Wallace didn’t know how to write a recipe, much less structure a collection of them, so her agent set up a collaboration with Brigit Binns, a Central California coast recipe developer and food blogger at Roadfoodie.com who has worked on dozens of chefs’ cookbooks (Michael Psilakis’s, most recently) and has 11 under her own name for Williams-Sonoma, including the just-published “The Cook & the Butcher” (Simon & Schuster).
She and Wallace hit it off right away. “I adore her,” Binns says, admitting that is not always the case after intense collaborations that can last several months. Binns came to Washington to spend 10 days straight in Wallace’s kitchen: “I needed to get to know her palate.” She suggested tweaks, such as the subtlety of a leek in some places where Wallace had used onion and the addition of a blue-cheese popover to complement a butternut-squash soup.
Wallace was attentive, yet firm about keeping the recipes user-friendly, which is why store-bought chicken broth shows up in ingredient lists. “She wanted these soups to be pantry-accessible,” Binns says.
The project took more than three months. “I could see that this book would have broad appeal, because it is also about togetherness. And with that Fox connection. . . . I can’t imagine any woman who deserves the success more.” The two remain in touch and have their heads together about a future project.
“Each soup has a story,” Wallace says. “I think that is the book’s real appeal.” Chapters are introduced with family photos and recaps of which soup is whose favorite. Winston, the Wallaces’ yellow Lab, earned pictorial homage because he is a kitchen-dwelling, soup-loving dawg.
“He knows when I reach in the drawer for a pot,” she says. Sure enough, he perks up with a hop of his two front feet when Wallace transfers a small portion of cooled soup to his bowl. It’s gone before she has a chance to sit down.
The space is comfortable and sunny yet by no means a showplace kitchen, with no stainless-steel appliance in sight. Like most avid cooks, she has plans to renovate: “It’s my lab. I need a new one if I’m supposed to be this good.”
With the benefit of hindsight and Internet video, the new food celebrity seems tentative during her Jan. 18 appearance with Chris on “Fox and Friends,” two days after her initial TV foray. She has more than two dozen live spots under her belt so far, and her husband has dubbed her “a sound-bite machine.” The affability and easy demeanor so evident in person now come across on the small screen.
She checks a neatly organized calendar taped to a kitchen cabinet. There’s an upcoming talk to give and a radio interview scheduled for the day this story will run. “I still get nervous. But I’m okay when I’m stirring a pot,” she says. “Everybody can relate to soup.”