Interview – Jeanelle Mitchell

In Jeanelle Mitchell’s follow-up to her bestselling For the Love of Soup, we see the cookbook author tackle the world of salad. For the Love of Saladprovides numerous ideas and inspirations for creating salads that go well beyond boring boxes of prewashed greens. Watch your salad repertoire come alive with recipes that include pastas, grains, and an assortment of vegetables along with dressings that are compatible with today’s emphasis on lighter and healthier eating.
Born in Grand Falls (New Brunswick), Jeanelle first developed her love for food while working as a flight attendant. Through her travels she quickly realized that food is a universal language, and one that she wanted to speak fluently. Her recipes are influenced from her travels and often include ingredients inspired by other parts of the world.
A couple of months ago I got an opportunity to chat with Jeanelle about her latest cookbook endeavour.

What was your inspiration for writing a book dedicated entirely to salads?
The natural follow-up to my first book – For the Love of Soup – seemed to be salads. Combined with my love for healthy recipes and good eating habits, the decision to write For the Love of Salad was an easy one.

I love the seasonal charts you’ve included in your book! What are some of the popular seasonal items on your table at the moment?
This morning I made a salad with asparagus, which is currently at its peak. We have also been enjoying quite a few strawberries which are also coming into season. Delicious!

In your book you talk about planning your meals around what is in season and buying locally. How important is it for people to embrace this approach to food, and do you see this trend ever disappearing?
No, I don’t see this trend disappearing. People are realizing the importance of supporting their local farmers, and there continues to be a steady increase in community farmer markets and organic products.

Do you have a favourite season for veggies/fruits?
I would have to say that summer is my favourite season. I love corn, tomatoes, and berries of all kinds so I’m in heaven during the summer months!

What some people may not realize, is that the art work in For the Love of Salad (including the book cover) are your own illustrations. Are you an artist as well as a cook?
I’ve been taking art classes for close to eight years, and have been doing what I like to call ‘veggie art’ for the past two years and absolutely love it! I’m very proud the publishers decided to use my artwork. 

You wrote your first book, For the Love of Soup, to raise money for your handicapped nephew. Will proceeds from For the Love of Salad also be donated to him?
Yes, my nephew has been (and continues to be) the primary motivator for my work. I am fortunate to be able to support him financially through proceeds from my books.

So is there another For the Love of… book in the works?
Maybe – but not for awhile! I’m planning on taking a bit of a break, and will be focussing on promotional efforts pertaining to For the Love of Salad.  

What was the first cookbook you ever owned?
The Joy of Cooking.

What is your favourite meal to make at home?
I would have to be honest and say; soup, soup, soup! There’s just something so comforting and healthy about a steaming bowl of homemade soup.

What’s your favourite meal to have someone else make for you?
While I enjoy eating soups at home, I seldom eat them elsewhere. I prefer salads when I order a meal at a restaurant, but if my kids are cooking I’ll eat anything! They’re great cooks in their own right.

Following in the footsteps of their mother!
Looks that way!

We’ve received a lot of emails from busy parents wanting to make delicious meals for their family without having to rely on using already prepared food items. As a busy woman with kids and grandkids of your own, any words of advice?
The thing I love the most about salads is that 90% of salad ingredients can be prepared ahead of time. Vinaigrettes can be made several days in advance, up to seven days if you want! (I would recommend keeping creamy dressings a maximum of three or four days). I chop all of my vegetables and wash all of my greens the night before, that way all that’s left is to toss and serve the salad right before the meal. Easy! Healthy! Delicious!  I even chop nuts and crumble cheese ahead of time. Pasta and grain salads are great because you can make these two or three days in advance. The only thing I would recommend leaving to the last minute is cutting up foods that brown quickly, like avocados or apples.

It’s heartbreaking to see kids on shows like Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution not able to recognize a basic vegetable like potatoes. What is the best way for us to go about establishing healthy eating habits with the younger generations?
When I take my three year-old granddaughter grocery shopping, we always make a fun game of identifying different fruits and vegetables. I cannot emphasize enough the importance of teaching healthy eating habits to our children right from the beginning.

I’m often asked by moms and dads for ideas on how to get their kids to stop being such picky eaters. Have your kids (or grandkids) ever gone through a fussy eater stage?
Soup! The best way to get veggies into a picky child’s diet is through soups. Another good trick is to serve an assortment of healthy salad dressings/dips along with cut up pieces of fruit and vegetables. What kid doesn’t love to dip their food!

I am preparing to dive into For the Love of Salad as one of the next reviews for our site. If you could only pick three recipes for me to test, which ones would they be?
Tough question! I would suggest making the Herb & Berry Salad with Lemon Vinaigrette, Spinach Salad with Pineapple & Curried Cashews, and the Belgian Endive & Apple Salad with Creamy Maple Dressing…hopefully you enjoy them as much as I do.