Food | KNKX


Stories related to food in Seattle, including Dick Stein and Nancy Leson's weekly commentary Food for Thought.

Food For Thought is produced by KNKX Public Radio. 

The advice to eat a healthy diet is not new. Back around 400 B.C., Hippocrates, the Greek doctor, had this missive: Let food be thy medicine.

But as a society, we've got a long way to go. About 1 out of every 2 deaths from heart disease, stroke and Type 2 diabetes in the U.S. is linked to a poor diet. That's about 1,000 deaths a day.

Cheryl DeGroot

Nancy Leson and I love to share cooking and eating tips and tricks, but we don't always see things the same way.  Nance says we agree to disagree.  I say we agree to each think the other is wrong and say so. 

Nancy Leson

So Leson emails me a link to a Bon Appetit recipe which claims to make mushrooms taste like bacon.  In the subject line she writes "Methinks this has a FfT in it."  Methought the same.

Nothing evokes memory like smells.  Nancy Leson says one whiff of mint, and she's suddenly 6 again.  My ticket to 6 is a strong snort off a box of Crayolas.  Try it sometime.

Nancy Leson

A slight touch of pneumonia got in the way of the dim sum feast I'd planned with my visiting sister Debbie and niece Jen, both ace cooks.  Fast forward a year and we were ready to roll (wrappers) again.  Naturally, Nancy Leson came to share the cooking and eating.

Nancy Leson

Nancy Leson was more into pickles than I was this winter.

"Late last fall, when the last of the local peppers were at the farmer's market I snagged some gorgeous red jalapenos and I pickled a small batch," she said.

Nance says she continued to make them through the winter and has used them on everything from sandwiches to salads.

Nancy Leson

Hi. Nancy here.  I recently read an article about the joys of being a restaurant regular and the tears inevitably shed when your favorite restaurant hauls out the “closed” sign — for good.

It got me thinking about the places I hit on a regular basis, and what it is about those particular restaurants that turned me into a regular in the first place.

Nancy Leson

Traditional lore says sear your steak first then finish it at a lower temperature. I recently tried J. Kenji Lopez-Alt's "reverse sear" method, which saves the sear for last and liked it.  Nancy Leson's approach is sear first, oven second..

Photo: Cheryl DeGroot. Layout & Design: Parker Blohm

"Stein, what do you eat when no one's looking?" Nancy Leson asked.  I turned the question back to her and Leson was firm in her preferences. 

"It's gotta be fatty, salty, preferably both," she said.

Nancy Leson

Nancy Leson grew up with plain old paper napkins, but planned for a more elegant wipe while still a teen.  These days, she mops her mug at every meal with linen napkins.  When not on duty, those napkins nestle in their own rings, engraved Madame or Monsieur. 

(The L&T) Cheryl DeGroot

"Stein," Nancy Leson asked me, "If you could spend a day at the elbow of a restaurant cook, what kind of restaurant would it be?" 

Well, a Chinese restaurant, natch.  But I don't want to be standing around getting in the way in any busy restaurant kitchen.  Fortunately, many eateries these days feature open kitchens where customers can enjoy their dinners while watching the cooks at work. 

Nancy Leson

Nancy Leson asked, "When did you start drinking coffee?"  

In an instant (forgive the expression), I remembered elementary school mornings when my mom, Chesterfield ash trembling dangerously over my glass, dripped some drops of her barely brown Maxwell House into my milk.

Nancy Leson

When I asked Nancy Leson about the cooking classes she's been teaching she said, "The more I teach, the more I learn – especially from my students." 

Yeah, yeah, all the teachers say that. 

"So what have you learned lately?" I challenged her.

Charles Kelly / AP Photo

I am not a Luddite. I'm not; I'm not; I'm not! I mention that only because when Nancy Leson confessed to her seduction by Amazon Echo, I had to ask her what that was.

Nancy Leson

I hoard shrimp shells.  "I've got a wad of them the size of soccer ball in the freezer," I told Nancy Leson. They're a great start to a good seafood stock.

The L&T Cheryl DeGroot

At the conclusion of last week's Food for Thought, I bragged to Nancy Leson that I would create an LP sized giant cheese cracker in my home oven. 

"I'm talkin' about the big Corellian Cheez-Its now" I told her.   Thanks to pastry chef Stella Parks' BraveTart blog I can declare "mission accomplished!"

