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Joanne Molinaro Transcript

 The Korean Vegan - Joanne Molinaro Transcript























Joanne Molinaro:
I love French fries. I always say, "If I die, I will add on my tombstone, and I'll have fries with that."

Kerry Diamond:
Hey, everybody. You are listening to Radio Cherry Bombe. I'm your host Kerry Diamond, coming to you from Newsstand Studios at Rockefeller Center in the heart of New York City. Today's guest is Joanne Molinaro, who some of you might know better as the Korean Vegan. Joanne had been blogging for several years, but really blew up when she started sharing her stories and recipes on TikTok.

Now, Joanne's got millions of followers and she has a brand new cookbook that will be out tomorrow. Joanne joins us in just a minute to talk about her book, her journey and more. Thank you to our friends at Kerrygold for supporting Radio Cherry Bombe. We'll hear a word from our pals in Ireland in just a minute.

This coming weekend, October 16th and 17th at the brand new Ace Hotel Brooklyn, Cherry Bombe is hosting Cooks & Books, a celebration of the season's hottest cookbooks and authors. The Korean Vegan will be joining us along with so many other Cherry Bombe favorites. Claire Saffitz, Sophia Roe, Dorie Greenspan, Missy Robbins, Natasha Pickowicz, Top Chef winner Kelsey Barnard Clark, and Zoe Adjonyoh, just to name a few.

We've got talks, panels and demos. I'll be interviewing Hetty McKinnon, which I'm super excited about, I love Hetty. And I can't wait for the panels. I am definitely a panel nerd. We've got the art of the biography with the biographers of Julia Child, James Beard and Anthony Bourdain, a new way of Baker's panel, and the conversation about the mystery and history of Princess Pamela. Who you might ask? Come and find out. You can snag tickets to the individual events, or grab an all access pass for $50. Visit cherrybombe.com for more, and I hope to see you this weekend.

Special thanks to Le Creuset and Maple Hill Creamery for supporting Cooks & Books. If you'd like to stay at the Ace Hotel this weekend, use promo code CHERRYB, that's the letter B for 15% off when booking at acehotel.com. Stay tuned for a word from Kerrygold and we'll be right back with Joanne Molinaro.

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Kerry Diamond:
Joanne, welcome to Radio Cherry Bombe.

Joanne Molinaro:
I am so excited to be here. I can't wait.

Kerry Diamond:
I am so excited. I might be more excited than you are. I ran out to grab a coffee and I looked at my phone, one of my closest friends had just texted me and she said, "Do you know the Korean Vegan?" And she sent me a podcast you had done, and I said, "Very funny that you send me that, I'm interviewing her in 20 minutes." You're blowing up, congratulations.

Joanne Molinaro:
Thank you so much. How serendipitous that your close friend sent that interview to you and I, like I said, so looking forward to becoming more enmeshed with the Cherry Bombe family.

Kerry Diamond:
But we're so excited you'll be at Cherry Bombe, Cooks & Books. I am really looking forward to seeing you and Sophia Roe, and so many of our good friends.

Joanne Molinaro:
I honestly, I mean, can think of fewer ways. I can't think of really a better way to celebrate not just the book, but my family. My mom and dad are going to be there.

Kerry Diamond:
Oh.

Joanne Molinaro:
I'll be demonstrating this fabulous dish with this amazing woman. I was just talking to Sophia yesterday, I'm like, "Your voice is so confident, and you're so beautiful, and you're so supportive," and I'm just so excited to be doing this with her.

Kerry Diamond:
Oh, isn't Sophia the best? Like I mentioned, you are blowing up and most people are not overnight successes. When someone gets called an overnight success, they have been working for years to get where they are and honing their craft. When did you become the Korean Vegan?

Joanne Molinaro:
I started the blog in 2016. So, in some relative to some things, yes, that is a very short period of time. I think that some people think that, "Oh, she started her TikTok last year," and that's when the Korean Vegan started. And so, it's only been like a year. But, in fact, I've been doing the Korean Vegan sharing recipes and sharing stories about my family for over four and a half years. Actually, over five years. That's been going on for a while.

Joanne Molinaro:
But, there was a pretty dramatic reinvention of the media or the medium, I should say, that I used to share my recipes and my stories last year through TikTok. And that is when all of a sudden, a lot more people were exposed to the Korean Vegan than previously.

Kerry Diamond:
Exactly. What made you take the jump or take the leap over to TikTok?

Joanne Molinaro:
I was a consumer of TikTok. I will say, I had read an article in the paper about how TikTok like, single handedly, like foible, one of these political events. And I thought that was funny, but also fascinating. And I was also seeing a lot of TikTok videos being replayed on other social media platforms. And again, many of them were about the tongue in cheek, but no less effective form of activism.

And so, I wanted to see that firsthand. And that's why, I joined TikTok. And once you join TikTok, you very quickly become inspired by the other content creators on there. And I was, which is why I finally decided, "Well, let me see what I can do here on TikTok," and posted my own videos.

Kerry Diamond:
Amazing. And you really had no idea what was going to happen? I mean, you can't predict a TikTok success.

