Heidi Swanson on how her cookbook carried her when everything fell apart


When I set out to write my own cookbook, super natural simpleI wanted the recipes to be easy to use – something anyone could make for dinner that night. So I used a lot of staples. I wasn’t too crazy about the ingredients. I’ve settled on a basic flavor profile for savory dishes, and in the baking world, I’ve stuck to a shortlist of wholegrain flours. I hoped to ride the wave between ambition and achievable night. I could never have known that my life was about to get so chaotic that I needed those recipes more than ever.

My husband, Wayne, and I have moved twice in a short space of time, first to Long Beach from San Francisco and then to a more spacious Spanish bungalow a block from the ocean. The pandemic struck shortly thereafter, but fortunately, most of the work for my book, including much of the photography, was done. Recipes like California Masala Granola, Miso, and Big Raspberry-Rye Cookies remained staples while I was running edits and past lockdown. Then, in a split second, my family life collapsed.

My father was diagnosed with cancer last summer. As we grappled with the news and learned about the intricacies of the disease and its treatments, things took a horrific turn for the worse. In September, my mother died unexpectedly in the middle of the night. I barely had time to process anything before my dad broke his neck and had to do my best to pull it all together.

Photo via Wayne Premiere

Most days were foggy. I was just trying to navigate hospitals, doctor’s appointments, my dad’s copious medication, and getting away from COVID-19 while we were trying to stabilize things as a family. With our new pup, Polly, in tow, Wayne and I drove the 400-mile drive from Long Beach to my parents’ home in Northern California so frequently that we used up most of our car miles before our lease expired.

When my dad came back from the hospital after injuring his neck, he needed 24-hour care. So, along with a large number of other family members, we temporarily moved in with him in October. There were many people under one roof. We had caregivers staying overnight and therapists coming in who were also seeing other patients – and we all had to eat. On those chaotic days, I found myself turning to my cookbook for advice. On a basic level, I really needed good family-style recipes that were relatively easy to shop for and easy to prepare. And I had a whole book of them in front of me. So I cook a lot of super natural simple. We would “sell the fridge” a few times a week so everyone could see exactly what’s in the most used appliances in the house (except the dishwasher). We reorganized the utensils and pantry so that the items we loved (and used) were on top.

My philosophy of using whole grains, seasonal vegetables, and natural ingredients to create vibrant, nutrient-packed vegetarian dishes is one that I have practiced and shared for several decades now. on my blog, 101 cookbooksand in my country supernatural A series of cookbooks – the most recent being actually a kind of prequel. Keeping things simple by relying on skills and ingredients I loved was the life raft that bothered me; It has allowed me to feed many mouths brown, while also working through scary and unexpected times.


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