Tanzina Vega: It's The Takeaway. I'm Tanzina Vega, and Happy Thanksgiving to you and thanks so much for spending a little bit of this day with us. Because of COVID-19, today probably looks a little different than years past. I know that's the case for me and my family as we all work hard to keep one another safe right now, but whatever you're doing today, whether it's recreating family traditions virtually or doing something totally different, we hope you find some peace, joy, and gratitude today.
All this hour, we're going to bring you some of our favorite recent conversations from The Takeaway, starting with a dive into the role that Black women voters played, not just in this year's election but in American democracy. Black women have long been the backbone of the Democratic Party, and on this Thanksgiving, Democrats have Black women to be grateful for as much as ever with 2020 exit polls showing that more than 90% of Black women cast their ballots for the democratic ticket. With slim margins and battleground States like Georgia and Pennsylvania, Black voters and especially Black women help propel President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris to victory over President Trump.
Now with the presidential transition finally underway, let's go back to take a look at the power of Black women at the ballot box with Kimberly Peeler-Allen, visiting practitioner at the Rutgers University Center for American Women and Politics, and Martha Jones, a professor from the Johns Hopkins University and the author of Vanguard: How Black Women Broke Barriers, Won the Vote, and Insisted on Equality for All. I started by asking Martha how Black women became the most consistent democratic voter bloc in United States' history.
Martha Jones: Black women, for 100 years since ratification of the 19th Amendment, been organizing, strategizing, defying the odds, and insisting on a place at the table in American politics. Black women spend until 1965, too many of them disenfranchised until passage of the Voting Rights Act, and so when we see Senator Harris, she stands in for Black women who today in a short, short 55 years have made themselves a force in American politics.
Tanzina: We're going to talk more about Kamala Harris's victory in just a moment. Kimberly, there are so many things to answer this question, but what motivated Black women to the polls this year in particular?
Kimberly Peeler-Allen: Well, I think what motivated them this year is very similar to what has motivated them to the polls ever since they got the franchise, and it was particularly salient this year that Black lives were on the ballot. We were looking at equity, we were looking at inclusion, we were looking at our perfonal safety, we were looking at the discord and the language that was being levied against Black and brown people from the White House and I think that was a huge contributing factor, as well as what has been happening with COVID and how it has taken a disproportionate number of Black lives because of this virus, and how it has been managed between that and education.
There was just so many issues that brought Black women to the polls, but we also saw that it was our role to step up to protect our democracy and make sure that all of our voices were heard and that everyone had an equal chance to not just survive but truly thrive in this country. In order for that to happen, we felt that it needed to be a change in the administration.
Tanzina: Martha, Kamala Harris has regularly paid tribute to Black women who have come before her like civil rights activists, Fannie Lou Hamer, and Ida B. Wells and so many others, were there echoes of these women during this election cycle?
Martha: Absolutely, and thank you to Senator Harris for giving the nation a lesson in Black women's political history because you're right, she has, at every opportunity at the podium, reminded us of the legacy of women like Fannie Lou Hamer, Ida B. Wells, and so many others. I think one of the things that we see in Senator Harris that is so characteristic of this legacy is her broad, broad vision.
In addition to all of the issues that Kimberly has so importantly laid out, Black women have characteristically, over the course of more than a century, held up the very notion of democracy, the very ideals that undergird this nation, not only for Black Americans but for all Americans. What I hear when I see Senator Harris stepping to the podium taking the microphone is a candidate, and now a vice president-elect, who is speaking to all Americans, who is speaking to our highest ideals, and those are the interests, not only of Black women, those are the interests of everyone.
Tanzina: I would love both of you to weigh in on this. Martha, I'll start with you, and then, Kimberly, I'd love your thoughts here because Kamala Harris-- We've been talking about this since she was a candidate for president and then Joe Biden's running mate, but she has made history here as the first woman, the first Black woman, the first South Asian woman ever elected vice president in our nation's history, also the daughter of immigrants. What will it mean to have someone like Kamala Harris in the White House, Martha?
Martha: On the one hand, I think it's important to say that, in my view, dubbing her a first is, in some ways, faint praise. I think we should respect her for her singular accomplishments. I think the most important effect of her election is the sign that Black women have become a force in American politics, no longer are we simply breaking barriers or becoming first, but we are really consolidating power at the highest level.
