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Toni Tipton-Martin To Lead 'Cook's Country' Magazine


For almost 30 years, America's Test Kitchen has been teaching us about what we eat in books, magazines and television shows. Now, amid calls in food media for more diversity at the top, one of their major brands is getting new leadership. Toni Tipton-Martin - she'll be the new editor-in-chief of "Cook's Country," a magazine and television show run by America's Test Kitchen, starting in November.

Welcome to the program.

TONI TIPTON-MARTIN: Thank you so much for having me. I'm really excited to be here.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Yeah. Congratulations. This is a...


GARCIA-NAVARRO: This is a big thing (laughter).

TIPTON-MARTIN: This is a big thing. I'm excited.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Yeah. Tell me how you felt when you got the news.

TIPTON-MARTIN: I was elated. You know, I've spent a long time using food as a tool to build up the community and help us explore our shared humanity. And so this opportunity just takes that work to a totally different, higher level.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Yeah. You started your career writing about nutrition for the LA Times and then as the first African American editor of a food section at a major newspaper, the Cleveland Plain Dealer, among other firsts. You've been a food journalist for, as you mentioned, some three decades. I'm curious what you've seen change in what audiences and readers want to know and who publishers are now writing for.

TIPTON-MARTIN: You know, I'm old enough to have been around when food writing was primarily recipes and home cooking. And over time, we developed more of an appeal and interest in the sophisticated side. And then after that, we became even more interested in, you know, just learning more about individuals. And I don't mean that exclusively just in terms of Black and brown people, right? We all eat, and we are all enthusiastic eaters. And my hope is that we'll be able to use this platform to create a bigger table that really shares the stories of everyone.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Yeah, you've written extensively about the history in particular of African American cooking and cooks in different books like "The Jemima Code" and "Jubilee." And you've written about learning kitchen techniques and discipline from your own grandmother. So food for you is not something that simply exists just inside a kitchen, right?

TIPTON-MARTIN: No, absolutely not. My mother's a vegetarian. And after the loss of my grandmother, she turned up the heat under her kitchen laboratory, if you will. You know, just everything that came out of the kitchen was food as medicine. And so I took a different tack with that as the inspiration, understanding that food has the healing potential to heal us in our bodies, heal us in our spirits when we're out in the garden and just exploring nature and watching, you know, pea shoots emerge from the soil, but also the capacity to heal us as a nation. The more that we can share our food experiences with one another, I believe that we can build bridges.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: It's so easy to get recipes and food stories online nowadays. There are so many different places to get that, you know, from home cooks to bloggers to, you know, magazines like the one that you will be heading. What's the role, though, of a print magazine with recipes now, in your view?

TIPTON-MARTIN: Well, I'm a paper girl. Remember; I was...


TIPTON-MARTIN: You know, I came of age in newspapers. The permanency associated with paper is really important, especially as we are engaging in a digital age where there's a lot of manipulation, there's less attribution. Magazines have a unique opportunity to put the food in your hands. You know, you can actually feel the paper and see the photos close up. And I love the idea of having stained paper in the kitchen. It's - there's just something...

GARCIA-NAVARRO: I have a lot of it (laughter).

TIPTON-MARTIN: ...Traditional - just traditional and nostalgic about it.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: And also because you can pass it down, right?

TIPTON-MARTIN: And you can pass it down. The gifting of a magazine and sharing and clipping recipes and exchanging them - there's just something really warm about that. It's sort of like, to me, writing a thank you card by hand.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: I just want to close by asking you about what you're cooking right now because obviously, we're months into this pandemic. And many of us are stuck at home, and we are cooking up a storm. What is a quick, go-to meal that makes you happy?

TIPTON-MARTIN: Well, I have written in "Jubilee" that tacos happen to be a go-to for me.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: It's a good one.

TIPTON-MARTIN: It's a good one. I can grab it - you know, put it together quickly after a shopping trip, or I can make it more savory by simmering and braising, you know, the beef in more of a guisada style. So it's a flexible dish that you can make on the spur of the moment, or you can devote more attention to it.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Tacos from Toni Tipton-Martin - she will soon be the new editor-in-chief of "Cook's Country."

Thank you so much for joining us.

TIPTON-MARTIN: Thank you so much for having me.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.