28th November 2020
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Not-So-Sexy with Zaynab Issa
From cooking to upcycling furniture, we chat with the new author about her experiences during the pandemic.

 zaynab issa

 

 

Not-So-Sexy is an on-going series on Miilkiina.com profiling creatives around the world and their “not-so-sexy” self-isolation and work-from-home experiences. 

Last week, we chatted with Zaynab Issa, a freelance creative who just released her first recipe book, “Let’s Eat”. She is a first-generation American whose family is East African (from Songea and Zanzibar). She is of Indian descent, the daughter of a community that has thrived in East Africa for decades. She weaves in these recipes, along with her takes of some of her favorite dishes in her cookbook. Keep reading to learn more about Zaynab.

What does your space look like?

Honestly, it’s pretty random, it’s a lot of upcycled furniture (vintage and otherwise) and a lot of plants. The kitchen is definitely my favorite – it’s a really calming space that gets tons of light and the exposed cabinets make me feel really inviting and creative if that makes any sense.

Where do you find inspiration for your recipes?

Cravings! Both emotionally and literally. I think the book came from a sort of subconscious desire to return to something more familiar that I had separated from over the years.

How did your recipe book “Let’s Eat” come about? 

I can’t even lie, it was a complete fluke. I took a thesis course for my Major and we were prompted to create something that comments on the political climate in America. At the time, polarization was the only word that came to mind. Cooking, eating, and sharing meals is the best way to initiate cross-cultural communication. I decided that sharing a piece of me and my culture was the best way to communicate that. I worked on recipe development from my mom and grandmother’s directions. I was really happy with the outcome of the project and my professor was really encouraging so I decided to keep working on it and publish it.

Do you have a favorite recipe from the book? 

All of them honestly! They’re all a really big part of me. I was really particular about which recipes I included in the book. I know how intimidating trying something unfamiliar can be so I really wanted it to be a nice gentle and friendly introduction. I love how versatile the Eggplant and Potato Curry is, it’s any easy weeknight meal that just happens to be vegan and gluten-free also.

What kind of cook are you? Does your kitchen get messy or do you tend to clean as you go? 

It really depends on my mood. Sometimes If I’m calm and take my time the whole process is really streamlined and calm. I prefer it that way and it definitely tends to lean toward that vibe but I’d be lying if I said that’s always the case.

What is your cooking process like? Do you listen to music or a podcast? Have the TV on? 

I love to hear everything that happens while I’m cooking and really be a part of the process so definitely nothing super distracting. In the morning, I found a random Parisian cafe playlist on apple music and that is just a beautiful way to start the day. Sometimes in the evening, some light jazz feels really right and I’ll play some of that while I cook.

When did you get passionate about cooking? 

It has always been something I really loved. I’ve dreamed of doing full time but never really seemed like an option. I think the pandemic really threw me back into it with all the extra time to focus on it. 

Do you have a new daily routine? If so, walk us through it.

I am 1000% a creature of habit and routines make all the difference for me. They don’t always look like this but if they do I’m definitely having a good day. I start with a walk to a local cafe where I spend some time planning my day and dividing it up. I make sure to set time aside for emails, schoolwork, and cookbook processing, and cooking. Throughout the day I probably drink 2-3 cups of coffee or matcha. I usually settle down around 6 pm to cook dinner and then depending on my assignment load, keep the rest of the evening pretty free or catch up with friends.

Do you have a cooking uniform? 

I usually cook in something comfortable that I don’t mind washing frequently. I have an apron but rarely wear it. It doesn’t feel natural to me just yet.

One thing that has brought you peace of mind as of late?

Cooking. It’s been such a nice escape. Cooking is my ideal creative outlet. I say this a lot but it’s only because it’s so true. Cooking provides for a sensory overload that’s fairly unique. Your feeling something as you chop, hearing the cut, tasting as you go, smelling things, seeing the vivid colors produced by nature. I mean it’s just an incredible experience.

How do you like to unwind and pass the time?

Cliche, but Netflix. Ugly Delicious, Salt Fat Acid & Heat, and Chef’s table are a few of my favorites in terms of food. Otherwise Letterman’s show, Gossip Girl and the comedy specials. 

Favorite day or memory since quarantine started?

All my best memories are when I’m cooking or eating. A few of my favorite meals (that in turn spark incredible conversation lending to a great memory) are from my favorite breakfast spot in Bushwick called Carthage Must Be Destroyed, the back booth to be specific. It’s owned by an Aussie family and the space is majestic and the food is beyond fresh. A few menu recommendations: the fruit plate with farm-fresh yogurt and honey, Not So Scramble with chili oil toast (the size of my forearm), I had curry for breakfast which is insane fish curry, and the Summer on Toast which is as dreamy as it sounds.

