A Table Set for Sisterhood: Bringing Women’s Stories to the Table
By Nicole Hvidsten
A Table Set for Sisterhood feeds our minds with the inspiring stories of 35 women and the recipes created just for them.
Call it the tale of two Ashl(e)ys.
Chef Ashley Schütz and illustrator Ashly Jernigan are both married to Swiss men, moved from Southern California to Switzerland in the same month, where they both are raising two children. They work in creative fields and even have the same name—give or take a vowel.
It seemed only right that their paths would cross. Thanks to social media, they did.
Jernigan had been researching and illustrating a different woman every day for 100 days, posting her work on Instagram with the hashtag #100daysofaweinspiringwomen. Schütz took notice.
“I was incredibly inspired by these stories and her ability to uniquely illustrate each one,” Schütz said. “Since food is my love language, and the table is where we share our very best stories, I proposed that we marry our two talents, and the book concept was born.”
Their collaboration, A Table Set for Sisterhood: 35 Recipes Inspired by 35 Female Icons (Sourcebooks, $27.99), was released earlier this month. Each entry — which range from pop culture icons like Lizzo and Aretha Franklin to war correspondent Dickey Chapelle and notorious RBG — is accompanied by a quote, a brief history lesson, the genesis of the recipe, a discussion question and Jernigan’s bold, colorful illustrations.
It was the first book for both of them, “but hopefully not our last — together or otherwise,” Jernigan said.
We talked with them via email about celebrating women and healing through the power of food. The conversation has been edited for length and clarity.
Q: With so many deserving women, how did you narrow the list down to 35?
Illustrator Ashly Jernigan: This was not easy. Making sure we were representing a wide variety of women was incredibly important to us. Inspiration in food pairings helped us along the way as well. Let’s just say we certainly have more than enough women waiting in the wings for a sequel.
Chef Ashley Schütz: We wanted to create a book that was a tight time capsule of powerful legacies. A handy-sized book with a variety of recipe options and representation of many different women was at the helm of our decision making.
Q: The recipes seem like they are written expressly for each woman. What was your thought process for creating those recipes?
AJ: It always started with a deep dive into each woman’s story. We needed to know her before we could illustrate or pair her with a recipe. We’d consider her strengths, her homeland, her passions. Sometimes I would start illustrating and Ashley would get inspired by the color choices I’d chosen. Other times Ashley would take the lead with ingredients and flavors, and then I would start to draw. Each woman and recipe came together in her own unique way.
AS: The final recipes and illustrations were purely a creative interpretation of what we thought would highlight each woman’s greatness. While I would start playing around with ingredients in my kitchen, Ashly would begin illustrating at her home and we’d share the layers of our progress continuously until we landed in a mutual place.
Q: What are your favorite recipes from the book?
AJ: I’d have to go with Gloria Steinem’s Caramelized Fennel Pasta. Turns out fennel caramelizes in a similar way to onions, but with an incredibly unique, gorgeous flavor. And then with the lemon zest? Be still my heart.
AS: I am terrible at picking favorites, but one recipe I make constantly is Greta Thunberg’s Creamy Chipotle Dip — creamy with cashew and spicy from canned chipotles, it whips up in minutes and it always surprises guests to have a non-bean based dip on the table. Also, being a girl from Southern California, my heart sings for anything citrus-laden so Hedy Lamarr’s Vibrant Lemon Poppyseed Bundt Cake is a constant all year round.
Q: Each recipe also features a conversation starter — “The Question at the Table.” Why did you decide to include that?
AJ: Though this may seem like a small element in each profile, it was a really important feature for us. By introducing these women through food, we are bringing their stories to the table. And what better way to solidify each woman’s stories in our memories than through heartfelt discussion inspired by her legacy?
AS: Providing a “Question at the Table” was already a personal practice in my home. It brings all conversations into one place and provides an opportunity for everyone to feel heard. It unites everyone’s unique stories in such an abundant way. The true backbone of this book is to bring the stories of women to the table where they can be shared and celebrated.
Q: What’s next for each of you?
AJ: As an illustrator, I’m excited to get back to working freelance again. This adventure has been incredible, but I do look forward to working with clients and helping their visions come to life.
AS: As a freelance chef, I am constantly finding ways to create magic at the table for clients. On the side I also cook specifically for postpartum mothers in my community, helping women to heal through the power of food. I also have a few writing ventures in the wings as stories and food are always swimming together in my mind.
Originally published in the Minneapolis Star Tribune.
VEGAN FRENCH TOAST
Serves 4 to 6
In 2020, Lizzo decided to adopt a vegan lifestyle, but she’s also a lover of good food. Did you know she was even tempted by the idea of becoming a professional food critic? (Us too!) We wanted to make Lizzo something she’d love—a dish bright with nostalgia, a comfort food so crave-worthy she’d wonder how it could possibly be vegan. French toast! We’ve got a delicious vegan custard made with coconut milk, turmeric and cinnamon to soak your bread of choice in.
We think Lizzo would approve of this golden fried bread topped with a cube of vegan butter (or dairy butter if you like—you do you, girl!), swimming in a sea of maple syrup.
Picture tomorrow morning—you wake up, wash your face, touch your toes for a count of ten, and look at yourself in the mirror while repeating Lizzo’s mantra, then head to the kitchen to whip up this gorgeous breakfast. Self-love in a single recipe!
Lizzo shares her personal mantra at the end of every concert by asking each person in the audience to go home, and repeat these words until they feel the truth of it throughout their bodies.
“I LOVE YOU.
YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL.
AND YOU CAN DO ANYTHING.”
4 tablespoons cornstarch
3/4 cup full-fat coconut milk
3 teaspoons maple syrup, plus more for drizzling
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/8 teaspoon ground turmeric (for color)
6 to 8 soft bread slices (3/4-to-1-inch thick), such as challah, brioche or thick sandwich bread
Vegan butter or vegetable oil for cooking
- Add the cornstarch and coconut milk to a low, wide bowl and whisk well to eliminate any lumps. Add maple syrup, vanilla, cinnamon, salt and turmeric, and whisk to combine.
- Set slices of bread into the coconut mixture, and leave to soak on each side for at least a minute or two.
- Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Melt butter or oil of choice, and swirl it around the pan. Add slices of soaked bread to the hot pan, and allow to cook until you see the edges browning. Refuse the urge to check, or you’ll disturb the crisp browning that the cornstarch helps with. Flip when ready, and cook the other side equally. Continue with remaining slices.
- Top your golden stack of French toast with butter (vegan or otherwise) and a good dose (don’t hold back here) of pure maple syrup.