Salt 101

Don't look now, but you might be wearing risotto

I made risotto in my closet this morning. It was a rainy day. I woke up early. And the labor of love that is rice-pour-wait-absorb-rinse-repeat felt like the perfect way to spend my pre-work hours. A long, purple, tulle dress was my arborio rice.

The act of getting dressed is a lot like cooking.

Sometimes you’re twiddling around the kitchen wondering what science experiment to concoct with bonito flakes and molasses and other times you’re on a mission—I must dress to:

  • Get the job
  • Learn to line dance
  • Run into my ex…by accident
  • Commit a crime…on purpose
  • Swan around the south of France with two long dogs, a white nectarine, a silk scarf, and a martini

What connects the two, seemingly disparate, activities are the history, intentionality, training, and cultural self expression that both practices afford.

“Let’s go back…back to the beginning”

The first cookbook, "De Re Coquinaria" (On the Subject of Cooking) dates back to ancient Rome and ancient Egyptian and Mesopotamian civilizations were documented as having clothing that not only protected them from the elements, but also conveyed social status and identity.

People have always had to eat and dress—how we do so has simply changed. This is why, to call a restaurant meal “food,” would be just as reductive as calling a thoughtfully curated outfit—“clothes.” Both are so much more. They are a collection of the flavors, textures, ingredients, cultural influences, memories, stories, and moments of experimentation, play, and learning that have gone into making them. They are also a patchwork of every person that went into their construction.

Everything that we consume and wear today has been informed by echoes of the past, and we are but blips on the timeline who get to experience a modicum of the centuries of craftsmanship and complexity that has gone into making them. (In 2024, food is accountable for 10% of the global GDP and fashion is an over $1.7 trillion industry.)

Writing this section made me think of Miranda Priestly’s sweater monologue in The Devil Wears Prada, so please forgive the brief commercial break so I can see if I still know it by heart.

“But what you don’t know is that that sweater is not just blue, it’s not turquoise, it’s not lapis, it’s actually cerulean. You’re also blithely unaware of the fact that, in 2002, Oscar de la Renta did a collection of cerulean gowns, and then I think it was Yves Saint Laurent, wasn’t it? Who showed cerulean military jackets…and then cerulean quickly showed up in the collections of eight different designers. Then it filtered down through the department stores and then trickled on down into some tragic casual corner where you, no doubt, fished it out of some clearance bin. However, that blue represents millions of dollars of countless jobs, and it’s sort of comical how you think that you’ve made a choice that exempts you from the fashion industry when, in fact, you’re wearing a sweater that was selected for you by the people in this room…from a pile of “stuff.”

*takes a bow*

It’s all about “intention”

Whether making a risotto or using one as a metaphor for getting dressed, cooking and dressing are both riddled with profound intentionality.

Like every piece you purchase or put on, every ingredient you pinch, pour, sprinkle, and peel is deliberate.

You bring a spoon to your mouth, taste your working draft of a concoction, the neural synapses in your brain pull each others pigtails and fight over whether it needs more salt or pepper, your brain cells remember that one TED Talk (let’s be real…TikTok video) that told you to add brown sugar to cut the acidity of a tomato sauce, you toss in a pinch, try it again, and think—it’s raining. I want this sauce to be *extra* warm. What if I added nutmeg?

No one (not even a TikTok chef) told you to do so, but you:

  1. Thought about what you sought to achieve
    1. Make a cozy red sauce
    2. Dress for a job interview
  2. Drew upon previous knowledge
    1. “I’ve made a classic tomato sauce before so I know the basics”
    2. Western professional attire is largely centered around a base of trousers and a button down shirt
  3. Harnessed the muscles you’ve toned over years of developing your personal or culinary style
    1. “This sauce is too acidic, let me add baking soda or brown sugar”
    2. “I have wide shoulders and a structured shirt alone doesn’t fit my elegant style, so I’ll pin my hair up and add delicate earrings to elongate my neck”
  4. Found space to exercise creativity and express yourself
    1. “Nutmeg is warming in other dishes that I’ve tried so I’m going to experiment and add it into my sauce”
    2. “This outfit doesn’t feel “me” enough to afford the confidence that I should have for an interview. I'm going to incorporate “playfulness” in my accessories.”

The intentionality exercised here marries product with purpose and personality.

An NIH study on psychological influences in healthy eating found that intentions, control, and confidence, were significant predictors of healthy eating behaviors. This research mirrors the meticulous choices we make about our attire. Just as we might consciously choose a protein-filled salad to nourish our bodies, we also select attire that conveys our goals, mood, aspirations, culture, and even our ethics.

Training (Season)

Both practices also require years of learning, sharpening of skills, and constant exercising of mental muscles in creative and practical ways. This training is not limited to the pros. Sure, top chefs and celebrity stylists have probably gone to years of schooling and apprenticed under masters to hone their skills, but home cooks, hobbyists, and sartorial enthusiasts, also have to learn how to productively glean inspiration from the world around them, understand shapes, colors, textures, and flavors, and translate that knowledge into their personal practices.

The same way that the first modern artists were afforded the “right” to break from tradition once they had mastered their technical training in classical painting, crafting a new recipe or trend requires auteurs to have a baseline knowledge of food science, flavors, cooking modalities, shapes, and designs before getting to be inventive and experimental. It is in this desire to push boundaries and take risks that true personal style is molded.

