The guru of home cooking talks about her books, her summer plans and which starry guests would be invited to her fantasy dinner party
What’s your go-to drink this summer?
Whiskey sours, every summer. But they have to be homemade, with fresh juice and good bourbon — Knob Creek. The other thing is a Sinskey Vineyards rosé.
How do you feel about fans’ approaching you in public?
Oh, they’re all so lovely. They all just want to say I taught them how to cook, which makes me really happy. Or people walk by and lean in and say, “I love you.” Who wouldn’t like that? One of my favorite things was when I was walking up Madison Avenue one time and a woman walked by in a big fur coat and said, “Oh, darling, I love your cookbooks.” And about half a block later, a truck driver leaned out of his truck and yelled at me, “Hey, babe, love your show!” I thought, That’s the world of food. It’s everybody.
What are your Fourth of July plans?
I’ve invited some friends over and I’m going to grill Greek lamb chops and retest an Israeli vegetable salad with hummus.
What’s the first thing people should learn how to cook if they’re just starting out?
Roast chicken. And coffee. You need to know how to make coffee.
You’re famous for the line “Store-bought is fine.” But is there any ingredient that really isn’t fine to buy?
Do you view your show as more aspirational or relatable?
I think it’s relatable. There are some things I use that people would see as aspirational, like truffle butter, but it’s not like using white truffles. It’s $7 or $8 for a 3-oz. tub, and you can keep it in the freezer.
What’s the most challenging recipe?
I’ve been working on Boston cream pie for about three books, and I haven’t gotten the balance and flavors and textures quite right.
What food won’t you eat?
Cilantro. I just won’t go near it. And I’m not big on things with eyeballs. And foam.
What do you pack to eat on a plane?
I don’t, really. There’s always something that they serve, like the fruit and cheese platter, that’s perfectly fine. Delta has really good food in the business class, in my experience.
What does the Amazon acquisition of Whole Foods say about the future of groceries?
It’s really hard to deliver good fresh food to people’s houses. There are a lot of people who like to go to the store and see what they’re buying first. But we all want the convenience of having it delivered. So if Jeff Bezos can do it in a good way, I applaud it. The more people get fresh food delivered, then the more people will cook.
Dinner party. Eight celebrity guests, dead or alive. Who’s on the list?
I only do dinner parties for six, so can I do six? Let’s see … I’ll have an all-girls dinner party, how ’bout that? Julia Child, Mrs. Obama, Taylor Swift, me … I have to invite my husband Jeffrey, right? And my best friend, Barbara Liberman. We’ll have a really good time.
How do you handle political talk at a dinner party?
I don’t ever want to offend somebody. If they have different political views, I’m happy to discuss it, but tempers run high and it depends on who you’re talking to. I don’t think anybody’s going to change anybody’s point of view at this point.
The Trump Administration recently lowered nutritional standards for school meals. Thoughts?
I can’t imagine why anybody would be opposed to healthier food choices for children.
This appears in the July 10, 2017 issue of TIME.