Erica Reid’s voice is bright and bubbly as she chats with me via phone from her oft-used kitchen on the West Coast. The former school teacher and two-time author exudes an aura of Los Angeles cool (which is terribly appropriate given her longtime marriage to Hollywood music mogul L.A. Reid) and a refreshingly grounded candor that no doubt stems from her classic Colorado upbringing.
We’re chatting about her latest project, a health and allergy conscious cookbook for the modern mother – aptly titled Shut Up and Cook. Reed is delightfully straightforward about her inspiration for writing this rich tome of recipes.
“With raising two children and trying to figure out how can I give them food to support their whole being, because we live in a world that sometimes seems to be against them in every area, especially nutrition… We’re in a food epidemic. And I decided to fight against it instead of feed into it. I was inspired to say enough is enough. We can get into the kitchen and create healthier options and figure out how we can create things that will benefit us and sustain us.”
Reid’s passion for healthy living runs deep. Her children, now thriving in their teen years, were prone to excessive, unexplained illnesses (”skin rashes, tummy troubles, gut irritability, sinus issues, upper respiratory challenges, colds in 80-degree weather…”) throughout childhood. It wasn’t until she led her family down the long and winding road of an elimination diet, was she able to descern the foods that were wreaking havoc on her children’s bodies. But simply removing the guilty parties from their diets wasn’t enough for Reid – after all, once all food allergies and sensitivities were tossed aside, there was nary a delicious option to be found (especially not one that would allow for the delicious Super Hero cake her then-young son desperately wanted for his birthday).
A self-proclaimed novice in the kitchen, Reid set out to simultaneously navigate the uncharted waters of her kitchen and craft recipes that would be sensitive to her children’s specific dietary needs. And the results were, well, transformative.
“[Eating clean] makes you more aware, not just with what you’re eating, but the way you’re living. It enlightens you. When you’re eating clean, you’re able to bring your senses to more enlightenment and it absolutely has changed how I live.”
And it’s changed the way her family approaches life. Formerly bound by dietary restrictions, Reid’s culinary crusade has gifted her children with a world free from encumbrances. When I asked her about the logistics of traveling and eating on-the-go (her teenaged daughter is currently criss-crossing Europe), Reid assured me that like many of the recipes in her book, she draws strength and influence from her roots growing up in a single parent home, “We don’t stop living”, she assured me. “Don’t let it prohibit you. You find ways to embrace it and live with it.”
And thrive thanks to it.
Reid’s ingenuity has crafted a simple yet satisfying approach to clean eating. Her mission to teach people how to create food that makes them feel good, without sacrificing their health and overall wellbeing oozes from the pages of her new book. Because, as she puts it, there’s “mother earth medicinal” magic in the food we eat.
“Food is the core. The kitchen is the center of our home… And for me, I look at the kitchen as the pharmacy. Any time anyone says they have a headache, the have a stomachache – I look at the nutritional aspect. Maybe the lack of – or something that could be needed… And it’s really about going into the kitchen and finding something that you need in some way.”
And that’s exactly how Reid approaches her test-kitchen phase. While she may run in elite Hollywood circles alongside the likes of Beyonce and Mary J. Blige, there’s nothing highfalutin about her method. As we talk, Reid tells me about daydreams of creating “green chicken”, which prompted her to run to her local farmers market, grab a few of her favorite, must-have herbs (in this case, a heaping pile of cilantro and bunches of fresh garlic), an organic chicken and get cracking testing out a simple meal that her family “went crazy for.”
Her cooking is all about “taking it back home”. Getting back to the root of what made food good to begin with. The root of what made food a central part of coming together as a family.
“Especially raising children today, that time that we have, coming together – food has that communal support. It really brings people together. For whatever reason, there’s some magic in it. It’s one thing everyone has in common. We all have to eat. When you bring your family together its special. It’s just a bond and food just adds to it.”
After years of fighting a battle against the food her family ate, Reid now leans into cooking with passion and a hint of earned bravado. Food and family have become one; spun into a web with a simple delicacy that only a mother can weave. Whether she’s talking about her two nearly-grown children, or gushing over the meals she thoughtfully crafts in her kitchen, Reid uses the same affectionate tone.
Wholistic food has become her love language, and it’s a tongue we all should be speaking.