Since she was 15, Tiffani Thiessen’s now-iconic face has been on television screens and in movie theaters across that nation—but before that, she was a student at Cubberley K-8 School.
Her family has a long history with Long Beach, her grandma was born at MemorialCare (then Long Beach Memorial) and her parents still live in her childhood home in the city. And for as far back as she can remember, her love of food has shaped her childhood memories.
“It started very simple with me really just wanting to be with all the women in my family and showing like that I could hang with them,” Thiessen said.
Both her mother and her grandma were the primary influences her for upcoming cookbook, “Here We Go Again: Recipes & Inspiration to Level Up Your Leftovers.” The book takes everyday pantry items, like chips at the bottom of a bag, or the little too much tuna salad you made, and turns them into new creations.
In a time of a sweeping meal-prepping craze, the book could not be more timely. But it was, in part, borne out of necessity. During the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown, when restaurants had almost completely shut-down and grocery stores were deemed high-risk environments, Thiessen, like most, decreased her trips to the store.
“I think not going to the grocery store, or having the capability of running to the grocery store as often, we became a little more precious with the groceries that we had,” Thiessen said. “I was kind of forced into really making all the things that I bought really stretched throughout the week or two weeks.”
It harkened back to her childhood when her mother would cook in batches to feed her family, constantly reinventing ingredients to make new dishes throughout the week, not because of a global pandemic, but because of a limited budget. She did it so well, Thiessen said, that sometimes she wouldn’t know the same roasted chicken she ate Monday would be the filling for an enchilada on Tuesday.
“We didn’t come from a lot of money so we really didn’t eat out a ton when we were young,” Thiessen said. “My mom cooked a lot.”
There were special occasions when they would eat out at Long Beach staples like Hof’s Hut, Pancho’s Mexican Food, and, before it was shuttered in 2020, Claim Jumper.
The book itself has a very retro feel, with a bright orange cover and photographs and food styling from the ’70s, ’80s, and ’90s. It is divided into categories, like recipes involving Bottom of the Bag, Box and Bottle, The Dairy Dregs, and a holidays section. And unlike some cookbooks, which require multiple trips to different specialty stores, these recipes don’t include items you can’t easily find.
“We’re all living in different cities and different places and just because I can get produce 365 days a year pretty much all the time in California doesn’t mean someone in Minnesota can,” Thiessen said.
Thiessen, 49, rose to fame with her role as Kelly Kapowski in “Saved by the Bell” (1989-1993), and later as Valerie Malone in “Beverly Hills: 90210” (1994-1998). More recently, she earned a Daytime Emmy Award nomination for her role in the Netflix series “Alexa & Katie” (2018-2020).
She’s also the host of the comedy “Deliciousness” on MTV.
Thiessen has been working on the book for the past couple of years and is an avid cookbook buyer herself. Often times the books serve more for inspiration than directly following the recipes. And while she is excited to see how people take inspiration from her recipes and make them their own, she hopes the book will also push people to think about food that sits unused on the shelf before being thrown away.
Since starting her family and amid the growing global conversation about sustainable food practices, food waste has been at the forefront of Thiessen’s mind.
“Another big part of the book is not trying to hit someone over the head [about waste], but getting them to be creative about not wasting,” Thiessen said.
As part of her promotional efforts for the book, Thiessen recently joined TikTok and has begun posting food videos trying viral trends like In-N-Out menu hacks and demonstrating recipes from the new book.
“What’s fun about social media is not taking yourself too seriously and showing the fun of it,” Thiessen.
Thiessen’s book will be released on Sept. 26. The actress will appear at the Art Theater on Fourth Street on Sept. 30 at 11 a.m. for a live discussion and cookbook signing. Tickets will be $32 for a pre-order of the cookbook and two seat reservations for the discussion. A ticket without purchase of the book will be $15.