Q&A: Francine Spiering, author of “Houston Cooks”
Francine Spiering, author of the upcoming Houston Cooks, is a food and travel writer with a degree from Le Cordon Bleu Paris. As the editor of Edible Houston and board member of Slow Food Houston, she is committed to the city’s local community and actively promotes the regional gastronomy through her work.
How do you normally start your day?
I take the dog for a good walk, and count that as my morning exercise.
What are you reading at the moment?
Right now, I am reading two books. One is Stiff, The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach. It’s a brilliantly written book that my husband recommended to me. It opens with a comparison of the human head to a roaster chicken, based on how 40 heads are lined up in a plastic surgeons skills lab. I looked at him sideways: “Really? A book for me?” But I got hooked. The other is a humorous ode to Flemish cuisine, written by Belgian author Louis Paul Boon (pronounce: bone). It is full of personal anecdotes and background stories, along with regional recipes.
What’s your favourite go-to ingredient?
Lemon (or lime). A little fresh lemon zest, or a squirt of lemon juice brightens up many a dish beautifully.
What food is your guilty pleasure?
Cheese. Delicious, artisanal cheese. I can never resist a chunk of old aged cheese or slather runny (yes, please, stinky) cheese on a crust of bread.
Who has influenced your cooking the most?
My mother never threw any food away, was a wizard with leftovers, cooked the most unsightly offal cuts into deliciousness, sprouted mung beans in the dark of her larder, and mashed whole bags of fresh chili peppers into sambal. It defined so much of what food (cooking and eating) is to me today: fresh, from-scratch, seasonal, personal, varied and diverse.
Is there a food you can’t bring yourself to eat?
I used to say that I’ll eat anything as long as it isn’t endangered. And I have tried many different things, including ant eggs, camel meat and sea cucumber. But, in the face of a basket full of wriggling grubs, I nuanced that statement: I’ll try anything as long as it isn’t endangered and looks good enough to eat.
The thing I love about Houston is…
Oh that is so easy. It’s the food. Between the culinary diversity, the craft barbecue, the local & seasonal kitchens, the popups and food festivals, you can satisfy just about any food craving here.
Houston Cooks: Recipes from the City’s Favorite Restaurants and Chefs will be available in October 2019.