Talene Monahon is a runner, actress, and conscientious foodie currently attending Dartmouth College. She was a pescetarian (she ate fish but no other meat) who called herself a vegetarian for years, until I corrected her one too many times and she finally became a vegetarian when she got tired of me correcting her. We most recently spent a month in New York making sweet potato fries with sauteed onions, broccoli, and mushrooms. Her busy lifestyle at school, packed with acting, directing, a cappella, classes, babysitting, and being a writing tutor sometimes necessitates quick meals, but with some creativity even those are healthful and delicious.
Sarah Trautman: If you were a food, what would you be?
Talene Monahon: I think sweet potato, because I generally mean well. I prefer not to be all dressed-up. When I get moody I take on drastically different forms.
ST: What is the last thing you cooked?
TM: Mac ‘n’ cheese with broccoli and English peas. It took me probably longer than it should have, and I also made a really big mess. But I made it for my grandparents, and they did really like it.
ST: Is there anything you won’t eat?
TM: Bananas. They’re going extinct, and I’m so happy. I’m part of a facebook group that feels the same way. Full of people like me. It’s a thing.
ST: What is your favorite snack food?
TM: Chocolate chips. I’m not really particular as to the type. Also carrots and peanut butter, even though people think it is really weird. I think it makes a lot of sense. I think it’s an a-side version of celery and cream cheese.
ST: What did your mother/father make best?
TM: My mom makes so many good things. My favorite dish is possibly cheese boreg, an Armenian dish, which is totally a labor of love, so I really appreciate it. You have to coat each layer of filo dough individually with butter. My dad makes a mean grilled cheese with tomato. Once in a blue moon he’ll take it upon himself to make a standard, old-fashioned apple pie. It is an Event.
ST: What is your drink order when you go to a bar?
TM: Oh my God, I’ve been so into gimlets. By that I mean I’ve ordered one twice now. With all the zest of a newly-turned 21 year old.
ST: Best hangover cure?
TM: A relatively dense muffin. Preferably with carrots, and raisins, and walnuts, and poppy seeds. It feels relatively healthy, but also substantial.
ST: What is your dining hall go-to?
TM: I’ve been getting fruit from the smoothie bar, especially mango, and mixing it with Greek yogurt and granola. Not really creative, but a really tasty snack on the run.
ST: Did you ever steal your roommates’ food from the fridge?
TM: I always feel like I’m stealing my roommate’s wine, but she’s always liberally offering it to me.
ST: Cake or pie?
TM: Pie. Obviously. Blueberry, currently.
ST: What’s your biggest early cooking disaster?
TM: These cookies that we made for a cross-country meet. We were young and reckless and kept adding things, which seemed like a good idea at the time, but when we got to the meet we couldn’t even look at them. We loaded them with random things, like marshmallow and coconut and wheat germ, and took extra care to hide something weird in the middle of each cookie, like a single raisin or craisin. Needless to say, when we baked them they turned flat and weird. When we finished the race, nobody wanted to look at them, even though normally a hungry runner will eat anything.
ST: Do you have a signature dish?
TM: I’m not sure, you could probably answer that for me.
ST: I’d say, if you asked me this in middle school, your signature dish would be ooie gooies. [A dessert made up of a graham cracker crust, sweetened condensed milk, coconut, chocolate chips, and butterscotch chips.] Those were a staple at cross-country meets!
Do you use recipes when you cook? Haha, I think you do. I’ve often tried to get you to deviate from the recipe…
TM: I think I have gotten more adventurous with making minor adjustments. Adding more chocolate chips than called for, for example. I never argued against that.
ST: Favorite dessert ritual?
TM: Obviously, getting homemade ice cream in a cup with Sarah at Rancatore’s or Toscanini’s, any season. Gingersnap molassas is a great flavor, with butterscotch sauce. In New York, the dessert ritual temporarily had to shift to fro-yo with fruit.
ST: What is your favorite food city?
TM: 02138: Cambridge, MA. There are tons of great vegetarian restaurants there. Veggie Planet is great; it’s a vegetarian pizza joint and musical performance venue. But I mostly like buying ingredients at fun places and cooking them at home.
ST: With me!
Sarah Trautman writes for SKC from Northfield, Minnesota, the town of Cows, Colleges, and Contentment. Her current favorite food is Cracklin’ Oat Bran, a Kellogg’s cereal, which looks like kibble but tastes like cookies.