528: Chili Oil with Bryant Terry

Molly 0:04

I'm Molly.

Matthew Amster-Burton 0:05

And I'm Matthew.

Molly 0:06

And this is spilled milk, the show where we cook something delicious. Eat it all. And we're back in our closets again.

Matthew Amster-Burton 0:12

Oh, yeah. And that's because we have a special guest today. Do Today's episode is about chili oil. Should we start by starting the way we always start, which is starting on down memory lane. Yes. So I say start enough times that it's starting like a word anymore.

Molly 0:27

Start by saying that my my start in the world of Chile oil. Here's how it started. Are you ready for me to start?

Matthew Amster-Burton 0:34

Oh, yeah, yeah, you can go and start.

Molly 0:37

I'm pretty sure that my first encounter with Chile oil as like a concept was that it was it's always a How about I just start?

Matthew Amster-Burton 0:48

Oh, yeah, we get to start start anytime you want to start.

Molly 0:53

So I'm pretty sure my first encounter with chili oil as a concept was that it was that condiment that lived on the table in Vietnamese restaurants is like a, like a clear plastic jar with a metal lid that the spoon could poke through.

Matthew Amster-Burton 1:05

Yeah. Or would there be like a little divot for the spoon? Like in the lip of the of the jar or like this?

Molly 1:11

Yeah, yeah, yeah. Yeah. But I never tasted it because I was frightened up shirt. And I think that that it took me actually into nearly into my 30s to discover the pleasure that is eating chili oil, not just looking

Matthew Amster-Burton 1:28

at it. Yeah, although it is a very attractive condiment. It is.

Molly 1:31

Around the time that we were opening to lancy Brandon and I, we were really inspired by the pizza at Ken's artisan pizza in Portland. I think that Ken's makes its own chili oil.

Matthew Amster-Burton 1:46

Right? Yeah,

Molly 1:47

you know, it's probably just olive oil and chili flakes, I'm guessing anyway, but I remember eating that chili oil drizzled on Ken's artisan pizza. And it was the way that it warmed my mouth was something that I had never encountered before in spicing. And, and so we made that chili oil from the word you know, the very simplest chili oil that I can think of. So olive oil with chili flakes warmed in it for a little bit. We made that from the very earliest days of de Lancey.

Matthew Amster-Burton 2:20

Yeah and I remember having that on stuff into Lansing It was great. I

Molly 2:24

can picture like a saucepan of olive oil and chili flakes just sitting just inside this the pizza oven hearth. Ah, yeah, back in the old days. What about you, Matthew,

Matthew Amster-Burton 2:36

so I wasn't sure how much chili oil memory lane I had beyond like the last few years when I've been making it regularly. But then I remembered that for some reason, like when I was growing up like and the same is true today. My dad loves spicy food and my mom doesn't and so like when you have a household with a spicy food person and a non spicy food person obviously you're going to have hot sauces and spicy condiments, right? And I remember like that when I when we made chili and I wanted to like spice up my chili like I would put in Chinese chili oil like like commercial like pre made Chinese chili oil as as a hot sauce. And I don't know like why we had that specifically rather than like a Tabasco style sauce which we probably also had. Yeah, why why my parents suggested that as like a way to spice up my chili but I did love it.

Molly 3:27

How would you the flavor? I'm trying to picture the flavor of that in Chile and like a chili powder flavored?

Matthew Amster-Burton 3:36

Well. It's I think there's a lot of overlap because we're definitely going to get into like for like Chinese style chili oils, like the flavor of toasted dried chilies is really the dominant sensation. Yeah. Who dominant sensation

Molly 3:52

sounds like I love my sensations to be dominant.

Matthew Amster-Burton 3:55

Me too. But so and that's also true of like, you know, chili chili con carne a that that it's based on like toasted dried chilies, so I think it went really well.

Molly 4:06

What is chili oil? Is it always made from dried chilies? What What is this

Matthew Amster-Burton 4:10

stuff? Okay, that's a good question. Molly. I'm going to have to shuffle my papers a bit in order to answer so chilly oil. Not always but almost always has a dried chili component. I think of it as primarily being dried chilies infused in hot oil. So if you're familiar with Lao gum, or fly by drink chili crisp which we like you know, I think everybody loves this stuff. That is a type of chili oil that includes fried garlic and soy beans for texture. But like the most basic chili oil you can use, like just dried chilies and any kind of oil that can take a moderately high heat. Yes, yeah. Okay. So that can be vegetable oil, peanut oil, avocado oil, even even olive oil

Molly 4:54

and you leave the the chile sediment like the solids in the oil And part of what makes this oil such a versatile condiment is that you can choose how much of the chili sediment you actually use when you scoop it out, right?

Matthew Amster-Burton 5:11

Yes, that's exactly right. I have like, the chili oil that was in our cabinet as when I was a kid and I put put in my chili like that had all of the solids filtered out. But like, I definitely like the way you'll see it like, you know, on the table at a Vietnamese or Chinese restaurant and the way that I keep it at home, like it's pretty much like, you know, half oil and half sediment and so yeah, like the sediment is really tasty. You know, you choose how much you want to spoon up

Molly 5:36

when you make chili oil at home, as I know you do, and I do as well. What types of chilies do you use?