Senator Harris ran alongside 130 Black women who were vying for seats in Congress in 2020, and this is a new day in American politics where no longer is she a token. She is someone who really has the capacity now to govern, to legislate alongside other Black women, and to steer the national agenda in many of the ways that Kimberly has outlined for us.
Of course, I am someone, like many of us, so deeply moved by the images of our daughters and our grand-daughters meeting, looking up to, watching the television as Kamala Harris takes the podium, and this representation will mean a great deal for the ambition of Black girls, young Black women going forward in the next cycles and in the next generations. Make no mistake, more than a first, she is part of a force.
Tanzina: Kimberly, your thoughts on that, on what it will mean to have someone like Kamala Harris in the White House, and also, what does she symbolize about the future of Black women in politics?
Kimberly: Yes, I absolutely echo everything that Martha said. I think it really is a great opportunity to bring diverse voices, a diverse life experience to the highest decision-making table. I think that's one of the things that is just so exciting and inspiring in addition to seeing someone that looks like me, that looks like my daughter, but also to know that she will be bringing so much more that has never been part of this conversation. It really shows the possibilities that exist.
We are continuing to expand Black women's elected leadership in this country, not just at the top of the ticket, but we are continuing to grow the number of Black women in Congress. There are so many firsts that are happening at the state legislative level. It just shows that Black women are definitely a force and we have something tremendous to contribute to the conversation that the electorate sees value in those contributions and sees the opportunity to add more voices, different conversations, and more issues to the national discourse.
Tanzina: Martha, when we talk about Black women and political activism, we can't ignore the fact that Black Lives Matter was founded by three Black women. That is also something that-- Can you tell us a little bit about the historical engagement of Black women in terms of organizing movements like that, organizing to get the vote, organizing to bring attention to issues that affect not just Black women but Black people more broadly?
Martha: We can't miss in this moment, even as Senator Harris is the vice president-elect, that what undergirds that is Black women's organizing. Just tune in to Alicia Garza and appreciate her message, which is, "Yes, to the streets," and, "Yes, to the ballot box," and what we saw in this election season was the wedding of those two approaches to American politics.
Tanzina: Is that something that you would say has gotten stronger, not just taking it to the streets, but actually taking it to the ballot box? Was that the missing link in terms of engagement particularly for Black women, Black people in this country?
Martha: I think that has always been true for us, but I think that in this season that became apparent in the compressed circumstances of coronavirus, a summer of Black Lives Matter uprisings across the country with this extraordinarily consequential election. We all got a lesson in African-American politics I think this season by seeing it compressed under extraordinary circumstances. Those facets have always been there and we saw them come together vividly.
Tanzina: I think about John Lewis and I think about him being the conscience of Congress and why Black people have to bear this weight and wonder how we can take some of that weight off of Black women to have to be this deciding factor every time an election comes around.
Martha: I think it is a burden. It is not an enviable burden to be the conscience of this nation season after season. It is not an enviable burden to be holding up fundamental pillars of this democracy like voting rights season after season. At the same time, someone has to do that work, it seems, in our democracy, and thank goodness that Black women have been willing and able to step into that role and to be our conscience but also to do the work on the ground, to make good on our best ideals. I think that if there was one thing we could do, it might be, for example, to use these years to finally dispense with voter suppression.
Part of the effort that Black women have to make is because we're not only doing the work of getting folks registered, getting to the ballot box, getting those ballots counted, we're doing that in the face of a still-rising tide of voter suppression across this country, whether it's shuttered polling places or it's four-hour-long lines or it's voter ID requirements or exact match obligations. The heavy lifting is in part structural, and we have an opportunity here going forward out of this election to restore the Voting Rights Act and to take down the kinds of barriers that Black women are having to hurdle themselves over in order to do the fundamental work of democracy.
Kamala Harris: Black women, Asian, white, Latina, Native American women, who throughout our nation's history have paved the way for this moment tonight, women who fought and sacrificed so much for equality and liberty and justice for all, including the Black women who are often too often overlooked but so often prove they are the backbone of our democracy.
Tanzina: Kimberly, we just heard Kamala Harris say that Black women cannot be overlooked anymore. Joe Biden in his speech, essentially, over the weekend, said that he recognized the power of Black voters. Are Black women going to finally get their due from this administration?
Kimberly: That is the hope. I think we're really hoping to finally get the return on our political investment, that our issues will have a voice and have a place in this administration, and as much as we fought to support and get the ticket to this place, we will definitely be holding it accountable and looking at many of the policies that the president-elect laid out in his victory speech.
