It’s no stretch to say that cookbook author and recipe developer Colu Henry loves white beans. To celebrate Colu Cooks, her new Patreon newsletter, Henry, a resident of Hudson, created t-shirts emblazoned with the words white beans. She even posted an Instagram story about making the merch, illustrating the playfulness, dry wit, and sense of style she infuses into her work.
Henry was raised in a close-knit, Italian-American, “very, very food-crazy household,” she says, where “food was always the driving force behind everything.” She fell in love with the energy of restaurants while working and majoring in musical theater at Emerson College. She tried, post-college, to make it as a cabaret singer in New York City. Instead, she wound up in fashion and restaurant PR.
Seven years ago, while working at Bon Appétit, Henry began posting recipes created from her pantry on Instagram under the hashtag #backpocket pasta. Though she thought a friend’s suggestion to write a cookbook was “crazy,” she did it anyway. Her book, #backpocketpasta, was published to acclaim in 2017, and is notable for its aspirational yet attainable recipes, and giving a window into Henry’s family and what grounds her.
Henry — who took a fine-dining class but considers herself self-taught — is currently working on a second cookbook, for release in March 2022. It will feature similar “sophisticated, but approachable dinners you can make mostly on a weeknight,” she previews. Along with the recipes are personal stories featuring friends, and some essays, “like my struggle with the fact that I am a great home cook, but not a wonderful baker.”
Now about those beans. She says she fell in love with any kind of legume, though white is her most favorite, during frequent visits to the Napa Valley store of revered heirloom bean purveyor Rancho Gordo. “I was piling beans into my carry-on to take home,” she recounts. “There are so many different kinds! They’re just so satisfying, affordable, and versatile.” When NYT Cooking, to which Henry is a contributor, asked her to create white bean recipes, “it kind of fell together,” she says. Her roasted tomato and white bean stew was the site’s number one vegetarian recipe in 2020. She’s also developed recipes for other publications including Food & Wine.
Colu Cooks combines and showcases all of Henry’s talents. Her droll video of frying fish on the beach, also on her YouTube channel, is typical Henry. “I wanted to be able to take ownership of my work, and in a really full way,” she says. She likes the communication between herself and her readers on Patreon, which differs from Instagram.
Henry and husband, Chad, are Brooklyn transplants who were weekenders before transitioning to full-time Hudson living six years ago. “I felt like this was my place. I connected with the people immediately,” she recalls. “It’s a beautiful place to live. I feel really lucky that we’re surrounded by this incredible agriculture.” Local faves include farms Sparrowbush and Bonhomie, gourmet shop Talbot & Arding, and Bread Folk Bakery.
“I love that I know the people’s names at the farmers market, that Sue at Blue Star has favas in June for a week,” Henry comments. “I think there’s a lot of interesting people who live here, a lot of shared interests.” Though she admits to pandemic cooking burnout, Henry says she still continues to learn as a home cook. “Which is the beauty of the whole thing, gaining knowledge as you go. That’s been really fun, to continue to learn about things you’re passionate about.”