Laura Prepon is the epitome of pragmatic. You know her as self-assured, no-bullshit Donna Pinciotti on the Fox sitcom That ’70s Show, and equally forthright and logical convict Alex Vause in the Netflix dramedy Orange Is the New Black. So here’s a real-life puzzle that Prepon set out to solve: She loves cooking, her kids love watching her cook, so how to do that without becoming so mired in the prep and cleanup that there’s no time left to actually bond over the meal with the humans who matter most to her?
“I grew up in the kitchen, but I always wanted a way to just make what we do in the kitchen easier. I loved watching my mom in the kitchen. And I learned so much from her and so much of my heart in the kitchen came from what she shared with me,” she says. “But I don’t have a single memory of sitting down at a table with her eating this food. She would cook for us and she’d be back at the stove. My father was a surgeon with the most amount of cases in two hospitals. He would come home, but he wouldn’t eat with the kids.”
Now, the mom of two (Prepon has not released the names of her son and daughter, with husband Ben Foster), has taken her cooking infatuation and turned it into a product line, PrepOn Kitchen, sold on HSN. The whole point of the collection, says Prepon, is to help parents simplify the nightmarish process that all too often is putting dinner on the table and cajoling children to eat said dinner.
“I’ve been dreaming of this line since I was a kid, really. My kids love being in the kitchen with me. I’m always in the kitchen and they love being in there,” she says. “Time takes on a whole new meaning. You see it in your children growing, right? You literally see time in front of you because you see your kids grow — time has never been so precious to me and having time with my kids. If my line can help provide more of that for us, I’m all about it.”
Your hair! It’s so long and shiny!
This is pandemic long hair. This is called two children.
Right, you have two under four, during a pandemic. How’s that going?
I have a three and a half year old and I have basically a one-year-old. He was born in February right before the pandemic started. He just took his first steps. Now he can totally stand up and walk. Even though we took the knobs off of the stove, you’re constantly just playing goalie.
I have an only child. Are the milestones as thrilling the second time around?
It’s still just as exciting. It’s awesome. With the first one, with my daughter, this was a while ago when she first walked, my husband was out of town. He was out of town doing a movie and she took her first steps when she was alone with me. I was freaking out. With my son, I really wanted my husband and I both to be there because he missed that experience with my daughter. And we were both there. We both saw it happen. And we literally looked at each other like, ‘This is real.’ My daughter’s flipping out, you know? So it was really fun. It was a really fun family thing that we all experienced together.
So you just launched a kitchen line. How do you stay motivated? I am truly burned out on anything food-related at this point.
I’m right there with you. I’m cooking everything. And now that it’s getting warmer, how great is it to walk around and see people eating out again? I’m just so happy to see that people are getting vaccinated. Speaking of my line, which you mentioned, I am all about streamlining things in the kitchen. My cooking methods have evolved as we all do evolve.
So as a mom of two, it’s about making things even less stressful. What I do is I prep ahead. I’m all about prepping ahead. So when I go to the farmer’s market or I go to the grocery store, I clean all of my greens right away. I clean my spinach right away. Maybe I’ll trim some protein, but I won’t cook anything. So it’s just in my fridge ready to grab because in the middle of a workday — if I go to my fridge and I have to still wash and clean everything, I’m like, ‘Hold on.’
And I know this line is something of a tribute to your mom and how you were raised.
She would do all this cooking because that’s what she loves. But I never spent time with her. And even as a kid, I was like, ‘You’re creating this beautiful food for us, this nourishing food, but I want to be with my mom.’ I’ve been thinking that there has to be a way to have both. There’s got to be a way to share this beautiful nourishing, homemade food with your family and be present to enjoy it. I want to streamline our time in the kitchen. I want to make it easier for us so that we can actually be present.
How do you get your two to eat healthy? Or healthier?
Here’s what I try to do. I have Trojan foods, like Trojan horse foods. I cook a lot with bone broth — to me, it’s like a multivitamin. So I put bone broth in everything. And to this day, their favorite things are soups with my bone broth, which is great. I cook our rice in it. I cook any proteins. No judgment because we’re all just trying to do the best we can. I try to sneak vegetables into things. If I’m making a hamburger, I mince up vegetables, super, super small and try to cook them in it. My kid just had tacos for the first time the other day. Before I got her to eat tacos, I read her a book called Dragons Love Tacos. She agreed to try tacos.
How do you and your husband divvy up the household stuff? I assume you’re the master of the kitchen.
He’s learning. My husband really wants to — we talked earlier about cooking all these meals at home. And then of course after cooking, you have to clean. With the cooking and the cleaning and everything, it’s a lot and he’s trying to alleviate pressure for me. So he’s all about it. He’s like, teach me, I want to cook. Sometimes the smoke detector goes off and that’s fine. We’re cooking inside. There shouldn’t be this much smoke. But it’s so sweet. I love it.
You two are raising your kids in New York instead of a gated community in Malibu. Why?
I lived in L.A. for almost 20 years and he lived in L.A. for also a very long time. I think that especially being in the industry that we’re in — my husband was the one that really was like, we can’t raise our kids in L.A. You can’t escape it. I’m from Jersey and, he spent a lot of his childhood in Boston and in Iowa. And we wanted our kids to have exposure to all different cultures. That was really important to us. I have a ton of friends in L.A. I lived out there as I said, for two decades and, and their kids are great.
This is just a personal thing. We want our children to be around all different types of people and life and beliefs and art. My husband and I are both in the entertainment industry and I feel it’s hard for second generation kids. It can be really confusing for them. No one in my family is in the entertainment industry.