Matthew Amster-Burton 5:44

Okay, so I use a, like a roasted ground chili blend that I buy from Mala market, which we can link to it in the show notes. And I think it is really good stuff. On the other hand, any medium to spicy dried red chili is going to work really well like so if you have like Chili's de audible, those will work great just like you know, grind them up or mortar and pestle them first. You know, you can make it with like, you know, Italian style crushed red chilies that will be delicious. Like you're going you're going for like a mix of color and flavor. There are some chili mixtures that you will get like the color from, like, go to God who gives tons of color and very little heat. Usually unless you buy the spicy one. You know, like tight chilies will give like less color but lots of heat. And but you're what you really are going for is that toasted flavor and that's all about like getting the oil hot enough before you pour it over the chilies.

Molly 6:46

Ah, do you always heat the oil and then pour it over the always keep the oil warm them together.

Matthew Amster-Burton 6:54

If you warm them together, it's just too easy to burn the chilies. Like it's not that you can't do it. But like you want to expose the chilies to like a lot of you know of heat, like a high temperature so that you get that toasty flavor. But without taking like you know taking them over into burnt. And the best way to do that is to put them in a heat proof bowl and get your oil up to like the 300 or 350 and then pour it over.

Molly 7:19

Okay, that's 300 to 350 Fahrenheit.

Matthew Amster-Burton 7:22

Okay, I think I usually do 300

Molly 7:23

Hold on I want to go back to chili crisp for just a second. Yeah, cuz I think that these days, I mean, chili crisp is so trendy. I want to talk a little bit more about it. I mean, you talked about how it's a type of chili oil that includes like some texture components like fried garlic or soybeans. What is it sometimes that makes like I'm thinking of fly by Jing in particular has a really like savory flavor that lingers in a different way from when I have made for instance a basic chilli oil using like a set 20s Chili blend what's going on? I think that's

Matthew Amster-Burton 7:59

probably toasted soy soy beans, because like they're, they're gonna contribute me contribute a mommy that the chilies alone don't

Molly 8:07

have Okay, so do you ever add other things to your chili oil like garlic? I mean, I know garlic and ginger are big things do you ever? Do you ever add stuff?

Matthew Amster-Burton 8:15

Yeah, I will usually like smash a couple of ginger coins and just kind of toss that in and they're not meant to be to be like eaten along with the with the sediment but are just like kind of sit in there for flavor and they look kind of cool. Like most of the stuff I do in the kitchen is to look cool. Totally. I think we all know that. Like you've seen my cooking hat, right?

Molly 8:35

I've also seen your cooking shoes.

Matthew Amster-Burton 8:37

Yes. Yeah. These are the coolest shoes like I don't I don't like you know, I'm afraid I'm gonna like like distort the market and like cause further supply chain issues. If I talk too much in detail about like cooking shoes, they are pair of Birkenstocks that are probably like 20 years old,

Molly 8:56

you know, they are to Birkenstocks. What distressed jeans are to like regular jeans. I think that there's there's going to be an explosion after this episode in the market for distressed cooking Birkenstocks, like Birkenstocks that are extremely worn down and have your your foot juice in them.

Matthew Amster-Burton 9:18

That's true. I am going to have to start harvesting my foot juice to be used in the production process. That's so

Molly 9:26

distressed Birkenstocks. Yeah cuz that's what everybody's looking for in shoes, they're looking for their shoes to already be worn down. I filled with germs.

Matthew Amster-Burton 9:35

I don't know anything about shoes, but I know like people get really into shoes. I bet distressed sneakers are a thing right?

Molly 9:42

But not the footbed No. Bad when I think of your cooking shoes, I think have absolutely destroyed

Matthew Amster-Burton 9:52

Yeah, also my kitchen is like like old linoleum that started like have holes worn in it and it really matches the shoes

Molly 10:00

it does it does. You know, I'm noticing we haven't said the word start in a while.

Matthew Amster-Burton 10:05

But we should start.

Molly 10:07

We should start. Oh, hold on. Okay, but But back to cooking styles. Yeah. So of course, as you were saying you sometimes add some slices of like smashed garlic just for style smash ginger, usually Oh, sorry, ginger. Sorry. Is there any danger in leaving the ginger in there for a while? How long can you let this stuff sit around?

Matthew Amster-Burton 10:27

That's a good time. Like, I mean, first of all, like, it's not very good right after you make it partly, because it's like, still like 275 degrees, it will burn your face. But like even after it cools to room temperature, it really needs to like sit and meld for overnight. Like before, it's at its best. I don't find that it changes much more noticeably after that. Like we said before, I am the kind of person who has probably unfounded fears about botulism and infused oils. So I will let it go in the fridge for like two to three months and try and use it up. I tried to like make a quantity that I can use up during that time.

Molly 11:05

Hold on wait, do you feel like two to three months is a conservative amount of time? If you're thinking about like botulism, I don't

Matthew Amster-Burton 11:11

know like do I? This is not based on science at all. This is this is based on superstition.

Molly 11:16

I have recently so Wait, have I told you that my spouse, ashes dad is from South Korea does anyone in

Matthew Amster-Burton 11:23

botulism, I feel like we would hear about it.

Molly 11:26

Hold on. I have like so many conflicting thoughts about food poisoning because I mean, I used to have a food handler's permit, right? Because I worked in a restaurant and they drive into your head that like you know, the the danger zone.

Matthew Amster-Burton 11:44

Oh, yeah, I

Molly 11:45

definitely believe in the danger zone. Anything that's been my way there to like 40 or 41 degrees and 140 degrees. That's the danger zone where you don't want food to hang out for too long. Because of foot juice. Because Because of distress, yes, yes. Anyway, but Okay, so my spouse grew up in a household where they would cook an a rice cooker full of rice, and then leave it on the counter. I think with the warm setting on for days and days and days. And just come along and scoop some out and eat it. So presumably like I can't imagine that it was like crazy hot. I don't know how hot the Wi

Matthew Amster-Burton 12:29

Fi setting is designed to be above the danger zone boundary.

