It’s November and you know what that means: the holiday season is officially under way. Goodbye Halloween, hello Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas, The Dōngzhì Festival, New Years’ (have I left anything out?). Office parties, holiday dinners, family gatherings, brunches, lunches, you name it. What is the common thread here? Food. There’s a reason everyone starts their diet AFTER January 1.
Whether you are an accredited chef, culinary enthusiast, or professional taste tester, you will likely spend a lot of time in the kitchen over the next few months. If you’re like me, one of your favorite kitchen accessories is a great soundtrack. Music can help set the mood and provide the perfect backdrop for entertaining or channeling your inner Laura Lea Bryant.
Who is Laura Lea Bryant, you might ask? For those of you who don’t already follow her on Instagram like thousands of others, Laura Lea is a Nashville-based, Certified Holistic Chef and overall health food guru. She’s the author of The Laura Lea Balanced Cookbook (with another in the works) and actively maintains a website and blog full of all things good. Through her recipes and techniques, she shows you that healthy cooking doesn’t have to be difficult or boring.
Keep reading to see what her holiday cooking plans are and how she likes to engage with music in and out of the kitchen!
Selfishly, I have to ask you about your favorite Nashville restaurant?
Oh goodness, that is so difficult! Here are some that come to mind: City House, Henrietta Red, Avo, Sunflower Café, and Cafe Roze!
What kinds of recipes are you most looking forward to making this holiday season?
On the savory front, I’m hoping to create a plant-based “meatloaf,” packed with hearty textures and strong flavors, which will be fun. And then, of course, all the desserts! I haven’t made an apple pie yet, so that’s on the horizon, as well as some kind of ice cream to go with it.
What is your favorite holiday cooking memory or tradition?
Everything. I am so grateful to have grown up in loving family, and my mom is an incredible cook, so our holidays were abundant and delicious! Thanksgiving is particularly special, because I’d plant myself next to my mom early in the morning and act as her “sous” chef throughout the day. My mom and I can make each other laugh like no other, so that was incredibly special.
Do you like to listen to music when you cook?
I definitely do! Recently, I’ve been loving The Head and The Heart and Gregory Alan Isakov.
How does music enhance your life?
Acutely, it helps mitigate my anxiety, which I am prone to. It relaxes me and helps get out of “fight or flight” mode. And then, as with most, it transports me. Not to a specific “place” per-se, but it allows me to have new sensory experiences—triggering smells, memories, sounds, emotions—while staying in the same place. It’s magic!
Do you stream music on Spotify, Apple Music, YouTube…?
Apple Music mostly, and I use Alexa at home.
What inspires you to create?
Oh, so many things! Reader suggestions, cravings, dishes I have at restaurants, dishes I see in magazines, family requests. And sometimes, it just comes to me, and I have no idea where from!
What is the best piece of advice you can give a novice cook?
Keep it simple, create a pantry that allows you to make multiple things. Have fun with it—there’s no pressure. Enjoy the mistakes as much as the success. At the end, don’t forget to savor your creation, ideally in the company of loved ones.
Thanks for taking the time to chat with us, Laura Lea! Hopefully everyone’s holiday season is off to a great start. There’s plenty of time left to plan the perfect holiday feast, so get inspired and get cooking…with classical!