Dina Cheney has just arrived home from Whole Foods with Kite Hill's almond ricotta when I call her. "Do you ever buy that?" she asks. "I think it is phenomenal." It's a very on-brand entrance to a conversation about her latest cookbook, The New Milks: 100-Plus Dairy-Free Recipes for Making and Cooking with Soy, Nut, Seed, Grain, and Coconut Milks (out now via Simon & Schuster). Cheney's been writing cookbooks for years, but this one's personal. After finding out she was lactose intolerant a few years ago, she set about putting her well-honed recipe development skills to work creating the best possible plant-based milks she could—all with far fewer ingredients than the boxed stuff at the store. The cookbook author, who was trained at the Institute of Culinary Education (ICE)–wrote this book for anyone who's interested in cutting back on dairy, whether for health, diet or environmental reasons. (It's not strictly vegan.) There are "fried" chicken and rosemary popovers, smoothies and teas, and a host of satisfying and delicious desserts. We talked about the book's inspiration and why everyone from schools to restaurants should be a little more lactose-intolerance tolerant.
F&W: What was the road that led you to writing cookbooks?
Well, if you go really far back, I wanted to be a food writer since high school—since maybe age 14, and I'm 38. I did creative writing and art, so to me it was a way to integrate those two sides. And I just love it; it's very sensual and very creative.
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I studied anthropology and English literature as an undergrad but then went to cooking school to really learn the cooking fundamentals. I started doing private cooking classes all over the New York area and doing chocolate tastings for corporations, and it led to my first book, Tasting Club, about tasting parties. I started writing for small publications and kept building up to national ones. Now I've written several books. This particular book was inspired by the fact about two and a half years ago I realized I was lactose intolerant. This is a personal book because it was my concept and it s authentic to how I live.