Cookbook author Julia Turshen saw a disparity in the cooking world — and as an activist and award-winning author of Feed the Resistance: Recipes + Ideas for Getting Involved, saw an opportunity to create diversity. Last year, she founded Equity at the Table (EATT), a global, searchable directory of female food professionals of writers, chefs, artists, and lawyers, many of whom are LGBTQ or persons of color. EATT’s mission is aimed at solving the lack of representation in the food industry.
We caught up with Turshen, who also recently published Now & Again: Go-To Recipes, Inspired Menus + Endless Ideas for Reinventing Leftovers, to learn how the food industry is changing and how food can play a role in shifting public policy.
Experience Life | Why did you decide to found Equity at the Table (EATT)?
Julia Turshen | Putting together Feed the Resistance helped me better understand how I could use my own platform as a cookbook author to move the industry forward. It helped me expand my own community, both professionally and personally. In doing so, I spent a lot more time listening and finding out more about experiences that other people have had. I don’t know the solutions to all of the issues that our industry faces, but I absolutely saw room for a resource that could bring us closer to some of those solutions.
EL | Since EATT’s founding, what changes have you seen in the food industry?
JT | We’ve seen EATT members featured, hired, and supported by gatekeepers in positions of power (editors, conference organizers, television producers, etc.). My hope is that those folks will continue to use EATT as a regular resource. The EATT community itself has also come together through social media, IRL events, and via email. Overall, I see other big changes and shifts like the #metoo coverage of sexual assault and harassment in the restaurant industry, organizations like the James Beard Foundation changing their policies to move in a more inclusive direction, and more. I feel hopeful.
EL | In Feed the Resistance, you merge the idea of cooking and activism. How does food play a role in getting involved in communities or public policy?
JT | Food and activism are both totally about community, so it makes a lot of sense for them to coexist. Food is how I’ve come to understand my own activism, and it’s my hope that it will be an approachable lens for others, too. Food offers lots of practical actions that are easy for individuals to take (providing meals for activists, being more environmentally aware, spending money on a meal with a group that supports refugees, etc.), and food also shows us so much big-picture potential. Food is the way I have understood issues that are unnerving — racial and gender injustice, economic disparities, environmental dangers, and on and on — and food is also where I find answers — and the light at the end of so many tunnels. When I see the work that Jordyn Lexton does with Drive Change and Kerry Brodie does with Emma’s Torch, I see how food can be the conduit to real and lasting changes.
EL | Now & Again features creative ways to repurpose recipes — and could also cut down on food waste. Why were you interested in doing a cookbook on reinventing leftovers?
JT | It is absolutely a book about food waste without ever saying so, and it comes from my love of leftovers and transforming them into something new. I wanted to help other home cooks see how much potential they have and how creative you can be with leftovers.
EL | What’s next for EATT?
JT | To keep growing its membership (which is free!) and continue being a useful resource. We also had an incredible event in New York last year and look forward to finding more opportunities to bring members together offline.