Molly 12:32

Really? Yeah. Do you think even like the rice that's on top the top level?

Matthew Amster-Burton 12:36

Well, okay, I'm not sure but here's what I do know if you leave rice at room temperature like especially like in a moist environment for a few days. It will get moldy as fuck. So yeah, like there is like there was at least enough heat to to ward off to moldy spores.

Molly 12:55

My friend Hannah. She also does this and she's never gotten sick either. So I'm like, What's up with all the food safety stuff? I don't learn I don't

Matthew Amster-Burton 13:04

think rice like after a couple days in the rice cooker on the warm setting is at its best, but I don't think

Molly 13:11

my spouse cares. Okay, I think they're down with rice and all fitness. They're down with distressed rice. Yeah,

Matthew Amster-Burton 13:19

I mean, distressed, right, like sounds like dirty rice, which is great, which is delicious. So So get down with distress, right? I really think my hypothesis is that a rice cooker will keep the whole contents above the danger zone boundary if you leave it on more. That's my theory. Okay.

Molly 13:34

Okay. All right. But back to back to botulism,

Matthew Amster-Burton 13:36

like back botulism, like only like is only happens in like anaerobic conditions. Yeah. Another thing you could do is just like, keep your whole house at a temperature below 40 degrees,

Molly 13:48

or above, or above 140.

Matthew Amster-Burton 13:51

I learned at botulism as a kid when we had like a union in science. We had poisons, and I've been scared of it ever since. And it's never come up. That's how I feel about syphilis. Yeah, yeah, exactly.

Molly 14:03

Anyway, so we've got our guests joining us in just a minute. But I want to talk a little bit about how we use chilli oil in our kitchens before we sort of shift over to talk with our guest Brian Terry. Yeah, okay, so you sent me home once with some of that set. 20s Chili blend from Mala Mar. Yeah. And I made that chili oil, which I have eaten on joke which was delicious. I'm a big fan of chili crisp. My entire household eats quite a bit of chili crisp. I use it in yaki soba in any number of stir fries lately, I've been making a lot of stir fried cabbage because you know, tis the season for cabbage in great abundance. Yeah, stir fried cabbage cooked in some really hot peanut oil. And then season with soy sauce shouting cooking wine and some chili oil or chili Chris Yes, that's this Yeah, what about you? How do you how do you use chili oil

Matthew Amster-Burton 15:03

any any thing stir fried like I love it and yaki soba like I will always throw some in there like in a dipping sauce for dumplings like it's a classic with with Chinese black vinegar I recently like if you're ordering chili flakes from the Bala market order they're they're Ching Kang vinegar also because it is so much better than than black vinegar that I've bought, like the cheap stuff. Ah, yeah. Which like normally I find like the cheap version of any condiment is fine for me, but this makes a big difference. So like that mix with chili oil and optionally, soy sauce is like the ultimate dumpling dipping sauce. Like I will put it in a salad dressing a classic tots D teenager the show December lunch is fried eggs over rice with soy sauce and homemade chili oil. It goes in like smack to cucumbers. Yes, absolutely. Oh, and I wanted to mention friend of the show, Shao Qing Chow her book Chinese soul food has a recipe for wantons in Chile oil that I started making last year and it made like a dozen times since then. And it's so good it's got both chili oil and such when he's chili bean paste like in combined in whatever ratio you like, which is just fantastic.

Molly 16:18

Is it like a pork wantok or pork and

Matthew Amster-Burton 16:21

it is it is a ground chicken one time although I usually substitute ground pork because that's what I have on hand but it would be great with ground chicken Oh man. Okay, I would definitely recommend if you have not already made this recipe it's real good. Get the book Chinese salsa

Molly 16:36

so that's shushing Chows recipe from Chinese soul food. Yeah, check it out. Alright, so my first encounter of course with chili oil was through Vietnamese food and then Italian food. Your first encounter was through like Chinese Chile oil meets like Kearney. But our guest today is going to talk with us about Chile oil from a whole different direction, which I don't know much about and I'm really excited to learn more. Our guest today is Bryant Terry, who is going to be talking with us about chili oil in the African American tradition.

We are thrilled to have Brian on the show today. I am sure almost all of our listeners have heard of his wide ranging work. He's made an impact in so many areas of the food world. I can't even begin to sum it all up into a tiny little bio. Matthew, what are a few things he's done.

Matthew Amster-Burton 17:36

Okay, so he is a James Beard Award winner. He's an NAACP Image Award winner. He's a chef, educator, author. He's an activist, and he believes in creating a healthy just and sustainable food system. He is the editor in chief of four color books, which is an imprint of Penguin Random House, maybe you've heard of it and 10 Speed Press. And he's the CO principal and innovation director of Zen me a creative studio that he founded.

Molly 17:59

That's right. And I think this is really cool. For the past several years. He's been the chef in residence at the Museum of the African diaspora in San Francisco. So there he creates public programming at the intersection of food and farming and activism and culture in the African diaspora. What we're most excited about today, though, is Brian's brand new book black food, which has the most gorgeous cover, not to mention the entire interior. He's also the author of vegetable kingdom, Afro vegan, vegan Soul Kitchen, the inspired vegan and grub.

Matthew Amster-Burton 18:33

Yep. Brian. Terry, thank you so much for joining us today. You know, we are fans of all of your books, but this one is really special.

Bryant Terry 18:39

Thank you. I really appreciate that.

