3 Questions

3 Questions With Cookbook Author Debrianna Mansini

The ‘Corona Kitchen’ co-host dishes on her new book, ‘That Time We Ate Our Feelings’

Some might know Debrianna Mansini as an actor from stage and screen (she played Fran on Breaking Bad, y’all!), but for a legion of food fans, she’s better known as the co-host of Facebook Live/YouTube Channel Corona Kitchen. Founded alongside her fellow film worker Lisa Lucas as a bit of pandemic distraction, the channel was meant to demystify the home cooking world while providing Mansini and Lucas with a hobby. Then it grew. As such, Mansini and Lucas recently released a cookbook culled from their experiences—That Time We Ate Our Feelings (Apollo Publishers). Given that both Mansini and Lucas call Santa Fe home, they’ll appear for a signing event this week in town (6 pm Friday, Dec. 8. Free. Collected Works Bookstore and Coffeehouse, 202 Galisteo St., (505) 988-4226). We spoke with Mansini ahead of the reading to learn more. This interview has been edited for length and clarity. - (Alex De Vore)

This started as a pandemic project. Did you have higher hopes for it when you began, or is this more like a silver lining kind of thing?

It’s definitely silver lining. We had no hopes. We just started. Lisa and I are both in the entertainment industry, and we were both working like lunatics, and then everything stopped. Lisa and I had become friends many years before and had met over a dinner where we were both complaining about food. We never had time to get a cup of coffee most of the time, we were so busy. But at the start of the pandemic, I called her up and said, ‘You wanna just cook on Facebook and see who joins? We can stay connected, and maybe I’ll cook Tuesday and Thursday and you cook Monday and Wednesday.’ Fast forward, and we had cooked 143 nights in a row. It was crazy.

We realized we were helping so many people cope during that time, and our friendship was blossoming live on Facebook, so the next thing we knew we had all these followers. We just kept going. Then the next thing we knew, someone Lisa [knew] said, ‘My publisher is looking for a quirky cookbook, do you wanna submit your ideas?’ We did, but we had zero hope. We were going to publish a little book of recipes we’d laminate at Kinko’s, y’know, just for our followers. Then we had a book deal.

Did eating your feelings really help?

Actually, yes. It not only helped us to reconnect with our friendship, but to reconnect to time spent in the kitchen. It helped other people figure out what to do. If you remember, during the pandemic we couldn’t find flour some days, couldn’t find sugar. So it was kind of like, ‘Oh, I don’t have this, but I’m going to try using that.’ We just did it on-air with people. We’re not trained chefs—we’re home cooks, and I think that took the fear away for a lot of people.

How did you and your co-author select the recipes you wanted to include?

When we first wrote the book, we overwrote it by about twice and our publisher said we had to cut it in half. We did everything with the publisher, from deciding the categories of what we’d have and cutting it down to what we like. Most of it was comfort food because that’s what everybody was eating during the pandemic—and still eating, I might add; it’s applicable at any point. The book is largely stuff we cooked, plus, because we started as a community endeavor, we held a contest and had our Corona Kitchen members choose recipes. Ten of those recipes went in the book.

We both have restaurants in our family lineage. People in my family had restaurants, and same with Lisa. Her dad’s a vintner. Lisa was brought up in a family that had money; I grew up on food stamps. So we’re always reinventing stuff in my family because we didn’t have access, so it’s normal. And sometimes we’d take...y’know, Lisa was famous for taking a Julia Child recipe and then making it hers, making it easy. So there are some re-thought Julia Child recipes. Many people over my lifetime have asked me to open a restaurant or do a cookbook. But it was never on my to-do list, even if most people who know me would kill to get an invitation to my Thanksgiving dinner or my seven fishes feast on Christmas Eve.

Letters to the Editor

Mail letters to PO Box 4910 Santa Fe, NM 87502 or email them to editor[at]sfreporter.com. Letters (no more than 200 words) should refer to specific articles in the Reporter. Letters will be edited for space and clarity.

We also welcome you to follow SFR on social media (on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter) and comment there. You can also email specific staff members from our contact page.