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The Good Wife

Soaking up the comfort aromas of Brand Ayesha Curry

Getty Images/Ringer illustration
Getty Images/Ringer illustration

After a long summer of topless championship parades, free-agency meetings in the Hamptons, Snapchat mishaps, and gold medals, the NBA is finally, truly, really, almost back. The start of training camp marks the beginning of our NBA Preview.

We kick things off with Warriors Week, an in-depth look at one of the most interesting assemblages of basketball talent ever. We’ll have a different theme each week, as well as the usual league coverage. So check back often. Basketball never sleeps, and neither do we.

The Columbus Circle Williams-Sonoma has never once been described as “lit.” Bourgie? Maybe. Oppressively suburban? Almost certainly. But this was the scene September 20: A line of people snaked around nearly the entire perimeter of the 8,000-square-foot store. The crowd was diverse: some men, some women, some old, some young, some already dressed for fall in light jackets and jeans, others holding on to summer in sundresses and shorts. Some were decked out in Golden State Warriors gear, while others could have easily attended a cocktail party. No matter how they were dressed, they were all clutching multiple copies of a new cookbook they had come to get signed.

A DJ spinning Rihanna, Beyoncé, and some early-aughts party music kept customers bopping for the two hours or so it took to get to the front of the line. And to appease the crowd, who sacrificed precious post-work dinner hours to be there, Williams-Sonoma staff passed out samples of recipes from said cookbook: brown sugar bacon (good), cast-iron cornbread (great), and mango lemonade (very bad). If there’d been a grill going and 10 percent more Chaka Khan, the vibe could have been a family reunion BBQ. They had come to see Ayesha Curry. And damn it if she didn’t make Williams-Sonoma lit.

Curry, 27, was on the first stop of her book tour, promoting the just-released The Seasoned Life: Food, Family, Faith and the Joy of Eating Well. She is widely known as the wife of Golden State’s two-time MVP point guard, Steph — in attendance at Williams-Sonoma, playing trophy husband for the night — or mother of Insta-bait children Riley, 4, and Ryan, 1. Increasingly, though, and especially tonight, she was Ayesha Curry™, budding domestic doyenne, with her own brand (although one tied up with being a wife and mother), a new cookbook, a forthcoming Food Network show, a meal-kit service, Gather, and a fan base of 4.2 million Instagram followers, a fraction of whom showed up IRL to support her. Well, mostly her. There were also Steph stans — teens in Curry jerseys, grown men jostling to get a half-obscured photo of Steph, who was standing on the second level of the store, hanging with friends and looking undeniably handsome in his offseason gear: maroon silk polo shirt, cheetah-print sneakers, black jeans. There were even some in attendance who forgot Ayesha Curry was in earshot and vowed to “steal her man.”

I was surprised at how good the turnout was. A few months ago, when the NBA playoffs were in full swing and both of the Currys’ passions (basketball and food Instagrams) were overshadowed by Ayesha’s hot-headed tweets, it would’ve been hard to imagine too many people showing up to support her. For exhibits A through Z, I would have pointed you toward a Twitter search of her name — the results of which ranged from hot takes to toxic memes. But according to several of my line mates, their support for her never wavered.

“I think that was blown out of proportion,” explained a young woman behind me in line. “Everybody has a right to their opinion.”

“I love her family!” said another young woman, who was line dancing to the “Cupid Shuffle” with her husband (they were waiting in line). “I’m about the same age and I look up to her.” Her husband chimed in: “I’m like Steph. I support my wife, whatever she chooses. Also, I want to know whatever recipes Steph likes.”

Another woman who crept up beside me to try to snap a picture of Steph, who had now moved downstairs to gaze at his wife and his iPhone with equal fervor, also shared her opinion: “She’s the newest face to the culinary scene. It’s cool that she’s a young, black woman. And I like that she has two daughters and incorporates them into what she does. This is an opportunity to venture and create something for herself. He has his own thing. I feel like she has to do her own thing.”

