Her name became synonymous with cooking as the Editor-in-Chief ofFood & Wine magazine for 21 years. Still, Dana Cowin, who led the iconic masthead from 1995-2016, wasn’t immune from the cooking fatigue that came along with pandemic. She grew tired of her usual go-tos and like many of us, missed restaurants. “I especially wanted to make food in the Chinese, Indian, Japanese, Mexican vein. But they are not the things I know by heart,” she admits. Her cravings spurred her to research high-quality, ready-made sauces and spices that would easily expand her repertoire. The products she found herself gravitating toward were lesser-known and made by women--chefs and restaurateurs packaging their products in hopes of mitigating pandemic losses, and entrepreneurs adapting to new careers. She fell in love with a few good finds and wondered what she could do to help boost their businesses.
As a result, Giving Broadly was born, neatly fitting with her already established “Broadlies.” Speaking Broadly, the Heritage Radio podcast that Cowin has been hosting since 2017, focuses on interviews with women in the hospitality industry.
Coaching Broadly, launched in 2018, offers career guidance for women. Now, Giving Broadly, introduced in December 2020, is a website that expands the initiative to “promoting the amazing products that changed the way that I was cooking over the pandemic, while sharing the stories of the women behind these products.” It’s a one-stop for shopping, supporting and amplifying overlooked voices.
Cowin currently features 40 makers on the site. “I intentionally included as diverse a group as possible,” she says. To find them, she tapped her network of chefs, incubators, colleagues and friends, which is how she came upon Snuk Foods. “It could not have been more perfect,” she says, because not only is Snuk a woman-owned business but because “part of what I was researching was to find ingredients or products that were less visible. And Snuk is showcasing global foods with an incredible inventory of remarkable ingredients that aren't seen elsewhere. So our ideas about expanding the boundaries of food, with a look at global flavors, were completely aligned.”
Cowin credits Snuk with turning her on to ingredients and makers that she now includes as pantry staples—products such as Wadaman organic black sesame oil, “much more refined and luscious than any other I’ve ever had.” And just when she thought she had every harissa in the world, she came upon Zwita, which she calls a “revelation.” She especially appreciates Snuk’s range and depth in many different cultures. “On Snuk, I can find everything from fermented black beans to dried curry leaves. I can really get around the globe on one site. And I think that's truly special.”
Cowin was so impressed with the range and quality of products that she ended up joining Snuk Food’s advisory board and introduced them to some of the Giving Broadly makers, such as Azalina Eusope. A restaurateur and fifth-generation street vendor from Malaysia, Eusope’s brand, Azalina’s, replicates the flavors of the Mamak stalls run by the Tamil-speaking Malaysians of her heritage. These flavors, a mix of Chinese, Indian and Malay influences, are realized in creamy coconut kaya (jam), a perfect companion for spice cake; and lemongrass roasted coconut peanut sauce, which Eusope stirs into her spin on an eggplant caponata. “There’s so much intensity of flavor packed into these jars,” Cowin says. “And I think that is primarily because of Azalina’s commitment to her heritage.”
Guelaguetza’s molé is another product where family heritage, Giving Broadly and Snuk intersect. “There are a bunch of jarred molé pastes on the market,” Cowin says. “But Guelaguetza’s are exceptional.” The rojo, coloradito and negro pastes inspired by the Lopez family’s Oaxacan roots blend a dizzying amount of peppers, seeds, nuts, raisins, plantains and spices such as clove, cinnamon, cumin and oregano for flavor combinations thatLos Angeles Times food writer Jonathan Gold likened to “seeing a Diego Rivera mural up close for the first time after years of seeing nothing but reproductions.”
Boonville Barn Collective is another of Cowin’s favorites, featured on both Snuk and Giving Broadly. The maker, chef Krissy Scommegna, weary of using imported, expensive piment d’Espelette decided to grow the peppers and dry them herself. Her resulting Piment d’Ville--deeply smoky, bright and slightly sweet with a slow, lingering burn—is so versatile it can be used in everything from cocktails to fruit salads to a creamy meat marinade. She built on that success, cultivating other chiles, such as the rare and potent comapeño, which can add aggressive punch to simmered beans, corn on the cob or carne adovada pork stew. “I admire anyone who has an idea and just tries it,” Cowin says of Scommegna. “A lot of people put obstacles between an idea and execution, thinking of all reasons they can’t. Krissy dispensed with that.”
Although Giving Broadly is only six months old, Cowin believes her efforts have had impact so far. “It’s no Amazon,” she says demurely. “But what has been fantastic is that now retailers like Snuk have been reaching out to these makers, and they are being carried by shops that had never heard of them before. They’ve also gotten individual sales and visibility, too.”
Partnering with Snuk Foods for The Giving Broadly Collection and The Giving Broadly Gift Box, both of which feature a curation of female-made products, is yet another step toward her dream of connecting women and continuing to foster a community of amplification. “I’m one person amplifying,” Cowin points out. “But imagine a whole community of amplification and support. My dream is to figure out how to make that happen.”