We'll admit it: The title threw us for a snarky loop. A “cookbook with feelings?" We couldn't resist a chuckle at the notion.
But after poring over Marci Izard’s Nourish Your Whole Self: A Cookbook With Feelings, testing her cheddar-broccoli-quinoa casserole and pasta primavera (both delicious) and talking to her about her theories, we write with more sincerity than sarcasm that we are converted to her holistic philosophy about how eating shapes our mental and physical health.
Still not sold? We asked her to explain.
Houstonia: I love your recipes, but ‘A Cookbook with Feelings?’ Some might find that a bit cheesy.
Izard: [Laughs good-naturedly] I recognize that it's not for everyone. If they only want to take from it the recipes, that’s fine. It's not that I'm guaranteeing you will feel something specific or particular when you cook or eat these foods. The idea is to be aware of the physical and mental effects of certain foods. I believe when you have that awareness, you eat more consciously; the experience is ultimately more enjoyable.
Houstonia: Can you tell me a bit about what led you to write a cookbook?
Izard: Actually, my background is in TV journalism. I spent a lot of time in Boston and eventually moved down to Houston for a job at Channel 9. While I was there, I was hosting a cooking segment, and then right around that time a friend at the Chronicle asked me to do a food blog for their website. It really became a vehicle for mindfulness, which I define as awareness about how food affects you, so you have ability to make more informed choices. Mindfulness is also about becoming aware of the experience of eating.
I also wanted to offer recipes that yielded a beautiful product (which is why nice photos were so important to me in the design of this book) but that wouldn’t take you all day to make or stress you out.
Houstonia: Why and when did you start cooking?
Izard: I really started in my twenties because I just loved to eat! I also had tried to take relatively good care of myself. Wellness and health have always been important to me. I have been a marathon runner so food and cooking was a really important component.
Houstonia: What recipe in the book did you have to tweak the most?
Izard: The first one that comes to mind is the quinoa casserole—I was playing around with that a lot. Also the quiche recipe. I would have someone test it and it would come out sort of dry. So, I would go back and revise, again and again. That's one thing that is hard to account for: the variability in different people’s kitchens.
Houstonia: One recipe is called Dad's Lemon Caper Shrimp. Were your parents inspirations in the kitchen?
Izard: While my mom was definitely the cook growing up, my dad had his own repertoire of dishes and that was one of them. A few recipes, such as that for the pasta salad, are my mom’s.
Houstonia: What do you make to cheer you up if you’re having a hard day?
Izard: It really depends on what kind of flavor I am craving. I love to have treats, but I do recognize if I'm not feeling great, pigging out is not going to make me feel better. In terms of getting a boost, smoothies are really great. Greens and vibrant fruits and vegetables. It’s a cliché but they really make you feel the best.
Houstonia: How many cookbooks do you own?
Izard: Not a ton, ironically enough. You know I end up a lot of the time going to magazines or online. I am pretty selective for what I buy; pictures are a must.
Houstonia: Any food you admit to not liking?
Izard: I'm not big into shellfish, lobster, oysters. Lobster is something I wish I liked because it’s so special but it’s just not my thing.
Houstonia: When you’re not cooking, where do you like to eat out in Houston?
Izard: Uchi. It's creative and fresh and I don't leave feeling overly stuffed. And it's a special place for me because that’s where I got engaged. Also, Pass and Provisions—I had a carrot dish that just blew my mind.
JO: Favorite culinary destinations outside Houston?
MI: Italy. I love carbs and cheese and wine and candlelight. The word ‘romantic’ always comes to mind when I am in Italy, especially Rome.
There’s a lot of places I would like to travel because I appreciate a wide range of different cultural foods. My fiancé’s mom is from the Philippines and his father is from Bangladesh, so in the course of our relationship I have been introduced to a lot of great new food through him. He's a really good cook himself, which to be honest at first gave me stage fright because I’m the one with a cookbook! We do a lot of cooking together; we make a lot of different fish dishes, soups, and a good amount of Asian noodle dishes.
Marci Izard will be signing Nourish Your Whole Self at the River Oaks Barnes and Noble on March 5 from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m.