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New York Times bestselling cookbook author and food equity advocate Julia Turshen has always known exactly what she wanted to be when she grew up. Turshen—who worked with Gwenyth Paltrow, former Food & Wine editor-in-chief Dana Cowin, and contributed to numerous cookbooks before writing her own—says cookbooks have always been essential to her. “As a kid,” she says from her home in upstate New York, “I couldn’t fall asleep unless I read a cookbook before bed.” Her newest release, Simply Julia: 110 Easy Recipes for Healthy Comfort Food (out March 2), is filled with make-ahead mains, vegan one-pot meals like stewed chickpeas over couscous, and her go-to sides (cheesy ranch grits!). 

It’s the followup to 2017’s Feed The Resistance: Recipes + Ideas For Getting Involved, a mix of her affordable, approachable recipes and those from contributors including chefs Preeti Mistry and Tunde Wey, plus suggestions for meaningful activism—a passion Turshen’s explored beyond the printed page. In 2018, born from her frustration over the sea of white, mostly cis-male faces on professional panels, Turshen launched Equity at the Table, a database for women/gender non-conforming food industry professionals “focusing primarily on POC and the LGBT community.” And her “labor of love,” the podcast “Keep Calm and Cook On,” features in-depth conversations with fascinating figures ranging from chef and author Samin Nosrat to Queer Eye’s Antoni Porowski. “My secret is I only talk to people who I really want to talk to,” says Turshen. “So it makes for a collection of conversations that feel deeply meaningful.” 

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In Simply Julia she also shares little true moments that make up her life—as a volunteer, a dog-owner, a community member, and a wife. Turshen says being open about her marriage to Grace Bonney, creator of the now-shuttered site Design*Sponge, has been a connecting experience for her in the queer community and beyond. “The conversations that’s led to have been so special to me,” she says. “If no one cooked anything from my books and it still led to that, that would be enough.” –Stephanie Ganz

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Julia's Kitchen Essentials: 

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Swing-A-Way Jar Opener

“It’s just a simple tool that does it’s job well and makes a potentially frustrating moment in the kitchen a total non-issue, which very much aligns with all of my feelings about cooking.” $4.99, williams-sonoma.com

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Mother-in-Law’s Kimchi

“I’m an equal opportunist when it comes to kimchi brands, but I think theirs is amazing.” $51 for 6 16-oz. jars, milkimchi.com 

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Better Than Bouillon Organic Roasted Chicken Base

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“I make a lot of chicken stock, but it’s not something I always have on hand. I’m not going to make a pot of stock just for one cup, and this stuff is so good.” $8.29, betterthanbouillon.com

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Food + People Sweet & Smokey Spice Rub 

“It has a little bit of brown sugar in it, so anything you put it on gets really brown when you cook it, which I love.” $13, foodpluspeople.com

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Snacking Cakes by Yossy Arefi

“Yossy’s recipes are thoughtful and simple and I’ve already baked so many cakes from her book. It’s one I expect to continue turning to over the years.” $22.08, bookshop.org

This article originally appeared in the Spring 2021 print edition of BUST Magazine. Subscribe today!

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