The L&T Cheryl DeGroot

A man and woman meet in a bar and get along perfectly — same sense of humor, same favorite authors and movies, food, music; they're a perfect match.  Naturally, they wind up at her place that very night.  There on the living room floor he sees a dead horse.

"My God," he exclaims. "A dead horse!"

"Well," she shrugs, "I never said I was neat."

Nancy Leson

Between the maddening traffic up and back from Tacoma and the crushing crowds,  I’d started to wonder last summer if a trip to Pike Place Market was worth the aggravation.  Nancy Leson showed me in just two words why right now is such a great time to go — no tourists.

Nancy Leson

My whole life I've been soaking dried beans overnight for use in the next day's soup or stew. At this late date, I've learned I've been wasting my time. 

Justin Steyer / knkx

The first time I ever did it was right out in public in front of everyone at the Taylor Shellfish Oyster Bar on Queen Anne. My first raw oyster.

The Lovely & Talented Cheryl DeGroot

When it comes to dinner rolls, Nancy goes fancy, while I opt for the straightforwardly simple.  After describing what are now my all-time favorite rolls, I dared her, "Top that, Leson."

As always, she was equal to the challenge.


This is the time of year Nancy Leson and her friends get together for cookie-exchange parties. But Nance, not much of a sweets fan, didn’t have a favorite recipe.  And then she remembered a cookie she'd sampled while shopping Fremont’s Book Larder.  The effect was immediate.

“The lights went on and the angels started singing Christmas carols.”

Nancy Leson

It all started a few Food for Thoughts ago when I asked Nancy Leson if she thought expensive mail-ordered foods could really be worth the money.  We decided that the only way to know for sure would be to try some out.

Nancy Leson

About a year ago, I read's J.Kenji Lopez-Alt's rapturous review of a new Kickstarter-funded knife project.  At $65, Kenji called the Misen "the holy grail of knives."  As I told Nancy Leson, "When Kenji says it, I think it."

So we both threw 55 bucks at Kickstarter and awaited our knives.

Mary Dunaway

Today's Thanksgiving guest lists often include vegetarians, allergy sufferers, political statement-makers, sundry food phobics, and the just plain hard to please.  So, since you can't please everyone, why not serve the TG main course sure to scandalize them all? 

It's the Bar X Jumbo All-Wiener Butterbloat Turkey. And this week's Food for Thought brings you an exclusive interview with its creator.

Nancy Leson / knkx

"I bet you never thought you'd hear me say I was going to a vegan Thanksgiving dinner."

Nancy Leson was  right.  But if she expected me to tease her about it, she was disappointed.  Thanks to talented and resourceful chefs, vegan cooking is in no way a sacrifice.  Just look at that menu up there.

Nancy Leson

"It is a given," I told Nancy Leson, "that you and I always strive to eat nothing but healthy stuff ..." 

I stopped recording until we'd recovered from our uncontrollable laughter.  When we came back I added, "But now and again we like somethin' FRIED!" 

What are some of our favorite coatings for maximum crispocity?

Cheryl DeGroot

Nancy Leson suggested, "Let's talk about our favorite kitchen tools." After a moment's reflection, I realized that one of mine is small, plastic, and cost 89 cents.  I use it every day for anything from spreading mayo to filling dumplings – which I roll out with another favorite, the homemade pin I made from a section of broomstick. 

You can see both in my right hand in the picture above.  That shiny thing in my other hand is something from my drawer of forgotten gizmos.  More on that later.

Among Nancy's favorites are her  1930s jadeite salt and pepper shakers, also pictured above.  But wait, there's more – with pictures and everything!

Nancy Leson

When I confessed that I was finally ready to mail order cooking and baking supplies, Nancy Leson pretended to be surprised. 

"What?" she gasped.  "You don't sit online all day and order things?"  

I've always avoided shopping cooking ingredients by mail because, just like the electric car I'd love to have, I could never get it to make any economic sense.  The for-instance I gave Nancy was first clear flour, unobtainable in stores around here.  It's traditional in old school New York deli rye.  But at $9 plus shipping for three pounds, I just couldn't bring myself to order it. 

Besides, I've been baking those loaves for many a year using supermarket flours and they come out fine. Still, I've always wondered if maybe they'd be even better if I used the real deal first clear.  And then I had an epiphany: I'm going to be dead for a long time. 

Courtesy of Nancy Leson

After a recent trip back east, Nancy Leson is reassured that sometimes you really can go home again.