Joanne Molinaro:
No, you really cannot. I mean, you can't even predict the sustainability of that success. There's nothing predictable about TikTok. I feel like, the quote algorithm, right?

Kerry Diamond:
Mm-hmm.

Joanne Molinaro:
... is so different from any other social media platforms that we've all grown used to that there really is a black box feel to it. And you just got to have faith and believe in what you're doing.

Kerry Diamond:
Yeah. And now, we all know how fraud all social media is, for so many different reasons, including the...

Joanne Molinaro:
Yeah, I know.

Kerry Diamond:

... Facebook, Instagram, Whatsapp shut down, but just shows how reliant we all are.

Joanne Molinaro:
Yeah.

Kerry Diamond:
For those of us who make our careers from social media, that was definitely scary.

Joanne Molinaro:
It was such a strange moment, because we had so many things going on on that Monday. The Ritual Podcast did come out. The Washington Post article had just come out. And we were planning on rolling all of this out onto our various social media platforms. And then, of course, it was like, "Okay." I guess, I'm relegated to LinkedIn, and Twitter right now.

But, we also had a newsletter that was going out that day. And that goes out to quite a few tens of thousands of people on the Korean Vegan blog. And my husband was like, "Well, thank God that you invested in that newsletter, because it only goes to show, you really have to diversify your portfolio when it comes to this kind of, like you said, day job."

Kerry Diamond:
Absolutely. So, back to TikTok, you had your blog for several years, but TikTok, obviously, was different, because you would be telling these stories that you had been telling, but in person, and that's a whole different level of putting yourself out there in terms of emotion, in terms of the feedback you get from people. But, obviously, you decided we're ready for that. What was that like to put yourself out there in a visual sense?

Joanne Molinaro:
That's a really good question. Like you said, there's no way to predict anything, like I was, "Who's going to see this? Like, no one's going to watch me." So, in some sense, I felt a little bit safe doing that because it was such a new platform for me. And I had very few followers. And I was like, "It's okay, I'll just put it out there and just flex my creative muscles."

But, then, when it started getting attention, I had this total like freak out moment where I was like, "I don't want any more followers. I don't want any more viewers. I don't want to go viral anymore. It's too scary." I just don't want to be seen by so many eyes. And I had to have that talk with myself where like, "What are you doing this for? What do you want out of this?" And you need to get comfortable really quickly with this, if this is what you want to pursue.

And after that, it allowed me or I should say, it motivated me to be far more intentional about what I was putting out there because I knew that there was a potential for millions of people to see what I was putting out there.

Kerry Diamond:
Mm-hmm. How do you protect yourself emotionally? Because you really tell some personal stories. And I wonder that every time I see one of your videos, I just feel like you must be so drained afterwards, but maybe I'm wrong, maybe you're energized.

Joanne Molinaro:
I won't say that I'm energized. You're probably more correct when you say that it is draining. It can be draining because some of these stories, like you say, require me to go back into pockets of my life that perhaps I'm not always as inclined to visit on a regular basis. I share these stories because I want people to feel like they're not alone.

And in order to really impart that message, I do have to reach into and get connected with feelings that aren't always pleasant. But, what helps and I think what does protect me in many ways is hearing from people like you or other women in particular, other folks who struggled with the same things saying, "You've done it, I don't feel alone. This resonates with me. Thank you for sharing this because I didn't know how to share it, and I needed it to be shared."

So, when I hear that, and when I see that in my DMs or in my comments, the cost that I incur emotionally, a lot of that is kind of healed when I hear those things.

Kerry Diamond:
You also started doing TikTok at a time when things are becoming increasingly difficult for the AAPI community. And I have a number of friends on Instagram, well, friends in real life. But, on Instagram, they deal with a lot of harassment. And it continues to sadden and shocked me, and I know it probably shouldn't. I know you deal with that, too. And I'm just wondering how you deal with that, and what advice you have for people who are dealing with racist behavior on these social media platforms.

Joanne Molinaro:
It is so hard sometimes to deal with that, of all the things that probably upset me the most, and like literally keep me up at night and cause me to call my therapist is that thing. I was reading a really good book the other day, and the gentleman was talking about some advocates.

You have to understand that when they advocate on behalf of a group that they are a part of, then they're doing double duty. Because they not only are using their platform and their voice to advocate on behalf of a historically oppressed group, but they also have to deal with the oppression on top of that. Oftentimes, as a result of that, right?

Kerry Diamond:
Mm-hmm.

Joanne Molinaro:
And so, for me, I always get so angry, and so hurt by it, because I love my country so much. And so, it's like personal almost to me. And I think that what I have learned to do is, I'm a zero to 60 miles per hour girl. When my emotions come, I react and what I'm trying to learn how to do is, okay, go to 60 and then dial it back because you're not going to be an effective advocate if you're constantly at that emotional level.

Sometimes, you do need to pull it back and figure out how to communicate the correct message in a way that will impact the most amount of hearts. Sometimes, you have to be emotional, and it's okay to be at 60 and communicate at 60. But, sometimes, it's not. So, that's been something that I have been trying to learn for people who have to deal with that on a regular basis. Honestly, having somebody like a professional therapist can really help. And if you can't find a therapist, having a friend that can just be a sounding board or even just listen to you rant and vent about it, can also be really, really helpful. Don't try to do it alone is my best advice.