That thing would be the stacks of books she was sitting in front of. The fans all lined up to admire her pageant-worthy ponytail, her green eyes, and her seemingly perfect life, ready to praise her self-created domestic empire.

The Currys are the NBA’s royal family. If I had to compare them to a real royal family, it would probably be The Royal Family, the Middletons. Just look at the parallels: royal dad (Steph); two cute, highly photogenic kids (Riley and Ryan); and the wife-mother–future queen, who keeps the photo firmly in place in the family scrapbook. Much like Kate Middleton’s, Ayesha’s job, at least according to a certain strain of people, is to excel at wifehood: look beautiful, produce heirs, be relatable in a basic sort of way while remaining engaging enough, especially on social media, to help support the narrative. That story is that Steph is rewriting the basketball rule book; he is a golden boy and a family man with a perfect wife and adorable kids. Ayesha was very good at that job, the best, probably. And then she tweeted.

This past June, after Steph got ejected from Game 6 of the NBA Finals because of the mouth-guard toss heard round the world, his wife fired off a now-deleted tweet. “I’ve lost all respect sorry this is absolutely rigged for money…Or ratings in [sic] not sure which. I won’t be silent.”

It was a heat-of-the-moment, human-reflex social media misfire, but when you’re the fuckboy’s platonic ideal of a “good wife” (quiet, smiley, beautiful, classy, supportive), you don’t sling shit at the NBA just because your man got tossed. Ayesha Curry was trending on Twitter, and she hadn’t even officially announced her Food Network show yet. The next day, ESPN analyst Stephen A. Smith criticized Curry, saying she should act more like LeBron James’s wife, Savannah Brinson, who “doesn’t bring any attention to herself … never tweets, and goes out there and calls out the league and stuff like that.” After Curry defended herself on Twitter, Smith responded with even more winningly retrograde misogyny, recommending that Curry stay in her lane.

While many people excoriated Smith, there was still some debate about whether Curry was overstepping her bounds. Was her visibility — her Instagram following; her cooking career, which she was beginning to promote during the Finals — overshadowing Steph’s NBA glory? Was she just riding his coattails? Should she aspire to more, or should she just stay in her lane? Gabrielle Union, another outspoken wife of an NBA player, Dwyane Wade, came to Curry’s defense: “[T]his idea that, ‘Women need to stay in their own lane’? Get the fuck out of here with that. My lane is whatever the fuck I want it to be. How about that.”

It was a polarizing moment, but not a surprising one. Ayesha Curry has always been a strong and visible presence in Steph’s life. Her and her family’s regular appearances at Warriors games have made her a TV staple, and her charismatic children only have to blink in the direction of a camera to become a meme. She has also been a vocal presence in Steph’s life. Just a few months earlier, she had tweeted a response to one of Steph’s thirstier Twitter commenters (a threesome fantasy was involved). Some (ridiculous) people might have considered her “overbearing” or said that Steph was under her thumb, but it was a funny, candid response.

This is the drawback to being in the NBA’s royal family: When you’re a preternaturally attractive, well-off, seemingly happy, tight-knit family unit, you’re bound to attract backlash — that’s just the nature of the likability cycle. People were waiting for the first opportunity to take offense to something she said — waiting for the moment to tell an NBA wife who was driving in her own lane to get back into the right one.

In the wake of this Twitter fiasco, which was compounded when the Warriors went on to lose the Finals, Curry did what she was “supposed” to do. She used a spread in People to pacify those who’d accused her of being hot-headed, aggressive, ungrateful, or worse, “angry” (and to discuss her recipes). She really was what everyone wanted her to be — a good, dedicated, supportive wife. “I was just a fan in that moment so I didn’t think about the ramifications,” she told People. “I regret the way that I voiced how hurt I was. I felt hurt for [Steph].”

