Allrecipes Cook to Follow: Jessica Lawson
Meet this food blogger, life coach, and passionate advocate for girls struggling with poverty.
Jessica Lawson, an Allrecipes Allstar (@BigDeliciousLife), is one of 60 million cooks who visit Allrecipes.com every month.
About me: I'm a self-taught home chef and baker with a passion for healthy-ish living. My love for food comes from my family and from working, living, and traveling to different parts of the world. I believe that taking a seat at someone's table and sharing a meal is the best way to learn about others. We all eat in the same language! Also, I'm 39 and split my time between Chicago and L.A.
My day job: About 10 years ago, I cofounded a nonprofit called The Mariposa DR Foundation. Its mission is to end generational poverty by educating and inspiring girls. It was in the Dominican Republic that I really figured out how to get extra creative in the kitchen and use what's available. Now I work as a nonprofit consultant, helping other grassroots organizations grow.
Side gigs: My whole career is really side gigs at this point; they include food blogging (bigdeliciouslife.com) and lifestyle coaching. I love the freedom of choosing projects and organizations that I want to work with.
Food discovery that changed my life: I'd never had an avocado until I got to college. I've been hooked ever since.
My cooking inspiration: My grandmother. As I got older and went off on my own, cooking became my art and my creative release. I lost her to COVID-19 at 97 years old this past April. I started my blog shortly after she passed, and I know she would be so proud to see it.
Something few people know about me: I won't eat ketchup under any circumstances.
Who I cook for: My favorite person to cook for is my dad. I live with my partner, Matt, and our dog, Mika. Pre-pandemic, I was always cooking for my friends and family and hosting dinner parties.
My cooking philosophy: I never demonize any food. Life is too short: Eat the cake and savor it! I'm fiercely passionate about good-quality ingredients and real, whole foods. What you put in your body is the most important decision you make.
My blogging goals: I share recipes and help others who may struggle with what to cook or how to eat well. If I help someone improve their eating habits just a little bit, I'm doing my job.
Rare talent no one will pay me for: I have a crazy-good memory for completely useless facts.
Kitchen tool I can't live without: My Le Creuset cast-iron skillet. I could make anything in that pan. I bought it as a gift to myself when I bought a house on my own. It made me feel like a grown-up!
If I could have a superpower: I would speak and understand every language.
My closest thing to an actual superpower: Bet I can make you laugh!
My best food memory: I loved to pull up a chair whenever my grandmother would make biscuits. No recipe — she just eyeballed it and went by how it felt. For much of my life, I believed that biscuits were only for special occasions.
My kitchen is: My happy place. Small, well-stocked, and full of love.
Favorite saying: Michael Pollan said it best, "Eat food, not too much, mostly plants." I'm a huge fan of his books.
In my fridge now: Tons of fresh fruit and veggies — strawberries, peaches, pineapple, kale, spinach, carrots, peppers, salmon, leftover chicken, tortillas, eggs, some homemade hummus, and about eight different kinds of cheese. And of course butter, always.
My favorite things to cook: Tacos. Fun salads. Breakfast anything. Love to cook a whole spatchcock chicken!
A typical dinner: We like a lot of composed bowls and salads, when you can choose your own adventure. I love any meal that's "bar" style: tacos, salad bar, baked potato bar, hummus bar. A good graze board is clutch.
Favorite cuisine: Mexican and Italian. If I can only pick one, I could eat Mexican food every single day and never get sick of it.
Bucket list: Eat my way through Southeast Asia. Go on an African safari.
Best cook I know: My best friend, Jacqueline.
Try Jessica's recipe for Caribbean Carrot-Ginger Soup.
"I developed this recipe while in the Dominican Republic. Living in a small, rural beach town, I had to be resourceful with ingredients that were available and affordable. Carrots grow like crazy there, so this was an easy, delicious recipe that I used to make for my friends during the rainy season. It's the first recipe I really ever developed myself, and I still love it. Garnish as desired with microgreens, chopped chives, toasted sliced almonds, or chia seeds." —Jessica Lawson
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This article originally appeared in the February/March 2021 issue of Allrecipes Magazine.