The learning that goes into both also allows us to appreciate the complexity of a dish or a stylistic choice without it being our “favorite flavor.”

e.g. The history of street style is fascinating and culturally complex and I want to read all about it, but personally don’t feel like myself wearing sneakers or tracksuits out and about unless I’m running. The same way that someone may find the gastronomic innovation of Noma’s menu intriguing and respect the science behind it, but simply not crave foamy food.

A deeper understanding of any craft or profession invites a more holistic appreciation for the work, skills, and thought that go into it. Heather Hurst has a great video on how you can like something without needing it for yourself that draws upon the cooking and dressing metaphor as well!

“Express Yourself,” Madonna said so

Our plates and our outfits are unique canvases for cultural and self expression. Both reflect the rich narratives of our ancestors as well as the time we live in, the pieces of the past that we admire, and the places that have shaped us.

Food and fashion are just two of countless ways that we are able to preserve and share our stories, hold onto our heritages, and connect to a global community while showcasing our individuality without the use of a common language.

Like recipes that are passed down through generations, traditional attire, such as the kimono in Japan or the sari in India, embodies centuries of cultural tradition, pride, and craftsmanship. Renowned chefs like Massimo Bottura of Osteria Francescana in Italy and Dominique Crenn of Atelier Crenn in San Francisco are celebrated for their innovative creations that balance tradition and novelty.

These modalities also provide a canvas for further self exploration—a heightened understanding of your values, preferences, and desires that wouldn't have been discovered otherwise.

Without decades of magazine snipping, blog skimming, people watching, museum going, book reading, movie binging, people talking, history loving, and music listening, my personal style would probably be stuck in the “What if Serena van der Woodsen was on Tumblr and went to 9:30 Club a lot” era. Proof of this lives on if you scroll into the deep beyond of my “Vogue” Pinterest board.

I am currently wearing a vintage silk ascot, a Cynthia Rowley Breton striped, sailor collared sweater, with turquoise cowboy boots (not these, but a girl can dream), so times have changed, but the sequined skirts and muscle tanks don’t lie.

I recently got to chat to Marie Claire (woah!?) about how the 75 Hard Style Challenge helped me let go of the fashion catchphrase that had a chokehold over me for the first 7 years of my 20s—"If David Bowie and Freddie Mercury had a baby that was raised by Cher and Audrey Hepburn”— and fully found peace in my current words “elegant, playful, and cinematic nostalgia” that feel more sincere to me!

What’s inspiring me these days…

*Food & Fashion Edition*

Food Friends

  • Hand me the Fork: Along with everyone else in the world, I have been binging Maddy’s TikTok videos like my favorite television show every night. She is the private chef for the founder of Love Shack Fancy, and has the most calming, delicate grace and intuition in the kitchen. I found her via my dear dear friend, Charlotte Jackson’s Instagram story, and Char is also one of my food and hosting kindred spirits. Check out her Substack for the most introspective thought starters and the most beautifully curated cozy place on the internet!
  • A Good Table: Sarah has been one of my favorite follows of the past few months. Her ingredient prep videos for her “cafe home” series are my personal ASMR, and an inspiration to be more innovative with how to iterate on a few core, work-intensive dishes in fun and creative ways to keep things fresh throughout the week. I made a version of an Ottolenghi-inspired sesame crusted feta that she posted a few months back and it was the perfect easy appetizer to throw together in a pinch. Her Substack is here!
  • Wishbone Kitchen: Meredith is everyone’s internet best friend. Her happy, colorful, not-too-self-serious-like-those-odd-men-who-slap-their-ingredients videos make food fun and accessible like it should be! From meals to make when sick to how to spatchcock a chicken, Meredith is the definition of a comfort creator.

Fun Flavors

  • Lavender & other florals (I’ve loved putting the Califia Farms Lavender Almond Milk Creamer or a drop of rose water in my morning latte)
  • Yuzu (specifically in ponzu!)
  • Tamarind paste
  • Wasabi (I’m back to hyper-fixating on wasabi peas and seaweed for snacking!)
  • Pistachio everything…but that’s nothing new
  • Herbs, all of them—My friend made a “herby salad” the other day that had every herb imaginable and it was life changing (but don’t tell him that, or it will go to his head)

Fashionable Fodder

Renoir’s Luncheon of the Boating Party, Boutique hotels in the Marais, Jane Birkin, the English countryside and the Sloane Ranger style, 50s music (specifically Elvis), the "Swingin’ 60s,” Fleetwood Mac, The Talented Mr. Ripley, cars in Cuba, Catherine Deneuve, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, the Row houses in Georgetown, Bob Dylan’s songs about Edie Sedgwick (specifically Leopard Skin Pillbox Hat), Down With Love starring Renée Zellweger, martinis and the font on Campari bottles, vintage glassware, fish (the colors, movement, variety, shine, and even the packaging of tinned fish), tomatoes, vintage lingerie, the culture around espresso and valuing third spaces, old taxi cabs, Studio 54, the Chelsea Hotel, and of course, Carrie Bradshaw.

And finallyyy, my favorite fashion creators of the past few weeks have been Lilly Sisto, April Lockhart, and Mary Grace Scully.