Kerry Diamond:
All right. In terms of the zero to 60, as you were describing that, I was thinking, Joanne has some special skills that she can pull out of her box when she has to deal with this because you are a lawyer by trade.

Joanne Molinaro:
I am.

Kerry Diamond:
So, you're very good at arguments and getting your point across, things like that. We love a career changer here at Cherry Bombe. So, many women in our community have changed careers. And some folks might be surprised to know that you... I mean, you're still a lawyer, you passed the bar. So, you're technically a lawyer. You're not practicing today, though, right?

Joanne Molinaro:
I would say that... I said to someone yesterday, it was actually one of the highlights of my day was like, "Oh, hi, I'm the Korean Vegan, and I lawyer on the side." So, that's probably more of an accurate description. I still, like you said, I have maintained my bar status, and I intend to continue doing that. I think that being a lawyer is part of who I am and as part of the Korean Vegan.

So, at this point, I'm not practicing full time. But, I remain open to potentially taking on new matters or at least counseling people as a lawyer on a case by case basis.

Kerry Diamond:
Good to know for all of us who might need lawyers out there. What kind of law did you use to practice?

Joanne Molinaro:
So, I was a commercial litigator, who specialized in antitrust class action lawsuits, bankruptcy, disputes and fraud litigation.

Kerry Diamond:
Wow. Did I read you would work on the second biggest Ponzi scheme case?

Joanne Molinaro:
Yeah, it was the second largest Ponzi scheme case filed under the United States Bankruptcy Code. I represented the liquidating trust committee and defending against claims that was one of the best cases that I'd ever had a chance to work on.

Kerry Diamond:
Wow. How did you become a lawyer? When did you decide you wanted to be a lawyer? What was it about you that you thought would make a good lawyer?

Joanne Molinaro:
I think in a word, the reason I became a lawyer was panic. I graduated a year early from college, and I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. And I didn't... I wasn't prepared. I just knew that, "Oh, my God isn't this when people start moving out and not relying on their parents now and doing things like paying for their own insurance and stuff?" And I didn't know what to do.

So, I was like, "What are the three main options that have been proposed to me, doctor, business person, lawyer?" And by process of elimination, basically, I was like, "I don't want to be a business person." I faint at the sight of blood, so I can't be a doctor. So, I guess that leaves lawyer. And I studied for my LSATs, applied to law school, everything happened very quickly before I could really take the time to think about it. And that's basically how I became a lawyer.

Kerry Diamond:
Wow. Okay. Was there anything about you that now when you look back, you're like, "Oh, the signs were there that I would make a good lawyer, or you were just exhibiting certain things that lend themselves to being a good lawyer."

Joanne Molinaro:
Yeah, yeah. I think that certainly, at that time, anxiety was a big driver into why I chose being a lawyer because no one thinks about law school. You go to law school, you apply for jobs, and you get a job. And that's it. It's like a very like set path. And there was very little room for discretion. And that's what you want sometimes when you're anxious is, don't give me choices. I want as few choices as possible.

I just want someone to tell me what to do, particularly when you're recently graduated from college, and you're like, "I'm not ready to make my own decisions." But, I think to you're much more nuanced question, I had been very opinionated, i.e. disobedient, according to my parents since I was a very little girl.

And in retrospective and thinking about this a lot as I continue to evolve into my role as an advocate for the things that I actually really care about. I think I have been that person since I was a little girl. I was always the one who got in the middle of a fight. If I saw a little person being bullied by an older kid on the playground, I was always the one who when I saw somebody being racially attacked, getting in between and saying, "No, you don't get to do that, while I'm here."

I remember once I was in a nursing home, visiting my grandmother, and one of the nurses just started screaming at one of the grandpas in there. Nobody said anything. I was like, "How is this happening that nobody's saying anything?" And I finally... It wasn't my grandpa. I got out there. And I was like, "You have to stop. This is unacceptable. I don't know who this person is, and I don't know who you are, but I'm not allowing this to happen."

So, and that was when I was young, long before I was lawyer. And so, that instinct, I think has always been in me. So, however, much I like to say that it's accidental, I don't think it was really accidental that I decided to be a lawyer.

Kerry Diamond:
Let's jump forward and talk about this beautiful cookbook that is coming out very, very soon.

Joanne Molinaro:
Thank you.

Kerry Diamond:
That's another thing, I wanted to ask you about. And this is a cookbook question, but not only did you kind of... For some of us, just appear magically, seemingly so on TikTok last year, but you also did so with this full aesthetic that is so your own. Your work doesn't look like anyone else's. Your lighting is your own. That comes through loud and clear in the book. I mean, can you describe what the Korean Vegan aesthetic is? Because it's definitely a thing.

Joanne Molinaro:
That is so validating because I have to say, I was so insecure about my photography. I'm not a photographer. I'm a lawyer. So, I'm not a professional photographer. And I was learning to be a better photographer, as I shot the book that was such a process for me.

