Fashion editors are not generally known for love affairs with great food. So how did Ceri Marsh and Laura Keogh, the former editor-in-chief and beauty director, respectively, of Fashion magazine, end up writing How to Feed a Family: The Sweet Potato Chronicles Cookbook, a sunny new book full of approachable recipes and pretty pictures?
Well, for starters, Marsh had Esme and Julian, now 6 and 3, and Keogh had Scarlett, who is 6. The two women suddenly found themselves becoming passionate about cooking for their kids. Leaving their jobs in 2010, they began blogging at sweetpotatochronicles.com and quickly found an audience for their frank posts (see The Six O’Clock Shit Show) and fancy-easy recipes (although curried chicken pitas with grapes might not fly in every lunchbox). We sat down with them to learn more.
How did you eat when you were fashion and beauty editors?
Keogh: We kept strange hours. We went to lots of cocktail parties and events and travelled, so we were either eating airport food or fancy cocktail food.
Marsh: Dinner might be a glass of champagne and two hors d’oeuvre, or a bowl of cereal eaten over the kitchen sink.
What precipitated the move from fashion into food?
Keogh: Babies; just having a family. Ceri and I were both turned upside down by it. Everything I believed about myself before I had a baby was wrong. I never thought I’d be the mom who would hang on to breastfeeding forever. When I was pregnant, I didn’t even want to think about breastfeeding.
Marsh: These are not the jobs you’re supposed to walk away from, because they’re awesome. Everything you think about them is true. They’re that good. But I think we were both looking for a change. I didn’t want to be out three nights a week at fragrance launches.
Keogh: Oh yeah, blame the fragrance launches!
What makes a great meal?
Keogh: For me it’s more than the food. You’re downloading each other’s days.
Marsh: There are so many opportunities at the table. I want my kids to know how to use cutlery properly. But I also want them to know how to make conversation. My biggest rule at the table is that I don’t want to talk about dinner at dinner.
How do you deal with picky eating?
Keogh: You get kids involved in the kitchen. There’s a whole lot of stuff that’s done before that broccoli hits the table. You talk to them before you go to the grocery store and say, “Hey, what do you want to eat this week?” Let them be part of the food-planning process. Then it’s not just, “Here’s your dinner. Eat this.”
Marsh: In our family we try to emphasize what’s cool about food. If you’re an open-minded eater, you can travel, you can go to friends’ houses for dinner, you can go to restaurants. If you’re picky, those things aren’t open to you.
How is it possible to cook every night?
Marsh: I think there’s nothing wrong with knowing Friday night is pizza night or sushi night. But as unsexy as it is, meal planning is the best thing you can do for your time and your budget.
Keogh: And there’s less food waste. You can have the best intentions and buy all these great things, but if the week gets away from you, you have to throw it all out.
What about dessert?
Marsh: I read a story about Michelle Obama saying they have dessert only once a week. That’s us – we typically try to keep it to once a week. My son is a sugar addict. I came home once and found him drinking a bottle of maple syrup, so I have to be careful.
Keogh: I’m not formal about it. I don’t say finish up so you can have your dessert, but if there’s something around, I’ll say, “If you want, when you’re done, you can grab a cookie.”
This interview has been condensed and edited.