Matthew Amster-Burton 18:41

Molly and I have been talking all about Chile oil, but the type that we're most familiar with is Chinese and East Asian Chile oil Bryant, could you please tell us more about Chile oil or purity PV oil in the context of foods of the African diaspora and Sub Saharan Africa?

Bryant Terry 18:56

Sure, in many Western Central African countries, some type of pepper sauce or chili oil is it's just essential you see it on all tables. And, you know, it's interesting because growing up in the South, there was a similar kind of culture around having some hot pepper vinegar, or some type of fermented chili sauce on the table that you use to add some heat and acid to the dishes. And so it's so central to a lot of the cooking that we kind of imagine or, you know, see in real life throughout the African diaspora. And the thing about chilies is they actually aren't indigenous to Africa, but they just have just made themselves so indispensable to Western Central African cooking. And, you know, I would say if there was one cuisine that has shaped my culinary approach more than others, it's Louisiana, kind of New Orleans, hoping and, you know, going to college in New Orleans is just like, that's where my kind of love of heat really kicked in. because, you know, so many of the dishes that you have in New Orleans are really spicy. Yeah. When I was putting together black food, when we were putting together the chapters, I was very clear that after the the essays, I wanted to have these curated menus. And you know, as things unfolded, we have to, you know, we were running out of space and time and things. And it didn't play out exactly the way that I wanted to. But one thing that I was attempting to do is, you know, have like a curated menu, and every menu would start with some type of chili oil or chili vinegar. And you see this in the Motherland chapter, which actually starts with my pili pili oil.

Matthew Amster-Burton 20:35

Yes, I have the book open to that page right now. And I made the recipe and it's extremely delicious. I've been like putting it on everything.

Bryant Terry 20:42

Oh, so you didn't make it? Yes. Well, yeah. So you know, with these, the pilly pilly oil, it's just kind of one of those oils that you see or pili pili or pity pity, depending on, you know, who said it, so it's a Swahili name for chilies. You see it throughout Sub Saharan Africa, bird's eye chilies are typically used. But you know, you can use whatever chili is on hand. It was one of those things where I just felt like, it's great for people to experience these different, like flavor profiles, and just see the connections because you see, you know, chilies used in sub Saharan African cooking, you see it in the Caribbean, and you definitely see it in the American South. So it's one of those, you know, fruits that I feel like are kind of emblematic of African diasporic cooking.

Matthew Amster-Burton 21:24

But Molly and I were talking before you got here that one of the cuisines that I know best is Japanese cooking. And in Japanese, a common word for spicy is PD or PD kata. And I think Chili's came to Japan through Portugal, but the word clearly seems to be related to the Swahili word. And I don't know how that happened. But it's fascinating to me.

Bryant Terry 21:44

I love that I had no idea. Thanks for sharing that information with me, Matthew.

Molly 21:49

So I noticed that it has fresh herbs, in addition to the chilies, will you tell us about what the herbs bring to it, and then how you use that particular oil in your kitchen?

Bryant Terry 21:59

Sure. Well, the thing about, you know, pilly, pilly, PDP oils, or you know, anything, any kind of hot sauces, I mean, there probably are endless variations that, you know, you have variations by country, and then I'm sure by region and ethnic group, and neighborhood and home. And so I try not to get too caught up in these ideas of, you know, purity, and like, but what's the most perfect pilly pilly oil to share. And I think as long as those basic ingredients are there, I always strive to make food kind of, you know, in the ethos that I've always been making them, which is drawing on local, seasonal ingredients. And so when I was testing that recipe, you know, we were growing chilies at home, we have a three 100 square foot raised beds at our home, when we were growing food. And in our backyard garden, we had like, you know, tomatoes, and chilies and a lot of fresh herbs. And so I just decided to experiment with using some fresh herbs. And I just wanted to brighten it up a little bit, you know, give it some kind of herbaceousness and just have a little more complexity to the flavor. I tested it a number of times, some without the herbs, some with herbs, and I just found that it was much more robust and exciting with the fresh herbs in there.

Matthew Amster-Burton 23:11

And then how do you like to use it in your kitchen?

Bryant Terry 23:14

I use it on everything. Yeah, I mean, it's one of those things where for me because I like heat so much. And it's always a challenge, balancing my adoration of heat and my seven and 10 years old, evolving palette and their inability to take the kind of heat that I can. But yeah, I use that chili oil. You know, if I'm making a savory breakfast, I might use it. We've been having a joke, which is a Chinese, you can have breakfast, lunch or dinner but it's a kind of a rice porridge that's cooked into the rice is just falling apart. And then you top it with a number of you know, whatever kind of additions you might have, whether it's peanuts, or some roasted tofu, some fermented greens, and whatever I'm adding to my joke, I'm gonna drizzle it with some chili oil. So that's probably the most the way that I've been using that pilly pilly oil most often is having my morning joke just to kind of get my body warmed up before our summer day.

Matthew Amster-Burton 24:13

I'm so glad you mentioned that we had heady McKinnon on a few months ago to talk about joke. We did a whole episode on that. She's wonderful.

Molly 24:20

Yeah. Wait, I had a question about your garden. So what kinds of chilies are you growing in there?