Not-So-Sexy with Zaynab Issa
From cooking to upcycling furniture, we chat with the new author about her experiences during the pandemic.

 zaynab issa

 

 

Not-So-Sexy is an on-going series on Miilkiina.com profiling creatives around the world and their “not-so-sexy” self-isolation and work-from-home experiences. 

Last week, we chatted with Zaynab Issa, a freelance creative who just released her first recipe book, “Let’s Eat”. She is a first-generation American whose family is East African (from Songea and Zanzibar). She is of Indian descent, the daughter of a community that has thrived in East Africa for decades. She weaves in these recipes, along with her takes of some of her favorite dishes in her cookbook. Keep reading to learn more about Zaynab.

What does your space look like?

Honestly, it’s pretty random, it’s a lot of upcycled furniture (vintage and otherwise) and a lot of plants. The kitchen is definitely my favorite – it’s a really calming space that gets tons of light and the exposed cabinets make me feel really inviting and creative if that makes any sense.

Where do you find inspiration for your recipes?

Cravings! Both emotionally and literally. I think the book came from a sort of subconscious desire to return to something more familiar that I had separated from over the years.

How did your recipe book “Let’s Eat” come about? 

I can’t even lie, it was a complete fluke. I took a thesis course for my Major and we were prompted to create something that comments on the political climate in America. At the time, polarization was the only word that came to mind. Cooking, eating, and sharing meals is the best way to initiate cross-cultural communication. I decided that sharing a piece of me and my culture was the best way to communicate that. I worked on recipe development from my mom and grandmother’s directions. I was really happy with the outcome of the project and my professor was really encouraging so I decided to keep working on it and publish it.

Do you have a favorite recipe from the book? 

All of them honestly! They’re all a really big part of me. I was really particular about which recipes I included in the book. I know how intimidating trying something unfamiliar can be so I really wanted it to be a nice gentle and friendly introduction. I love how versatile the Eggplant and Potato Curry is, it’s any easy weeknight meal that just happens to be vegan and gluten-free also.

What kind of cook are you? Does your kitchen get messy or do you tend to clean as you go? 

It really depends on my mood. Sometimes If I’m calm and take my time the whole process is really streamlined and calm. I prefer it that way and it definitely tends to lean toward that vibe but I’d be lying if I said that’s always the case.

What is your cooking process like? Do you listen to music or a podcast? Have the TV on? 

I love to hear everything that happens while I’m cooking and really be a part of the process so definitely nothing super distracting. In the morning, I found a random Parisian cafe playlist on apple music and that is just a beautiful way to start the day. Sometimes in the evening, some light jazz feels really right and I’ll play some of that while I cook.

When did you get passionate about cooking? 

It has always been something I really loved. I’ve dreamed of doing full time but never really seemed like an option. I think the pandemic really threw me back into it with all the extra time to focus on it. 

Do you have a new daily routine? If so, walk us through it.

I am 1000% a creature of habit and routines make all the difference for me. They don’t always look like this but if they do I’m definitely having a good day. I start with a walk to a local cafe where I spend some time planning my day and dividing it up. I make sure to set time aside for emails, schoolwork, and cookbook processing, and cooking. Throughout the day I probably drink 2-3 cups of coffee or matcha. I usually settle down around 6 pm to cook dinner and then depending on my assignment load, keep the rest of the evening pretty free or catch up with friends.

Do you have a cooking uniform? 

I usually cook in something comfortable that I don’t mind washing frequently. I have an apron but rarely wear it. It doesn’t feel natural to me just yet.

One thing that has brought you peace of mind as of late?

Cooking. It’s been such a nice escape. Cooking is my ideal creative outlet. I say this a lot but it’s only because it’s so true. Cooking provides for a sensory overload that’s fairly unique. Your feeling something as you chop, hearing the cut, tasting as you go, smelling things, seeing the vivid colors produced by nature. I mean it’s just an incredible experience.

How do you like to unwind and pass the time?

Cliche, but Netflix. Ugly Delicious, Salt Fat Acid & Heat, and Chef’s table are a few of my favorites in terms of food. Otherwise Letterman’s show, Gossip Girl and the comedy specials. 

Favorite day or memory since quarantine started?

All my best memories are when I’m cooking or eating. A few of my favorite meals (that in turn spark incredible conversation lending to a great memory) are from my favorite breakfast spot in Bushwick called Carthage Must Be Destroyed, the back booth to be specific. It’s owned by an Aussie family and the space is majestic and the food is beyond fresh. A few menu recommendations: the fruit plate with farm-fresh yogurt and honey, Not So Scramble with chili oil toast (the size of my forearm), I had curry for breakfast which is insane fish curry, and the Summer on Toast which is as dreamy as it sounds.

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