For more than a decade, journalist, author, and award-winning TV host Elaine Welteroth has reported and made headlines. As she steps into her newest role, motherhood, she’s been reflecting a lot on family and tradition, which makes her new partnership with Ninja quite timely. The multi-hyphenate known for her work at Teen Vogue, Project Runway, and The Talk, recently collaborated with her mother to create a recipe that combines elements of her African-American, German, and Irish heritage and is also crafted with the busy mom in mind. (Smothered cabbage soup with smoked sausage and potatoes, and cornbread fritters.) She is challenging ESSENCE readers to do the same – create a recipe that speaks to their legacy and tells a story – and share their #RecipeofMe via social media.
We spoke with Elaine about connecting with family through food, self-care, and the type of mom she hopes to be.
ESSENCE: With all of the things that you have going on right now, why was it important for you to do this partnership?
Elaine Welteroth: When I’m considering a new partnership or new project, I have to get to a “hell yes.” If it ain’t hell yes, it’s a no. This partnership with Ninja was a hell yes for me because it aligned with my personal priorities in this new season of my life. I’m transitioning into motherhood, centering self-care, figuring out how to nourish myself and my family, and also reconnecting with my own family. And for me, food is at the center of that. You know what I mean? Food is an opportunity for your community to come together. Food is cultural. Food is emotional. In some cases, food is spiritual. I feel like I’m reconnecting with this joy of cooking and connecting with my family again. I’m also developing this life skill that I want to be good at. I have never been very good at it, but I’m inspired to get good at it now.
What was the process for developing your recipe?
It took a while because I have a very diverse background culturally. So the idea of trying to figure out how to merge soul food with German and Irish ancestral foods is not the easiest task. It took a while, but it was a beautiful journey. My mom ended up telling me a lot of things about my grandmother’s philosophy on cooking and the things that they had in common when it comes to how they nourished their families. My grandmother had four children and was a working mom. My mom has two children and she’s a working mom. It was important to them to make the hardy meals on Sundays that their family could eat all week long. They didn’t have a lot of time. It had to be fuss-free, easy, and something that they could stretch out, you know? I feel like this recipe is that kind of a recipe.
Why is cooking for your family important to you?
Well, first of all, it’s a part of the family tradition. My mom is an incredible cook and some of my favorite memories growing up are from holidays around the table with my family, eating my mom’s food. And I want to be that kind of mom. I want to learn how to do that. Also, just on a more practical, everyday level, I want to learn how to nourish myself and my family. I’ve really been reliant upon takeout for a very long time. I’ve always been this workaholic who’s running from job to job. I am the kind of person that will forget to eat and I just can’t afford to be that way anymore.
For me, this postpartum [period] represents an opportunity to slow down a little bit and reorient my relationship with food and prioritize feeding and nourishing myself. I need to do that in order for me to show up for my family, the way I want to show up, the way my mom showed up for me. So for the first time in my life, I’m prioritizing self-care as a service to my new family.
Any tips for folks entering the Recipe of Me contest?
Don’t just post a random recipe. Sit with the people that mean the most to you throughout your life and learn about the stories behind the recipes that they’ve been sharing with your family, and figure out a way to come up with a creative recipe that pulls in the influences from your culture, from your childhood and have fun with this. And then obviously you share it with the people in your life, through a dinner party, share it with the world on Instagram and your community.
Have you shared your recipe with family and friends yet?
We had a dinner party for our two-year anniversary. That was my first opportunity to make and share my Recipe of Me. It was really special and really sweet. I just hope when people see this, that they get inspired to do the same and to get their people together, have a dinner party and reconnect. We’ve been living in this period of isolation for so long. So it means more than ever to have your people come together around the dinner table, around your favorite dishes and just reconnect.
Consumers can now enter for a chance to win a Ninja™ Foodi™ NeverStick® PossiblePan™ and a $100 grocery credit to host an intimate dinner party to gather with loved ones and serve their winning recipe. Enter by posting your ‘Recipe of Me’ on social media, tagging #RecipeofMe and @ninjakitchen. One hundred lucky winners will be encouraged to use their Ninja PossiblePan™ and grocery credit to host a dinner party where they’ll gather with their loved ones who helped shape them and recreate their winning recipe.