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The Real Food Rehab Holiday Gift Guide: Sally Schneider

Friday, 18 December 2009

Sally Schneider brings new meaning to the words, keeping it real. On her website, 'the improvised life,' she calls our attention to the beauty, wonder and richness of our daily lives and helps us to see it with fresh eyes. Finding her site was such a revelation and I'm indebted to her for inspiring me in numerous ways. In her site's manifesto, Sally explains why improvising is the perfect operating system in today's world. "Improvising," she says, "is an antidote to I can't." I am beyond delighted to have Sally and her authentic style on Real Food Rehab...

WHO Sally Schneider is the creator and writer of ‘the improvised life’, a website about improvising -- inventing, being resourceful, making-it-up-as-you-go-along – as a daily practice. She has worked as a journalist, editor, syndicated columnist, radio commentator, teacher, stylist, small-space consultant and professional chef; she once wrangled 600 live snails for an Irving Penn photograph. Her very improvisational work has been the laboratory for her posts on ‘the improvised life’, her column Home Cooking on The Atlantic Food blog, and consulting and speaking about creativity and home design. Please check out her award-winning cookbooks The Improvisational Cookand A New Way to Cook.

Everyone I know has SO much, and does not need another object, so I’ve devised an alt-holiday gift strategy. I give a card saying I’ve given a donation in my friends name to a charity; this year it will be Maira Kalman’s beautiful angel.

I often bundle the card with a little something: like this swell $4 tasting spoon from Branch, which is the ideal shape for cooking; long and thin and slightly odd.

Or, I’ll give them some food gift I’ve made a big batch of, like some easy-to-make exotically flavored chocolates, or Alt-Malted Milk Balls, or some Dried Apricots in Cardamom Syrup. I make these in big batches to package as gifts (often with found/re-use jars, boxes, tins or gift-wrap) or to use for my own impromtu parties. (photos courtesy of Ellen Silverman)

New York City

WHAT INSPIRES YOU? New York City inspires me endlessly: all you have to do is walk out on the street to discover something interesting, an anonymous creation, like the tiny grafitti written on a rusted door that said “know hope”.

But what inspires me most, way beyond the city, is the idea of improvising, which is all about possibility: unexpected answers and solutions to be found in what we have right now.


My go-to survivalist dish when I’m alone and working flat-out is a fried egg on something with some grated Parmigiano-Reggiano in between. That something can be just about anything: spaghetti, steamed asparagus, crushed boiled new potatoes…The soft-yolk egg mixes with the cheese to become a sauce. For breakfast, I throw a fried egg on some greens like watercress or arugula.

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