Fromage, Fractures and Paris
For nearly three months now, I haven't danced around much because my leg hurts. Finally, they discover I have a tibial stress fracture which means a crack in my shin bone and to heal, I can't walk on it. Voila! So now I won't even be limping around for another six weeks, and for me this is very difficult. The only good part is since I'm sitting a lot, writing and reading are my defaults. I've been hooked lately on food memoirs, especially ones with a French twist, so along with the above two pastimes, I'm trying some of the fabulous recipes I've discovered. The bad part is eating great food and sitting are fairly incompatible when you don't want a steamer trunk sized rear end, so caution must taken. Still, one must persevere in the name of research, n'est ce pas? I've got some resources for that I want to tell you about.
I love food books, and these two have been in my hands and propped open on my kitchen table lately: Lunch in Paris (A love story with recipes) by Elizabeth Bard, and A Homemade Life by Molly Wizenberg. I first got hooked on these food/memoir/recipes books when I read Kathleen Flynn's The Sharper Your Knife, the Less You Cry, about her sojourn at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris. She did this without a net, i.e., knew no French, and that was especially tough, but she had determination instead.
I'm not exactly sure why these tales of American women braving Paris fascinate me so -- part of it's learning about the incredible food, markets and cafes they become familiar with, but there's a yearning for the adventure of it, the romance, the history, and the traditions of French food, culture and history that is so seductive I have to curb myself from throwing all caution to the winds, calling Air France, searching for a tiny apartment on VRBO and packing. Perhaps luckily, at the moment I can't walk but this won't last forever. My dog is eyeing me suspiciously and she's probably right to do so, although she'd fit right in.
Bard's Lunch in Paris is truly a love story about meeting her French husband and his family, and living in France for good, studded with mouth-watering recipes from their times and discoveries together. Molly Wizenberg's A Homemade Life is a memoir about her family, wrapped around with the food that marked many of their memorable times together both in Paris and America, as well as meeting her husband after she began writing Orangette, her delightful food blog. She now lives in Seattle where they own Delancey's and Essex, a restaurant and bar in Ballard. Both of them found husbands that love to cook, almost magical beings who can look at a nearly empty refrigerator or cupboard and toss together a stunning gourmet repast in record time. This is a trait in spouses that's right up there with fresh flowers, foot rubs and breakfast in bed. No more need be said.
And the recipes... I'm not touching the incredible desserts right now for obvious reasons, but the soups and salads are a godsend. Ratatouille, butternut squash, french onion all are wonderful, and salads with sweet French goat cheese, shaved fennel, arugula, lime viniagrette, among many other things -- I can say no more. I urge you to get both of these books and indulge yourself. Reading them changed the way I prepare quite a few things.
The very best thing about both of these books is that the recipes have evolved from memorable experiences and love, and both are fused within them, somehow giving the food a tang and flavor that transcends a mere written how-to guide. For what is food, really? Not merely fuel, but at its best, a medium for gathering people together, whether it's a couple or a crowd, the engine that drives the reunion, the wedding, the sunny breakfast and the dinner among loved ones. That is what food should be, and these two writers have shown us the recipe for that magic as well, whether it's Seattle, Oklahoma or... sigh of longing...Paris.
The fracture will heal, and I'll get there. For now, this is the next best thing. Elizabeth and Molly, you feel like well-traveled old friends who dropped by to bring me dinner and macaroons. Thanks, you've been a big help.