And I have to tell you, my aesthetic was not very popular on Instagram. It wasn't this bright, like, "Oh, everything's sunny and beautiful." It was more just like, sometimes, you have to cook when you're not feeling good about yourself. Sometimes, cooking is about healing, and it's about facing some of the darker parts of our life.

And that's really what the Korean Vegan aesthetic is about. It's about being introspective and using food and cooking as a vehicle to look inside a little bit. And sometimes, grappling with the things that aren't perfect. Our food isn't perfect. And so, that's really what the aesthetic is.

There was so many times along the way where I was like, "You know what? I'm just going to give up. Nobody likes these moody photographs. I'm the only one who apparently likes them. I'm just going to start doing what everybody else is doing." And I had to hear from people like my husband who is an artist and he would say, "No, you stick to what you're doing. Do not compromise your vision. This is who you are." So, it is incredibly validating, heartening and personally rewarding when I hear people like you say that they actually noticed that.

Kerry Diamond:
No, it's very impressive. It's very hard to have a look that is distinctively yours. And now, I see things and I'm like, "Oh, that's obviously, Joanne. That's the Korean Vegan."

Joanne Molinaro:
Oh, it's so great.

Kerry Diamond:
So, tell us about the book, what is The Korean Vegan Cookbook all about?

Joanne Molinaro:
So, the Korean cookbook has 80 plus recipes. A couple of which you've probably have seen on TikTok. But, the vast majority of which are pretty much brand new, or more advanced, nuanced versions of things that I've simplified for social media. And layered over those recipes very much like my TikTok videos are stories about my mom and my dad, and me and my grandparents, even my little brother makes an appearance here and there.

So, if you think about it, it's really just my TikTok in book form, that's kind of what I tell people. And I know that because it was my first book, whether it's a cookbook or any other kind of book, because it was my first book, I really did think a lot about what are my favorite books growing up? What are the books that I love to read? And they were always really, really good stories that had this ability to transport you into a totally different place in the world and in somebody's life.

And that's really, what I tried so hard to accomplish with this book is through the photographs and through the stories, even the head notes to the recipe. I want readers to feel like they've been dropped into this other beautiful world that they haven't seen or experienced before.

Kerry Diamond:
What are some of those books you're referencing?

Joanne Molinaro:
Anne of Green Gables, for sure. The Count of Monte Cristo, Pride and Prejudice. I mean, these are the classics. Every book that had a penguin on it, that was the book for me when I was growing up.

Kerry Diamond:
You mean, penguin as in Penguin Random House the...

Joanne Molinaro:
Yeah, but the Penguin Classics series.

Kerry Diamond:
Yes.

Joanne Molinaro:
That's what my mom taught me. She's a huge, voracious reader. And she always told me, "Okay, the book with the penguin on it, those are the good books." So, I grew up literally just going through the like, "Oh, Penguin, pull it out," and I'd read it.

Kerry Diamond:
Oh, that's so interesting. When you were saying that, Narnia, popped in my head, the Narnia Chronicles.

Joanne Molinaro:
Yeah. Oh, my gosh, I love those.

Kerry Diamond:
Mm-hmm. I have a few questions, I always love to ask about recipes. I would love to know what's a recipe that is deeply personal to you that's in the cookbook?

Joanne Molinaro:
So, I would say, there are a lot of recipes that are really personal to me, because again, this was my first cookbook. And in that way, it was so fun, because I could be like, "Oh, I'm just going to pick all the recipes that I have a special meaning to me and that I really love to eat.

And so, a lot of them have incredible personal meaning to me. I would say one that sticks out, and I remember when I wrote the head note to this, my editor was like, "I don't know about this Joanne." But, I was stuck to my guns about it. I was like, "No, this is important to me." And it was the Tteokguk recipe, Tteokguk Manduguk recipe.

And if you're Korean, then Tteokguk Manduguk has a very special role in our cuisine. It is the dish that is served on New Year's. And the Tteokguk, the rice in the soup is supposed to represent not just blessings, because rice is of course about sustenance. But, it's also about purity. It's about starting over with the New Year, you get a blank slate, all of those mistakes and the heartache from the prior year, you can start a new.

And I remember one year, it was the year that I was scheduled to get married. Four months before my wedding, I went into my parent's house and I was so excited about Tteokguk because I have gone every year to my mom's house to eat Tteokguk on New Year's Day.

And I was waiting for them to serve me this bowl and they sit down at the table and they have this beautiful big bowl of Tteokguk that my mom had made, and she slides it over to me. But, then she slides over to me this card with her handwriting, Joanne. And I was like, "Oh, did I get money this year too?" Because that's also Korean tradition as the children get some money on New Year's Day.

So, I was like, "It's been few years since that has happened to me." So, I opened the envelope and it's a card, and it's my mother's handwriting and her signature and my dad's signature at the bottom. And it's basically, this written exportation to not go through with my wedding...

Kerry Diamond:
Oh, boy.

Joanne Molinaro:
... in four months. And I was like, "How dare you."

