Meet Lesbians Have to Eat, Too Author Jenice Armstead
Simple, nutritious meals from lesbian fitness model turned cookbook author.
Photo: Sharpe Photography
Growing up, good food was not a priority in Jenice Armstead’s home. Fed on a steady diet of fast food and snacks, nutrition was never a factor. “Vegetables weren’t introduced to me at a young age. My family nickname is ‘Junk’ for a reason. I ate cookies, cake, candy…It’s a miracle that my teeth are still the way they are,” jokes Armstead. In fact, it wasn’t until she was an adult, fresh out of the military, that Armstead began to learn to cook. “When I first started cooking I was terrified. I would burn rice, I would burn noodles, I would burn hot water. I was awful.” Today, things are looking up in the kitchen of the former military fitness model turned Lesbians Have to Eat, Too cookbook author.
Besides being eye-catching, the book’s cheeky title carries a greater message for Armstead. “It means that we’re regular people, we eat regular food and we’re concerned about the same things everyone else is concerned about.” Chief among Armstead’s concerns is eating healthily, which is why her book is chock full of beginner-friendly recipes with a focus on nutritious, low fat and tasty food that can be adapted to any diet. “A lot of my recipes can be made to be meatless or vegan. I’m not a big fan of beef. When I found out that it actually sits in a person’s system for up to 72 hours based on the amount they eat, it made me a little ill.”
Along with cooking instructions, Armstead shares stories about the significance of each recipe in her life. From childhood memories to the first holiday meal she shared with her partner, Armstead chose to make Lesbians Need to Eat, Too part cookbook, part memoir, which proved challenging for the normally private writer. “When it comes to sharing personal stories about my childhood—that was actually one of my biggest anxieties about the book,” she says. Ultimately, she was able to put aside her fears in the hope of better reaching her audience. “I really wanted to be able to have a conversation with the reader. I wanted the reader to feel like they were sitting down and talking to me over a glass or wine or a cup of coffee, at the café or on their front porch or in the kitchen.”
Armstead’s need to be private stems from her time spent closeted in the military. “It was very hard. Me and my partner, that was the main reason why I got out. I had the opportunity to go into an officer’s program but I couldn’t do it and be closeted. There was no way I was going to do it because she’s my support mechanism.” Both Armstead and her partner were in the military but, despite attempts to be discreet, they they found themselves under constant scrutiny. “We went through a lot of harassment. I promised myself when I got out of the military I would be as out as possible.”
It was following her honorable discharge and a short stint working at the FDIC that Armstead began working on Lesbians Have to Eat, Too. “I was unemployed and wanted to be positive about my free time and keep it really functional, and cooking was my outlet. My partner suggested that I write some of my recipes down. It was originally going to be something for myself, like a scrapbook.” Once completed, Armstead, with the encouragement of her long-time partner, began shopping the book around but ultimately opted to self-publish. “It was an issue of curve that motivated me, actually. The issue about self-published women. I made a vision board and taped that article to it.”
Never one to sit still for long, Armstead is already planning her next cookbook in addition to working on her budding photography business, Simply Beautiful by J. (Lesbians Have to Eat, Too on Facebook)
Jaye’s Puerto Rican Pernil
This Recipe is near and dear to my heart. My partner and I have been together for some years now but there was a time in our very new relationship when I would not cook, because of lack of self-confidence. For Thanksgiving I wanted to make a great impression on her so I called my second dad and asked him to reveal his secret recipe. My partner loved the meal!
1 large piece of pork shoulder
2 large onions
3 large tablespoons minced garlic
1 cup grapefruit juice
1 cup orange juice
1 cup vinegar
2 tbs sea salt
7 tbs garlic powder
7 tbs onion powder
7 tbs oregano
1 large lemon
1 tbs parsley (optional garnish)
Start with pork shoulder in a medium dish. Tenderize the meat with a small steak knife. Make small niches in the meat, insert minced garlic. Add grapefruit juice, orange juice and vinegar to the dish and on top of the meat. Add all other ingredients to dish and marinate overnight in the refrigerator. The following day, preheat the oven to 250 degrees. Cover with aluminum folder and cook for 3–4 hours. Remove cover and let brown for 30–40 minutes longer. Serves 6–8.