When I speak to Drew Barrymore by Zoom, we take a moment to mutually vent about the “sexy hot diversions” we’re dealing with in our lives. Scheduling appointments, keeping on top of work, prepping for holidays, feeding picky children. She takes it in the kind of laissez-faire good humor you’d expect from the actress and talk show host known for being kind and quirky. “It’s not ideal, I’m not going to lie, but life is messy,” she says with a gentle, accepting smirk. When possible, it’s a mess the mom of two girls — Olive, 10 and Frankie, 8 — even leans into when she can.
“I love a messy, sloppy Saturday morning when my kids will make the eggs and the toast. That to me is a memory meal, for sure,” she says.
Of course, even feeding culinarily inclined children can be challenging — between picky kids and a busy schedule, dinners aren’t always the easiest thing to get going at the end of a hectic day. Fortunately, Barrymore has a few stand-by meals from Quorn, a line of vegetarian meat alternatives, to help her muddle through the mess of dinner. (It helps that she’s the company’s “Chief Mom Officer.”)
We talked to Barrymore about putting together family dinners, “flexitarianism,” and her favorite meals of all time.
Over the years, you’ve really placed an emphasis on ethical eating. But based on what I’ve read, you really seem to approach that with a lot of grace and understanding and flexibility. Can we talk a little bit about that journey and what motivates you?
I’m from California; my mom raised me vegetarian. Then in my late 20s, I became a flexitarian [ed note: a person who is primarily vegetarian but who will occasionally eat meat and/or fish]. And it’s funny, you get so many messages about, “Eat more protein!” But then you'‘re eating a ton of meat. And now we have messages that we should not eat meat at every meal for the good of the environment. We know it’s having an impact. And so being a flexitarian is perfectly suitable to my lifestyle. Though I haven’t eaten chicken in 15 years because when I did start eating meat I read a book that highlighted the poultry industry and it changed my life forever.
Was it Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer?
It was 100% Jonathan Safran Foer’s book.
I don't think any of us looked at chicken the same after that one.
That was the last day I ever ate chicken. But I grew up eating mock chicken, and chicken alternatives, and so I was already a Quorn customer and loved the brand.
What are some of your favorite go-to meals for your family?
My girls love Quorn, which is so great for me because I needed to find something that they loved that we could eat it together. I highly suggest the holiday roast, which I eat at Christmas and Thanksgiving with stuffing, and creamed spinach and green bean casserole, and all those dishes that for some reason don’t exist outside of those two holiday dinners. It also carves up the next day for a terrific turkey-like sandwich. I also make it at work for everybody while we’re doing working lunches. It’s such a crowd pleaser.
Have you run into any challenges feeding your kids?
As a parent, you’ll do anything to feed your child so they’re not hangry, and you’ll run and get to anything you can to stop the meltdowns.
Do you like cooking, or is it just kind of like, “I need to get something on the table quick?”
I want to cook, I want to luxuriate in that time. But I feel like I’m more, “I need to get something on the table quick.” It’s really hard. I feel like I’m always running out of time and extremely busy. So to any parent out there who has carved out that time and served up an elaborate meal, and then have their kids complain about what’s presented to them, I salute you. I’ve been there. I’m with you. I get it.
Can you think of a favorite meal that you’ve had? Whether it’s at home or out, something that maybe sticks out to you as being like, “Oh that was a really memorable dinner,” or whatever.
It’s funny you should ask that, because I wrote a cookbook with my friend Pilar Valdes, and it’s more of a food journal, and in it, I have the 30 meals that stick out as memories in my life. So I love that question.
Until recently I’d never been to the ocean in Italy, and I got to go there with my kids last summer and eat pasta on the beach. I’ll never forget that, because I’ve waited my whole life. I’ve dreamt about it since I was a kid. Everybody talks about the beach in Italy. I’d never been there. The pasta just tastes different and it’s amazing.
You mentioned that your girls will sometimes cook you breakfast, which is so sweet. Do they surprise you or do they ask if they can do it and then just go nuts?
I usually try to stay aware, because I just want to make sure the kitchen doesn’t burn down. But I also don’t want to hover, I want to trust them. And then I’ll come in and be like, “Okay, just so you know the burner’s still on, let’s just make sure we shut off, or make sure we clean up all the flour off the floor,” but like, “Make a mess and clean it up.” I can’t be anal retentive about the process. I just want to be somewhat responsible. But I like to also give them some autonomy, and if you keep hovering over them, they’re going to be like, “Forget this. It’s not fun.”
I’m going to have to take this attitude as inspiration for my own life.
The mess is beautiful, and we all fantasized about it trying to be parents when we were younger, and dreaming about making pancakes with our kids on the floor, and how beautiful it would be, and yep, egg yolks go down, flour is sprayed everywhere. The dishes are too many. But don’t forget that fantasy because you’re living it.