Her granddad was Hank and her dad is Bocephus, but God bless the child that’s got her own. Holly Williams has got her own everything: her own popular clothing boutique in Nashville, H. Audrey; her own snazzy food and lifestyle blog, “The Afternoon Off”; and her own critically acclaimed record, last year’s The Highway, that showcases her throaty voice and emotional songwriting. She’s also got a knack for cookies. She bakes lemon basil poppy seed cookies as a thank you gift to bands she tours with, and created cinnamon walnut chocolate chip cookies out of her obsession with the DoubleTree Hotel’s trademark check-in treats.
Williams is an adamant food-lover. She won’t say no to any good quality meal; not to a wild mushroom truffle risotto that she ate right before a show (against her better judgment), or to freshly slaughtered goat, which incapacitated her for three days in Italy—and which she insists she’s glad she tried. Williams continues to support The Highway, with performances this month in Birmingham, Alabama, and Roswell, Georgia. If you happen to be at a DoubleTree in one of those cities, you might spot her stalking across the lobby, snagging a few more of those hot cookies.
Paste: You’re at a truck stop, you’re starving, and you have five minutes to assemble a meal. Please describe that meal, and how you feel about it.
Holly Williams: Oh lordy! That is a really hard one! I guess one of those tuna packs, pickle relish, and the best quality crackers I can find. There is truly no decent option at a truck stop, but this will do!
Paste: When you’re traveling, what food from home do you crave?
HW: This sounds so nerdy, but every morning at home I have the same juice. Kale, parsley, spinach, apple, lemon, ginger, and chia seeds. It’s called the “Well-Being” and it starts my day off perfectly and gives me so much energy!! It’s essential for staying healthy, and I really miss it on the road.
Paste: Is there anything special you like to eat before you play a show?
HW: I’m really not supposed to eat anything before I play because it definitely messes with your vocal chords, but I can’t help it! I eat everything if it’s good quality, so nothing particular every night. Last night I got lucky at an amazing gig in northern California and they had wild mushroom truffle risotto. Now I would like to have that every single night! Then they brought out a molten chocolate cake, heaven!
Paste: Do you have any superstitious pre-show drink rituals?
HW: A hot toddy if I’m sick, but that’s not really a ritual. I used to drink wine until I figured out I was coughing so much on stage from a dry throat, so now I’m a serious nerd with room temperature water.
Paste: What restaurant in the world do you most look forward to visiting when you’re on tour?
HW: You would have to devote four pages to this answer if I really went for it! I’ll go short.
London-The River Cafe
Austin, Texas-Hillside Farmacy
Los Angeles-Via Veneto
Chicago-The Purple Pig
Miami-Michael’s Genuine Food & Drink
Victoria, BC-Red Fish Blue Fish (yes I’ve gotten on a seaplane just to eat the fresh fish here).
Paste: What’s your worst on-the-road food story?
HW: I was playing in a beautiful small town in Italy. The venue told me we were having “fresh goat they had just killed that morning.” I’ll try anything. It was actually tasty. About three hours later I woke up and hurled my insides out all night—no Gatorade or electrolyte fillers in the middle of nowhere Italy! I was dying for three days and needed an IV of hydration! I’m still glad I tried it, but it hurt big time!
Paste: What’s the best meal you’ve had lately?
HW: At Husk in Nashville the other night. All local/seasonal ingredients. Chef Sean Brock is a genius. The best shrimp and grits, potato cakes, chicken wings, fried pig ears and chess pie I’ve ever had in my life!
Paste: What’s your favorite thing to cook or bake? Do you have a specialty?
HW: That’s a hard one. My lemon basil poppyseed cookies (up on my blog) are my favorite things on the planet year-round. And they’re my thank you gift when people take me on tour!
Paste: Please share a recipe, and tell us a little about it.
HW: I am obsessed with the hot, delicious cookies at DoubleTree hotels that they give you at check-in, (and when you walk through the lobby, and when you check out, if you ask!) Here is my attempt at those.
Cinnamon + Walnut Chocolate Chip Cookies
Makes approximately two dozen
1/2 cup rolled oats
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cups brown sugar, packed
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla
1/2 tsp. lemon juice
2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 1/2 cups chopped walnuts
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grind oats in a food processor or blender until fine. Combine the ground oats with the flour, baking soda, salt and cinnamon in a medium-sized bowl. Cream together the butter, sugars, vanilla and lemon juice in another bowl with an electric mixer. Add the eggs and mix until smooth.
Stir the dry mixture into the wet mixture and blend well. Add the chocolate chips and nuts to the dough and mix by hand until ingredients are well incorporated. For the best results, chill the dough overnight in the refrigerator before baking.
Spoon rounded 1/4 cup portions onto an ungreased cookie sheet. Place the scoops about two inches apart. You don’t need to press the dough flat.
Bake for 15 to 18 minutes (or until cookies are light brown and soft in the middle). Store in a sealed container once cooled to keep soft.
Freda Love Smith is a writer, drummer, and lecturer living in Evanston, Illinois. She was a founding member and drummer of The Blake Babies, and has since played with Antenna, The Mysteries of Life, Gentleman Caller and Some Girls.
She writes about food on her blog, lovesmiths.blogspot.com.
Follow her on twitter: @fredalovesmith