Kerry Diamond:
And we should say, this is your first marriage.

Joanne Molinaro:
My first marriage.

Kerry Diamond:
Yeah, not your current husband.

Joanne Molinaro:
Yeah.

Kerry Diamond:
Mm-hmm.

Joanne Molinaro:
This did not happen with a subsequent marriage, but this is a very fraught conversation and it did not go well, and I ended up screaming at my parent's and left without eating any of the Tteokguk because I was so angry. And, of course, for those who are familiar with my story, they definitely had some foresight there. They were trying to protect their daughter, and I just was so stubborn and I didn't want to listen to them.

So, that dish, I can't ever make or eat that dish without thinking of that moment when my parents loved me so much, that they wanted to give me more than the food that I was so unwilling to accept it at that time. I mean, I think in retrospect, I probably had to go through what I did in order to be the person that I am today. But, I love that they tried.

Kerry Diamond:
It's so interesting that they chose to write it down and deliver it to you that way also. Mm-hmm.

Joanne Molinaro:
Yeah, that's my mom. She's the writer. She's always been a writer and a reader. And I think that she understands the power of the written word. Unfortunately, it was not powerful enough that day.

Kerry Diamond:
I'm excited to meet your parents when they come to Cooks & Books.

Joanne Molinaro:
Yeah.

Kerry Diamond:
Okay, tell me the recipe that your friends and family would say, "Oh, that's the most Joanne recipe in the book."

Joanne Molinaro:
Oh, wow. That's like really, oh my gosh, okay. I would say, Sundubu, the silken tofu stew. When I graduated college, my girlfriend's actually bought me a Ttukbaegi, which is the traditional earthenware pot that you cook all the chickens in, because they're like, "You're this Sundubu girl. Every single Friday, that's what you eat at the restaurant. I was like obsessed with Sundubu chicken.

And it was probably the first recipe my mom ever taught me how to make. It was the first Korean recipe that I veganized when I went vegan, and I eat it a lot. I think a lot of people would probably associate me with, "Oh, she's the girl who makes that really spicy, firing, looking on silken tofu stew."

Kerry Diamond:
Walk us through how you make it.

Joanne Molinaro:
My Mother, she taught me to make it a little bit differently than I think I've seen at least on YouTube and other places. She always starts with a little bit of sesame oil, which I always get a little bit nervous about because it has a lower burn point, then extra virgin olive oil. So, I'm always like, "Okay, I have to act really quickly in order to make sure it doesn't burn."

And so, she always starts out with a little bit of sesame oil, and then she throws in the gochu-garu, which is the Korean pepper powder. And that's really the base of this stew. And she throws that in and she roasts it in that sesame oil, so it loses that raw flavor when you don't do that. And then, the trick is, you can only do that for a short period of time because the gochu-garu is also fragile, and it will burn and it'll turn brown and get bitter.

So, you have to really keep an eye on it. And then, you throw in your aromatics like your garlic, your onions, and then you throw in your vegetables, which is what's going to give that broth its body, like the zucchini. And I also add potatoes. Nobody else adds potatoes to their Sundubu jjigae. I add potatoes because I'm a potato girl and I love potatoes.

But, also, one thing I learned about broth is potatoes add a great deal of earthiness and body to a broth. So, I throw in, sometimes, a whole potato diced up, and then you add a little bit of soy sauce for that mami, and sort of that saltiness. And then, you add your broth, I have a homemade vegetable broth in the cookbook as well.

And then, you add your silken tofu and make sure to include the brine of the tofu because that also adds to the flavor of your broth, and add your scallions on top. You can add some jalapeno peppers for extra heat, and salinity. And it's just this incredibly, enveloping, velvety, wonderful stew that just really sticks to your bones particularly like on a winter day.

Kerry Diamond:
Mm-hmm. Oh, my God, I'm so hungry right now.

Joanne Molinaro:
Yeah.

Kerry Diamond:
It's really good. I love that you called yourself a potato girl.

Joanne Molinaro:
Oh, totally.

Kerry Diamond:
Why are you a potato girl, Joanne?

Joanne Molinaro:
Growing up, I'd always be, I'm looking, "You add potato to that?" Everything she made, I was like, "Add potato." Like, "Why are you using radish? That is just a tease because it looks like potato. It's not a potato."

Kerry Diamond:
And you love sweet potato too.

Joanne Molinaro:
I love. So, she loves sweet potatoes and that I get from her. I mean, she obviously has this sentimental personal connection to sweet potatoes and she eats one every single day. I'm a fan of both the regular potato and the sweet potato. So, I love French fries. I always say, "If I die, I will add on my tombstone and I'll have fries with that."

Kerry Diamond:
That's so funny. Okay, last recipe question. When we did the Cherry Bombe Cookbook, it was so interesting to see what the popular recipes round up being and you can never... Maybe, some people can, but I never could have predicted what people would start making and sharing on social media. What do you think will be the most popular recipe?