He actually puts a lot of policy and meat behind them, but I think this is a huge step forward the fact that things like systemic racism and health care are front and center in his mind and absolutely in the vice president-elect's mind as well. I think there's a huge potential for a tremendous amount of progress, but we will definitely be doing as much as we can to help advance that and also hold them accountable.
Tanzina: Martha, to your point earlier in our previous segment about making a lot about being the first, being the first often also means being the only, and there will be an enormous amount of pressure not just on Joe Biden but also on Kamala Harris being in that role. She received a lot of criticism before earning her spot as vice president in terms of how she dealt with criminal justice issues when she was attorney general of California. The pressure that she is under is, in many ways, unimaginable to have to satisfy the demands of a very progressive constituency that essentially voted her into office.
Martha: I don't think Senator Harris is new to that pressure. As you've mentioned, she's already been subject to that scrutiny as she, herself, was part of this primary contest that led up to her nomination. In one sense, I think she's someone who is frankly very tested when it comes to that sort of scrutiny, that sort of pressure. On the other hand, the pressure I'm interested in is what it is like for, not only leaders in this country but leaders across, the globe to come to the table in Washington and sit across from now-vice president Harris to contend with a Black woman world leader, not only to understand her history but to understand her position, her ideas, and frankly, to understand her culture.
One of the things that we've commented on is everything from Senator Harris rocking Timbs and Chucks on the tarmac to the side-eye during debates. I think there's a new page in the handbook of world diplomacy and it will be one devoted to understanding how Black women come, culturally, to the table in American and world politics.
Tanzina: One of the other interesting things to note, Kimberly, we touched on this in the previous segment, is that we saw an unprecedented number of Black women running in down-ballot races, what did that look like in terms of our congressional makeup?
Kimberly: Well, it looked like a wave that began in 2018 where we saw a record number of Black women running for Congress up and down the ballot to double that number. It was just over 160 Black women started out the primary, and I think just about half of those women made it onto the general ballot. It definitely continues to grow the number of Black women. We are slowly creeping up to almost 5% of the members of Congress.
Black women are 7% of the US population so there's still a lot of work to be done, but it shows that Black women see their power. They see the possibility of their leadership. They see the value in their leadership. They also see that, now, there's no reason to wait. They have something to contribute. There is a pathway, not just to the halls of Congress or to the Senate but also a pathway to the vice presidency. Through Stacey Abrams race in 2018, there is a pathway to the governorship and how to get over that final finish line. I think we're going to continue to see the number of Black women who stand for office up and down the ballot, continue to grow, and we're going to continue to see them, not just run but actually win and lead.
Tanzina: Kimberly Peeler-Allen is a visiting practitioner at the Rutgers University Center for American Women and Politics, and Martha Jones, a professor from The Johns Hopkins University and author of Vanguard: How Black Women Broke Barriers, Won the Vote, and Insisted on Equality for All. Thank you so much for joining me.
Kimberly: Thank you.
Martha: Thank you.
Tanzina: Hi, everybody, I'm Tanzina Vega, and this is The Takeaway. We've talked a lot on this show over the past few weeks about how different this holiday season will look because of COVID-19, and you've been sharing your plans for making this a memorable day in the face of a worsening pandemic. Well, now, it's our turn to share with you.
Jackie Martin: This is Jackie Martin. I'm the line producer here for The Takeaway. This Thanksgiving, we're going to be just eating home. I'm going to be cooking. I always cook. Not seeing my family is not very different than any other year. I was in the military so I hardly went back. Instead of football, we're going to play some basketball because we got a brand new hoop. What are you going to eat, Ry? You're going to eat turkey?
Ry: Right, rice and beans.
Ethan Oberman: Hey, this is Ethan Oberman, and I'm a producer for The Takeaway. I'm going to be at home in New Jersey with just my mom and stepdad. The main thing I'm looking forward to is baking an apple pie over Zoom with some relatives, and hopefully, they'll be able to help me master the lattice pie crust.
Lydia McMullen-Laird: My name is Lydia McMullen-Laird, an associate producer for The Takeaway. Like a lot of people around the country, we lost someone in our family this year, so it's going to be really tough to get through the holidays. My heart goes out to anyone who's listening right now who might be missing someone this Thanksgiving. You are not alone in this, and we're going to get through it together.