Unknown Speaker 24:25

Wow. So we definitely have some bird's eye chilies. We have some jalapenos. We have a number of chilies that I don't even know the name of them. Yes. And you know, it was I just want to shout out spiral Gardens, which is his food security project in Berkeley. And they have been doing some amazing work for I don't know, maybe two decades now. My friend Don constant Hunter who's the owner had invited her to come over and just really helped me and revitalize the garden last spring. So we identified some chilies that I definitely wanted to have in there but then she just brought a number of kills. Lisa, she said you need to have these in here. So we have a diversity of chilies. And it's just fun playing around with them. And you know that thing about having the gardens at home. That was one of the ways that we cultivated, I guess a love of, well before a love of kind of helping our kids understand the seed to table cycle experientially, I think our young oldest daughter was three, when we had given her a small raise bed that we typically use for a lot of fresh herbs. And we were just like, Okay, well, we're gonna give you a little portion of this. And that's your garden. And so we let her pick out some things that she wanted to grow, and she had to be in charge of watering them and weeding it.

Molly 25:37

Oh, my gosh, I love that you gave her her own little raised dad. That's fantastic. I'm inspired.

Bryant Terry 25:45

A lot of parents are like, Well, how do you get your kids? You know, how do you help them get excited about eating vegetables. And so I tell them that as much as you can get them involved with the cooking process. That is just a great start. So we would have a little bench that we put in the kitchen for we would go out to the raised bed in our front yard with her we have a lot of our dark leafy greens, and we'd have them help us harvest them. And then we bring back a little bow with the greens. And then we have another one with it was kind of a metal bowl with water. And then we had another metal bowl with a colander. So she would take her greens, she would vigorously move them around in the bowl with the water and lift them up in a colander. And then she had her own little assembly line. And you know, when she was involved in helping to prepare it, she wanted to make it she felt invested. She's like, Yeah, I harvested it. And I cleaned them, of course and then to try them. And we really credit that early work with her with her. Just very adventuresome, diverse palette. Unlike our second one who just likes french fries and pasta.

Molly 26:46

Yeah, I think it's like a requirement, you have to have one of each, you know, you're not allowed to have two kids with adventurous palates is true.

Matthew Amster-Burton 26:53

Yes. I imagine like any task where you can get a kid to splash water all over, that's going to get them on board with anything I feel like for

Bryant Terry 27:01

sure, but let me tell you the origins of that, when I founded the NGO be healthy, which is a food justice organization that started in New York City back in 2001. We, you know, I knew that the population of young people we were working with the last thing we needed to do was bring them to a project where we were just lecturing them, they were coming from the lower economic strata of New York City, living in communities where they were going to these underfunded segregated schools. Yeah, you know, along with a range of material conditions that weren't, were unfavorable. And because they lived in communities that suffered from food apartheid, they had been so disconnected from a lot of fresh, healthy, affordable and culturally appropriate food. And what we found was that when we would take these kids to rule farms and community gardens and urban farms or food co ops, and you know, we really had them engage in the experience around the seat to table cycle, well, if they harvest systems or something at this farm that we went to, when we brought them back to the door, where we were based, of course, they wanted to cook it because they're like, Yeah, I pull this out of the ground. So I want to make this dish. And if they made some, you know, roasted beet salad with quinoa and goat cheese, it might have been the most foreign thing to them. But because they made it, they wanted to try it. And the more that they tried different things, and more that opened up their palates. I've been kind of using that philosophy that we developed with the young people we work with, and just, you know, doubling down with my children and helping them explore the diversity of the vegetable kingdom and beyond. Oh, I

Molly 28:30

love this. That's fantastic. I think this is a good a good moment to to look more broadly at what this book does. And I was struck when I first got to look at it by the degree to which it's really a celebration of black culture, as much as it is a cookbook. You have essays and recipes from such a broad variety of contributors. So I wondered if you could tell us a little bit about how the book came about, and what you wanted this to be a separate from, from the books you've done before and the projects you've done before?

Bryant Terry 29:03

Sure, that's a great question. And in order for me to talk about the origins of black food, I have to talk about my residency. I've been chef in residence at the Museum of the African diaspora in San Francisco since 2015. You know, from the moment that we started the programming there, I knew that we were doing something special. You know, I always talk about the fact that our first program, black women, food and power, while we brought together some scholars and activists and farmers who do we have a psyche Williams foursome who's one of the foremost scholars around black food, Nicole Taylor, New York and Georgia based author and journalist, Carolyn Randall Williams, who's an author and a poet, Gail Meyers, who is a scholar and a farmer and an activist. So we have brilliant women talking about the historical and contemporary role of black women in the production and distribution and consumption of food and food knowledge because there are a number of scholars there. And the fact that we have people who flew in from the east coast for a two hour program in our tiny, our small but mighty Museum in San Francisco, I knew we were onto something. And I always jokingly say there was I saw that there was a literal hunger for this type of programming pun intended. This is 2015, we weren't, we didn't have the infrastructure to do virtual programming, you know, then the ethos at the museum was kind of like, yeah, come here, have an experience. And if you miss it, then come to the next program. But I had always keeping been keeping it in the back of my mind, just this desire to share this brilliant and thought provoking and cutting edge programming that we're doing at the museum with the world. And just to be clear, back then this was this was revolutionary. I don't know if there's any museum with a chef in residence program. And so immediately, as the word got out, we would get, you know, messages, like at least half a dozen messages every week, from institutions around the world, like, hey, we read about this program, we're very interested, if not full on creating a chef and residence program, at least seriously thinking about how they could include more programming around health and food and farming issues. And, to this day, you know, we can continue to get queries about that. But all that to say, you know, I just felt like, it'd be great to share a lot of the brilliant programming that we have been doing. And so fast forward to 2020, following the kind of uprisings after the murders of Brianna Taylor, and George Floyd. And then, you know, after that, you know, because we were dealing with this national racial reckoning, but along with that, there was a revelation of a lot of racism within food media, and some of the legacy food, you know, food media, corporations not supporting their bipoc employees, and you know, some instances of just blatant racism. And so I felt like this was the moment like this was a time that this book needed to come to the world. And I wanted to share a quote with you that I sent to the over 100 potential contributors to the book. Yeah, please. So it reads, When I think about black food, I keep coming back to Toni Morrison's quote, quote, the function of racism is distraction. It keeps you explaining over and over again, your reason for being in quote, while this book will acknowledge the historical and contemporary ways in which our people have been marginalized, exploited in a race, the main focus of this project is our agency creation and empowerment, what emerges when we are distracted by racism? How are we empowered? What are the ways our humanity is displayed? What are we curious about what brings us joy, and I really wanted the book to have that energy. And to be clear, Toni Morrison wrote this book, or she edited a book in the 70s, called the Black Book. And it was this kind of encyclopedic look at black history and culture from like the 17th century up into the mid 20th century. And I was deeply inspired by that book. So I wanted to have something that moved beyond just being a cookbook, but really was just a celebration of Black History, black culture, written through the lens of black people. And really, I saw this as a conversation that we're having with each other with without concern for the white gaze. And we're inviting the world the world in and I feel like we did our job we did it.