Joanne Molinaro:
I would have to say, and I have some data to support this. So, this is a little bit of cheating. I will probably say, the Kkanpoong Tofu is going to be the most popular because it already is. I mean, that is one that I was asked to include in the book because it is so popular. It is one of my most popular TikTok videos. I think, it has over 8 million views. It is my most popular YouTube video. And it is a recipe that I have now seen so many people do.

So, I do think that that will continue to be very popular. So, minus that cheater answer. I would say that probably, the Pecan Paht Pie would be my...

Kerry Diamond:
Yes, you're going to be demoing that one.

Joanne Molinaro:
Yeah, because it is so easy to make. I mean, if you don't make your own pie crust. If you do, then, hopefully, you're good at that. And you've done it before because that can be a little bit tricky. But, if you buy in the store about pie crust, the rest of the recipe like you can literally make while you're like half asleep. It's so easy, and then it comes out and you feel like freaking in a garden. You're like, "Oh, my God, I can be like the Barefoot Contessa contest if I wanted to.

Kerry Diamond:
So, walk us through that. So, repeat the name of it because people might be like, Pecan Pie? And it's like, "No, there's a little extra thing in there."

Joanne Molinaro:
There is a little extra. Yeah, it's Pecan Paht Pie, which is a plan where it's like, chicken pot pie, but it's actually not pot like P-O-T, it's P-A-H-T, which refers to the red bean paste, which is very popular in Korean desserts, like Korean rice cakes, being sew like the shaved ice and things like that.

And that's what I use as part of my filling. And I think that does a couple of things. First of all, it makes the pie foolproof because we all know that making pecan pie is hard because you wonder if it's going to properly set. And this bean paste takes the guesswork out of that. And then, on top of that, it cuts through the sweetness a little bit.

I often hear this the biggest complaint about pecan pies is, "Oh, it's just a little too sweet for me." This red bean paste mellows the sweetness a little bit, so that you get this really balanced flavor.

Kerry Diamond:
Oh, I love that. I can't wait to try it because I love pecan pie. But, I'm with you. Sometimes, you bite into a pecan pie and you're like, "As much of a sweet tooth as I have, even some pecan pies are just sugar bombs."

Joanne Molinaro:
Yeah, yeah. I mean, it is a showstopper, and that's another reason why I think it'll be popular because it's one of those things that when you take it to a dinner party or your Thanksgiving potluck, or something, everyone's going to be like, "What is that? I want a slice of that." And I did have the chance to make it for a dinner party a couple of months ago, and everyone loved it. And again, it was just so simple to make.

Kerry Diamond:
Joanne is going to be showing us how to make it at Cooks & Books...

Joanne Molinaro:
Yehey.

Kerry Diamond:
... this coming weekend, so I cannot wait. And for all of you who are already planning your Thanksgiving and holiday menus, write this one down, because you definitely might want to try that for your friends and family for the holidays. All right. So, what else about the book, anything else you want to tell us about it that we should know?

Joanne Molinaro:
Kind of a pertinent to the book, I'm really excited to meet people that is like so exciting, which is why I'm so freaking excited about this Cherry Bombe event that's happening in New York. And I've been trying to get the people galvanize like, "Hey, you can meet my mom and dad, we're going to do cooking events."

And so, I'm just so excited to meet people. We're going to be starting in Chicago, then we go to New York to do a couple of events, including the Cherry Bombe, which is, I think the only one where I'm doing an actual cooking demonstration in person. So, that is really, really cool. And then, we go to LA, and who knows where the wind will take me after that. But, I guess, I'm just so excited that after a year and a half, almost two years of being cloistered in our homes, hopefully, we're starting to feel at least somewhat safe enough to, again, responsibly start interacting again in person.

Kerry Diamond:
Yeah, absolutely. I think of all the authors who put books out over the past year and a half and didn't get to go on tour and didn't get to meet people. I mean, we did, oh, my gosh, we visited over a dozen cities when we did our cookbook and like you said, that was such a special part of putting a cookbook into the world, getting to meet everybody and nerd out on recipes and ingredients and everything.

Joanne Molinaro:
Totally, yeah. I'm a big nerd and everything that I do. Nerding out is a phrase that's near and dear to my heart.

Kerry Diamond:
Exactly. I probably, use it too much, not to keep talking about books and books, but I am a giant book nerd. And when you were talking about being younger and pulling the Penguin books, because you knew that was a symbol of quality and exciting storytelling. If it weren't for libraries, I don't know what would have happened to me as a kid.

I spent so much time in the public library and the librarians were so kind to me, they would let me take out a whole stack of books and I put them in my basket or my bicycle, and I'd bike home and I'd like just devour those books. And I'm just so happy to be doing an event that celebrates books and the people who write books. And storytelling, in any kind just thrills me and I think that's why I'm such a big fan of yours.

You have just found a different way to do storytelling and people have reacted so positively to the storytelling that you're doing and whether it's through TikTok or like you said, the head notes of your recipes, or your blog. I just, yeah, I'm just a fan. I'm a fan, Joanne.

Joanne Molinaro:
Oh, that's so sweet. I love nerding out with fellow book nerds. I could talk about books forever.

Kerry Diamond:

Exactly.

