Passionate Affair

“In this restaurant,” says Madame, “cuisine is not an old, tired marriage, it is a passionate affair of the heart.”

Madame Mallory is played by Helen Mirren, in the 2014 movie, “The Hundred Foot Journey”. Set and filmed in the South of France, this movie ignites my passion for food and love; and the interconnected mysteries of both.

Reminiscent of “Chocolat”, filmed in Flavigny-sur-Ozerain in Eastern France and released in 2000, the filming of the food was incredible in both films, (same director). You could almost taste it. And that says something, because the author of “Chocolat”, Joanne Harrish, pays particular attention to food descriptions in many of her books, “Blackberry Wine”, being one of my all time favorites.

“A Good Year”, filmed in Provence and “Julie and Julia”, filmed in Paris, (for the French locations), both make me want to jump on a plane and head to France. Of course, I can’t practically do that. But I own a copy of “The Art of French Cooking” by Julia Child, way too many strange recipes. Or are they?

Some time ago I bought a book called, “200 Skills Every Cook Must Have”, mostly for my son. I hope he will be inspired at some point to really dig into cooking. As I looked through the book just now I realized, there is a lot for me to learn as well. And maybe mastering the basic sauces, is not a bad idea. I’m competent, and can follow most recipes, but to really be good, you do need to master these basics. They need to be second nature. Then it is so much easier to create something new in the kitchen. Which is ultimately what I want to be able to do.

While it is not super easy to learn a complicated recipe from a book, I think if you have the right passion it can be done. In “The 100 Foot Journey”, the young sous chef explains how to master the 5 basic sauces, “You must find them in your heart. Then bring them to your pots”.

“One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well.”
-Virginia Woolf

That is where it ends up for me. Food is at the centre of everything worth having or being in life. I’ve been somewhat shy to say that before. Even though everyone agrees that food is the very foundational building block of life, we tend to be careless with food. Relegating it to a mere energy source and something that is only required, but not necessarily enjoyed.

Maybe some people did not experience the passion in food at a young age. Their families did not appreciate and cultivate the preparation of food. But even in that case, (my Mother had an average 1980’s love of food), you can find your way back home through food. You can find the love that is there with all the cooks who have come before you.

It is worth the journey.

This Week in My Sister’s Kitchen

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Welcome to Barbra’s kitchen. I am Christine’s sister, so you may think that the cooking gene made it to both of us, but alas, it did not.

I am not a cook, or even a wanna-be cook, but I do like to eat…and since I do not make the kind of money to frequent restaurants that I would like my own table at, I relinquish to  hang out in my own kitchen once in awhile. My inspiration and incentive often comes from Christie – I spend a weekend with her and come home inspired to try something that I watched appear in her kitchen.

Sunday is good day to get the staples ready for the following week. My sweetie is heading off to a Black Sabbath concert (nothing says Easter like an evening with Ozzy) and my kids ditched me to go to a movie, so I have some time to spend in the kitchen. The agenda in the kitchen today has been varied – a little something for everyone.

  • Family breakfast: pepper bacon with Banana-chocolate-cocconut pancakes with coconut syrup and fresh mangoes. (No need to say it, I know….but it was delicious)
  • Peanut Butter Mini Loaves (for my son who eats the stuff with a spoon)
  • Granola (today’s version has dried cherries, apricots, goji berries, figs, coconut and almonds)
  • Kale cubes for the week’s smoothies (this may shock some…but the guy going to Ozzy loves the frozen kale cubes in his smoothies)
  • Almond milk (for the son to wash down his peanut butter)
  • Baba Ganoush (for me. I could eat it with a spoon)

Back to the kitchen, I have a mountain of bananas staring at me…

Cheers, Barb

 

 

Heart of a kitchen

If the kitchen is the heart of a home, then the main counter is the heart of a kitchen. At least that is the case in my house.

In our tiny kitchen, the counter serves as the main hub of activity.

At the back of the photo, I was working on my goals, including a large sketch book, coloured pens and glue. To the left of that is a cotton knitted basket that I made, holding various iPods being charged. A box of tissues, a CD recording of Jimmy Buffets, “A Salty Piece of Land”, and a cluster of bananas in the next row. A cracker box on top of my iPad, a container of tomatoes and my cookbook run into the snack in various dishes. My husbands computer and papers and my sons blue pencil box pretty much covers it all.

This is a typical situation for our family. Probably pretty chaotic looking for some people and maybe a little tidy for others, (notice nothing has spilled on the electronics!)

What I want to do one day is set up a video camera with time elapse recording. Even a week would be great to show just how much we rely on this one piece of furniture to live our life.

Daggett Farmhouse: Hearth cooking at Greenfield Village open air Museum

I suppose, back in the day, the fireplace was the centre of the kitchen. Women would cook all day over it and sit by the light of it to sew and do chores in the evening. It was where the warmth radiated from and where the vital, life-sustaining food stuffs were prepared.

I often think that I could have done well in that time of history and then I see these kind of photo’s showing what looks to be back-breaking work. I remember clearly what that was like when I cared for my babies. For one thing or another, it seemed like I was stooped over for about 4 years.

For the most part, I remain extremely happy to be living in this time of history. Even if the only reason were for our modern kitchens, which let us produce food for our family in a fraction of the time that it used to only a couple hundred years ago.

When life gives you a great cookbook

Sometimes you have a great new cookbook that is calling out to you – “try me, try me“, but a variety of problems conspire against you. You don’t have enough time, ingredients are too hard to find, recipes are too complicated, etc, etc. But today, the food gods were shining on me, even if the sun clearly was not.

The forecast promised rain, and the lovely West Coast did not disappoint, but we had some amazing fog first. This kind of day is the best kind for cooking. So I busted out my new book, “Seasons” by Donna Hay. I have gone past this book in the store too many times to count. I finally made the investment last week and had to walk

by the book each day at my house without having the time to dive in. Finally today, the stars aligned.

The “Coconut bread” with “Grapefruit jam” was up first. Really good bread, actually more like a cake in a loaf pan, but really nice. The jam recipe needs some work, my grapefruits must have much thicker skins that the Aussie varieties.

I taught my daughter the secrets of yeast with “Garlic pizza”. This is amazing and everyone liked it. I think you have to go the extra mile and make real crust like we did today. The toppings for this one are:

  • 4 cloves crushed garlic
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • shaved parmesan
  • 40 sage leaves
  • sea salt

All afternoon I was soaking porcini mushrooms in olive oil for the “Cauliflower soup”. This was not as good as my standby recipe:

  • 1 head cauliflower broken into florets
  • 1 onion cut into big chunks
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • 3 potatoes, peeled and diced into small chunks
  • 900 ml stock

Roast in 400 degrees F, cauliflower and onion tossed with olive oil and S&P until browned. Slide into a pot with potatoes and stock. Simmer until tender and puree.

All in all a great day. Finished reading a book in the morning, listening to an audio book while cooking and the back of a wool sweater tank is completed. In reading the instructions for the front, realized that I forgot some decreases on the back. So will have to quickly do the front with the same mistake!