Profile: NPR Correspondent Sonari Glinton
Sonari Glinton is a very good cook. Hanging on a wall in his dining room is a lovely, framed vintage photograph of him and his mother. In it, she sits on an antique chair in their living room in Chicago, wearing a chic, collared white dress and a navy blue blazer, with her handbag resting in her lap. He’s right next to her—an eight-year-old boy leaning on the chair’s armrest, dressed in a dapper suit and tie with a red carnation in his square pocket, arms folded, chin down, looking straight into the camera—cute and confident at the same time. They are both ready to head out.
“Every Sunday after church, my mom would take me to brunch,” said Sonari recently in his West Hollywood apartment, over coffee and slices of bundt cake he’d just baked. They had a rotation of favorite places, including Arnie’s, Marshall Field and hotel restaurants. “She and her friends would order champagne, and I got apple cider. I learned table manners at these outings, and I tasted caviar for the first time when I was six.”
His mother and her sister had a big gustatory influence on him growing up. “I never had anything from a can, and I never ate fast food,” Sonari continued. His mother grew up in Georgia, and before moving to Chicago, she worked as a professional baker in Florida. “She has a really broad repertoire and taste when it comes to cooking.” She taught him his favorite dishes—chili, beef stew, and spaghetti with meat sauce—which he still makes today.
His aunt cooked elaborate Sunday dinners every week for her family. “Her five kids, their kids, relatives—20 people would show up,” said Sonari. “There was every soul food dish you can think of—short ribs, black-eyed peas, mac ‘n’ cheese, peach cobbler—all made from scratch.”
Sonari’s aunt passed last year, and to honor her legacy and culinary talents, he continues her tradition with dinner parties at his home—albeit on a smaller scale. “I like to have eight people over and make it simple. My favorite is steak, baked potatoes with sour cream, broccoli, and a big salad.”
Age 41 — Hometown Chicago, South Shore — Where do you live? West Hollywood — Occupation NPR Correspondent: Business Desk and Planet Money — Signature dish None — Who taught you how to cook? Dorothy L. Glinton, my mother — Favorite kitchen tool 12" skillet — Always in your pantry Cornmeal. If I can't make cornbread, I mean, why am I living? — Go-to snack Cereal. I eat cereal in flights — Favorite cuisine Mexican—the varieties and inventivness of Mexican food amazes me. But this is something one cannot recognize until they've lived in the Southwest. — Do you diet? Nope — Food addictions Dairy—I love finding new dairy products. — Food allergies None — Food fad pet peeve I find the craft brew infatuation pedantic, elitist, phony, wasteful and annoying. — Who’s your sous chef? The first guest to arrive. — Drinking while cooking? Bloody Mary's—because that's not really drinking. — What’s for dinner tonight? Tuna fish sandwich and potato chips — Do you ever cry over spilled milk? To quote my friend and colleague Ann Taylor: "When you make a mistake, forgive yourself immediately." — Best meal you ever had I have two. My aunt Johnnie Mae was staying in Scottsdale. I was moving to LA, driving across country, and I stopped to visit. She made salmon croquettes and grits, and I was awoken by the smell of coffee. She died last fall. That meal just represents every breakfast my aunt ever made, and just everything about my family. The other one was made by my friend's sister Lauren Calhoun who's a chef in New York. She made duck confit with bok choy, and paired it with a Weiss beer. And for dessert there was a chocolate mousse thing that we drank with stout. She topped it off by telling a story about her mom that's so funny, sweet and shocking that I fell to the floor laughing. Best dinner party ever. — Contact npr.org/money
Aunt Johnnie Mae’s Salmon Croquettes
Sonari’s aunt made these addictive, quarter-size, can’t-eat-just-one fish cakes for him for breakfast whenever he visited her or when she came over to see his family. “It’s a dish I didn’t have to request—it was known that I love them.”
Serve with grits, remoulade or tartar sauce.
- Makes about 25 croquettes
- 2 cups canned salmon, liquid drained
- ½ cup onion, finely diced
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 egg
- ½ cup corn or canola oil
- Place the salmon, onion, salt and egg in a large bowl and mix. Refrigerate the mixture for minimum two hours.
- Using a small ice cream scoop or a tablespoon as a measure, form the mixture into patties, and coat each in the breadcrumbs.
- Heat the oil in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Fry the cakes until golden brown, about 2 minutes per side.
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