Beth Dooley is the author of In Winter’s Kitchen: Growing Roots and Breaking Bread in the Northern Heartland, a Minnesota Book Award finalist. She has also written six cookbooks, including, with Sean Sherman, The Sioux Chef's Indigenous Kitchen (winner of the James Beard Award for Best American Cookbook); with Lucia Watson, Savoring the Seasons of the Northern Heartland (a James Beard Nominee); and Minnesota’s Bounty: The Farmers Market Cookbook. She is also a Senior Fellow, Endowed Chair in Agricultural Systems, Minnesota Institute for Sustainable Agriculture at the University of Minnesota. She writes for the Star Tribune, Mpls St. Paul Magazine, and The Heavy Table, and is a regular guest on Minnesota Public Radio’s Appetites with Tom Crann and KARE 11 (NBC) television. Dooley lives in Minneapolis.
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Books by Beth Dooley
Author Q & A
I love that Thanksgiving shapes In Winter’s Kitchen with chapters on cranberries, potatoes, turkey and the like. What prompted this?
Thanksgiving is the quintessential American holiday, and we are the breadbasket of the country, if not the world, so it allowed me to focus on each of the iconic foods that we grow so well here and that are part of the meal. It seemed to make sense to try and look at all the themes of the book through these foods. I thought about how I could talk about everything I learned since we landed here in Minneapolis, and it really comes down to what our growers are doing that seems so right for the Thanksgiving meal. Honestly, I don’t know what I was thinking when I invited my entire family for Thanksgiving that first year. But it really showcased all the things I was beginning to discover, so that seemed like a good place to start as well.
What made a difference for you when you landed in Minneapolis?
I thought the Minneapolis Farmers Market was overwhelming and exciting, and that was early on when people were talking about food. That was the ’80s, and goofy things were going on with food then, too. I remember being fascinated with Julia Child, with Bon Appétit and Gourmet magazines. I would do things like spend all day going to the farmers market and finding everything I possibly could and making these elaborate meals and inviting people over for dinner. But it didn’t take me long to realize — and I certainly wasn’t the only one — that it’s really not what you’re doing to the food, it’s the food itself that’s so important. The more I cooked and the more I looked for good food, the more I understood it had to do with where it’s grown, how it’s grown, how the soil is taken care of and those kinds of things.
What are you thankful for?
I’m thankful for connecting with all the people I’ve written about in this book — and for the others who didn’t quite fit in the pages. I’m thankful for cooking and how it has connected me to people and to this place. I am most grateful seeing how many different ways people live really well. I’m thankful for independent farmers and independent chefs because they are passionate and use the best practices. These are people making a good living, but not a great living [income-wise]. I feel that if more businesses paid attention to values other than just being extremely profitable, then things would be different: that everyone’s lives would be better and there would be more good food for everyone.
How do you get more people interested in the quality of their food?
It’s a hard message to convey, but it makes a difference when you work with the food itself. Going out to help on a CSA [Community Supported Agriculture] farm changes your appreciation of the value of food and the importance of it. Food tastes better when you are engaged that way. And you tend to care a little more about it.