Joanne Molinaro:
But, I like you. I found a lot of solace in the library. I'm sure you feel the same way. You literally can drown yourself in words.

Kerry Diamond:
Mm-hmm. That's so nice. I never heard anyone put it that way about being alone. You're never alone, if you have a book.

Joanne Molinaro:
Yes, you're never alone. And when you have cookbooks, you will never go hungry.

Kerry Diamond:
That's true. Unless, like some of us who collect cookbooks, and then all of a sudden, you're like, "Wait, I'm not cooking through all these books. And I own all these cookbooks." But, I don't know, I feel like cookbooks... They're special. I get so much out of them, even if I don't cook from them.

Joanne Molinaro:
Oh, for sure. They're inspiration. They're beautiful. I mean, they can... Like I said, they can transport you even if you don't eat the food out of them. I have a lot of cookbooks like that too where I'm just like, "I'm just going to flip through this because it's so beautiful."

Kerry Diamond:
Let me ask you few more food questions before we do the speed round and let you go. Oh, tell us what you were making for lunch. I know there was a little a lunch snafu.

Joanne Molinaro:
Exactly. So, I am making my wasabi bulgogi melt, which is actually a recipe from the cookbook. It is a take on a sandwich that I used to make for my family all the time before I went vegan. I used to take just like you know deli, sliced roast beef and a little bit of wasabi paste and mayo and cheese and melt it all together into this like Ooey Gooey deliciousness.

What I decided to do when I tried to incorporate that into the cookbook was, instead of using deli sliced roast beef, why don't I just use the leftover bulgogi that was sitting in my fridge, which is my plant-based version of Korean dish called bulgogi, which is grilled meat, or grilled flank steak marinated in Korean barbecue sauce.

I was planning on eating that for lunch. I'm hoping that I haven't burned it to a crisp. I walked away from the stove for a second and forgot to turn it off. Hopefully, that is not a sign of my age.

Kerry Diamond:
I always have to set alarms on my clock.

Joanne Molinaro:
Yes.

Kerry Diamond:
You know what it is? I don't think its age as much as like, too much multitasking. Yeah.

Joanne Molinaro:
That is exactly right. I had a lot of things happening at the same time. But, that is what I plan to eat for lunch assuming that it is salvageable.

Kerry Diamond:
And what is your bread vehicle?

Joanne Molinaro:
So, I have this really great recipe for milk bread or vegan milk bread in the cookbook. And my recommendation is to, either make it and use that, or store bought your favorite version of that, although I don't know that there are plant based versions out there, at least not in the United States. You can get it in Korea, but I don't know about the US, which is why I include my own recipe.

But, that's like a really good fluffy bread is really great for that because it's like a grilled cheese sandwich. It's a melt. If you don't have that, or you don't have access to milk bread, just a really nice kind of larger piece of bread. I'm using right now a sliced Italian bread. And it's really, really good. And, you just butter both sides and you get that really nice textured on the outside. And then, in the middle, you've got the gooey cheese with the bulgogi and the sauce. It's pretty remarkably delicious.

Kerry Diamond:
Oh, my gosh, it sounds so good. You said the word Italian and it just reminded me your husband is Italian-American. He's a pianist, right?

Joanne Molinaro:
Yes.

Kerry Diamond:
Does he play in the house?

Joanne Molinaro:
Oh, my God. Yes. Having been stuck inside the house with him concert pianist, it sounds good on paper. But, there's a great deal of repetition that goes into...

Kerry Diamond:
I haven't thought about that.

Joanne Molinaro:
Yes. And so, for a long time, now, he's resumed teaching in person. He's a piano professor at Loyola University. And so, he's out of the house a lot more. But, for a very long time, about a year and a half, I mean, hearing the same scale over, over and over again for hours is a little bit like, "Whoa, okay, earphones."

Kerry Diamond:
But, you use a lot of his music in your videos.

Joanne Molinaro:
I do. I mean, it's nice, because I love his music. He's a classical pianist, and he loves Bach. I love Bach. He loves Beethoven, I love Beethoven. So, it's very nice having this kind of catalog of music to add to my food videos. And he's always very proud of that too, as he should be. He's one of the greatest musicians alive and I love sharing his work with my audience.

Kerry Diamond:
Mm-hmm. How about culinarily, are there many culinary mash-ups between you two?

Joanne Molinaro:
He's not a very practiced technician in the kitchen. So, I'll leave it at that.

Kerry Diamond:
That's so polite, the way you put that, Joanne.

Joanne Molinaro:
Yes. And I always say, "That's okay, you need to save your hands for the piano." He does inspire a lot of the recipes in the cookbook, just because I'd always loved Italian cuisine, but meeting his family and getting to go to Italy multiple times with him and his family really opened my eyes to like Korean food, the versatility of Italian food particularly from a plant-based perspective how easy it is to really veganize.

And so, there are a lot of representations of me and Anthony in the book as in. There's a little bit of Italian, there's a little bit of a Korean in this recipe. I was, actually, just pulled up the recipe for Angry Penne Pasta which is, Penne Pasta with gochujang and gochugaru. So, I'm really excited about that one.

