"I just thought about so many Black women who came before me who have been cooking amazing food in this country for centuries and how we don't know their names. But the stories of the women I do know in my family—my great-great aunt, my two grandmothers, my mother—I could tell the stories that I do know about them. So that was just crucial for me and, you know, it was very emotional as I was writing it."
This week, we're excited to welcome Vallery Lomas to Salt + Spine, the podcast on stories behind cookbooks.
Vallery grew up in Southern Louisiana, learning to cook from her mother and grandmothers—her signature dish as a child was her Grandmother Leona’s Strawberry Delight—but she didn’t always plan to be a baker. Vallery went to USC to study pre-med, and it was only because of a requirement to study foreign languages that she stumbled into learning French and eventually abandoned the pre-med track for French and Psychology. Vallery graduated into the recession of 2008 and finding a job was difficult. The job she landed wasn’t the best fit, so she turned to blogging about baking after seeing "Julie & Julia."
The blogging led to more opportunities and stars aligned when she was cast for "The Great American Baking Show," which she won. The season, however, was never aired in response to sexual harassment allegations against one of the hosts—and Valley's victory was essentially swept under the rug. Vallery writes in her book: “My victory, like so many accomplishments of Black women who came before me, had been effectively erased. … I couldn’t help but think I was seen as a cheap victim. If I weren’t a woman—a Black woman—would I have been treated differently?”
But Vallery didn’t let this stop her. Instead, she pivoted full time into food media and recently published her first cookbook, “Life is What You Bake It.” In today’s conversation, we discuss making the switch from practicing law to full-time food writer and baker, what it was like to find out that her biggest accomplishment to date would never air on television, and some practical and encouraging advice from one home baker to others.
Vallery joined us remotely for this week’s show to #TalkCookbooks, including our signature culinary game.