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James Beard award winner on mothering, noodles and Vegas markets

Kim Foster likes a lot of people at her table, so to speak. The Vegas-based writer recently won the prestigious James Beard Foundation Award for her essay, “The Dysfunction of Food.”

“It’s such an honor,” said Foster. “So many new folks have read it, shared it, talked about it and reached out to me. That’s the best part, and I’m grateful.”

Foster also hosts the Please Send Noodles cookbook club, started in fall 2019, at the Writer’s Block.

“Everybody loves noodles. Noodles are part of every culture, every country. They are the perfect food to slurp,” she explained. “They are great with a crowd of people, or alone, late at night, in a barcalounger with a beer. Everyone can make them. They are the perfect food. The name just worked on all the levels.”

Cooking is a way of life for the former New Yorker and mother of four — Lucy, 15, Edie, 13, Raffi, 8, and Desi, 4 — who has lived in downtown Vegas for six years with her husband David, president of “Absinthe” poduction company Spiegelworld.

How did you end up here?

We came here when David’s show was opening. We had been traveling here with our two kids at the time and staying at the Cosmo. The kids thought our move to Vegas meant we were going to just live at the hotel permanently like Eloise at the Plaza. And we did stay at the Cosmo at first — and they loved it. They knew all the people who worked there.

How did two kids turn into four?

We came here with two kids and were foster parents for a few years. We ended up adopting the last two kids who were in our care. When we were in New York, we tried to be foster parents … (but) there was so much bureaucracy. Here in Vegas, it was a completely different experience.

Tell us about cookbook club Please Send Noodles.

Cookbook authors don’t usually come to Vegas as part of their book tours. I thought, “What if we had a group of people who loved cooking and cookbooks?” It draws authors on book tours. Also, we get together once a month — or on Zoom every two weeks during COVID-19. We pick a cookbook and cook from it. Everyone signs up and brings a dish. We eat, drink, do a few demos and just have an amazing time.

What’s the appeal of cookbooks?

Cookbooks are very aspirational. You look at them and think, “I can up my kitchen game a little bit and learn something.”

Name some great Vegas markets.

Chinatown is amazing and there are specialty food stores all over the place. One of my favorites is Aladdin Market on Tropicana. You want Croatian ingredients? Want to make a Korean dinner? You go there. It’s a mecca. I’m also loving 99 Ranch Market in Chinatown. If I’m doing Szechuan cooking, I go there. SF Supermarket is another great place, especially if you’re looking for pickled mustard leaves. It was like finding a treasure when I spotted them.

How do you get your kids to eat?

I’ll make a spicy chicken dish for my husband, my 13-year-old and I. I do the equally spicy tofu version for my vegan 15-year old, with the same sauces. And then I’ll make plain chicken for my babies. Our home … is like a little fast food diner.

What’s next?

I just published a middle-grade novel and my agent is shopping a book proposal — a collection of essays about the dysfunctional side of food. … I’m very excited about (that).

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