Matthew Amster-Burton 33:05

This book feels joyful to me like without, you know, at any point like shying away from from addressing real intense issues like there is there is just like an undercurrent of joy throughout it. I noticed that the book kicks off with a playlist, not just like a playlist of like, you know, five or 10 songs, but an incredibly diverse roster of artists with like songs for like, you know, different moods and, you know, different themes that come in and out throughout the book. How did you go about choosing the music to include because it seems like for you, just like for me, like you can't separate food and music? Well, that's

Bryant Terry 33:41

true. I mean, they're inseparable for me coming from a musical family, a family of artists, whenever we had gatherings around food music was present. You know, my grandfather, Edward, Brian senior, started this traveling gospel quartet, Eddie Bryan and the four stars of harmony.

Matthew Amster-Burton 34:00

I love that Dave.

Molly 34:01

That's so good.

Bryant Terry 34:03

I love that name. But yeah, they were the first black group to perform on radio in Memphis, gospel radio, they traveled throughout the South. And because of that all of my mom and her siblings were musical, you know, from her who sings in the church choir to my uncle Don, who he's in the 70s. And he just got a Grammy nomination last year for best traditional blues album. That's amazing. His last. So yeah, music has just always been a part of our family's culture. And, you know, in terms of a political project, I'm very clear that our industrialized food system has transformed food into this commodity which is on one side. And then on the other side, there's all the things that have traditionally been so integral to the way that we grow food and cook it and eat it like music and art and culture and community. And I really see my body of work trying to bridge that chasm. Because I'm sure you guys know it isn't the first time I've done this like, you know, I include music. In every one of my books, you know, the thing about the playlist and the suggested soundtracks, it's really a painstaking process. At some point, there's gonna be some graduate student who is studying my work. And then they're gonna, like, really analyze the playlist, and they're gonna crack the code, because I'll put it like this back, you know, and in my youthful days, I was I was smoking a lot of fresh herbs. And just hours poring over just how to put together the perfect playlists. And I really saw it as like another Tech. Yeah, if you look at the progression of songs, or just the way that I pair it, there's so much to it. So with this one, well, let me tell you interesting stories. And this is connected to both the soundtrack and the cover. So I put the playlist together. And then I send it out to a couple of colleagues, Nicole Taylor, Hawa Hassan, who's a cookbook author and a couple of other people. And I was like, hey, you know, this is the playlist for black foo, can you take a listen and just let me know, how does it make you feel like give me some feedback. And so Nicole contacted me and she was like, you know, I love the playlist, but let me tell you, I feel like it's a playlist for people of our generation people who are in their leg, you know, mid 40s, but I don't feel like my assistant who's in her 20s would look at this playlist and, and see herself in it or see music that reflects her tastes. So I was like, Okay, great. And I took like a week just really researching a lot of the newer artists and there's some like Tik Tok people that I follow, who are, you know, they curate beautiful music. And so I studied and learned about all these just dope new artists. And so I transformed the playlists. And I feel like now it does, you know, it speaks to the older generation, it speaks to my generation. And I do feel like it can speak to Generation Z ears as well. But let me tell you how this connects to the cover, if you look, you know, inside the book there is that I call it Afro steel life kind of reclaiming still life from from, you know, European art. But there's the image, which is right after the recipe list, which is, you know, like the the bananas on the colander and the cutting board with the Greens displayed by them, that was originally going to be the cover of black fun. But after having this conversation with Nicole, I saw that cover through a different lens. And I felt like the cover was I felt like if we use it, it was too academic. It was like me trying to force this thesis on the potential buyer or reader of the book, you know, I have to encapsulate exactly what this book is about. And I felt like it was too literal. And that's where we pivoted to which, what was originally the idea for the cover, which was using a tight base cover. And I talked to my art director, George McCalman. And I was so scared because George is like, he's, he could be like, intense. Oh, my God, gotta go back. We got all these mock ups. And I was like, Look, George, I need to cover that if a college student was in a bookstore, and they saw this across the room, they'd run over just to open this book, like holy moly, what is going on? And that's the cover that we created.

Molly 38:05

Oh, man, I am so glad you told that story. Because this book, the experience of this book would be so different with that image on the cover. listening to you talk about how this book grew out of these programs that you were working on at the Museum of the African diaspora. The cover now conveys this idea this like much bigger idea of the way that food is interwoven with art and design and history and culture. Oh, anyway, good job.

