How did we ever make it through summer before Coconut by Ben Mims came into our lives? No, seriously: from an outright outrageous piña colada to a simple but fulfilling Coconut & Lemongrass Curried Mussels dish, this book is a dang summer essential.
We caught up with the talent behind this collection, Ben Mims. Ben has worked for pretty much every major food magazine, from Lucky Peach to Saveur to Food & Wine. If food media was a pageant, Ben would win the Mr. Congeniality crown, no question.
More from Ben below, and don’t forget to grab your copy of Coconut here.
What's your earliest food memory?
Probably waking up on Saturday mornings at my grandmother's house in rural Mississippi and having breakfast with her. My dad would scoop me out of my bed at 3 am, put me in the truck with my brother, and drive to her house to go hunting. He's put me back in bed there, and he and my brother would go off into the woods. When I woke up, my grandmother and I would have breakfast, just the two of us, while they were out. She'd make homemade biscuits with muscadine (a local, thick-skinned grape variety) jelly, eggs scrambled in the rendered drippings of salt pork and breakfast sausage, grits with american cheese, fresh slices of tomato and white onion, and then three Goldie Locks-size glasses in front of my plate, the largest had orange juice, the middle JD whole milk, and the smallest had purple grape juice. I had to drink them all before getting up from the table.
Which cookbook can't you live without?
The one I turn to most often is probably Nigella Lawson's "How To Be a Domestic Goddess." It was one of the first cookbooks I ever owned and it influenced the way I approach baking and all my cooking. Keeping it really simple, but with a hint of humor so you know that the cook put some thought into what they're making. And the recipes in it are just plain good and straightforward. Her tone of writing also let me see that you can have personality in recipes; they don't have to be these stale, formulaic notes.
What's your go to meal/drink after a bad day?
A bad day for me usually consists of already eating lots of things I shouldn't, so when I get home, I usually cook up a pot of rice then turn it into a sort of mock congee by stirring in chicken stock and frozen peas. It resets my appetite, is the simplest thing I can put together, and feels really nourishing. If I'm staying in the healthy vein, I'll drink a whole kombucha. If I need a cocktail, it's usually a mezcal margarita because it makes me feel like I'm on a beach in Mexico. That and some Golden Girls reruns, and I'm good to go for the next day.
Name the attendees of your dream dinner party?
Most of the people who I'd have over wouldn't be food people because, at a dinner party, the last thing I want to discuss is food. I would want to hear about the interests of everyone else. It would mostly be all women with fierce personalities - Madonna, Michelle Pfeiffer, Nicole Kidman, and Robyn, then also Chaka Khan (I met her once and she was the sweetest person), Jennifer Lopez, Amy Winehouse (R.I.P.), Patti Labelle (she'd have to bring her sweet potato pie!), Janelle Monae, Shania Twain, Judge Judy, and, of course, Wendy Williams. Oh, and I'd have Nigella, too, just because. I'm sure there'd be no talk of food and plenty of dinner table drama, which is how I like it.
What's your favorite food city?
New Orleans. I don't even have to think about that. It's got everything I could need: homecoming that I grew up with, high-end restaurants that challenge me, great cocktails, and street jazz bands. It would be difficult for me to live there year round, but for twice a year, it's just perfect.
Which kitchen tool do you use most frequently?
The tool I use most often would be a regular table spoon. It can literally just about everything. When I'm cooking at home, or even in a new kitchen where I don't know where everything is yet, I keep a dinner table spoon in my pocket and use it for everything. It mixes, flips, and portions just about everything and then you can taste with as you go!
Purchase your copy of Ben's edition, Coconut, here.