“I’ve gone full L.A.,” Roxane Gay recently told T, by which she meant she’s gotten into juices and cleanses and “going to the farmers’ market and getting super-fresh produce.” The 46-year-old media multihyphenate — she’s an author, a columnist, a film and TV writer and a podcaster — has lived “full-ish time” in Los Angeles for about three years now. She does, however, still make it to New York every two months or so, traveling with her wife, Debbie Millman, who is a designer, branding consultant, educator, writer and podcaster (the pair met when Gay was a guest on Millman’s podcast, “Design Matters,” and eloped last year), and their new puppy, Maximus Toretto Blueberry.
Gay came to cooking on the later side. Born to Haitian parents in Omaha, she and her siblings simply ate what their mother prepared. “I don’t think food was so central to our world,” says Gay, though she especially enjoyed her mom’s Haitian macaroni and cheese, which has a béchamel base, as well as griot, a dish of cubed pork shoulder that’s been marinated in citrus and chiles. In her 20s, she says, she was lost and unfocused, like most young people are. But in 2010 she got her first teaching job, at Eastern Illinois University, and had to fend for herself. “I was a vegetarian at the time, and there weren’t a lot of options. I realized that if I wanted to eat anything more than French fries and iceberg lettuce, I was going to have to learn to cook,” says Gay. And so she did, often tuning in to “Barefoot Contessa,” Ina Garten’s long-running Food Network show, when she got home from work. “I loved her emphasis on good ingredients, and she has a charming way about her. She just made cooking seem like such a joyful experience,” says Gay.
Writing her 2017 book, “Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body,” which explores her relationship to eating and trauma, proved to be another opportunity for Gay to reorient how she thought about food. “I was trying to find pleasure in it and not feel guilty about nourishing myself,” she says, adding, “it wasn’t my original intention, but the book ended up being really transformative for me.”