Kerry Diamond:
And tell us why you call it angry?

Joanne Molinaro:
So, Pasta Arrabbiata, I think that is a reference illusion I guess to Pasta Arrabbiata. Anthony and I used to go to this great little Italian cafe before we were vegan, when we were first dating. And one of my favorite dishes there was the Pasta Arrabbiata and there was like this very scary looking pepper on top of it, and I was like, "Oh, God, this would be really spicy." And it was spicy, but in a really good way.

And so, that's why I called it Angry Penne Pasta, is just like a loose homage to that Arrabbiata. But, again, it's my version because instead of using the traditional Italian ingredients, I've incorporated gochujang and gochugaru to the traditional Korean ingredients for adding heat.

Kerry Diamond:
Oh, my gosh, I have to try that recipe. All right, let's do a speed round. Tell us a treasured cookbook, and your cookbook collection.

Joanne Molinaro:
Oh, treasured cookbook is probably the Food Lab by Kenji Lopez. I love that book. I go back to that book very, very frequently, especially for his treatments of vegetables, obviously.

Kerry Diamond:
That's a great one. Now, that's a book that if you really love cookbooks, and cooking, I feel like everybody should own.

Joanne Molinaro:
Yeah.

Kerry Diamond:
That's a great one, very practical. Oldest thing in your fridge?

Joanne Molinaro:
Oldest thing in my fridge is probably, oh, geez, the gochugaru that my mom brought from Korea, that from the farms. She told me that in order to keep it fresh, you should keep a good chunk of it. And therefore, refrigerator.

Kerry Diamond:
Music in the kitchen. Yes or no?

Joanne Molinaro:
I would say, yes. I like having a little bit of jazz in the kitchen when I'm cooking. It relaxes me and gets me in the mood. And so, I always have like Ella Fitzgerald or something in Billie Holiday in the background. Not too loud. But, nice background music.

Kerry Diamond:
What was your last pantry purchase?

Joanne Molinaro:
My last pantry purchase was another bottle of extroversion olive oil. I feel like I go through it like every three days, how do we... I like have four bottles...

Kerry Diamond:
Same.

Joanne Molinaro:
And now, I have nothing.

Kerry Diamond:

Same. I'm like, "Am I drinking it in my sleep? What is going on here?"

Joanne Molinaro:
Yeah.

Kerry Diamond:
What are you streaming lately?

Joanne Molinaro:
We just wrapped up Squid Game. I was basically, peer pressure to do watch it.

Kerry Diamond:
It looks scary? I don't love scary and it looks scary.

Joanne Molinaro:
It's not scary. It's more shocking and very gruesome.

Kerry Diamond:
Okay.

Joanne Molinaro:
So, it doesn't hold any punches when it comes to the gross factor. But, it's not scary. It's more just like, I'm trying to figure this out kind of thing. So, we just finished that. We haven't landed yet on our next streaming indulgence.

Kerry Diamond:
What is a dream travel destination?

Joanne Molinaro:
Dream travel destination is probably Vienna. I've always wanted to go there. Yeah, my husband concert ties there. And he always tells me that it's one of the most beautiful places he's ever been to. And certainly, as a musician, that area resonates with him, very particular way. So, I definitely want to go there.

My hope is that, the next time we get to Europe, we always go to Italy first because that's our home base. And then, we always like a spoke on a wheel. We go somewhere else from Italy. And we've been to London, we've been to Barcelona. We've been to other cities in Italy other than Rome. And my hope is that the next time, we get to visit Vienna.

Kerry Diamond:
Last question, if you were to be trapped on a desert island with one food celebrity, who would it be and why?

Joanne Molinaro:
Oh, God, food celebrity, Padma Lakshmi like easily, like always, because I think she's amazing. And I've had a girl crush on her for so long.

Kerry Diamond:
She's very crushable, totally.

Joanne Molinaro:
Yeah.

Kerry Diamond:
Joanne, thank you so much. This has been so much fun getting to know you better and I really can't wait to see you in person in a few days.

Joanne Molinaro:
I can't wait either, and I really can't wait for you to try the pie because I think you'll really, really like it and it always makes me so happy when people like it.

Kerry Diamond:

Joanne, you're the bombe.

Joanne Molinaro:
Thank you.

Kerry Diamond:
That's it for today's show. Thank you so much to Joanne Molinaro for stopping by. Be sure to check out Joanne's debut book, The Korean Vegan Cookbook out tomorrow. And maybe, I'll see some of you at Cooks & Books this weekend. Please find me and say, hi. It would be so great to meet you. If you haven't gotten tickets yet, visit cherrybombe.com.

Thank you to Kerrygold and Ace Hotel Brooklyn for supporting our show. Radio Cherry Bombe is a production of Cherry Bombe Magazine. If you enjoy this episode, we've got lots of other great ones. Like last week's with Stanley Tucci. Radio Cherry Bombe is recorded at Newsstands Studios at Rockefeller Center in New York City. Thank you to Joseph Hazen, studio engineer for Newsstand Studios, and to our assistant producer, Jenna Sadhu. Thanks for listening everybody. You are the bombe.