The tweet was possibly the most interesting, human thing she’s ever done in public. (It also demonstrated that she could be entertaining as hell.) But the apology? Well, that was her savviest move yet. Curry does have a lane, it’s just not the one Smith thinks she should be in. It’s one she’s created for herself. But to stay in that lane, Ayesha needed to remind everyone that her brand is family, comfort, vague piety, and total relatability — not hot takes, Twitter beefs, and bitterness. So even though firing off a tweet to defend your loved one is perhaps the most relatable thing ever, Curry apologized and returned to normal — a branded normal, a demi-celeb normal, the sort of normal that makes people want to know all about her, and not just because she’s married to Steph.

Everything Ayesha Curry wants you to know about Ayesha Curry can be found on her Instagram account or in The Seasoned Life. She likes to cook. She has been doing it since she was a little girl. Steph was the one who encouraged her to start blogging, vlogging, and ’gramming her recipes. Her favorite people to cook for are Riley, Ryan, and Steph — that’s why the recipes are “quick, easy, and accessible.” Curry comes from a multicultural background (her mother is Jamaican and Chinese; her father is black and Polish), so all of her recipes are a mishmash of different ethnic flavors. Her food is sort of like her: nourishing, familiar, and a touch exotic.

The book is full of little anecdotes, as well as photos of her family looking golden and glorious and approachably fashionable. She is full of gratitude and love for Jesus, and brings that to the literal table along with her food. There are chicken tenders for Riley, pastas that Steph loves, snacks for game day, some home beauty remedies (avocado hair mask), and cocktails for “mommy time.”

“If you only try one recipe in this book, let it be this one,” she writes in the preamble for Mama Alexander’s Brown Sugar Chicken. (Mama Alexander is Ayesha’s mom.) So this is the one I chose to make.

Uncannily, I started cooking just as her Instagram Story told me she, too, was starting to cook. I was making Brown Sugar Chicken (page 132) for one, while she was making Riley’s favorite oven-baked chicken tenders (page 47) and Steph’s five-ingredient pasta (page 158). It was like we were cooking together.

The ingredients are really simple. Save for the fresh chicken legs, (3 1/2 pounds), the fresh ginger (1 heaping tablespoon), and the shallots (2 tablespoons, minced), I had everything else in my pantry: chicken broth, soy sauce, brown sugar, salt, pepper, butter, olive oil, rice.

“Great!” I thought, “if I were a busy mom, I’d be very happy with this time-saving recipe. Just a quick trip to the store!” Her instructions, which she wrote herself, are very clear and simple. She also likes to interject a little comment or anecdote about her family into each recipe (there’s a Q&A with Riley that reveals she doesn’t know what’s in banana bread).

All in all, making my meal took about 90 minutes, 60 of which were hands-off while the chicken baked. “How nice,” I thought. Moms or dads could play with their kids in this downtime. I used the opportunity to watch two episodes of The Simpsons, an equally rewarding use of multitasking.

Ayesha also acted as her own food stylist for the book. I tried to follow suit once I pulled the chicken from the oven, arranging my meal with flair and élan before I took a bite. Pretty good! Then I ate a little more. And then I took down the whole chicken. It was sticky, sweet, gingery, and garlicky, just as advertised. It tasted so familiar. I felt comforted, as if my own mom had just made it for me, or as if I were my own child, whose mom (me) had just cooked it. I decided to get seconds, which I’m sure Ayesha would consider a winning review.

Then I realized why I was so familiar with the flavors of my Mama Alexander’s Brown Sugar Chicken: It was just teriyaki chicken. I had just made teriyaki chicken, dressed up as Mama Alexander’s Brown Sugar Chicken. The last thing I learned about Ayesha Curry from her cookbook: She is a branding genius.

Back at Williams-Sonoma, I finally made it to the front of the line after 90 minutes of eating cast iron cornbread skillet samples and wishing I had water to dilute the mango lemonade I had been served. I handed Ayesha my Post-it with my name on it and my book, which she signed. Then she posed for pictures, which her publicist took on my iPhone. During our awkward photo shoot, I broke protocol and leaned in close, maybe too close, and asked, “I just have to know, how are you such a perfect wife and mother?”

She looked uncomfortable for a second, shook her head, and responded: “I’m not really perfect.” Then she remembered something and smiled.

“But I have to say: prayer.”