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. 

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.

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.

The husband known as Mac

To: Nancy Leson

From: Stein

Hey Nance!  How about this for the blog pic?  You in a ratty bathrobe and face cream in a darkened kitchen, standing in the light from the open 'fridge with a wad of salami in your hand.

What woman would agree to be photographed like that?   Nancy Leson; that's who.  What a trouper!  That photo is in reference to the love of late night cold-cuts she expresses in this week's FfT.  "I will just take a piece of smoked ham or salami and eat it just straight."

It all started when I asked her if she found it less fun to cook when she was the only one eating.


Restaurants are definitely louder these days. That's not usually a problem in the joints I frequent where the loudest noises are the screams of the wounded.  But it's been different for Nancy Leson.

The L&T Cheryl DeGroot

People have loved and eaten rice for the past 5,000 years; but these days, many don’t love the idea of cooking it.  Up until recently I thought I knew how.  How wrong I was.

“Forget everything you thought you knew,” I told Nancy Leson.  “I have discovered a method that makes the most perfect rice.”

“Okay, Stein,” she said.  “Share the wealth.”

Food For Thought: Nancy Dreams Of Sushi

Sep 20, 2016

Stein’s not big on sushi, but I eat enough to make up for his lack of interest. Sure, he’ll humor his wife — the lovely and talented Cheryl DeGroot — when she’s got the sushi jones. That’s when they’ll head out to Fujiya in Tacoma where she can go all raw fish and he can eat something fried.

Food For Thought: College Bites

Sep 14, 2016

Nancy here. You know how they say, “It goes so fast” (whoever they are)? They’re right. One minute I’m sending my only child off to kindergarten with a brightly colored lunchbox (as I wrote here), and next thing you know — Poof! — he’s blowing out of town for college.

Archie McPhee

I started this week's episode with a whine/rant about judging cooking competitions.  But all Nancy Leson had to do was say "Archie McPhee" and "cooking contest" in the same sentence and I was sold.

(the lovely and talented) Cheryl DeGroot

One thing the summer's unconscionably hot weather seems to have been good for is my pepper crop.  I've got eight pots going, with poblanos, beaver dam (I just liked the name) fireballs, pepperoncini, cayanetta, and cubanelle and Italian sweet for pepper and scrambled egg or sausage subs.

I'm also growing two shishito plants, similar to the popular Spanish tapas pepper, the Padrón.  I've seen both at farmer's markets lately and they share a characteristic that makes eating them a suspenseful experience.

Nancy Leson

When the mercury rockets past 85 degrees, even I forgo pot roast — which is why I turned to Nancy Leson for some of her favorite hot-weather recipes. Vietnamese salad rolls are one of Nancy's hot weather go-tos. 

"For me, it's a whole dinner in itself and so easy to make," she said. "I buy a soft lettuce like a bibb, fresh herbs – cilantro, basil, mint.  I slice up cucumbers lengthwise and make little bowls full of chopped jalapeno, peanuts"

Nancy Leson

Julia Child introduced Americans to quiche Lorraine in her groundbreaking public TV show "The French Chef" in 1963.   Shortly after that, Bruce Feirstein mocked masculine stereotypes and created an enduring catch phrase with his book "Real Men Don't Eat Quiche."

Nancy Leson

When Nancy Leson told me about the time her young son Nate opened a little stand in front of their house selling vegetables from their backyard, I asked, "So as the tenant sharecropper on your land, did he hand over half the money he made?"  He did not.

Nancy Leson

Africa was never on my bucket list, but after traveling with family and friends to Kenya and Tanzania this month, I hope it’s on yours. There are a million reasons why, and I told Stein only a handful of them (food related, of course!) this week on Food for Thought.

So, what was I doing there?

For years, our friends Emily and Aaron, a young Seattle couple who’ve lived, worked and traveled extensively on the continent, have been carrying on about how they’d love to introduce us to their favorite place on earth — East Africa.