José Olivares: Hi, my name is José Olivares. I'm an associate producer with The Takeaway. My family is on the other side of the country, so we will not be sharing a Thanksgiving together. However, I have a great group of friends here in New York City who I've been regularly seeing throughout the pandemic. We will be having a Friendsgiving. We'll be sharing food, sharing laughs, and I'm very much looking forward to it.
Polly Irungu: My name is Polly Irungu. I'm the digital editor at The Takeaway. Our Thanksgiving table would be much smaller this year, but you know what, that's okay. I think that just means more food for me and for the rest of my family that will be here. We're just keeping it in-house, so if you weren't in our home before this pandemic started, you won't be in our home currently.
Meg Dalton: Hey, this is Meg Dalton, one of the producers behind The Takeaway. I stopped celebrating a "traditional" Thanksgiving a few years back and have gotten into the habit of using the day to educate myself about indigenous history as well as just generally practicing gratitude. I'm going to do the same thing this year. I'll be it solo. I'll definitely miss seeing my nephew, Robbie. He is the best and has become quite the turkey enthusiast in recent weeks.
Amber Hall: This is Amber Hall, senior producer for Politics with Amy Walter, from The Takeaway. This Thanksgiving, I'll be spending with my pod, which is my wife, my daughter, my brother and sister-in-law and their two kids. We will not be eating this year with my mother-in-law, but we are going to do a safe socially-distanced food swap so we can still share the foods that we usually do every year. We are planning to do a Zoom cheers.
Alexandra Botti: Hey, everyone, this is Alexandra Botti. I'm the senior producer for The Takeaway. I am really missing my family back in Massachusetts, but it didn't feel safe to travel back there. I am having small pods-giving with a few friends here in New York City. We are going to dress up, make the day a little bit fancy, and try to find some joy where we can.
David Gable: It's David Gable. I'm the administrative assistant here at The Takeaway. All of my family is out of state, and with COVID infection rates rising, I'm not ready to travel right now. For me, Thanksgiving is really about giving thanks. I'm going to hop on a train and go by myself, north of the city, hike for a couple of days, read, and write in my journal all that I'm thankful for even in this past crazy year.
Tanzina: As for me, I'll be spending Thanksgiving with my favorite little person, my son, and my parents on my balcony. We'll be eating a traditional Thanksgiving meal of turkey and stuffing and mashed potatoes that I ordered from an amazing small business in Queens. I hope you all have a wonderful and safe holiday.
Take a listen to this. It's a place you've probably never been to. Welcome to the Zabalo River in Ecuador's Amazon rainforest. It's one of the world's remaining truly quiet places. These are places that are largely free from human-made noise. Whether we realize it or not, humans have dramatically altered the soundscapes of environments around the world, so much so that truly quiet places like the whole rainforest in Washington State's Olympic National Park are almost like an endangered species.
Matt Mikkelsen is an audio engineer and executive director of the Wilderness Quiet Parks Program for Quiet Parks International. That's just one of the organizations that are working to protect and preserve quiet places here in the US and abroad.
Matt Mikkelsen: Quiet can mean a lot of things to a lot of different people. When we, as an organization, talk about natural silence or natural quiet, what we mean is the lack of human-made noise, any human-made noise, and that's incredibly difficult to find. There are so few places left, both in the United States and the world, where there is pure natural silence for more than 15 minutes at a time, but also quite is subjective. We adapt to quiet. If you spend your day in the subway and commuting that way and then you go to a spot in Central Park, it can appear quiet. It's also rejuvenative in the same way. It's really interesting listening to the world around you and asking yourself, what's quiet, and what does quiet do for you.
Tanzina: As a New Yorker and when we're not in a global pandemic, I'd often try to find quiet places in New York City. In fact, there's a book about 50 of the top quiet places in the city, but how many quiet places are actually left in this country? How hard is it, Matt, to find quiet?
Matt: It's so hard that you can devote your entire career to it and maybe even fail then. [laughs] I'm really lucky to work with a large team of people all over the world who are devoted to this, but in particular, Gordon Hempton, who has been working in this field and trying to find quiet for decades now. By his estimates, there are fewer than 10 places left in the United States that are truly quiet. What that means is that they experience no noise pollution for an average of 15 minutes or more at a time.
