Marion Cunningham was a big promoter of American food and cooking, which included some of the peculiarities of our style of eating. There was a funny story recounted by Kim Severson way back in 2001, that when Marion came to France, she insisted on having a cup of coffee before dinner at a three-star restaurant. Which, of course, perplexed the waiter. But Marion always insisted on doing things the right way (or at least, her way) and once she told me that she went to teach a class in making pie crust at the Ritz in Paris, and she brought along a can of vegetable shortening, which prompted the French chef to take a look into the can, and ask her – “What is this sh*t?”
Results tagged butter from David Lebovitz
Uncharacteristically, I’ll spare you the specifics, but I need to catch up on about 147 hours of sleep. And while we’re at it, I could use a hug. And since the former isn’t necessarily easy to come by here, as is the latter, I was embrassé by dinner at Alain Ducasse restaurant. While it’s been tempting to remove the “sweet life” byline from my header until things return to normal, since one of the sweeter sides of Paris is an occasional foray into fine dining, I dusted off my lone, non-dusty outfit, and rode the métro to a swankier part of town.
When I was in Monaco and I went to visit the chefs and the kitchen at Alain Ducasse’s restaurant, Louis XV, the pastry chef asked if I could possibly stay and taste their lovely desserts. Unfortunately I had to catch a ride back to Paris because I didn’t want to miss, well..nothing – I couldn’t stay. Then a few weeks later, a lovely invitation to his Paris restaurant arrived in my mailbox and I cleaned myself up, then headed into the aquarium.
Today is election day in France, and la République has the choice of re-electing the current President, or ushering in a new one. For people who usually have a lot of opinions, my French friends aren’t all that enthused about either one of the fellows. One is hoping to come into office, promising to represent Changement, and the other came into office five years ago, vowing changement, too. Sound familiar?
The polls opened at 8am and the only change I was feeling was in my pocket, as I roamed the streets looking for a baguette. However instead of the buttery, yeasty aromas wafting forth from my usual arsenal of boulangeries, none were open. It wasn’t because it was election day, it just happened that every one I hit had the shades down and the door shuttered closed for various reasons.
I’m not going to say it’s the top reason I live here, but one of the main reasons that I live in France is because of the cheese. It’s not just that I like cheese – which I do very dearly – but it also represents something that France has held on to, and still defies modernization. You just can’t make Comté or Bleu de Termignon with a machine. Each is made in a certain region, with milk from certain pastures, then molded and ripened, then sent to a skilled fromager to be offered to customers.
My dream job used to be to work in a cheese shop, until a friend who worked in a cheese shop told me how hard it was. (As those of you who read my Paris book know, I found working at the fish market quite different than I initially thought, too.) But no matter what people say, the idea of being surrounded by cheese in every direction, learning about the different regions and styles of cheesemaking, and just inhaling the funky, pungent aromas also sounds like heaven to me.
Some time ago I switched my allegiance to grainy bread. Perhaps it was because I was thinking, “If I’m going to eat all this bread around here, I should at least be eating grainy bread.” Or perhaps I got bored with the one-note flavors of white bread, and began enjoying the fuller flavors of whole grain loaves. But over the last few weeks, while I’ve been in between kitchens (and toasters), I now wake up each morning with the sole goal of scoring a fresh baguette for breakfast.
I’m often asked what I would miss about Paris when I’m not here, and although you can pretty much get anything you want nowadays anywhere in the world (thank you, internet…well, I think…), the bread in Paris is still pretty great. Not every bakery makes a good baguette, but when you get a perfect specimen, one that crunches audibly when you bite through the crust and the inside has a creamy color and a slight tang from a bit of levain – save for a swipe of good butter or a bit of cheese – anything else is simply unnecessary.
It’s been a while since I’ve visited the jelly aisle of an American supermarket. But one thing I have etched in my memory from my childhood are the glasses with cartoon characters on them. Whatever marketing genius came up with the idea deserves more recognition than I can give here, but as a kid, we had to finish all our milk and “see Fred Flintstone” (whose visage was embossed in the bottom), before we could get on to dessert. And imagine where my career would be right now if I didn’t comply?
As long as I can remember, drinking glasses were a give-away item in the states, from being packed in cardboard boxes with powdered laundry detergent to give-aways at the local gas station. And that tradition has crossed the Atlantic when a few years back 6-packs of blue-banded Orangina glasses were offered as a token with a fill-up on l’autoroute.
It’s interesting reading some of the talk regarding if the internet is ready to replace cookbooks. Sure, there are people furiously clicking around wherever they can for a chocolate cake recipe. And there are hundreds of thousands of chocolate cake recipes that you can find using a search engine. But to me, that’s not enough. When I want to spend my precious time and funds making something to eat, I don’t want to merely find a recipe. There’s nothing compelling about a downloadable list of ingredients. It just leaves me cold. I want the author or writer to tell me about the recipe, what inspired them to create it, or how it came about.
I want to know why someone chose that recipe, what twists they gave it, what made the cake or casserole they were making so special to them that they wanted to share it. Was it an unusual ingredient? Did they like the description they read of it elsewhere? Were they inquisitive about how a root vegetable from their garden could make its way into a chocolate cake?
People are often fascinated by what, and how, I eat. They think that if you’re a baker, you spend all your time eating pastries. Which is like thinking that bartenders spend all their time drinking.
My not-so-secret strategy is that whenever I eat something, I want it to be the best of its genre. I don’t want or need a ton of cream or whatever; when I want a chocolate chip cookie, I want a really, really good chocolate chip cookie. If I eat a scoop of chocolate ice cream, it shouldn’t taste vaguely of chocolate. I want it to be full-on chocolate.