Imagine a three-circle Venn diagram. One circle houses ‘food that tastes incredible and alive,’ the next ‘food that’s replenishing to the earth,’ and the last ‘food that nourishes and makes the body feel good.’ Sierra Lash would be standing calmly in the center. “I am interested in work that promotes self-nourishment, which I define broadly as all the ways we feed ourselves – body, mind, and soul,” she tells us.
Recently, Sierra moved from Austin, Texas, to upstate New York to discover seasonality in a new environment while working with people to explore and deepen their own practice of home cooking and self-nourishment through her Close Friends community on Instagram. But she still holds plenty of room in her heart for her former city and the abundance of thoughtful cuisine she enjoyed regularly there. We chatted with Sierra about her go-to Austin food spots, the most underrated seasoning, her simple strategy on quelling burnout, and more.
NBRHD: Tell us your story in a “tweet”:
Sierra Lash: I was born and raised in Oakland, CA to parents of Chinese and Jewish roots, and the influence of those cultures in food, family, and tradition is integral to everything I do. After living all around the states and working in a variety of fast-paced environments, I am interested in work that promotes self-nourishment, which I define broadly as all the ways we feed ourselves – body, mind, and soul. I am currently exploring this and seasonality in upstate New York!
Tell us about your neighborhood – what do you love about it?
SL: During my time in Austin, I’ve lived on the East Side in the Rosewood neighborhood, near downtown. I love the history and the people, the creative spirit of East Austin, and that there’s a blend of what Austin is becoming with what Austin has long been.
How would you describe your philosophy around food?
SL: I believe deeply that eating real food, supporting and participating in our local sustainable food systems, and creating delicious and satisfying food at home has the power to transform ourselves, our communities, and our planet. Making and eating food is an integral part of what makes us human, it’s everything that gives us the fuel to make change and greet the day, and in our culture where toxic systems have made us so detached from the food we put into our bodies every single day, I believe home cooking is one of the greatest acts of rebellion. I am enthusiastic about home cooking as a regenerative and therapeutic practice and want to help more people find joy and fulfillment in the daily act of feeding themselves.
Where do you find inspiration when you’re feeling burnt out?
SL: When I’m feeling burnt out or overwhelmed, the best thing I can do is slow down and spend time solo journaling and in nature. Being out in the wild allows me to connect deeper to the wild within and deeper to myself. The beauty and steadiness of nature are always a good reminder of the bigger picture. 100p that picture is not on Instagram!
What are the elements of a perfect meal (food and ambiance-wise)?
SL: My perfect meal includes great company, lovingly prepared food, and being in a space that feels thoughtful for the moment. The perfect meal can be anywhere, anytime. Sushi takeout in the back of the car with a good view? Pantry picnic on a rocky river beach? Cooking for friends at home with good tunes in the background? All fit the bill for me!
Sweet or salty?
SL: Salty! Always.
Most underrated herb/spice?
SL: Nutritional Yeast! I use it in salad dressings, marinades, sauces, on popcorn, on toast, you name it. Adds an umami element and is so good.
What’s your favorite pantry ingredient to add when your order in?
SL: Usually I leave restaurant food up to the chefs, but I will occasionally add fresh citrus (zest or juice), herbs, or an egg if it needs a freshening up. I consider lemons, limes, fresh herbs, and eggs to be pantry items even though they’re in the fridge – I always have them on hand.
What are your plating tips to make delivery look pretty?
SL: Honestly, I love eating out of takeout containers. I cook most of my own food so it’s fun to enjoy and create distinction between whatever I’ve ordered in and what I make myself. I’ll usually eat with my own silverware, plus a cloth napkin. That enhances the look!
Thai Fresh – “Pad See Ew with Tofu + Tom Kha Soup with Oyster Mushrooms. Everything Thai Fresh does is delicious. I love that everything is super allergen-friendly and that they use incredible local and fresh ingredients. Plus Gati, their coconut ice cream, is outrageously good too. My order is the lemongrass ginger in a gluten-free waffle cone.”
Saigon Le Vendeur – “Tofu Spring Rolls almost always, but if hungrier I’ll get the Shrimp Bún or Tofu Bún. Everything from this Vietnamese spot on East 7th is wonderful and filled to the brim with sauces and fresh herbs. You really cannot go wrong and it’s a great light, fresh option in a town filled with barbecue and tacos.”
Something you can eat with your hands:
Veracruz – “Migas Taco and Migas Poblanas Taco, no cheese on Corn Tortillas, extra salsas. Breakfast tacos are a staple in Austin – no matter the time of day – and these are the standout best in town (in my opinion). Their tortillas are made in-house, and the salsas take it to the next level.”
Casa de Luz – “Whatever is on the daily menu! This vegan, gluten-free, macrobiotic spot epitomizes comfort and serenity. Everything is simple and delicious and leaves you feeling full and nourished. I love that their menu changes daily and that you get soup, salad, plate, and herbal teas. They also have a case full of desserts! When I’m in need of a recoup, this is my go-to, plus a dip at nearby Barton Springs Pool.”
Something that’s good for leftovers:
Wu Chow – “Veggie Tofu Singapore Noodles, Dry-Fried Green Beans, Honey Pecan Prawns, and White Rice. My favorite spot in Austin. For me, it doesn’t get better than farm-to-table Chinese food. All the classics of American Chinese food, plus some local Texas spins. Eating day-old dry-fried green beans instantly transports me to being a kid eating out of a takeout container in front of the fridge. I also always get extra rice to make fried rice with over the next few days. Their dim sum on Sundays is superb as well!”