Introducing Claire Thomas to the FRĒDA WOMEN series
Can you tell me a bit about your background and your start in cooking?
I’ve always gravitated towards history, and food was just another way of understanding the past. I tend to look at everything I do - directing, brand development, design, and cooking - as a narrative. It’s all about telling a story. If you can tell a story (which is what history is to me) better through a plate of food than an essay with a bunch of dates and names, even better! It makes the story you’re telling that much more personal and memorable. I grew up around fabulous home cooks, so I enjoyed eating rather than cooking, but once I started getting into food history, that’s when I stepped into the kitchen and didn’t look back.
Tell us about your kitchen and a few things you think are essentials (tools or ingredients) to have on hand.
I tend to keep things pretty simple. I love a good dutch oven, I always triple the garlic in a recipe, and I love cooking pasta and fried rice. A few special things, but what I use all the time in my kitchen is really, really good cocoa powder, vanilla beans, diamond kosher salt, and excellent organic butter.
Can you tell us about how you got started? What inspired you?
Growing up around freelancers means that I did not see what a normal job looks like from the inside until I started dating my husband. No one in my family ever had a resume; it was always a portfolio or reel. You were only as good as your last job, that kind of thing. So for me, being self-motivated, creating a structure that otherwise didn’t exist, and creating a work-family (other creatives that inspire me and that I love collaborating with) was necessary to have a career. I started in production, and while I worked as a director, I also started creating on digital platforms. Over time, everything has sort of collided together, where all of my projects fuel each other - whether it’s a cookbook, a brand, or a house renovation.
You also started Sweet Laurel Bakery with your close friend, Laurel Gallucci, what was it like starting a business with your friend?
I feel so blessed to have started a business with Laurel. Starting a business is a huge commitment, so you can’t get into that kind of dynamic with anyone, even a dear friend. Laurel is incredibly hard-working, kind, and passionate, and our skills complement each other, so we can lift each other and keep each other motivated, even when our business has challenges. Now, looking back five years, we have our second book coming out, our company is thriving during a worldwide pandemic, and we’re expanding next year. It hasn’t been easy, but it’s satisfying to look back and see where we’ve evolved the brand too.
What are you doing to practice self-care these days?
Reading and learning. Being a mother to a toddler with a full-time job means that I don’t get a lot of time to myself, so having time to be quiet and pour myself into a book is everything.
You just took a road to Montana with your family, is being in nature important to your self-care?
I think everyone should try to feel awe now and then. Living in cities, we’ve divorced ourselves from the universe every night with light pollution, we have to journey to find silence, and we’re on call for our job (I am, at least), so whether it’s late at night or a weekend, I’m still checking my phone constantly. Getting in nature, being quiet, seeing the stars, and feeling small is such an important part of feeling human.
Are you finding anything in your daily (or weekly routine) to be particularly soothing, grounding, or energizing?
I try to keep quiet as much as I can. It’s funny - so many of my friends constantly play music, and for me, it’s too stimulating. When I’m working alone, or in my car, I like to turn everything off and have my thoughts.
What does community mean to you and how do you get involved in yours?
A community is a support system. For me, I see so many incredible creatives struggling on their own, so I’ve created a group where we connect monthly to discuss projects and meet with leaders in our fields. It’s a great way to learn, connect, and support each other.
What does Women Supporting Women mean to you?
It means holding the door open for the women behind you and supporting them, even if they get where you're headed faster than you. Women make up 15% of directors in the DGA (my guild), which creates an atmosphere of “there can only be one.” Until we shift those numbers and create an environment of inclusivity and support, we won’t see a change in the culture.
What have you learned from women in your life or women you’re inspired by?
Grace. Displaying grace is a powerful thing to do. It doesn’t mean that you’re a doormat, letting people walk over you; it means that you exhibit kindness when scorn would be appropriate. Being bitter or frustrated or resentful - these are all ego and hold you back. The strongest women I know embody grace.
Now, let's cook with Claire! Frozen waffles were a central element in the ’90s-kid diet. Pop-Tarts, Dunkaroos, and Capri Sun fill out the rest of the list. Lucky for us, these sweet-or-savory waffles are delicious for grown-ups and can be nostalgically reheated right in the toaster. Turmeric is a powerful anti-inflammatory food we like to use as often as we can, and in this recipe, it’s the star ingredient. These waffles are delicious as the base for our take on eggs Benedict—or on their own, smothered in maple syrup.
1⁄3 cup full-fat canned coconut milk or almond milk, at room temperature
3 tablespoons coconut oil, melted, plus more for greasing
1 tablespoon pure maple syrup
2 teaspoons cider vinegar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 1⁄4 cups almond flour
1 tablespoon ground turmeric, or 2 tablespoons fresh turmeric juice
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon flax meal
1⁄4 teaspoon Himalayan pink salt
3 large eggs, at room temperature
Preheat your waffle iron according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the coconut milk, melted coconut oil, maple syrup, vinegar, vanilla, almond flour, turmeric, baking soda, flax meal, salt, and eggs and beat on medium speed until completely combined.
Carefully brush the waffle iron with coconut oil or, if you prefer, spray it with cooking spray. Pour 1⁄3 cup of the batter into the waffle iron, spread with a spatula, and cook according to the manufacturer’s instructions.Transfer the waffle to a warm plate and repeat with the remaining batter, greasing the waffle iron each time before adding more batter.
Serve the waffles hot. Let any leftover waffles cool, then wrap in plastic wrap and store in the fridge for up to 1 week or in the freezer for up to 3 months. Reheat in the toaster or oven.
(Credit: A sneak peek at Sweet Laurel Savory, coming in early Spring 2021, published by Clarkson Potter)