Matthew Amster-Burton 38:39

Yeah, no, I feel like it jumps it jumps off the shelf. Now,

Bryant Terry 38:42

if you look at the color palette on the cover, it actually corresponds with the color palette that we every chapter has its own color palette. And so those colors are what we drew from the actual chapters in the book.

Molly 38:54

Oh, man. Okay, I love this because what I wanted, I wanted to ask you more about the design of the book and especially about how you chose the artists whose work is included? Sure.

Bryant Terry 39:04

Well, first of all, you know, I talk about this being my book, obviously, my name is on the cover for obvious reasons. This is a my book. This is a collective of people that are brought together to bird this book, and it was literally, you know, the funny thing is I always talk about this being like a pandemic, book, my pandemic and baby and then someone because we put the book together nine months, and then I forgot who it was, but they kind of reminded me like, you know, that's the gestation period. This is really your pandemic, baby. Holy moly. But one of the first things I did when we found out we're getting the book deal is I called Oriana Koren who is the photographer, and I said, Look, I'm doing a new book. I think you have to shoot it. And I'll tell you what made me feel like hey, would be perfect for this book. Oriana Korean and Jillian Knox who's a food and prop stylist, they did the package for food and wine back in 2009. To believe it was his whole package around the African diaspora and they shot it. And I love the storytelling that they did in that. And I was very clear that I wanted that level of storytelling in the food photography. So anyway, after talking to Orianna, I put together what I call my kitchen cabinet. And I called up my friend Teresa Nelson, who is this New Jersey based chef and storyteller, Scott Elvis Barton, who is a chef and professor at the NYU Food Studies program. And Dr. Cooper, who is a national food justice leader. And I really wanted to just ensure that, you know, they helped me to make this book, everything that it could be that it's accountable to community. And that it was, as I said to them as the blackity, the most blackity black book that we could put together. And so I had a lot of ideas about people, I want it to be in here. And but there are people that I didn't know, needed to be in this book. And there are people that I knew about that work, but I didn't know them. So they were great at helping me to build out the contributors. But you know, operating out of a museum, I was very clear that we had to have an art component in the book. And I wanted to and so I license in some cases, or literally had people create original pieces, that encapsulates the energy, the content of the, you know, the rest of the chapter, because I really wanted this book to feel like not just a cookbook, not just an anthology where you're getting fat intellectually, but also wanted to feel like art book, like I want people to be able to, you know, have this on their coffee table and feel like they could just spend hours you know, kind of absorbing the visuals and I feel like we did a great job.

Molly 41:33

Yes, that is an

Matthew Amster-Burton 41:34

understatement. Black food stories, art and recipes from across the African diaspora is out now and available everywhere books are sold. Congratulations, Brian. It is an incredible book. And it's been great to have you on spilled milk.

Bryant Terry 41:45

Matthew, Molly, thank you so much for having me on. Appreciate you guys and can't wait for another conversation.

Molly 41:50

Thank you. That was awesome. That conversation went so many points beyond chili oil. And I love

Matthew Amster-Burton 41:58

my favorite like I'm always afraid like when we have a guest on which which like, we're still I think, like not very good at doing yet. Although people have called us like the damn rather we're trying podcasting. Like, you know, we will write questions. I'm always afraid that like, we'll just kind of sound like we're reading our questions. The guests will answer the question, then we'll move on to the next question. And everyone looking away all of our secret You're right. Yeah, but But I'm so like, like, Brian knows how this works. And is like, you know, I'm going to talk about some interesting stuff that you didn't ask me and we are here for that.

Molly 42:27

Ah, thank you again, Bryant. And oh, you know what, one thing that I didn't really, you know, point up in the interview, but that really struck me was that his chili oil the the pilly pilly oil uses fresh chili? Yeah.

Matthew Amster-Burton 42:43

Oh, interesting. Yeah. So you like throw in a whole like, you know, tie bird's eye chilies, and some smoked paprika, which is a dynamite combination. And then along with fresh herbs and olive oil. So it is a totally different style of chilli oil than what we've been talking about. But it's also good on everything. So cool. Okay, so we will answer segments. Sure. Alright, it's time for spilled mail

Molly 43:11

number one, did you know that you can send us mail and we'll call it spilled mail? And if you send us like a question that you would like us to answer on the show, we just might do that. So you can email us at contact at spilled milk podcast.com And send us your questions. For today. We've got listener and here's what listener and sent us cooking disasters was there one dish or recipe you destroyed so thoroughly, it sticks in your memory, any catastrophic failures you still grimace at.

Matthew Amster-Burton 43:43

I have one okay, the biggest cooking disaster I ever pulled was I had been working on an article I think about French fries. And I'm like, I'm gonna make homemade french fries. And I did and they were really tasty. But this was like, you know, like why for the show Laurie was at work and I was like, you know, making French fries by myself and eating them at home by myself which is really cool thing to do, because I was a cool guy. And then I was like, you know, hey, I made these homemade french fries. They're really good. I want to make some for you. She was pregnant at the time. I tried to recreate what I had done. And the oil like I put too much oil in the pot. Alright, overheated it or didn't dry the potatoes enough or something. It bubbled right over the side of the pot onto the burner. And like you know, there were like a three foot column of flames in the in the middle of the kitchen. Luckily, we had a fire extinguisher and fire extinguishers work. And so I put out the fire and have not made fries since then. And probably won't.

Molly 44:39

Wow, okay, that reminds me I need to check and see if my fire extinguisher is still like current. Yeah.

Matthew Amster-Burton 44:48

Don't let your fire expire.

