Saturday, May 2, 2020
Recipe queen Alison Roman’s popularity
Since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic and the social distancing measures it enforced, there’s been a surging interest in Roman’s recipes. The former pastry chef at Momofuku Milk Bar and current New York Times columnist has become beloved for her dishes that sit directly at the axis of convenient, easy, photogenic, and delicious. Her recipes are hardly new — she’s got two cookbooks, 2017’s Dining In and her 2019 follow-up Nothing Fancy — but Roman’s accessibility makes her the chef for the current moment.
Her recipes’ combination of ease and taste seamlessly fit into our current, uneasy reality of sheltering in place. Hence, their popularity.
How Alison Roman became the reluctant, pasta-loving “prom queen of the pandemic”
That includes her famed pasta, or her Spiced Chickpea Stew with Coconut and Turmeric, or her Salted Chocolate Chip Shortbread Cookies. The recipes have become so popular that they’re simply referred to as “the Stew” or “the Cookies” or “the Pasta” even though there are a plethora of recipes for pastas, cookies, or stews in our gastronomic universe. And if you look for the dishes on social media, you can get lost in a loop of eternal scrolling through everyone’s attempts at making and recreating these signature Roman dishes.
I got the chance to speak with Roman, a usual Brooklynite who was sheltering in place in Hudson, New York, about how she feels about her current wave of popularity and the awful circumstances which created it. We also talked about what happens after a recipe like the Pasta becomes so unavoidable, the dynamic of hype versus backlash versus the genuine joy of teaching people how to cook, and the first restaurant Roman will go to when we are able to stop cooking at home every night.