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Julia Sherman Stays Grounded With Unceremonial Matcha and Groucho Marx Brows

A few pages into Arty Parties, the second cookbook by Salad for President’s Julia Sherman, it’s clear that this is no ordinary manual for entertaining. The cover was already a clue: Instead of the genre’s expected set-up—gracious host presiding over a well-set table like a domestic fairy godmother—there is a psychedelic still life created in collaboration with artist Daniel Gordon. But it’s the section of the introduction called “Tag, You’re It!” that registers as something new, like a breaking of the fourth wall. In what Sherman calls “pro bono behavioral therapy,” she interviews friends on the touchy subject of reciprocation: namely, why they don’t invite her over. It’s less confrontational, more a matter of real-world troubleshooting—because Sherman has an upbeat solution for every excuse. Too-small table? Sit on the floor. House in disarray? Head to a park. Daunted by dinner? Throw a pancake brunch where everyone flips their own. She even has a grown-up recipe for the occasion: gluten-free buckwheat groat pancakes that manage to slip free of the junk-food category. “Punt it to your friends to bring the toppings,” she writes.

“It’s a cookbook that wants you to care less about food, and an entertaining book that wants you to use your imagination and be willing to throw that party,” says Sherman, speaking by phone from Northern California during this fall’s book tour. The fact that Arty Parties checks several boxes at once is to be expected from someone like Sherman: a RISD grad with an MFA from Columbia, whose long-running editorial project has situated her at the intersection of art and food. Her first book, Salad for President, leaned into that titular dish. This one spotlights a kind of household forte. “I feel like it always has been what Adam and I do best as a couple, is entertain,” she says. “He’s the child of a wedding and bar mitzvah planner, and I can’t help myself but want to organize people.” The beauty of Arty Parties is that there are so many ways to do that. Mixed-media artist Susan Ciancolo hosts an afternoon tea with blueberry muffins and handmade crowns; the staff at Lil’ Deb’s Oasis, a restaurant in Hudson, New York, fuels a queer performance night with herb-infused water and spicy fish soup. Some gatherings—like the pizza party described in Sherman’s three-day wellness diary, below—are a full-tilt production. But she also recounts a fun night hosting friends, where the menu was delivery pizza showered in salad greens: lo-fi entertaining before a big to-do (her own C-section).

Arty Parties: An Entertaining Cookbook

For a woman whose work is entwined with salad—quintessential ’80s-era diet food—Sherman is wary of the word wellness. “If taking a supplement or doing something for yourself or using a skin-care product really, genuinely makes you feel good, then I’m all for it,” she says. “But I try to not put so much false hope into any one aspect of my routine.” When we speak, Sherman, based in Los Angeles, is relishing this geographic break from the usual. It’s her first trip away from four-month-old Dov; there’s also Red, 2, with a seasoned palate you’d expect from a kid raised among fermentation projects and tinned fish. “I have a masseuse coming to my friend’s house today, and we have a hotel room tonight at this cute new resort in Santa Rosa,” she says, conceding that her internal alarm clock still woke her up at 5:50 a.m. A new book, a new baby, everything in between—it’s a chaotic lot to juggle. “I think wellness, actually, for me right now means accepting limitations and being okay with the fact that there are definitely days when I feel like I’m fucking everything up,” she says. “But that’s just part of it.”

Saturday, November 6

5 a.m.: We just got back from a month in New York where I was launching my new book, Arty Parties: An Entertaining Cookbook, and I am embarrassed to admit I am feeling the time change. I am a rusty traveler, but also not sleeping through the night yet even under the best circumstances, since we have a four-month-old who refuses to be ignored.

I realize that I am sick, of course, with my book launch tomorrow. The kids have runny noses and there was no way I would come out unscathed, since I am pretty sure I haven’t had a glass of water without toddler backwash in it in close to three years.

7 a.m.: The Neti Pot is my only hope, so I commit to an aggressive schedule of flushing out my sinuses, alongside a lot of boiled ginger with elderberry syrup and a nuclear dose of zinc.

I pull out the Vitamix to make my morning matcha. Preparing matcha this way is far from “ceremonial,” but I don’t have time for that precious little whisk or for lumpy matcha. I add honey, a splash of raw coconut water, and some oat milk and pour it over ice. I drink just enough so it feels like my eyes are bulging out of my head, and I’m good to go.

I make Red an egg (she wants it “scrambled and fried”), so I try to figure my way out of that pickle. I tide her over with some olives and white anchovies—her favorite foods, the latter of which further cemented when she was a boquerone for Halloween.

Red as a boquerone for Halloween.

Courtesy of Julia Sherman.