Tanzina: You and the organization you work for, Quiet Parks International, makes me just want to sign up for quite frankly. I can't imagine two better things, a quiet park, are working to identify and preserve some quiet places. How do you find those quiet places, Matt?
Matt: Road noise is a huge contribution to noise pollution, obviously. First, I try and find a place that's a few miles away from roads, which, at first thought, might seem easy but it's very difficult to find any even wilderness area or national park area that isn't close to a road. Then, I start looking at air traffic patterns and where the commercial jets are flying, and what the habit of private jets are as well. Then, I look at other resource extraction activities in the area. Sometimes, you have these massive swaths of private ranch lands, but there's oil extraction or a mining operation.
Then, once you find all those, the only thing to do is to get out there, and often, getting to these places is an expedition-level effort. You have to pack for days of being off-grid and not having cell service. Then, we have to take care of all of our equipment and bring that with us. Sometimes, I spend weeks gearing up to get to a place, and I get there and I step out of the car and immediately know it's not going to work, but other times, it does. It's really so magical either way to be on that hunt.
Tanzina: I'm curious about why quiet is so important. I mean, why do people go seeking quiet?
Matt: Quiet is good for us mentally, physically. It actually does things to our brain and to our body that is healthy. When we experienced quiet, it lowers our stress hormones. It allows us to interpret information better. As humans, we've evolved to try and gather as much information as possible, and quiet allows us to interpret and to gather that information in the most meaningful way possible. The other reason why quiet is so important from a conservation standpoint or from an ecological standpoint is that soundscape is an amazing overall indicator of how healthy an environment is.
Tanzina: Is too much human-produced noise harmful?
Matt: Absolutely. [laughs] People much smarter than myself have been working to study the effects of noise pollution on humans for a long time now. The science is really clear, noise pollution is bad for us. People who experience high levels of noise have higher levels of stress hormone, higher chances of developing hypertension and cardiac problems.
Then, when we look at like children, there's some really interesting studies that will come out about noise pollution and how it affects children and how it impacts their ability to read and write, how it impacts their ability to make meaningful relationships. While noise has been one of the undercover sources of pollution because it's not as in your face as maybe oil running through a river or foggy hazy air from cars and pollution, it's really equally as important and it can help us address all those issues.
Tanzina: I'm thinking about a program called The Fresh Air Fund, which is meant to take low-income children out of urban environments and take them to summer camps that are usually in the woods. How much of this access to quiet places also has to do with income and our social stratifications that we often see? Are poor brown and Black kids, for example, less likely to have places where they can find quiet?
Matt: Oh my God, yes. Race, income, socioeconomic status plays such a huge role. Just an access to nature, in general, even forgetting about quiet for a moment, we see an outdoor recreation and outdoor education, people and families who have access to those programs are classically middle to upper-income white folks. I think the whole industry, both in conservation and outdoor education and recreation, we're all trying to figure out right now how to change this.
I think there's been some great movement over the past few years and the past few months. We, as an organization, obviously recognize this. Like I said previously, our hope is that we can tell you no matter where you live, where the quietest place is in your neighborhood or a subway stop away for you to be able to access quiet because it shouldn't be a resource that only people with privilege can enjoy.
Tanzina: Once the coronavirus hit, everything, even in New York City, was shut down. I don't think any of us had seen a city look like this. I'm just wondering what effect did the coronavirus, in its early months in particular, have on the soundscape.
Matt: It was really so interesting to witness. Even for myself, I live in the least population-dense state in the mainland United States and frequently get to experience quiet, but I recognized pretty immediately when the country mostly went into lockdown, the lack of air traffic was so apparent. Where I'd usually go out for a little hike and hear two or three planes fly over, I heard nothing.
That got me thinking like, "Oh, well, I wonder in the big cities, what does it sound like?" I pinged all my sound recording colleagues and friends from around the world and said, "Hey, what's happening in your cities? What does it sound like?" I ended up curating this installation of sounds from all over the world and such incredible examples of this hush that came over us and this real opportunity to listen.
I had a colleague who sent me recordings from Terminal A at LAX Airport, just on the drop-off area there, and not only could you barely hear any cars passing by, but there were no planes taking off or landing at LAX for 5 or 10 minutes. A really interesting listening opportunity for all of us during this pandemic is just the decreased amount of activity in transportation, but also asking ourselves what sound means. Now, when I hear ambulance sirens or police sirens, my mind goes to a different place than maybe it did before. It's interesting to examine how sound psychologically informs our behavior and our feelings.
