Salt + Spine
Salt & Spine
'The State of California Cuisine' is Native, Black, Arab, and More

'The State of California Cuisine' is Native, Black, Arab, and More

Season 14 kicks off with our live episode featuring Reem Assil, Tanya Holland, and Sara Calvosa Olson.

Well, hello there! It’s been a minute. The Salt + Spine team has been busy taking some much-needed rest—and, of course, planning for an inspiring year ahead. What’s in store? Amazing podcast episodes, naturally, and all the typical goods: exclusive recipes, cookbook giveaways, and behind-the-spine content you won’t find anywhere else. But there’s more brewing. Big stuff! I can’t spill all the beans yet—but stay tuned for a cookbook lover’s dream, coming this summer. Woo!

I hope your 2024 is off to an excellent start. Can you believe we’re already six weeks in? I blinked and it’s Valentine’s Day. And now, I’m so thrilled to be back with all of you to launch our 14th season (!!!) of Salt + Spine.

By the way… It’s a new season of Salt + Spine, and if you love what we do, we would be so grateful if you shared the word! Click below to share this episode with a friend who might want to #TalkCookbooks with us, too.


Before we get to this episode…

🎧 What I’m Listening To

  • Absolutely loving this new mini-series from

    and Ham El-Waylly in collaboration with The Sporkful team. Episode 1 starts with murder and ends with tamale-inspired soup. Start at the beginning. (Psst, stay tuned for my chat with Sohla soon, too!)

📖 What I’m Reading

  • Lots of (very, very deserved) love for The Zuni Cafe Cookbook lately in Eater and TASTE. If you write about TZCC, I will read it.

  • I just finished Less and, whew, adored it. I’m late to the party, and it sat on my shelf for several years. But I picked it up recently and couldn’t put it down. I also just finished the behemoth Wellness by Nathan Hill (who’s both an alum of my university and of my college newspaper!) Loved his first novel, The Nix, and Wellness was just as captivating and satisfying.

Episode 165: The State of California Cuisine with Reem Assil, Tanya Holland & Sara Calvosa Olson

Alright, we’ve got some fun conversations in store this season, and we’re starting by letting you into one of our recent, incredible live events. A hearty crowd joined us in the fall at the stunning Mill Valley Public Library, nestled in a great forest of California redwoods, for a chat we called “The State of California Cuisine.”

A lofty title, I know! But we knew just who could bring the modern, representative views of what’s happening in Cali cuisine today: our friends Sara Calvosa Olson, Tanya Holland, and Reem Assil.

  • Sara is a Karuk home cook whose first cookbook, Chími Nu’am: Native California Foodways for the Contemporary Kitchen, “reimagines some of the oldest foods in California for home cooks today.” Think: acorn crepes, blackberry braised smoked salmon, wild boar pozole, peppernut mole chicken. Sara bills the book as an “accessible entry for people beginning their journey toward a decolonized diet.”

  • Tanya is the award-winning chef and restauranteur behind Oakland’s beloved Brown Sugar Kitchen (no current brick & mortar location), and a well-known culinary personality. Today, the “Top Chef” alumna chairs the James Beard Foundation’s Awards Committee (and sits on the foundation’s Board of Trustees). Her third cookbook, Tanya Holland's California Soul: Recipes from a Culinary Journey West, showcases 80 seasonal recipes rooted in the “key ingredients, techniques, and traditions that African Americans brought with them as they left the South for California, creating a beloved version of soul food.” Alongside recipes, Tanya shares stories of Black Californian food-makers, from farmers to coffee roasters.

  • Reem is a Palestinian-Syrian chef-activist based in Oakland, CA, who spent a decade as a labor and community organizer before turning to restaurants and opening Reem’s California. Reem brings her social justice lens to the restaurant industry, pushing for more just economic and labor practices. The La Cocina alumna’s debut cookbook, Arabiyya: Recipes from the Life of an Arab in Diaspora, “shares stories of the power of Arab communities to turn hardship into brilliant, nourishing meals and any occasion into a celebratory feast.”

We’ve got a great chat with a lively, engaged live audience. And of course, with these three incredible cooks in one room, we had to put them all to the test in our signature culinary game! Enjoy.

We 💚 local bookstores. Pick up your copy of these books via Bookshop:

Arabiyya by Reem Assil

California Soul by Tanya Holland

Chími Nu'am by Sara Calvosa Olson

Coming up this week: Paid subscribers to Salt + Spine will receive three recipes from this week’s featured books:

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

This Week’s New Cookbook Releases

Catching up with 2024 books here, so these include January releases, too!

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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.