Salt + Spine
Salt & Spine
Hetty Lui McKinnon on her deeply personal Tenderheart—and how home cooks can break free of their 'vegetable handcuffs'

Hetty Lui McKinnon on her deeply personal Tenderheart—and how home cooks can break free of their 'vegetable handcuffs'

Plus: new cookbook releases, upcoming recipes from Hetty, and Halloween prep!

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Hi, long time! Phew, October is always the wildest cookbook month—it’s even officially dubbed National Cookbook Month—and we’ve been a bit quiet around here. With two little ones running around the house, germs have been rampant, and my voice just hasn’t been cooperating. So we’re catching back after falling a bit behind on our fall release schedule and thrilled to share today’s chat with Hetty Lui McKinnon with all of you.

And now, somehow, it’s Oct. 31 - Halloween! I’m a sucker for anything fall. We’re in a judgment-free zone, of course, so I’ll readily admit that I’m happily ordering pumpkin-spiced lattes. I made chili as soon as the temps dipped a bit after our recent heat wave. I broke out my extra warm sweaters, put them away (see: heat wave), and broke them out again.

Tonight, I’m making a big batch of Eric Kim’s Creamy Baked Macaroni and Cheese, which keeps it simple with cheddar and Velveeta. It feels equal parts crowd-pleasing (we’re talking actual toddlers here) and nostalgic. (Usually, for holidays, Martha Stewart’s baked mac is my trusted go-to.)

Ah, and costumes. How fitting that we’re talking with Australia-born Hetty today as my family prepares to transform into the animated, hilarious Australian sheepdog family of Bluey, Bingo, Chili, and yours truly, Bandit. Wish us luck on the trick-or-treat streets!

📖 What I’m Reading

🎧 What I’m Listening To

  • Self-promo: I was so honored to share the origin story of Salt + Spine on the Everything Cookbooks podcast with friends of the show Kate Leahy, Molly Stevens, and Kristin Donnelly. This trio (plus fourth co-host Andrea Nguyen) really ask great questions and it made for a fun and engaging chat. Listen here or wherever you podcast!

🍳 What I’m Cooking

  • You already know the Halloween menu: Creamy Baked Macaroni and Cheese by Eric Kim [New York Times]

Episode 162: Hetty Lui McKinnon

In this week’s episode,

and I discuss:

  • The loss of her father when she was a teenager, and the impact his passing had on her relationship with her family and with food. “As a child,” Hetty writes in Tenderheart, “I didn’t see living among cartons of fresh produce as anything but normal. … My memories of my father are suspended in time, a disrupted dream without an ending. Every memory I have of him is through the lens of a child. He was tenderhearted—generous, caring, affectionate, kind, and playful.”

  • Her path to writing Tenderheart, her fourth and most personal book to date. Hetty first wrote about her father’s passing in an essay for Peddler, her self-published journal on food and culture.

  • How Hetty approaches recipe development and her “deep obsession” with vegetables, which leads to recipes in Tenderheart like Cabbage Carbonara-ish, Chocolate-Eggplant Brownies, Tingly ‘Cacio e Pepe’ Snow Peas with Rice Noodles, Lazy Butternut Squash Tiramisu, and—on of my new favorite lunches—an egg salad in which Hetty swaps out the egg for roasted Brussel sprouts. Genius! (By the way, in addition to Hetty’s cookbooks, she publishes recipes regularly with The New York Times and on her Substack,


  • Plus, as always, we put Hetty to the test in our signature culinary game!

For more great listening, our 2021 episode with Hetty is here:

Tenderheart: A Cookbook About Vegetables and Unbreakable Family Bonds:  McKinnon, Hetty Lui: 9780593534861: Books

Tenderheart: A Cookbook About Vegetables and Unbreakable Family Bonds by Hetty Lui McKinnon

Heritage and food have always been linked for Hetty Lui McKinnon. Tenderheart is a loving homage to her father, a Chinese immigrant in Australia, told in flavorful, vegetarian recipes. Growing up as part of a Chinese family in Australia, McKinnon formed a deep appreciation for her bicultural identity, and for her father, who moved to Sydney as a teenager and learned English while selling bananas at a local market. As he brought home crates full of produce after work, McKinnon learned about the beauty and versatility of fruits and vegetables.

We 💚 local bookstores. Pick up your copy of Hetty’s Tenderheart here:


Omnivore Books (signed!)

Hetty’s previous cookbooks include Neighborhood, Community, Family, and To Asia, With Love.

This week, paid subscribers will receive two featured recipes from Hetty’s Tenderheart—a stunning eggplant dish that gets a classic char siu treatment, and a “carrot-laden ramen” that draws on the smell-memory of satay. These are dropping on Thursday, along with an excerpt of Hetty reading from Tenderheart.

Salt + Spine is supported by listeners like you. For this week’s recipes—plus exclusive content and hundreds of other featured recipes—become a paid subscriber today.

This Week’s New Cookbook Releases

Psst, we were quiet the past couple of weeks, so catching up on a bunch of other new releases I hope you didn’t miss!
Salt + Spine
Salt & Spine
We tell the compelling stories behind cookbooks you won't get anywhere else. Featuring interviews with leading authors, we explore the art and craft of cookbooks, looking at both new and vintage cookbooks and the inspirations behind them … the compelling people who create them … and their impact on home cooks and the culinary world.