Nancy Buchanan is a registered dietetic technician and the owner of A Communal Table, an online publication which explores culture through food. We sat down with Nancy to discuss her cooking philosophy, travel experiences, and favorite international dishes.
Tell us about the idea behind A Communal Table – both the blog and the phrase itself.
I have always been fascinated by both food and culture, and it is one of the college courses that I teach. The idea behind A Communal Table was to share my explorations of both food and culture with a wider audience. The title comes from my belief that food can truly unite people around a table.
How does your background in nutrition and dietetics influence your cooking?
I am always looking for ways to increase the nutrient density of what I am cooking without sacrificing the integrity of a dish. If I were to sum up my approach to cooking in one word, it would be “balance.” No foods are off limits! Food nourishes our bodies, but it also nourishes our souls!
Your photography portfolio is also quite impressive. Does your experience in that pursuit emerge through the visual presentation of your dishes?
I really didn’t know anything about photography when I started A Communal Table, but it quickly became another passion. We truly do eat with our eyes, and I try to make every dish look visually appealing and something that you immediately want to gather the ingredients for and cook!
Talk about one or two of your favorite travel experiences abroad and the foods you sampled in those locales.
One of my favorite travel experiences was my last trip to France when I stayed in a very small town outside of Angers. The local food was exquisite. Perhaps my favorite dish was baby boar, which is available for only a very short time in the fall.
My most recent “favorite” travel experience was a trip to Orkney. The seafood (and whisky!) were outstanding. One of my favorite discoveries was Bere barley – an ancient variety of barley that is grown on Orkney and used to make bread and bannocks. Slathered with a bit of local butter, it was delicious and so representative of Orkney’s cuisine.
How much preparation or cooking acumen does it take to prepare “globally-inspired” entrees and foods?
Some dishes, such as Persian pilafs, do take a bit of practice to master the technique. However, most globally-inspired entrees use the same cooking techniques that most Americans are familiar with. As for preparation, some dishes are very easy and quick to prepare, while some do take longer!!
Can you give us an example of a globally-inspired recipe that’s relatively easy to make?
One of my favorite “ethnic” dishes to prepare is a Moroccan flat bread known as Kalinte. It’s incredibly easy to make and makes a wonderful appetizer, snack, or side to serve with soups and salads.
When working with exotic or unusual foods or ingredients from around the world, what are some of the kitchen tools or items that you find are the most useful?
A good, sharp knife and a mortar and pestle.
What is your favorite kitchen gadget, appliance, or machine?
My favorite kitchen appliance is my mini food processor. I use it for all kinds of things from making aioli to pesto!