A Mother-Daughter Cookbook Collaboration
By Rachel Trachten
When Mackenzie Feldman started at Cal in 2014, she was planning to major in business and play beach volleyball. In need of an afternoon class to fit with her practice schedule, she signed up for Edible Education 101, the course on the future of food and food systems spearheaded by Alice Waters. “It changed everything,” says Feldman. Because the class has a different instructor and speakers each year, she was able to take it four times.
The second year, Edible Education was taught by author Mark Bittman, and Feldman inquired about the possibility of interning for him over the summer. She made her request in the form of a poem about food, sustainability, and Hawai’i (where she’d grown up) that she left on his desk. Bittman didn’t have an internship to offer, but he liked her poem enough to ask where else she’d like to work. Feldman chose Anna Lappé’s nonprofit, Real Food Media, and Bittman helped to make the connection. Lappé, an author, educator, and sustainable food advocate, is now also the advisor for Feldman’s anti-herbicide work on all the UC campuses.
Feldman is also collaborating with her mom, Kathy, a longtime vegetarian, on a comfort-food cookbook. “It’s the healthy version of junk food,” says the younger Feldman, adding that along with 40 recipes, themes of food sovereignty and food justice run through the book. “We’ve had the opportunity to interview people from different cultures who are inspiring their communities to eat healthier,” says Kathy Feldman. Those interviewed include Alice Waters, Mark Bittman, Bryant Terry, Michael Pollan, Gail Meyers, Hawaiian chef Malia Smith, Indigenous chef Sean Sherman, and others. Each shared a recipe, reflections on their work, and a letter to a person who inspired their cooking.
It’s largely a plant-based collection, but, according to Kathy Feldman, it didn’t start out that way. (The original plan included eggs, though not meat.) “After experimenting with so many plant-based alternatives, the book took a whole new direction,” she says. “We’ve basically taken our favorite comfort foods and transformed them to be healthy without sacrificing the taste.”
The mother-daughter team took the opportunity to personalize the book with quite a few of their own recipes, including highlights like Cashew Mac N Cheese, Sweet Potato Gnocchi, and Black Bean Avocado Brownies. (Go to their Blueberry Banana Pancakes recipe here.) Mackenzie Feldman’s letter about inspiration is to her mom.
The authors are currently seeking a publisher for the book. It’s titled Groundbakers: Plant-Forward Comfort Food Recipes and Stories from People Changing our Food System.
Who Are the Groundbakers?
For their book, Groundbakers: Plant-Forward Comfort Food Recipes and Stories from People Changing our Food System, Mackenzie and Kathy Feldman asked each of their “Groundbakers” to write a letter of gratitude to a significant person or place that inspired them to work toward helping their communities access and eat healthier foods. These letters, such as the one on the next page, demonstrate how we have others in our lives who lead us to discover how to carry forward our traditions and also enact positive change.
Groundbaker Kevin Madrigal
“A decolonizer of diets, art, and health in America,” is how Kevin describes himself.
He is co-founder of Farming Hope, a social enterprise in San Francisco that provides sustainable employment opportunities in culinary fields for folks who have experienced homelessness and incarceration. As a Chicano first-generation child of inmigrantes Mexicanos, he works to instill his values of plant-based Mexican ancestral foods within the communities in which he works. To learn more, visit farminghope.org and @farminghope on social media. To read more of Kevin’s work, visit medium.com/@kevinmadrigal.
Enchiladas Verdes: a Recipe of Tradition
Excerpt from Groundbakers: Plant-Forward Comfort Food Recipes and Stories from People Changing our Food System by Mackenzie and Kathy Feldman
Boil the tomatillos: Remember the staccato clicking sound of the stovetop pilot when your mother heated water to cook tomatillos every Saturday morning as you woke up to watch Rugrats in Spanish. There is always some sort of homemade tomatillo salsa on the table, but today you know this is for your favorite food. You redirect your attention from the sounds of the pilot, to the sounds of Tommy and Carlitos (Chuckie) determining if Tommy’s father is a robot.
Blend boiled tomatillos, jalapeño, cilantro, salt, and a little bit of avocado:
Because when you were 17 visiting your Tia Maria in Mexico, she told you “a little avocado makes it creamy, so the tortillas don’t get so soggy,” something your mother never told you and you figured she either kept as a secret or forgot herself.
Question whether garlic and onion go into the salsa verde: Call your mother for a reminder and get reprimanded with “¡AY MIJO! ¡Siempre me andas preguntando y siempre se te olvida!”
Add garlic to the salsa verde, but not onion: You’re too scared to ask again, and you don’t like the taste of onion in the enchilada sauce.
Choose your own journey: Recipe A for the “traditional” chicken version, or Recipe B for your newer plant-based version.
A) Traditional Enchiladas Verdes
Shred the chicken (poached, rotisserie, really cooked however you want): Because when your abuela Guadalupe raised her children in the small farm town of La Estancia, Jalisco — chicken was a luxury. Today, we live in Guadalajara, in Arizona, in Texas, in California. We cook chicken to remind us that we no longer scrape by and only eat beans — we eat chicken.
Sauté the chicken with diced green bell pepper. Set aside.
B) Plant-Based Enchiladas Verdes
Grate two parts purple potato—savory kind; not sweet; red potato can be used instead—and one part zucchini: Your professors taught you that eating healthy means encouraging people to eat vegetables, but they didn’t tell you how. You subbed out the meat for veggies in pursuit of creating something more nourishing, and in doing so learned that your ancestors ate this way all along. Still, you feel nervous bastardizing a “traditional” family recipe, and you become anxious serving this version to your mother, whose only form of communicating love is through food. She takes a bite.
Sauté potato until cooked through and season with salt and turmeric. Add zucchini, cook for one more minute, then take it off the heat and set aside: A few weeks after your mother tries your purple potato version, she yells, this time more endearingly: “¡Mijo! Cómo hiciste tus enchiladas?” When you return home, she has already grated the potato and zucchini. She’s waiting for you to show her how to cook it.
To serve, stuff tortillas with filling, roll them up and sauce them generously. Serve with shredded lettuce, finely minced white onion, cotija cheese, and crema: You are now responsible for carrying forward the tradition of cooking in your family. Take inspiration from your ancestors, but remember that these traditions were never meant to be static; they were meant to bring joy, belonging, and life to those you feed.