Cooking has always been a part of Miranda-Zoya Jones’ world. Growing up in Pawtucket with a father who studied at Johnson & Wales, Jones says, “my experience was everything from standard kid food to elaborate spreads of rice and fish.” She was immersed in learning basic cooking techniques at a young age, seeing the magic behind the ingredients coming together firsthand. “I did a lot of baking growing up, too, because dessert is mandatory,” she adds with a laugh.
In this next chapter in her culinary story, Jones is uncovering her roots. While she’s more than comfortable whipping up a quick and delicious salmon and pasta dish, African diaspora cooking traditions have been less accessible. “I’m not so familiar with the fundamental spices, sauces, and flavors that Black people have used in the past that I would be able to make a quick meal with those things readily available to me,” Jones explains. “Why do I have more familiarity with the tenets of French or Italian cooking when I want to be able to make something that’s a little closer to me?”
Through her explorations, Jones is inviting listeners along for the ride. This winter, she’s launching Gather. Stew. Feast., a podcast series featuring cooking instruction and recipe guides with photos. “I call them feasts, so essentially longer courses where I’m just focusing on seasonal ingredients and recipes,” Jones explains. “I wanted the opportunity to share the skills that I gained growing up cooking with young people like me, with people who want to gain more confidence in the kitchen. In the [podcasts], I’m cooking meals that celebrate and practice Black culinary traditions to become more familiar with those.”
Along with step-by-step teachings, Gather. Stew. Feast. will provide origins and context of African diaspora cooking, which Jones explains is more than food from the continent itself. “The kind of cuisine that I’m looking into emerges from the places where Black people made homes and were forced to migrate to due to the slave trade, so that includes the south of the United States and also the Caribbean, Latin America, and the African continent. Even in America, it goes beyond the traditional definitions of soul food that we’re used to,” says Jones. “I’ll also be showing how nourishing our cuisine can be and dispelling misconceptions about it possibly being unhealthy and fried and salty.”
Emphasizing the importance of choosing high-quality produce fresh from the ground rather than imported to super markets, Jones is among the local farming industry’s most enthusiastic advocates. This season, Rhode Island harvests feature winter squash, root vegetables, and cabbage – and so do her recipes.
“I’m looking forward to getting comfortable with putting on a huge pot of greens,” Jones says, as well as hearty, balanced stews great for making in bulk and freezing. “When you’re going to places like farmers markets, you have the opportunity to build relationships, to build community around your food instead of it just being a transaction.”
Watch for podcast release updates at https://anchor.fm/miranda-
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