Country music singer, lifestyle guru, and New York Times bestselling author Jessie James Decker has been staying really busy during quarantine, keeping her three children and husband, former Titans wide receiver Eric Decker, well-fed and happy. She’s also been working on her music, planning a holiday single release and a new album dropping early in the new year. On top of all that, she operates an online store plus two retail locations of her stylish boutique Kittenish in Nashville, TN and Destin, FL.
As if that wasn’t already enough to make the rest of us feel bad about sitting around all day in our pajamas between Zoom calls, Decker also releases her debut cookbook Just Feed Me on Tuesday, September 22. The follow-up to her bestseller Just Jessie, Jessie’s first cookbook focuses on the sort of food that she cooks for her own family at home, based on recipes gleaned from her heritage.
That heritage is quite varied, in part because she grew up in a military family. She was actually born in Italy and has a deep family connection to the country thanks to her ancestry. She grew up in Louisiana, and the rich culinary traditions of the state show up in many of the recipes in Just Feed Me, with cajun, creole and down-home Southern influences interspersed alongside classic Italian cuisine.
The book is more than just a listing of ingredients and cooking procedures, though. Along the way, Decker shares advice on how to create a welcoming atmosphere in your own kitchen and dining room, as well as tips on how to balance food and fitness, two of her favorite subjects. She took a little time out of her crazy busy schedule to talk to us about her latest project.
Sounds Like Nashville: When did you start this project and how long did it take you?
Jessie James Decker: I started it towards the end of last year, but the good thing is that I had so many of these recipes saved for so long. I keep a little journal that I keep in my kitchen, and I like to jot down recipes that I create. It wasn’t too hard to do. When it was time to put them on a computer, I would read them off using Siri, so I’d just read off all the ingredients and the directions that I kept in my notes.
SLN: How many of the recipes in Just Cook For Me are new and how many did you come up with just for the book?
JJD: The majority of everything that is in this cookbook was something that I created either on-the-fly, because I’m constantly cooking for my family, or it was something that I picked up from a friend of mine or I went to a restaurant and fell in love with a dish, and I tried to recreate it in my own kitchen. Many different ways; many different inspirations.
SLN: Which is more difficult, writing a cookbook or songwriting?
JJD: Definitely recipes! I think with songwriting, it’s so natural to me. Music is just so effortless to me because I’ve been doing it for so long. When it comes to writing a cookbook, I feel like I’m in school again, sitting here having to focus. All the things that I feel like a typical musician has in their mind, like “Oh my god, I can’t type anything anymore! I can’t write any longer!”
SLN: How did you pick which recipes to include in your book?
JJD: I just naturally went with what I grew up on. My great grandmother did come over from Italy, and brought over all of those Italian dishes and recipes and influences. But they settled in Louisiana, so they were influenced by Cajun cooking and Southern cooking. So I feel so I was so blessed to have been lucky enough to have been raised by people who had such a variety of styles of cooking. It just seems so natural and easy to me, but it is kind of random to have a whole chapter on Italian food, and then here’s my honey-fried chicken and my gumbo. It’s how I was raised.
SLN: What are some of your favorite recipes in this book that you’ve been able to share with your fans?
JJD: My seafood gumbo is probably my favorite, just because it’s my favorite thing to eat. I love gumbo. Whenever I make it, I’ll make an entire pot, and I’ll eat it for, like, five days! I have an olive oil cake in there that is pretty interesting. It’s kind of sweet but savory because it’s got sea salt and an apricot glaze that is to die for!
SLN: How do you balance your personal love with food with fitness and a healthy lifestyle?
JJD: Everything is about balance. I am such a foodie, and I love food so much. Because I know that about myself, I have to really balance everything in moderation so that I don’t go overboard. Food is one of the many pleasures in life. It just is for me. I know there’s a lot of folks out there where it’s just a necessity, but that is not the case for me. I don’t want to waste a meal on something that is not amazing. I want to eat something that’s good, and I look forward to my meals every day. If I’m trying to watch myself, and I have some sort of shoot coming up, instead of having two servings of my Bolognese, I’ll just have one, or instead of having four chocolate chip cookies, I’ll have a half a cookie.
SLN: Besides your new book, what other projects have you been working on?
JJD: I just signed a new record deal, and we just had a call yesterday trying to figure out when to put out a new single that we’ve decided on. I think with everything that’s been going on, and this is a brand new deal for me and a new project, so we really want to lay it out properly. We decided to hold off and put it out the top of the year, even though it killed me because I really wanted to get this music out there for my fans. But I do have a Christmas single I’m releasing in November, so they’ll get a little something from me. I love Christmas music!
I have two Kittenish stores now, and I can’t believe how much my brand has grown! It’s a fast fashion women’s brand. I opened my first brick-and-mortar last February and then the second location in Destin last fall. I’m just blown away by how much it’s grown, especially during the pandemic. I was one of the fortunate ones that it didn’t affect too much because we have an online presence. It’s been really great. I love making women feel beautiful and confident. When you walk into the store, it feels like a party! Everything’s pink and pretty and fun. (It’s not a lot of fun for the guys.) But it’s so much fun for the girls, and I love being able provide that.