Literally and figuratively in the eleventh hour (p.m.) of January 1, 2010 I was looking for inspiration. Cooking inspiration, that is. Although I love perusing through cookbooks, even reading them cover to cover sometimes, I rarely use them when I cook. That is, I almost never have a cookbook cracked open on the counter for me to refer to pre-chopping or mid-saute. But when I find myself short on ideas, unable to unearth all the dishes, dinners, meals, and masterpieces in my mind, I turn to my cookbook collection to get the ball rolling.
Seldom bought, mostly given by a publicist, publisher, or t.v. producer, the cookbooks in my collection are a bibliographic timeline of my culinary career. Tonight I flipped through some old favorites: Michel Nischan’s “Taste Pure and Simple,” which he gave to me the first time I ever worked with him a few weeks before the book hit stores; Tyler Florence’s “Tyler’s Ultimate,” which I read cover to cover the night before I worked with him for the first time on The View four years ago; and “Modern Mexican Flavors” by Richard Sandoval, one of the only cookbooks I have bought for myself post-culinary school simply because his food inspires me.
And then I stumbled upon Susan Herrmann Loomis’s “Cooking at Home on Rue Tatin.” The moment I cracked open the book I remembered why I first liked it so very much. It is written the way a cookbook should be – with depth, history, culture, anecdote, and nostalgia. All that, and the recipe writing is meticulous, the techniques tried and true, the French cuisine utterly authentic, AND she offers a wine recommendation with each dish. What a good book! The words and flavors jump off the page and it is as though you are right there with Susan Herrmann Loomis in her Normandy kitchen.
I had the pleasure of meeting the author once several years ago in New York when she was touring for her book. I listened to her talk, watched her cook, and tasted her delectable fare. She inspired me then, and she did again tonight when I landed on page 55 (see excerpt below). May her words inspire us all for a scrumptious 2010!
How to Eat Like the French
I am often asked how the French eat so well, yet look so thin and healthy. Here are some tips I’ve learned:
1. Buy ingredients as close to the source as you can. Go to a farm, a farmer’s market, a shop featuring farm ingredients. Buy organic ingredients whenever you can. They may cost more, but realize that their cost is the real cost of producing food, for most organic farmers don’t get government subsidies.
2. Serve a green salad with lunch and dinner.
3. Serve bread without butter at mealtimes.
4. Drink plenty of water throughout the day.
5. Avoid snacking between meals.
6. Always have seasonal fruit available. I often cut up fruit – apples, pears, melons, peaches – when my children are agitating for a meal and I haven’t quite finished preparation.
7. Serve vegetable soup often; it is a delicious and satisfying way to enjoy vegetables.
8. Have a glass of wine with your meal. Wine, particularly red wine, is believed to have health benefits when taken in moderation.
9. Avoid processed foods and soft drinks.
10. Don’t be afraid of your food. If you are comfortable with your food, you will enjoy it more and eat less.
11. Take time at the table so you can enjoy the meal you’ve prepared.