Molly 44:50

No, but really there are places out there that sell fire extinguishers and you should have yours checked every now and then if you haven't used it in years and years and years. should definitely take it somewhere and have it checked anyway. Okay, my biggest cooking disaster this was definitely okay, this is sometime between 2006 and like 2010 Have you ever heard of like the Italian technique of like pork cooked in milk? Yeah. Okay, so I've only attempted at once have not attempted it again. I'm pretty sure I used the recipe from Molly Stevens all about braising, which is to this day, one of my very favorite cookbooks and what I'm about to say, has nothing to do with the cook. Everything to do with my stove, which is that so I had an electric stove then I still have an electric stove now. And electric stoves just I cannot emphasize enough no matter what your stove is, like, if the recipe says like put it over medium high heat or high heat or whatever, like no your own stove. Pay attention to your own stove. It doesn't matter what the cookbook says. your stove is your stove. Oh, well, I stove is my stove. Yeah, this poor coin was supposed to be seared before It's braised right? Because that's how braising works. I was supposed it was a pork loin. So I shelled out a chunk of money on this. It was all tied up neatly with butchers twine. I think I had like studded it with garlic slivers and whatever the heck I was supposed to do. And then I was supposed to get my pan really hot and sear it on all sides before adding the milk and whatever. Well, it said specifically to see her for like, three minutes per side or whatever. Okay, so I turned my stove on to high, which I think is what the recipe told me to do. And I complete li blackened like turned to carbon that was flaking off two sides of the pork loin before I realized what what I had done, you would think I would figure it out after one side. But it actually took me two sides. Because of the way that I had rotated or you're hiding away. Unknowingly, I was hiding my shame. So I tried to scrape off the carbon I was home alone as well. Okay, these things have to have to happen when you're home alone.

Matthew Amster-Burton 47:03

Alone, I put some like aftershave on my face than anyone in the mirror.

Molly 47:10

I scraped off as much of the carbonized pork as I could, and then could then turn the heat down, continued searing it but meanwhile I'd gotten myself so freaked out. And so like mistrustful of my own judgment, that then I proceeded to I proceeded with the recipe, but I don't even know what went wrong. When it was over. I still I had pork that was kind of nicely seared on two of the four sides of the square pork loin now, but the inside was raw. And I had a whole bunch of milk chunks in the pan. It was a very expensive mistake. And all this to say I think if I had just trusted my own judgment and like put my stove on medium high instead of high, and just checked the seer of the beef rather than setting a timer and walking away from it, this wouldn't have happened. Yeah, I think

Matthew Amster-Burton 48:02

I mean, I think like on an electric stove, most of the time, like high on an electric stove is higher than high on a gas stove. Unless it's like a fancy ass commercial ish gas stove. Like the surface of the Sun is a lot like that. Yeah, I don't like it in there anymore.

Molly 48:17

Don't use the high setting on my stove unless I am boiling water. Or if I am stir frying and I'm literally standing right there on top of the stove. Okay, thanks for the question. All right. Thank you. Thank you listener, I am really fun to revisit those other disasters,

Matthew Amster-Burton 48:33

Home Alone disasters, but then then Joe Pachi and Daniel Stern came over and I hit them with Blountstown for now. Now it's time for now but wow.

And it's my turn to now but wow. And this is I've I think I've done a lot of YA novels recently. And why not? This one's called how Moon Fuentes fell in love with the universe by Raquel Vasquez. Gilleland a great, yeah, it's good. And I really enjoyed the book. So it is about Moon Fuentes, who has kind of always lived in the shadow of her beautiful and ultra religious sister. And then the premise of the book is they have to spend the summer together on tour with like, a tour of social media influencers and like if you're if you're like, Okay, I'm getting off this train at this point, I would too, but you do not have to know or care about social media influencers to enjoy the book whatsoever. I don't but I loved the book. So Moon is a great character but an even better character is the love interest Santiago who is like, you know, this type of like, you know, gruff HERO MAN a few words. He's like a person with a disability. And he only opens his mouth to tell mood how great she is or to tell off people who desperately deserve to be told off. I loved Santiago. I love moon. This is this is a terrific book and I recommend it

Molly 50:00

fantastic so that's how Moon Fuentes fell in love with the universe by Raquel Vasquez. Gilleland, our producer is Abby, sir Catella indeed, and you can rate and review us wherever you get your podcasts. And as we and all the other podcasts say, it really helps when you rate and review.

Matthew Amster-Burton 50:17

Yeah, we don't know how it helps, but it really does. There's an algorithm involved. You know, it really like juices up our foot chase. And if you want to talk about foot juice with other people go to Reddit. There's a lot of that going on on Reddit. But if you want to talk about our show, that's reddit.com/are/everything spelled milk poor Bryant

Molly 50:37

Terry, who had the misfortune to be on an episode in which I introduced the phrase flit. Yes, so sorry, Brian. Terry, thank you for putting up with

Matthew Amster-Burton 50:47

this. This legendary author and activist we're gonna like have to send a link to our show. Like what the fuck did?

Molly 50:53

I'm related to.

Matthew Amster-Burton 50:55

Thank you. Thank you so much to Brian Terry for being a guest on the show. We would love to have him back. Although after he listens to the show. That seems unlikely. And thank you for listening to spilled milk. Unlike unlike Santiago in in how Moo Fuentes fell in love with the universe will open our mouths for any reason to say just literally anything that comes to mice.

Molly 51:15

I'm Molly Weissenberg.

Matthew Amster-Burton 51:16

And I'm Matthew Amster-Burton.

So when I said that was right, it was completely wrong.