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G Force

They are quarter-life cooks

Phoebe Lapine (left) and Cara Eisenpress Phoebe Lapine (left) and Cara Eisenpress
By Glenn Yoder
Globe Staff / June 15, 2011

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Q. How did the website get started?

Cara: We had the idea that other people might find it useful because a lot of our peers seemed interested in food, they just didn’t quite know how to incorporate it into their daily lives. They were watching Food Network shows but then not cooking very much, or once in a while making a feast that was a big mess and very expensive and never wanting to cook again. So we were trying to help people find the middle ground.

Phoebe: We just kind of recognized that, not that we were the only 20-somethings in our group of friends cooking, but that there wasn’t an actual resource that directly applied to what we coined “quarter-life cooking.’’ We went into this at the very beginning thinking about the bigger picture, like what our peers and our friends want to learn or what subjects and everyday occurrences were immediately applicable to them. The main first step was really setting up the blog and its categories very strategically. So while we didn’t invent this niche, I think that appealing to the constraints of a 20-something life, we were able to pick up readers really easily.

Q. Which topic draws the most interest?

Cara: Dating, for sure. People in our age group just seem so curious about what it’s like to cook for guys whether it’s, well, not a first date, but probably a fifth date, and then into a relationship. I think that the intersection of eating and dating is something that’s just endlessly entertaining. Full of stories.

Phoebe: One of our more popular posts was when my friend Dave asked me for advice on what to cook for his date on, like, the third date. [When dating,] guys cook a lot earlier on; it’s something that we’ve discovered. We did a little questionnaire for the dating section of our book, and I think guys really want to impress the girl early on. And also, inviting [the girl] into your home is always a good tactic.

Q. What recipe from the book would you recommend for beginners?

Cara: Our pesto grilled cheese. You can either make the pesto or you can buy it if you’re really just starting out. It’s literally ciabatta, fontina, and a lot of pesto melted in the oven. And when you cut it into wedges and serve it with some tomato soup or a salad, it’s just really delicious. It’s comfort food but it’s kicked up a notch, so it goes over really well with friends. Casual, but delicious.

Phoebe: I would say the chicken Provençal too, just because it doesn’t involve that much cooking on the flame. I think where people get in trouble early on when they’re nervous and not relaxed is just when there’s a flame involved. Anytime you can bake something in the oven or assemble something cold, I think those are good entry-level dishes.

Q. You’ve certainly targeted your audience. But does the book make room for cooks perhaps beyond their 20s?

Phoebe: The book is definitely a great gift for a graduate, for someone who’s starting off. But it’s always been our goal never to dumb down our recipes, and I think even seasoned cooks, adults, far beyond quarter-life will find joy in our recipes and some new creative ideas.

Q. Speaking of experienced cooks, Ina Garten of “Barefoot Contessa’’ penned the book’s foreword and writes, “I’ve adored Phoebe Lapine for her entire life, and through her, I’ve come to know the fabulous Cara Eisenpress.’’ What’s the story there?

Phoebe: Yeah, she’s actually my dad’s good friend from high school. Stamford, Conn. — you never know who you went to high school with. And we’re business partners now, so. . . [laughs].

Q. Has your success allowed you to quit your day jobs?

Phoebe: I quit mine as we were approaching the book deal. Cara quit right before, and her last day coincided with the book deal. That was kind of when we made the transition. This is what we’re pursuing full time.

Cara: Neither of us would have given up working in an office after college because it was really validating to be hired and to be responsible for projects. But at the same time, our high school was very creative-minded and a lot of our friends have felt much more compelled to pursue creative endeavors where they’re their own bosses. And I guess somewhere it got inside of us, too. And the food just never gets boring because everyone’s always hungry. Three times a day it’s time for a meal, so there’s a lot of room for creativity.

Interview has been condensed and edited. Glenn Yoder can be reached at gyoder@boston.com.

WHO
Cara Eisenpress and Phoebe Lapine
WHAT
After graduating from Harvard and Brown, respectively, in 2007, these childhood friends and food lovers returned to their native New York for post-graduate jobs. While maintaining separate apartments, Eisenpress, 26, and Lapine, 25, continued to share recipes and cooking advice, and began documenting this period on their website, www.biggirlssmallkitchen.com, which they labeled “a guide to quarter-life cooking.’’ The site got the attention of the Huffington Post, Yahoo! Shine, and Food Network’s “Barefoot Contessa,’’ among others, and last month the pair released their debut cookbook, “In the Small Kitchen: 100 Recipes From Our Year of Cooking in the Real World.’’