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Author Spotlight: Leanne Brown

Leanne, the author of Good and Cheap, is an expert money-saver and home chef! Who says budget is boring?
Author Spotlight: Leanne Brown
Author Spotlight: Leanne Brown
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Meet Leanne!

Leanne has reached so many people with her budget cookbook, and continues to work on her many endeavors to make good food accessible for all!

What do you do now? What is your passion?

This is always a strangely difficult question for me. When pressed I say I am a cookbook author, but there are many more things that I do. I am a cookbook author, recipe writer/developer, writer, speaker, and occasional blogger. I lead workshops, I try to be an advocate, and I continue to kind of run the Good and Cheap project, which includes working with all kinds of organizations across the country to get copies of my book into the hands of folks who need it, but might not be able to afford it. I wrote Good and Cheap as the capstone for my masters in food studies at New York University. After it went viral online (and has been downloaded over a million times!) as a PDF, we published a print version of a “buy one, give one” model. With the help of my publisher, Workman, and our partners, we have gotten over 200K books out to people for free or at a very reduced price. And this August, we released a Spanish version of Good and Cheap! I’m also beginning to work on a new cookbook, but it's going slowly because new directions are hard. I’m also a new mom, so that is a whole thing!

My blog grew out of my desire to get my cookbook, Good and Cheap, out there so anyone who could use it could have easy access. It needed a home and a blog made sense. Since then, it’s been a place to share and experiment and get feedback, but I am not super consistent with it!

What was your favorite childhood meal?

I liked lots of different things as a kid, but I think the tried and true favorite has been, and probably always will be, good old pizza! I also have really strong memories of my Mum’s stuffed squash and lasagna. When she said we were having those meals for dinner, I was always happy. Pretty sure I was an incredibly annoying kid. I think I asked what was for dinner like 18 times a day.

What's in your bag and what are your kitchen essentials?

I love my Microplane more than anything and it’s a gift I give a lot. It seems like sort of an unnecessary tool, but I use it everyday. So great for quickly grating cheese or citrus zest or hard spices. I use it almost every time I cook.

What is the best or weirdest thing you've ever eaten in your travels?

My now-husband, Dan, and I went touring on our bicycles around Japan, Australia, and New Zealand about 10 years ago and we were camping rough and just eating what we could carry. Sometimes we would treat ourselves to a hot meal when we were staying in cities, but generally, we were eating camp food.

One day, after a long, hilly, rainy day of riding about 70 miles, we stopped to make camp and eat. We had stopped in a small town with just a tiny general store and gotten fixings to make grilled cheese sandwiches. We had a tiny camp stove. When you are exercising that much, you eat A LOT. Since we didn’t have that much gas, I prepared the sandwiches in advance and used the whole loaf of bread, buttering the outsides and adding cheese to the insides of each sandwich. Then we could just cook them quickly and use up as little gas as possible. But when we went to light the stove we discovered our supposedly waterproof matches were a mess. We tried lighting them over and over again but they were just falling apart. Did I mention we were in the middle of nowhere?

We went through an entire box of matches with nothing to show for it but the occasional spark and an incredible pile of flammable grey dust from the heads of our matches. Our strategies became more and more creative but to no avail. I had almost resigned myself to eating cold butter-and-cheese sandwiches when Dan, in a moment of brilliance, pulled a match between the strikers of both boxes simultaneously: a spark.

We paused and took a couple of deep breaths, three matches remaining. The second-to-last match lit but immediately blew out. I nearly cried. Just one “waterproof” match remained from two whole boxes. Dan carefully pulled the match through the strikers; it lit. With a shaking hand, I turned on the gas and it lit.

BEST GRILLED CHEESE EVER. I wrote an essay about that grilled cheese once. :)

What accomplishment are you most proud of?

Photo by Zach Zirlin

Career-wise, I feel amazing about how Good and Cheap has been received. Folks who are living on a serious budget are so underserved and it has been incredible to get to be able to create something that folks find useful every day. Anytime someone writes to me to say it has helped them, whether it’s to trim their budget, to feel confident in their kitchen skills, or just to feel happy to eat something tasty, I feel so proud. Cooking is what I’m best at and it’s such an honor to get to share that with people.

But also giving birth kind of feels like my greatest accomplishment. MAN is that tough!

Describe your dream kitchen (laboratory).

I’m definitely a modern kitchen person, and I don’t want it too big because I like to be able to blast around the place quickly and have everything I need close at hand.

My perfect day would be...

Photo by Dan Lazin

Free of the usual to-do lists and simply about spending time with people I love and obviously cooking something delicious for them.

I believe any problem can be solved with...

Listening, empathy, time, and sustained effort.

When I need liquid courage, I drink ...

Whiskey.

My guilty pleasure is...

I don’t believe in guilty pleasures, but I’ll say Doritos.

I wish I had the superpower...

To fly! Obviously.

What are your favorite recipes on the app, and why?

MAIN DISHPORK

Kimchi Pork Enchiladas with Queso Fresco

Climbing Grier Mountain

I was eying this delicious Kimchi enchiladas recipe. I am really into adding kimchi to everything lately :)

What is your advice to people who aspire to be in your field or do similar projects?

Photo by Jordan Matter

Honestly, just don’t be afraid to give it your all. I spent (and still do this, I must admit!) so much time being unsure of my work and it made me really bad at self-promoting and getting the work out there. I downplay my worth and the work I do out of fear of being rejected. Don’t do this!

When I first put Good and Cheap online, I barely told anyone about it. I had been trying to get it out there through other channels and was not having much success and I was demoralized. Lucky for me, someone on Reddit found it and thousands of strangers downloaded it and were so encouraging. That experience led me to a Kickstarter and then publication and everything since. You cannot be too afraid to put yourself out there. And if you can’t do that for yourself, try thinking about the people you are trying to reach with your work. If you can reach just one person with your message, it is worth it. But you have to be proud of your work. Success and failure happen to both amazing work and to mediocre work, but you have to put it out there and see what happens.

I always think about all the people I wouldn’t know if I had continued to be afraid, and that helps me have courage.

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