She not only regularly cooks for one of country music’s biggest stars (her husband, Garth Brooks), but she’s even made a birthday cake for former President Jimmy Carter, with whom she and Garth have built Habitat for Humanity houses for years. But Trisha Yearwood, 57, tosses it all off as if it’s, well, easy as pie.
In her fourth cookbook, Trisha’s Kitchen: Easy Comfort Food for Friends & Family, written with her sister, Beth Yearwood Bernard (with a foreword by Brooks), singer and home chef Yearwood serves up the kind of bountiful breakfasts, snacks and appetizers, soups, salads and sides, meats, fish, veggies, and sweets she features on her popular Food Network show, Trisha’s Southern Kitchen. (Just for the record, “I’m a savory girl,” she says of her preferences. “It got down to 60 one day. I said, ‘I’m making chili.’ ”)
This 125-recipe offering was born of the pandemic, “being home and really not leaving the house for a long time,” explains the Monticello, Ga., native. “It had been five years, and I had a lot of experience under my belt from five years of cooking on the show, and it set the stage to get up every morning and walk into the kitchen and think, ‘What should this be about?’ ”
AARP sat down with Yearwood (virtually!) to talk about good food and great conversation. This interview has been edited and condensed.
Cook With Trisha
Yearwood shared three recipes from Trisha’s Kitchen for AARP members to try:
Have an abundance of peaches? Try this Czech-inspired pastry that Garth Brooks grew up eating in Oklahoma and still loves today.
These combine all the savory vegetable flavors of Trisha’s mama’s classic chicken potpie and puts it on a bun.
With three kinds of cheeses, caramelized apples and crunchy pretzel bites, there’s so much to love about this hearty soup.
You say, “This book is as close as I can come to having you sitting next to me in the kitchen.”
Yeah, the biggest compliment I receive from people who watch the show is, “I feel like I could be in your kitchen with you, and it wouldn’t be weird.” Like, “I feel like you’re a friend.” And I love that. The act of sitting around a table and having a meal together is as much about communication and relationship as it is about the food.
Your parents were your inspiration, as they both cooked at home. Are the books and the show a way to continue that family lore?
They really are. My sister and I talk about this a lot. Because both of my parents are gone, making their recipes and telling their stories keeps them alive for us. And I love the byproduct of that, which is having somebody in Montana tell me, “I made your dad’s Brunswick stew, and now it’s our tradition every winter.” Now my family stories and recipes are in their house. And that just makes me so happy.
What’s the best advice your mom gave you as a cook?
My mother was a schoolteacher, but she had a meal on the table every night at 6 o’clock. And she made wedding cakes for our small town, and if she made the cake, she probably made the cheese straws and the sausage balls for the reception, too. And that’s a five-tier wedding cake going in the back of a station wagon to a church with her two little kids holding the top of the cake. Yet I never saw her get stressed out about it. I think she taught me confidence in the kitchen.
What makes these new recipes special?
This book feels personal to me. My sister and I found this little bitty cookbook with handwritten recipes from our Grandma Yearwood. We didn’t even know there was a cookbook. So there was a treasure trove of family recipes that we could test and improve and figure out, because sometimes she hadn’t written down the amounts of the ingredients. I encourage people to pass recipes down to their kids. You can even publish a little cookbook for your family to have.
Do you have a personal cook, someone who cooks when you don’t feel like cooking?
Um, that’s Garth. [Laughs.] I don’t have anybody who cooks for me or cleans the kitchen for me. But Garth has some go-tos that are really good, and he’s great at cleaning up the kitchen and doing the dishes. He’s my sous-chef, for sure.
What’s Garth’s favorite thing that you make?
He loves the one-and-done dish, like, “I can go in the fridge with a fork.” Lots of lasagnas, lots of casseroles. He’s an honest critic. He never says, “I don’t like that.” He will just say, “That’s nice.” That’s the kiss of death. Or he will just say, “It needs more salt and pepper,” which are my exotic spices. The one I don’t understand is, “It just doesn’t have any flavor.” I hate that one!
Southern cooking gets knocked as being unhealthy, even as it’s irresistible.
Well, there are all sorts of reasons to not use too much butter and sugar. It’s not a way that you should eat every day. But if you’re going to indulge, go all the way. I think Southern cooking has kept the understanding that, “Yeah, that’s a lot of butter, but that is going to make this taste incredible.”
You write about Maya Angelou inviting you to her home in 1998. Tell us more.
I got a call on tour that she’d like me to come have lunch with her. And I thought at first somebody was messing with me. They’re like, “No, she really wants you to come.” And we sat in her kitchen, and I watched her prepare lunch. She liked “Walkaway Joe,” and we talked about the lyric and the melody, and she used her table as a drum and recited a little bit of “Walkaway Joe” for me. It was an amazing day.
Music and food are the two great unifiers.
You’re right. I’ve seen people who don’t speak the language finding something in a song of mine that they connect with, even if they can’t understand the lyrics. And we did an episode of the show with the Nashville Food Project at a refugee garden. There were many different languages being spoken, and we had a meal together, and I didn’t understand anything anybody was really saying. But I felt a powerful connection there. It’s a pretty big deal.
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