Young foodies create cooking guide

It may have started with a middle school battle for the best oatmeal cookie, but enterprising friends Phoebe Lapine and Cara Eisenpress have created their own cooking niche with their witty and whimsical take on everything epicurean for those with limited resources.

Their blog, “Big Girls Small Kitchen: A guide to quarter-life cooking” is a fresh, fun foodie website full of recipes for dorm room dwellers, those stuck in tiny apartments, and anyone cooking on a raman-noodle budget with gourmet dreams.

While geared toward “twenty-something” cooks, the recipes and entertaining tips translate well to any age.

The NY-based blogosphere entrepreneurs will visit F&M’s Writers House Jan. 24 for a 7:30 p.m. talk on “Feeding Your Creativity”. The event is free and open to the public.

“Since we’re not so far out of college ourselves, we’ll talk a little bit about our experience cooking and eating there and how we made the leap in the years that followed graduation to quitting our office jobs in favor of a more creative career,” says Lapine, who says she got the idea for the blog in a post Thanksgiving haze after a cousin prompted her to find work she could be passionate about. After buying a domain name and convincing her foodie friend Eisenpress to join her, the young women haven’t looked back.

This message of “following your passion” is one they’ll share with students: something that translates both for cooking and for life.

“My advice for young foodies would simply be: get in the kitchen! There are so many limitations that young cooks face that can make getting started really daunting. But you can’t be afraid to fail,” says Lapine. “We have certainly had our share of kitchen disasters, but in hindsight, the triumphs certainly overshadow them! Try cooking for one to begin with. That way, if you burn your roasted vegetables, no one will ever know.”

Ambitious F&M students are planning to use the writers’ cookbook, “In the Small Kitchen: 100 Recipes from Our Year of Cooking in the Real World,” to prepare a pre-talk dinner for the authors, according to Joanna Underhill, assistant director of the Writers House.

The writers will also peruse the wealth of local foods as they shop Lancaster’s famed Central Market.

“We’re very excited,” says Lapine. Although her father graduated from F&M, Lapine says this will be her first trip to Lancaster.

Both Lapine and Eisenpress grew up in households that stressed home cooking and family dinners. In college, Eisenpress worked as the “sous-sous chef” at the Harvard Faculty Club and as a co-chef for campus open house teas. She also interned in the kitchen of the Martha Stewart Show. Lapine works as a personal chef and has been featured on Ina Garten’s Barefoot Contessa show.

Both also operate a small catering business, “which gives us the opportunity to practice our fancy party food, the kind that’s often too fussy or too expensive to be of much use to many of our readers,” they write on their blog.

According to the friends, their recipes are inspired from the food itself (using up wilting veggies in the fridge or creating dish from a farmer’s market find.) They also “cook from cravings, whether for chocolate or kale.”

Comfort foods tend to reign.

In one of Lapine’s early posts, she writes about serving tomato soup and grilled cheese to her co-workers for a weeknight dinner and taking leftovers to the office the next day.

“That type of entertaining with good, comforting food definitely sums up my food personality,” says Lapine.

Eisenpress leans toward “vanilla cake with chocolate icing, pasta with too much grated Parmesan, slow-cooked pork butt, and French fries,” which sounds about right for a girl whose favorite kitchen task is creaming butter and sugar.

As for the famed rivalry over those chocolate-chip oatmeal cookies? The schoolyard dispute over Lapine’s “Joy of Cooking” version versus Eisenpress’ “Betty Crocker” classic remains a draw.

“The cooking conversation that we began 13 years ago has taken shape on our blog, which highlights our culinary and hosting endeavors as we prepare new recipes and old favorites, all the while aiming not to burn our onions, burn down our rental apartments, or burn through our meager budgets,” they write.

To get back to their roots as their own palate and proficiency expands, the two have recently launched a contributor-fueled college section of their website to inspire younger food writers.

“We recently realized we’ve gotten so old we’re a little bit out of touch with culinary life on campus,” they write. “We started Small Kitchen College so that we could get experts on college life writing about what they know.”

Not only does the site feature ways to make the most of a microwave, like the chocolate bark recipe that Eisenpress continues to call her go-to dessert pleaser, but offers some simple to make meals that give a great impression for a first date.


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