The Most Pressing Debates About Women and Food From Cherry Bombe’s Sold-Out Summit

Photo: Instagram/@opentable_restaurants

Last Saturday, Cherry Bombe, the twice-yearly magazine published by editor Kerry Diamond and art director Claudia Wu, held its Jubilee, a gathering of women in food. The setting was a massive industrial space in the South Street Seaport District in lower Manhattan and the sold-out event—tickets were priced at $350 a pop—featured panels, speeches, and interviews with some of the biggest female names in the industry.

Of course, there was plenty of delicious food too: A breakfast catered by Whole Foods (spring frittata with Persian rose rice pudding and hibiscus horchata), lunch by Dig Inn (poached wild salmon, herb roasted chicken, and grilled organic tofu) and a cocktail party with yummy bites provided by Sweet Laurel, Hot Bread Kitchen, and others.

The kombucha flowed all day, as did the fair-trade coffee and scintillating convo on heated topics such as sexual harassment in the kitchen (should we all be boycotting restaurants backed by Mario Batali and the people he helped bring up, like Mary Giuliani and April Bloomfield?) and what does it really mean to be a “badass” chef (is that a male-ism?).

Cherry Bombe Nigella Lawson
Food writer Tasmin Khan and Nigella Lawson; Photo: Instagram/@fullybookedwomen

Preeti Mistry, an Oakland-based chef and cookbook author, gave a heart-felt speech about how her failures (as a contestant on Top Chef, for example) contributed to her success. “I’m blessed because everyone expects me to fail. The very fact that you are a woman with drive an ambition means that there are people out there who are going to say ‘who does she think she is?’” said Mistry to the enthralled crowd. “And when you fail, they will be there to say ‘I told you so.’ You aren’t going to show them by not f—king up, because you will. You are going to show them by picking yourself up, dusting yourself off and showing yourself what you are truly made of.”

"Women feel like they have permission to feed people but not to eat." — Nigella Lawson

Arguably, the highlight of the day came at the very end, when British superstar Nigella Lawson took the stage. Lawson, who was interviewed by chef and author Samin Nosrat, first responded to a question about why she doesn’t consider herself a chef, but rather a home cook: “My notion of a chef is slightly bullying and ego-driven,” said Lawson, who qualified her approach to cooking as “less confrontational” and more about “finding a relationship with food.”

On that topic Lawson was particularly animated. “Women feel like they have permission to feed people but not to eat. My mother never ate,” said Lawson, who voiced her desire for women to stop thinking of what they eat in terms of moral judgment, i.e. “I was good today” or “I was bad today.” The result? “You end up eating things that don’t even give you pleasure,” said Lawson. “I don’t eat a bowl of kale to be good.” (She eats kale because she truly loves it.)

Besides tackling eating for health versus pleasure, Lawson also took on the notion of cooking as a form of self-care, pointing out that women often fall into the trap of “it’s just me so I won’t bother” when whipping up something for themselves at home. “Cooking is an act of generosity and kindness,” she said. When we eat with enthusiasm and joy (rather than guilt or shame), it affirms that we are “worth taking care of and sustaining”—whether what we’re craving is a bowl of kale or a big slice of cake.

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