Priya Krishna ’13 is the author of Ultimate Dining Hall Hacks, a cookbook based on a column she wrote for The Dartmouth during her time in college. A freelance writer, event producer, and marketing consultant, Krishna lives in New York City and has studied dining halls across the country. (And even better, she says Dartmouth is on par with the best of them!) You can connect with her on Twitter.
How did Dartmouth lead you to become a food writer?
I was a double major in government and French, but those are—surprisingly—not as separate from my passion for food as you might think. It started with The Dartmouth, where I was a staff writer for the Mirror. I wanted to write a restaurant column, but I realized most real people at Dartmouth are actually eating at the dining hall, so I pitched a column about how to make amazing meals within the perceived limits of dining hall food.
I really liked writing about food, so I brought that passion into my academics. I studied abroad in Toulousem, France and London, England, and immersed myself in the food scenes of each country. In my majors, I wrote a lot of papers about food, including one for my government major where I analyzed how tea culture built the British empire. I took a class on the rise of French cuisine and it both made me want to be a French major and inspired me to study food in a more academic way. I wrote my final French thesis on the idea of “taste” and how you can track that word to the rise of cuisine and restaurant culture in France and around the world. It was very cool to take my interest in food and look at it through a more academic lens.
What advice would you give to alumni who may love food, but have never really cooked before and want to get started?
Buy a cookbook that looks great to you and devote one night a week to mastering a recipe from that cookbook. Once you’ve mastered a recipe, you can come up with variations on that dish and you’ll have an expanded repertoire. As an example, one of my specialties is steak with a really fun spice rub. I found a recipe for steak tacos, and got really good at making them, and then tried lots of variations on it. Now I can make that steak and put it in tacos, on a salad, or use it in a soup or stew. If you can master just five or six recipes and get all the bits down for them, you can take what you’ve learned and expand it so that you know 50 or more recipes.
What is the one recipe that you pull out all the time to impress guests?
I wish I was a better cook, to be perfectly honest. My job is more eating than cooking. For me, it’s about how to take shortcuts. I make a really delicious apple cinnamon bread pudding, but I make it in the microwave. You can find the recipe in my book, but basically you take a thick slice of old bread and break it up and then mix it with milk, apple sauce, and a little cinnamon. You put it in the microwave for a minute and it soaks up all the milk. If you top it with ice cream, it tastes just like real bread pudding, and it’s delicious.
I love cooking for people, but more than spending hours on making something really complicated, I love making something that looks fancy but actually only took a few minutes to make. That’s how I derive the most pleasure from food.