You might not know Alison Roman’s name, but if you’re someone who cares about food and spends time on the internet, you’ve no doubt seen examples of her work.
Roman, a recipe developer and writer who used to be a senior editor at Bon Appetit and Buzzfeed, published her first cookbook, Dining In, in 2017. Of the 125 recipes she featured in her book, one in particular got so much attention, and became so ubiquitous on Instagram, that it earned a viral hashtag of its own: #TheCookies.
On Instagram, #TheCookies has 4,345 posts, most of them home cooks sharing their version of the chocolate chunk shortbread cookie recipe that Roman has in her book. From December 2017 to January 2018, you couldn’t seem to escape posts by food enthusiasts trying and sharing her recipe.
Then, in November 2018, Roman’s column in the New York Times produced another recipe with a cult following, this time a turmeric and coconut milk chickpea stew that quickly became known on Instagram as #TheStew.
Roman, for her part, doesn’t know what underlying factor made the chickpea stew and shortbread cookies so popular; otherwise, she says, she would do it all the time. “Chickpea recipes have been around forever and will be around forever. That one just happened to be successful, I'm not even really sure why,” she says.