Tanzina: Are there any places in the United States, and I'm asking this as a New Yorker, that are vulnerable to noise pollution? I'm going to raise our hand here and say we, in particular, but any other places?
Matt: Cities, in general, experience high levels of noise, pollution, population-dense areas. You're subjected to more noise on a daily basis, and honestly, unhealthy levels of noise as the World Health Organization would label it, but I would say that even the effort of trying to get out and find a quiet place, whether it be in your local park or maybe a little north of the city or if you're lucky enough to be able to plan a weekend trip somewhere out of the city, just the act of trying to find quiet and engaging your senses and your ears and really deeply listening, I think is so beneficial and not just because it's relaxing, but I find it-- It allows me to have better interpersonal relationships and allows me to form opinions better just by actively listening.
I think we could all do a lot more listening and a lot less talking, especially right now at such a crucial point in our country's history. We have a lot of work to do and it's very overwhelming, and personally, I find the first step of listening a great first step.
Tanzina: Matt Mikkelsen is an audio engineer and executive director of the Wilderness Quiet Parks Program for Quiet Parks International. Matt, thanks for joining us.
Matt: Thank you so much.
Tanzina: On this Thanksgiving, your table may be smaller, your guests, fewer, if any, but maybe you still found some joy in cooking for yourself or for those you love. Last month with a rough pandemic winter ahead and more lockdown cooking potentially on the horizon, we turn to an expert on finding solace in the kitchen.
Sohla El-Waylly: My name is Sohla El-Waylly. I am the video host of Stump Sohla and a resident at Food52.
Tanzina: Sohla's new YouTube show is all about experimenting in the kitchen.
Sohla: We need another plan. I don't think the floating mushroom islands are going to work. I8th century mac and cheese, it's not going to look anything like the mac and cheese from night now, but it's the 18th century. Grand finale, Twinkie. I'm going to turn the Twinkie into an ice cream sandwich. I'm going to try and make like a liquid sablé cookie with the cake and then swirl the cream and some ice cream that we also got from Bodega.
Tanzina: Outside of her show, Sohla's been trying to keep it a little simpler lately.
Sohla: I, just like everyone else at the beginning of the pandemic, was really indulgent and baked a lot, made a lot of cakes, bread, pies, cookies, but now, I think I need to like move into the healthier food route, meaning, a lot of quinoa and beans.
Tanzina: Before we got into some of Sohla's cooking tips for the coming months, she told me how cooking has helped her cope during the pandemic.
Sohla: There's something just really comforting about making yourself a meal that really helps in this chaos to just come home and take some time. We're not going anywhere, stay home and take some time to make a really dinner, sit down with your family because I didn't really have that. My husband works crazy hours, so we've barely got to eat together. It's really nice being able to have meals together, and it just centers our life a little bit.
Tanzina: What about how you cook? You talked a little bit about what you're cooking, but what about how you cook? Are there specific routines? Are there things that you do during this time? Like you said, we're not going out much, are there any routines that you've tried to stick with?
Sohla: Yes, I've definitely gotten more into meal planning and trying to focus more on cooking stuff that's like one pot or one pan because cooking three meals a day, it's just an incredible amount of dishes, and it's quite a lot of work. I've just been trying to be a bit more organized like roast a bunch of squash to eat for a few days. Things like that have really helped make it a lot easier.
Tanzina: Is that part of what you would recommend for folks, especially as we head into these colder months? Because one of the things I learned the first time around was making sure your freezer is as stocked as it can be with frozen vegetables and if you eat meat with meat. I was doing it ad hoc, but this time, I made a concerted effort to go out and get frozen vegetables and different cuts of meat that I could then separate and freeze.
Sohla: Yes. Actually, we have a really small New York City refrigerator, which doesn't work very well.
Tanzina: Oh, boy.
Sohla: We can't really depend on our freezer very well. Our freezer doesn't really freeze things. We're more of stocking up on the pantry kind of people. For me, it's like-- I don't really like making my meals in advance because I get bored, but I like making prepping out parts of different components of dishes that I can play around with later, make a big pot of beans, cook up a quart of quinoa, roast a bunch of vegetables, and then, you can mix and match during the week without getting bored. We don't really have freezer access, unfortunately. I think that if we did, we would be stocking up in there too.
