October 6, 2010


Phoebe Lapine and Cara Eisenpress are not intimidated by the age-old warning that “too many cooks spoil the soup.” The childhood friends have joined forces to conquer the kitchen in their blog Big Girls Small Kitchen: A Guide to Quarter Life Cooks. With a book on the way, they command a loyal following of readers, speaking to the experience of foodies in the college and early post-grad demographic who persevere in the kitchen, despite constraints of budget, space, and time. Yet these girls have a much wider audience hooked as they experiment with anything from “pork butt” to pumpkin chilli. A Sex and the City idea with a more wholesome twist, we love BGSK because it is about building a repertoire of cooking experience among close friends.

Phoebe and Cara have gotten the recipe right: a little fun, some fearless cooking, and sharing it all with an appreciative audience—it comes out well every time.

How do you know each other?
We met in the 7th grade corridor of our Middle School, and though it wasn't instant (Phoebe was a little scared of Cara), we eventually became best friends.

Did you grow up cooking?
Yes. Both of us grew up in households that stressed the importance of home cooked meals and family dinners. Cara would stand at her mother's kitchen counter and help her mix ingredients for pancakes. Phoebe learned how to make gingerbread cookies from her mother, but for the main part of the meal, she was usually relegated to remedial tasks like chopping herbs.

Your foodie inspiration?
Our group of high school friends was very into food, and it actually included quite a few vegetarians. Though Phoebe's never given up meat, and Cara didn't become a vegan until after college, we've both owned Peter Berley's The Modern Vegetarian Kitchen since high school, when our friend Carolyn turned us onto the best tofu recipe of all time from within its pages.

How many hits does BGSK get a month?
We've been consistently getting over 30K since the new year.

Your greatest team accomplishment:
Getting a book deal! And writing it!

Describe your cooking team dynamic:
We've become really comfortable in the kitchen together. It's all about dividing and conquering.

Favorite cuisine:
We both love eating Thai food. But when we cook, we often incorporate flavors from various Asian cultures, without sticking to one authentic influence. We also both love Provencal and rustic Italian dishes.

Favorite dish to prepare:
Right now in the this cold early fall weather...
Cara: Inside Out Squash Ravioli
Phoebe: Brisket and Pumpkin Chili

Protein that most inspires you:
We've been experimenting with pork butt recently, ever since having the Bo Ssam at Momofuku. David Chang's preparation is just awesome.

Dessert of choice: Candy, ice cream, or pastries
Ice Cream!

Any infamous cooking blunders?
Last spring around passover, Phoebe shattered her entire pyrex baking dish while attempting to make her aunt's brisket.

Cara recently tried to make a dinner with every pot and bowl in her repertoire. Soon after she knocked the saucepan full of broth onto the floor, she burnt the rice and overcooked the salmon. Basically the only tasty part of the meal was the sausage, which was also the one part of the meal she didn't make.

What is the hardest part of being a quarter life cook?
Balance. The small kitchen in our title also stands in for other limited resources like time, money, and skill. We have to pick and choose which one of these constraints will be the driving factor in any given meal. If you try to tackle them all, you end up bored, and you loose half the fun of cooking in the first place.

Where do you hope to be in 5 years?
The proud faces of a cooking empire. Martha Stewart for our generation, but with more pairs of skinny jeans, messier hair, and less jail time.

Best part of being a foodie in NYC:
Endless inspiration. We live in close proximity to so many markets and specialty food stores. Now, if only we didn’t have to carry all those bags of groceries all those blocks home.

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