio 4 called In Therapy which I enjoyed for a while: it’s a glimpse at what happens inside a therapist’s office, and it’s perfect if you’re as nosey as I am.
Digestive biscuits dipped in orange juice. I’m sorry, Mum.
I’m a very generous cook. As in, nobody has ever gone hungry when I’ve been cooking. I like to feed people well. I like to make them happy; to show them I care.
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