Ask people to describe Caroline Wright and your likely to hear terms like food writer, editor, recipe developer and tester, food stylist, or photographer. A former food editor at Martha Stewart’s Everyday Food, she is a graduate of the prestigious Ecole de Cuisine La Varenne and had her work appear in Cooking Light, Real Simple, Every Day with Rachael Ray and Women’s Day, among others.
I met Wright at a dinner party a few weeks ago that was held to celebrate the publication of her new cookbook, Twenty-Dollar, Twenty-Minute Meals. After flipping through the pages during the meal, I thought, "Now, this is a woman who understands me..." She also writes the Twenty-Dollar, Twenty-Minute Meals column weekly at Food52.com.
"Like most cooks I know, my life story really begins with food. I have always been a curious eater, and was initially fascinated with cooking as a means to serve that curiosity," says Wright. "Only when I went to college in Paris did I become really inspired with cooking as it related to the produce available in markets, the culinary culture, and the lifestyle. I went to culinary school there after college and never looked back.
My home kitchen (in Dallas) is always changing, whether it’s who spends their time in it with me-- once, all my friends and now my toddler son-- or the city that surrounds it. I love the ways my life affects my cooking: I’ve picked up flavors or techniques from different places I’ve cooked, or tweaked a standard recipe or two to fit the palette of who joins me at the table. I almost feel I could cook my life story for you more efficiently at this point than relay it through a paragraph or two!"
Q&A with Carol Wright
CW: Even though I love to cook – and consider cooking therapeutic, despite that I do it for work, too – I also love to make things. I have been quilting almost as long as I’ve been cooking, since I was taught by my best friend’s mom when I was in the fifth grade. I spent most nights either quilting or knitting, making things for my son or loved ones while getting a bit of down time.
OSC: What are your favorite restaurants?
CW: I don’t have the chance to eat out as often as I’d like – it’s tricky when delicious food is a byproduct of your work! However, there are a few I can’t resist sneaking out to as often as possible (for varied reasons):
- Lucia is my favorite cozy spot for a special date night with my husband. It transports me back to the West Village in New York.
- My favorite burger, hands down, is from Maple and Motor. It’s the kind of burger that, even if I tried to capture all of the goodness with the careful choosing of ingredients and preparation, I wouldn’t get the same result. Their griddle must be seasoned with magic.
- Spiral Diner is a place my husband and I go often. We love our vegetables as much as we love meat, and this is the place we go when we want something decadent and really tasty without losing focus of our love of fresh food.
OSC: What are your favorite places to shop?
CW: I realize that this wasn’t necessarily meant to be a food-related response, but I definitely have found some awesome markets here that I love so much:
- Central Market - Finding a good market is huge for someone who develops recipes for a living. When I lived in New York, I had a network of stores I trusted – I knew which stores I had to hit to find the perfect thing I was looking for. Central Market has made shopping for my work so easy.
- India Bazaar – a small chain of grocery stores that cater to the Indian community – is my favorite place to shop when I want to feel inspired and challenged by new produce and ingredients. I shop at the one in Richardson, which gives me the excuse to roam around that culinary melting pot for an afternoon while I’m there!
- I love Green Grocer on Greenville. It’s where I go for anything local and fresh—and I can’t help but pick up the house blend of kombucha that Holy Kombucha makes for them.
CW: The Texas State Fair, for sure! My husband, toddler son and I troll the booths and look forward to expanding the bounds of my perception of fried food. The home economists command the bulk of my attention, however. I think I may have the chance to judge a competition this year.
OSC: If you have visitors come to stay, name 3 "must see" places you would take them around the city that you feels gives the flavor of Dallas.
CW; It is my impulse to answer in dive restaurants only, since that’s how I learn a new place when I visit. But, since I’ve already responded with my favorite restaurants, I don’t want to bore you with more! I love to take friends to the arts district downtown. The concentration of great museums and the cool Klyde Warren Park make for a fun afternoon – and it’s proximity to tasty food trucks don’t hurt. I always take friends to Oak Cliff, whether it’s to the Texas Theatre or just to walk down Davis and find anything from a great brunch, vintage shop or slice of pie. The Dallas Arboretum is a great spot to take friends, especially in the fall when the weather is a bit cooler. I can let my son run around, pausing only to learn a bit about a flower or two, and I can manage to finish my sentences in the presence of an adult and some pretty foliage. It’s a win-win.
OSC: What's your favorite Dallas landmark?
CW: Even though there are a thousand non-food related answers to this, there are a few food institutions in Dallas that feel as though they root the town in a bit of history. My favorite spot that transports you is Keller’s Hamburgers – it feels like the city has built up around it and not much has changed since the 1950’s. It is like time travel for under $20.
OSC: What do you think makes Dallas such a great place to live, work and raise a family?
CW: Dallas is a great place to raise kids with a balanced life for the whole family. We live in Lakewood, which we discovered is one of the hubs for young families, and love that we can walk to parks or ride our bikes around White Rock Lake and spend an afternoon out of the car. Living in a dense community of young families is also wonderful because we can simply walk over to a friend’s house and hang out as a family. When our son gets a bit older, we look forward to experiencing some of the things that Dallas has to offer that are inspiring to little kids, like art classes at the DMA or the awesome kids park at the arboretum.
OSC: Tell me something about you that most people don't know.
CW: I was a vegetarian for twelve years. I went to art school in Vermont over a summer and came back with the convictions shared by my peers there. My parents were wary to make two different dinners, but caved only after I did a (thorough, graphic) presentation for Civics class on animal testing. It’s funny to think of now, but my vegetarian days still stick with me. I still take care to know where my meat comes from, and I care about preparing it well. I also like vegetables more than most people, which I think shows up in my work. My cookbook has a ton of recipes in it that are accidentally vegetarian – by that I mean I just cooked what was tasty to me at the time and it turned out that it was quickest and cheapest to prepare because it was meat-free. But yes, this was all because of one summer spent in Vermont!
Wright is currently hard at work on new cookbook that is all about one of my favorite desserts - CAKES! You can find her current tome Twenty-Dollar, Twenty-Minute Meals on Amazon or visit her blog for recipes at http://www.thewrightrecipes.com.