Peggy Drexler is in my kitchen today talking about her Philly food roots, a favorite tool for tea in the kitchen, and where she gets her food news.
Peggy Drexler has a PhD in psychology, and has spent her career studying sex and gender: men and women, boys and girls, and how they come together in families. Her latest book, Our Fathers, Ourselves: Daughters, Fathers, and the Changing American Family is about the changing connection between fathers and daughters. Her first book was the much-discussed Raising Boys Without Men. It introduced readers to boys in single- and two-mother families.
Why is living organic important to you?
One word: pesticides. Have a salad with petrochemicals on the side? No thanks. I also feel it’s healthier for me—although I know there are few definitive studies to prove that. (Editor’s note: There are more than you might think!.] Logic tells me that if you eat something as nature produced it, there is less opportunity for processing, extension of shelf life, and other manipulations to mess it up. I also like the connection to local sourcing, supporting small farms. When you can get beautiful corn and tomatoes from down the street, why would you want something that’s been in a truck or rail car for thousands of miles?
What was your favorite food growing up?
Mostly things I wouldn’t touch now—all very Philadelphia, where I grew up. I loved turkey on rye with coleslaw and Russian dressing; the best was from a place called the “Chuck Wagon.” Also, Tastykakes—chocolate with chocolate icing. Of course, I was practically raised on Philly cheesesteaks. With Cheese Whiz, which I’m still not sure is actually cheese.
Another comfort food and great source of cholesterol was my mother’s chicken livers with onions and bacon.
What’s your go-to comfort food now?
Baked potatoes. They got a bad rap during the Atkins craze. They’re loaded with good things, actually—particularly vitamin C and potassium. Carbs aren’t evil. They’re fuel. The trick is not to load up on the empty ones. And potatoes are also non-fat—as long as you can hold the butter and sour cream.
What’s the one thing in your kitchen you just couldn’t live without?
It’s a tie: My Nespresso milk frother. I drink tea, not coffee, and I love it with a touch of steamed milk. This neat little machine does the job perfectly every time.
And my Kyocera mandoline—not only does the ceramic blade never dull, but there are four different width settings. Great for thin-slicing red onion or cucumbers for a salad.
What are you most obsessed with right now—magazine, website, product?
First, I have to say my iPad. I know, not exactly a breakthrough discovery. Every time I make a technology advance in my life, my daughter says, “Welcome to the ’90s, Mom.” But this is huge. The apps are the best business model ever—you can make each iPad your own, and it’s infinitely changeable.
As for books, I’m immersed in Blood, Bones and Butter, by Gabrielle Hamilton. It’s a very real and very passionate story of her unlikely road to becoming a chef.
There is a brand new food quarterly that was just launched called Lucky Peach. It’s a McSweeney’s collaboration with David Chang (of Momofuku), probably the hippest chef in NY—if not the country—right now. There is also a TV show and an app in the works. Chang uses a whole lot of local, organic producers for all of his NYC restaurants. He also uses a whole lot of swear words. Get ready for some rough language. You’re not sure whether you’re reading about food or listening to a conversation in a high school locker room.
Where do you get your news?
I get different things from different places.
I always read Huffington Post at night to get a jump on the news for the next day. The Daily Kos has great political commentary. I start the morning with The New York Times. The New York Post has the best inside gossip. And I really like the new weekend Wall Street Journal—high quality, broadly topical, and lots of energy. It does for Saturday what the Times does for Sunday.
What’s the most important news story today that you think we all need to pay attention to?
The deficit, absolutely. We’ve kicked the can down the road for decades, and now we’ve come to the no-outlet sign. There are decisions to be made, and I’m not entirely sure there is the political courage right now to make them.