What Vivian Howard Eats at Home

Vivian Howard talks the release of her new book, This Will Make it Taste Good, and what she eats when she’s at home in Kinston.
as told to Addie Ladner / photography by Baxter Miller from This Will Make it Taste Good

Emmy-winning television host, James Beard finalist, restaurateur and best-selling author Vivian Howard has just released her second cookbook, This Will Make it Taste Good. Howard’s first book, Deep Run Roots, is an homage to Eastern North Carolina cooking and produce, brimming with rustic shots of collards, sweet potatoes, sausage amid her recipes and narratives. But This Will Make it Taste Good offers a different perspective: Howard swaps the boots for mules and a red lip, and shares “Kitchen Heroes,” versatile sauces and toppers that inspire 125 simple recipes.

Presented with honest wit, lively pictures and catchy titles, Howard hopes this book will change the way people cook and invite them to discover humble kitchen items that are brimming with potential. We caught up with the North Carolina food pioneer to talk about her new book and what she eats on a typical day.

Thanks for chatting today. Congrats on Chef & The Farmer reopening and your book! How’s the book tour going?

I’ve done two in-person events for the book tour in Raleigh and Charleston. We’ve been very successful and did lots of planning to be able to pull it off. We even have a radio show for people to tune into while they wait. Honestly, it’s been nice to look people in the eye. Logistically it was quite a thing to pull off, but now that we have the format, I feel good. My readers have really enjoyed it. 

This book is so different from Deep Run Roots. What inspired that?

When writing Deep Run Roots, I didn’t know about the book-making process. I wrote it, submitted it and thought that was that. But there’s so much that needs to go into the design and aesthetic too. So I knew with my next book, I wanted it to represent more of my personality. This is really about the way I cook at home and the way I live my life. I have a very modern aesthetic. I’m quick and like to make people laugh. I don’t take myself all that seriously. Overall, I wanted it to be a total streamlined representation of me, from the aesthetic to my voice in the recipes to the headnotes, everything. 

How are the recipes in this book different from your previous book?

When Deep Run Roots came out, I woke up every morning to read the reviews and so many people wanted more simple accessible recipes. This is the way I cook and enjoy on a nightly daily basis. Deep Run Roots represented more historical interpretations, this book is much more approachable. I was nervous before the book came out. I think people were confused as to what to expect. Now that it’s out and readers are seeing it, they’re taking it in and cooking from it in a major way. They’re using it in the way I intended, making the Heroes and calling on them all week long.

If you had to pick, what’s one recipe from the book—either the easiest one or your household favorite—that you’d encourage a novice cook to try?

The Community Organizer. It’s so simple and can easily be added to a pot of beans, used as braising liquid for chicken thighs or in soups. It’s a good one to help get dinner thrown together, a gateway you could say. 

Since the premise of the book is teaching people simple ways to make food taste good at home, can you share a typical day like for you in food and what are some of your kid’s favorite dishes?

Breakfast: I eat a lot of hard-boiled eggs with Little Green Dress. 

Lunch: A crunchy peanut butter and jelly sandwich if I’m being honest. I also love a marinated kale and quinoa salad with V’s nuts. It’s something I can make at home or the night before and it improves as it sits.

Dinner: This week we did a pork tenderloin with fig preserves from the Sweet Potential chapter with roasted broccoli and baked potatoes with Herbaceous. 

Dessert: I’m not really a baker, but we are an ice cream family. We do ice cream sundaes a lot and do a subscription through Jeni’s

Go-to cocktail: I do an inverted Manhattan, with more sweet vermouth than bourbon.

Kids favorites: My Broccoli Soup for Cheese Lovers, This is 40 Fettucini and the Does Not Disappoint Breakfast Casserole.

The release of this book could not be more timely with more people cooking at home. What tips do you have for people wanting to make their home-cooked meals more exciting, without making them too labor-intensive? 

This book is all about that! Flesh out a few hours on a Sunday to figure out what the week looks like. We flip-flop between my husband and me on who is making dinner and a little bit of planning at this moment lays the foundation. You’re right, we’re cooking more and we might be burned out of it. This book speaks to that. It’s a fresh infusion of ideas of how to easily cook for your family seven days a week. 

And a quick Southern food Q&A for you! Which do you prefer?

  • Bacon or sausage? Sausage
  • Dressing or stuffing? Dressing
  • Baked sweet potato or baked regular potato? Baked potato
  • Turkey or ham over the holidays? I have turkey at Thanksgiving and ham at Christmas.

Stay tuned later this month for Tasty Holidays with Vivian Howard, an exclusive behind-the-scenes video of Vivian in her private test kitchen! She’ll be cooking a dish from her new book and sharing her best holiday cooking and entertaining tips. Send us your questions for her and sign-up in advance here.