Tanzina: How do you cook for the holidays this year? What should people be thinking about? I mean, part of the joy is making huge meals that everyone can share, but we can't do that this time.
Sohla: I honestly think that you should still make the huge meal.
Tanzina: You do?
Sohla: Yes, I think it feels really fun, celebratory, even if it's just you and your immediate family because you can have leftovers. I still want to feel like I'm having a celebration. For me, this year, more than ever, it's very important to have a really fun and exciting Thanksgiving and Christmas because the year has been terrible.
Tanzina: You mentioned earlier one-pot or one-pan meals, are there any that you recommend that are particularly simple to make? Are there any go-tos for folks who might be juggling other things like kids and work and now back to cooking?
Sohla: There's a lot of things. I have a one-skillet chicken and rice that I just did for Food52. Besides that, I think you could do any kind of stew, any kind of braise that's a one-pot situation. I think that a soup is just a really nice thing. You could really use whatever's in your fridge. Start by cooking out some aromatics, add some water or broth, and then, throw in whatever you have around and just let it simmer. It's one bowl, really wholesome, really comforting. It's one of those things that you can just like put on low, it'll do its thing, and then, you can go take care of the kids or take care of the dogs or whatever else you have to do. It'll take care of itself.
Tanzina: I'm wondering-- That's another thing, are there things for kids in our lives? Are there ways that kids can be entertained in the kitchen as we head into the colder months here, particularly, around the holiday? Should we be thinking about cookies and other treats for the kids?
Sohla: Oh, definitely. I think that there's always simple tasks that you can give kids in the kitchen. I pretty much-- That was how my mom would keep me out of trouble by having me just stand next to her in the kitchen and clean vegetables and roll out rotis. There's a lot of stuff that kids can do that don't require any knives at all. I think decorating cookies is a really fun one, and it's very easy and inexpensive to make a really simple sugar cookie dough. I think that you could entertain kids for hours having them roll out dough, cut out shapes, and then, decorate it with icing. I truly believe kids should always be in the kitchen. I did it, I have all my fingers, the other kids can do it too.
Tanzina: On a more serious note, we have been talking about the number of Americans who are struggling to put food on the table at all right now. I'm wondering if you and any other chefs that you know have found ways to help support others in this pandemic.
Sohla: I know, in the beginning, a lot of restaurants were cooking for hospitals and things like that. It is difficult, but I think that the thing that they need the most more is money rather than donations of food because a lot of these food banks buy in bulk. There are specific things that they need because a lot of times when you donate, it's stuff that you don't want, which means, it's stuff that they don't want either.
I think doing little fundraisers on Instagram have been really cool because I've been blown away. I can do a half-hour live and raise a few thousand dollars, which I think can be really helpful. I know that it's tough right now for everyone. Money's tight for a lot of people, but I think if you can give a few bucks here and there that's really helpful and really adds up. I think it might actually be more helpful than taking random canned goods to your local food bank, but it's all good. Do whatever you can possibly do, honestly.
Tanzina: Any remaining tips that people should be thinking about when they're preparing for this winter and their pantries.
Sohla: Go for a lot of grains, stuff that maybe you haven't tried before because it can be boring cooking out of a pantry if all you have is pasta. Don't be afraid to try something new like farro or couscous or quinoa. At the end of the day, you're just boiling stuff in water so you'll be okay. You'll figure it out.
Tanzina: Sohla El-Waylly is the host of the YouTube series Stump Sohla and a resident at Food52. Sohla, thanks so much.
Sohla: Thank you.
Tanzina: Thanks so much for listening on this Thanksgiving, and at The Takeaway, we're so grateful for you every day. Thank you for sharing your stories, your thoughts, and your feedback. Before we go, gratitude to the fantastic team that makes this show every day. Our engineer and acting director this week was Vince Fairchild. Debbie Daughtry operated our boards this week. Our director and sound designer is Jay Cowit. Alexandra Botti is our senior producer.
The Takeaway's producers are Jackie Martin, José Olivares, Ethan Oberman, Meg Dalton, Jason Turetsky, and Lydia McMullen-Laird. Polly Irungu is our digital editor. David Gebel is our executive assistant, and Lee Hill is our executive producer. We hope you find some joy today, and remember that while today looks different for all of us, I'll be right back with you as always on Monday. Thanks so much for listening. I'm Tanzania Vega. This is The Takeaway and happy thanksgiving to you and yours.
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