The Great Ones is a celebration of humans we admire — and an exploration of why they cook, not just how. Miz Cracker is the stage name of Maxwell Heller, a drag queen and star of RuPaul’s Drag Race. Miz taught us how to make matzo-ball soup while discussing how her involvement in drag began as a form of protest.
When I was growing up, my mother had Sunset magazines that featured foods from around the world, the Sunset magazine cookbooks, and, of course, the Joy of Cooking. As little kids, my sister and I used to try new recipes all the time. Then, when I was in high school, we started putting on these really big parties where we would wear outfits, create a little set that was like a different location, and serve food. That’s really where I fell in love with food as a way of transporting yourself.
That’s really where I fell in love with food as a way of transporting yourself.
I remember one time in particular when we made bread from the Joy of Cooking, and we baked the bread in a cake pan and made a giant, family-sized burger patty with sandwich pickles and huge beefsteak tomatoes. We made this mega pitcher of soda and a mega-sized meal, so it was like the biggest supersize meal ever.My mom was a big inspiration because she loved trying new things, and we were always out in the yard looking for nettles to make nettle soup or foraging and making dandelion salads — figuring out what was out in the world that we could bring into the kitchen and what was edible. She was always experimenting and learning new things like that.
I started doing drag as a form of protest. I was demonstrating in Times Square for marriage equality. I didn't think I was going to get into drag itself; I was just doing drag as part of this demonstration. I started seeing people performing, and I was like, Well, I want to try that too. I'm not going to get into drag or anything, but I want to try one or two performances. It was a slippery slope from there. My drag name originally came from my favorite food: Brie on a cracker. I used to be Brianna Cracker and then Miz Brianna, and then I shortened it because too many people were mishearing it.
My drag name originally came from my favorite food: Brie on a cracker.
I love food and food culture so much. I think it's involuntary; I'm just drawn to it. And it fit naturally into my drag. Now I think people know me really well from my cooking with Carla [Lalli Music], and that has become such a joy. We're coming out with new projects soon. We're going to do a live cooking show where she teaches me how to cook and shows me her secrets.
My mother, godmother, and grandmother were always trying new things and always making a lot of people happy with food, and that's what I've always wanted to do. I lived with my Jewish grandmother for a long time, and every five minutes it was, "Eat this, eat that, you gotta eat!" Oh, and another inspiration is Meryl Streep from The Hours because that crab thing she made looked delicious. Really, Meryl Streep doing anything.
I’ve been cooking a lot during COVID-19. I got myself a Spiralizer, and I've been making some zoodles. I've been making lots of fruit shakes. I just made myself a delicious spinach pesto sauce in my blender: spinach, pine nuts, and parsley. I'm really feeling my oats with cooking now. It's something I haven't paid attention to for myself. I usually do it for other people, but now I'm doing it for myself and being like, Oh, we're taking care of ourselves. I was used to thinking of food as social, but when you're cooking for yourself, it’s a wonderful feeling and such a positive way to give energy to yourself.
I'm really feeling my oats with cooking now.
The “Okay, Katelyn, it’s time for dinner!” meme was kind of an accident. I always cooked for [my best friend and right-hand woman] Katelyn at the end of the day after my shows. And one day I turned around and said, "Okay, Katelyn, it's time for dinner," and she happened to be filming it. And we were like, "Oh, that's funny." Then the next day I was like, "Oh, film me again," and I was like, "Okay, Katelyn, time for dinner." It just got more and more absurd, in more and more ridiculous situations. Then any time we had food we would say it.
Drag Race, so I used it as my entrance line. When I first walked in, I had no idea it was going to take the world by storm. But accidents are always the best way to discover new things. You’ve got to embrace what works instead of trying to invent something new.
I was excited to make matzo-ball soup with my Great Jones cookware. It's the first dish I learned to make for myself, and the first dish I prepare for friends when they want an introduction to Jewish cuisine. I have so many memories of walking into holiday potlucks with a nice big tureen of matzo dumplings. To the uninitiated, they always look strange. People always stare at them with suspicion at first — but then it's love at first taste! In that way, I guess they're a lot like me.