Julia Sherman (Portrait by Julia Robbs)
"Salad for President"
Grilled hearts of palm salad
Watermelon radish salad
Making the transition from the competitive art world to a career as a full-fledged entrepreneur was one of the best decisions Julia Sherman made.
The New York-based Columbia University grad (she received her Master’s in Fine Arts in New Genres) launched her website, Salad for President, after noticing she was much more focused and excited in the kitchen than in the studio.
“If you find yourself obsessively thinking about something, staying up at night planning your next dinner party or waking up at the crack of dawn to tinker in the garden, you’ve got to dig into that obsession,” she says.
In the several years since Sherman created her site — which features an inventory of unique salad recipes created in collaboration with creative professionals — she has also designed two public gardens in New York and Los Angeles.
Sherman’s newest venture is her first cookbook, also called Salad for President, released last month. Like its counterpart, the book includes dozens of recipes, each from different places around the world Sherman visited to meet and cook with cool architects, artists, and musicians.
As part of her book tour, she arrives in Dallas on Saturday, June 24, for a signing at TenOverSix boutique inside the Joule Hotel, from 2 to 4 pm. Here, a conversation with the author, who reveals everything from her favorite restaurant salad to what she’s growing in her own garden.
How did the idea for Salad for President (the site) originate?
I realized my real talent is in the way I connect with strangers and that it was time for me to take a closer look at the things I was doing every day without even thinking about it.
The name, Salad for President, was meant to encourage my readers to take the work they love seriously, no matter how everyday or mundane. “Salad” as the conceptual basis for an entire project seems absurd at first, but if you pour your heart and soul into any simple act, it can be as important as anything. “Salad For President” borrows the language of a political campaign to elevate an everyday task.
What did you learn in your travels while writing the book?
I learned that nobody wants to eat alone. Food is a universal language, and one that can take on a profound significance when shared.
That said, the prospect of entering one’s home and cooking together is received very differently all over the world. For me, it feels so easy and natural to invite a stranger to my place for dinner.
In Mexico, the same — that is a culture that is always ready to receive strangers in the most intimate way. But in a place like Japan, it was much more nuanced and complex. But I loved that challenge and think my subjects really appreciated it as well.
As an artist, how did the conversations with these people inspire you?
I wanted to make a project where the concept allowed me to spend time with people who are living their lives in ways that I could emulate. It excites me to look at the varied ways that one can be an artist, and the twists and turns that a lifetime of creative practice will necessarily present.
I love celebrating other artists’ work through my own writing and photography, and sharing beautiful examples of alternative lifestyles with people who might never have the chance to interact with such eccentric characters.
Favorite salad to order at a restaurant.
A really basic Greek salad at any classic Greek diner. It has to have grape leaves, anchovies, romaine lettuce, tomatoes, kalamata olives, feta, onion, cucumber, and dried oregano.
The dressing should always be red-wine vinegar and olive oil — never pre-mixed, but served on the side. It’s a sacred dish for me, one that should not be messed with (except if tossed on the grill, like I do in my book!).
If you had to eat one salad every day for the rest of your life, which one would it be?
Bitter greens like escarole and radicchio, with a lemon-anchovy vinaigrette, parsley, and parmesan. There’s nothing better, unless you add breadcrumbs.
Do you have a garden at home?
Yes! I grow a wide variety of herbs and greens. I always encourage people who are starting their own gardens to think about the five herbs and greens they can’t live without and start there. Grow what you love to eat, and you will be hooked forever.
Would you like to host another edible garden, like those at the MoMA PS1 and the Getty Center?
I would love to install a garden at a museum in Europe. Their institutions are so much more open-minded and experimental than American institutions.
Switching to personal style, what pieces are you currently loving in your closet?
I love monochrome dressing. I think I get that from my grandmother, who is known to wear purple from head to toe. I had a persimmon-colored linen pant and shirt set made for me on a recent trip to Vietnam, and I basically only want to wear that every day, and to bed.
What do you hope readers gain from your cookbook?
I hope they gain an appreciation of the way an artist lives, thinks, and eats, more than just the things they make or sell. I hope my readers find some inspiration in the kitchen … simple ideas that make them feel like a genius at dinner.