Renee Baumann, NYC
I went to NYC to throw a roof top brunch which was going to become a chapter of my book. There was very little planning in advance; The whole idea was to see what the city would be willing to bring to me. I have always been amazed with how open people in NY can be about sharing their network- an attitude that we in Europe could learn from. Sometimes it almost feel like that in NYC you are your network. What I wanted to capture -and maybe even test- was the cities willingness to share. So I went to the city with limited plans.
Short after my arrival I was connected with the photographer Mel Barlow. I told her I was searching for someone that wanted to trade a vegetarian recipe with me that had a connection to NYC. It also needed to be someone that had a good heart and spirit as I wanted to book to include people that are not only just good at what they do. 2 hours later I sat on the phone with Renee who agreed to make a dish which would work together with my friend Lindas Burger, but which was not a classic Burger side dish. For my book Renee ended up making a Maple Roasted Pumpkin Salad, a dish perfect for the October.
Q/A with Renee
M: What is you favorite kind of Bread?
R: Naturally leavened walnut/rye. Brioche fresh out of the oven is a close second.
M: How do you find relaxation living in NYC?
I make sure to set aside time to connect with friends. New York is an incredible place to experience great art and music, too. I’ve also got a little garden in my back yard (a luxury for us New Yorkers)– getting my hands in the dirt every day helps keep me grounded.
R: Where do you buy your ingredients?
I do a lot of shopping for staples at the Park Slope Food Coop, and I’m at the local Greenmarkets here in Brooklyn every week. When there’s some exotic ingredient that I need, it’s just a short trip to Chinatown or Murray Hill. You can get almost anything here!
M: What does quality mean to you?
R: Quality means that there are people, a place and a story tied to a product. An exceptional product is important, of course, but sometimes it is the background that really makes a food experience soar.
M: Who, or what, would you say has the had the strongest impact or inspiration for your way of loving of food?
R: Probably my grandmother. She always had an amazing garden and made fantastic things come out of it.( Her rhubarb pie is still the ultimate dessert for me.) She did so many crazily involved crafts too– growing her own silkworms to spin silk, making fabric flowers, baskets, just about anything. I think that spirit of curiosity combined with handiness is what drives my attitude toward food.
M: What made you contribute to the Bread Exchange book?
R: Since I started seriously pursuing cooking, I’ve always been spinning my own crazy projects, and those have lead to the most incredible interactions with other people. I make it a point to try to say “yes!” when I happen to run into other folks who want help making amazing things happen.
M: You traded an Afghan inspired recipe with me. This happened almost a year before I went to Kabul. Where did you try this dish for the first time?
R: I had this dish for the first time at an excellent Afghan restaurant in Baltimore. I was there attending a conference for a food access non-profit. On my one night off, I met up with a friend and we found this little gem of a restaurant–I had never had pumpkin that tasted that way! It stuck with me, and I wound up doing lots of research about it afterward.
M: If you would leave NYC, where would you move?
R: Oh, that’s a tough one. I grew up in the Sierra Nevadas, and I do miss the mountains. If I were to leave city life, it would be for somewhere with high altitude and incredible views.
M: Where can I see your work?