The girls were playing school and Addie asked for some help finding a book that she, the teacher, could use. “I need a book with no pictures, only words,” she said to me, as she handed me La France Gastronomique (Arcade Publishing, 1991), the book she had removed form the shelf. “This one has too many pictures.”
I pulled down another book, and as I handed it to her, the French cookbook fell open revealing a beautiful shot of Gougeres. Sitting aside the delicious-looking pile of cheese puffs was a bottle of Chablis–all awaiting me in Burgundy. My heart began to long for France. I paged through the book and found one taste-tempting recipe after another.
Then I smelled the meatloaf in oven and wondered why, with such great recipes on hand, I was once again making meatloaf, mashed potatoes and steamed vegetables for the family. Now, there is nothing wrong with a little comfort food now and then, especially when everyone in the family will partake in that meal, but I had a treasure trove of cookbooks just awaiting to be rediscovered.
As I paged through Gastronomique, I remembered the countless times I visited the country, stopping to reminisce a bit longer on one particular trip. It was 1996 and I was in France for cooking school. The trip would take me from Paris, down to Arles where I, along with 6 friends, would spend the week in a small cooking school. Along the way we visited Aix, Avignon, and Lyon gobbling up fancy dinners, perusing daily markets, and picnicking on the hills for our Fourth of July celebration.
At the school, we honed our basic skills and learned some new ones that I have never used since (i.e. skinning a rabbit). Our mornings were filled with the market and instructions, and our late afternoons were filled with pastries and Pastis 51. In the evening we enjoyed the meal we prepared ourselves, coupled with good wine and lots of memorable conversations.
This cookbook transported me to France, and made me want to capture some of that beautiful tradition here in my home. I said, “Yes” to the photo of the baker in Ancy-le-France showcasing his honey spiced bread (yes to the bread, not the baker). I then grabbed a kale leaf (which was sitting on the counter) and placed it as a bookmark for the Chocolate Pear Tart. I found several recipes I wanted to whip up immediately, but this was only one of my hundreds of cookbooks.
Dreams of India, Italy and Greece awaited, while Charlie Trotter, Douglas Rodriguez and Martin Yan all beckoned me to expand my culinary horizons.
Tonight, I have to thank my dear little Addison for asking me to find her a book. In the process, she has reawakened my desire to create something new in the kitchen — to travel the world in my kitchen. After all, with a family of six, traveling the world in our kitchen is much more affordable than hopping on a plane. Sure, it may not be the real thing, but it definitely will be a vacation from my everyday meatloaf and mashed potatoes.
Go ahead, I beg . . Cookbooks, take me away!