Q&A With Farmhouse Rules TV Star Nancy Fuller
Food Network star Nancy Fuller dishes about her new cookbook, a bygone dining ritual, and how to set the perfect Thanksgiving table
“We need to be aware of our food and where it comes from,” says Fuller
Photographs by Jamie Prescott
Nancy Fuller is on a mission to gather families around the dinner table. With six kids of her own and 13 grandchildren, this Hudson resident knows a thing or two about preparing scrumptious feasts. Having grown up on a dairy farm, as well as currently running one in Copake Falls with her husband, Fuller understands the importance of fresh food. And with a 25-year career as a caterer, Fuller, who also co-owns Ginsberg’s Food, the largest independently owned foodservice distributor in the Hudson Valley, is able to share her tips on how to make simple meals from the heart on her popular Food Network show, Farmhouse Rules, now in its fifth season. This No. 1 rated in-kitchen show delivers a straight-shooter approach to cooking authentic comfort food — and a few pointers about manners, too. Fuller’s nourishing feasts vibrantly come to life in her new cookbook, Farmhouse Rules: Simple, Seasonal Meals for the Whole Family (Grand Central Life & Style, $30). Here, Fuller discusses her efforts to resuscitate a bygone dining ritual — and how she finds inspiration living in the Hudson Valley.
There are 120 recipes in the cookbook. Is there a classic you especially love for its versatility?
All of the recipes were meant to be easy and allow people to create their own version. For instance, the apple pie is best fresh, unless you’re stressed. That’s when you can just stop in the refrigerated section of your grocery store and pick up a package of Pillsbury dough for the crust, add Granny Smith apples, and then follow my recipe. If you like a sweet pie, add extra sugar; if you like it spicier, add more cinnamon. Make it your own tradition. And remember: apple pie without cheese is like a kiss without the squeeze. Add a piece of sharp cheddar if you don’t want to make the cheese crust.
What sets Farmhouse Rules apart from other cookbooks?
I hope it will bring the family back to the dinner table. If I can help parents create easy meals, if I can get young adults to eat seasonally, and if I can share a few basic manners to help get through dinner at the White House, then I’ve achieved my goal. It’s about food — and it’s about family.
You’ve been a farmer your whole life. What do you find most appealing about this lifestyle?
The integrity that it builds in a person. The work ethic of a farmer is that of very few. It instills a pride and passion from birth to death. Some people have absolutely no idea what it takes to run a business 365 days a year, seven days a week, 24 hours a day. There are no “days off” on a dairy farm.
You live and farm in the Hudson Valley. How is the region special to you?
I’m 13th-generation Mayflower, so my ancestors drew me here. The land is very important to me. No land, no farmer, no food. The farmers around me are coming up with new species of vegetables and fruits all day long, and the dairy farmers are coming up with new flavors of ice cream and cheese. We’re a lucky group of land-lovers.
The lost art of manners is a priority for you. What is the biggest concern you see at the table these days?
That children have no boundaries and are allowed to run around and not sit still at the dinner table — especially in a restaurant.
You live in an 18th-century farmhouse. Is there one feature of this historic dwelling in particular that inspires you?
The stone house is my favorite space. It is comprised of components of an earlier frame building that was on the property in the 1600s.
Thanksgiving is around the bend. Any suggestions to make things more festive?
Buy small pumpkins, hollow them out, and use them as soup bowls — or use a big one as a soup tureen. Go to a fabric store and buy a wonderful piece of material that makes you think of Thanksgiving. Use it as a tablecloth.
You have a big family; Thanksgiving must be chaotic!
When all of the grandchildren are on the farm it is chaotic. But I love it. The rituals are our traditional recipes, including my very easy scalloped oysters, which have been on our dinner table for 66 years.
Do you get a break from cooking?
Cooking is who I am and what I do. I don't tire of it.