The Paisano was recently able to interview famed author Maya Angelou during her visit to San Antonio. Dr. Angelou was in town to promote her new cookbook “Great Food, All Day Long.”
Paisano: What inspired you to write this cookbook?
Dr. Angelou: Well, I have another cookbook, you know? And I’m a serious cook. And there are people who will fly from various parts of the world to eat my food, and to sit at my table. When they come they ask, “Is this in the cookbook?” And so many times I have to say, “No, not yet.” So, finally I decided, “let me write at least one more cookbook and see if I can include some of my favorites.” And my new way of eating the food: eating smaller portions. And so I did that, and I enjoyed working on the book. I also lost 50 pounds. And it’s a beautiful book.
You know, one time I rented an apartment on the River Walk for three months. And I lived here. I had one of my cars driven down here and I just became a San Antonionion. (She laughs pretty hard.) It’s such a beautiful little city, and [there are] good, good restaurants, and it gives me a chance to speak my Spanish. I speak a number of languages, and I used to think that French was my second language, but if I’m in France doing live television and I’ve looked for a word and it doesn’t come out in French, it will come out of my mouth in Spanish.
Paisano: What memories have contributed to some of the recipes you included in this book?
Dr. Angelou: It depends on what the food is. My mom had a dream that she and I would write a cookbook. She would take the leftovers—she said a lot of people had difficulty making leftovers seem savory and wonderful. But she wanted to show how you can take leftovers and make the family not know that these are leftovers, make them think that this is the first time food has hit the table. So, I’ve done that with the prime rib in this book and with the roast chicken, and with the pork roast, and shown how to manage maybe three to four times, the leftovers and make them seem brand new.
Paisano: How is your cookbook different from your previous release and other cookbooks on the market?
Dr. Angelou: Well, I don’t know. I love cookbooks, and I read them a lot, and I buy them a lot. I have hundreds of them. But I don’t know how it would be different from other people’s cookbooks. This one is different than the other because I really talk about portion control. And in the other I didn’t. If the food is really all that good, you can say, after three bites, ‘that’s exactly what I wanted, I’m going to put this aside and I’ll come back in a few hours.’ It will a surprise a person that when he or she goes back that the appetite has been slaked, lessened, and the person doesn’t really want the food right then. So he’ll say, ‘Well, I’ll come back later,’ and not know that you just shaved off 300 calories from that day’s consumption.
Paisano: What process do you go through to pick recipes for your book?
Dr. Angelou: It comes from my friends and family. [I ask]: What do you want? What would you like to know how to cook? And everybody has a favorite; some have two or three. Sometimes I look at memories I have from different countries and I think of something. There’s a Swedish hash called Pytt I Panna. I did a film in Sweden. I wrote it and composed the music for it, and I lived on Pytt I Panna. It’s a finely diced hash and it’s so delicious. It seems so ordinary, but once you put it together and cook it it’s so wonderful. You’ll see.
Dr. Angelou: One of the things I encourage young women and men who are not cooks, is be patient with yourself. Forgive yourself, in case you burn the eggs. Or the coffee. Be patient, forgive yourself. Some people try the dish, and when they burn it, or don’t do it correctly, they become so frustrated, they say, ‘I’ll never try that again.’ What I’m saying is please forgive yourself and come back. Be patient, take your time. If you don’t have time to cook something don’t even try it.
Paisano: Do you have a favorite recipe in this book?
Dr. Angelou: No, I don’t have a favorite. That’s a little like saying, do you have a favorite child? No, because it depends on what time of day. I like to eat, I love to cook, and I love to prepare it, I love to even buy the ingredients. You know, there are very few things more intimate than if you’re going to cook for someone. Be careful, go to the store, choose the best ingredients, and then bring them home and prepare them in the best way you know how to do. And then serve them in a tempting way and sit down and eat them with someone you love. It’s really wonderful.