Place and Food, Genius Loci and Terroir

Genius Loci* 1. The prevailing character or atmosphere of a place. 1.1 The presiding god or spirit of a place. ~ Oxford English Dictionary Years ago, psychologist Jon Kabat-Zinn published a book titled Wherever You Go, There You Are (1994). He certainly had a point, and a very, very apt one. You can't shed your…

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Parsleyed Ham and Kitchen Breezes: The Letters of M. F. K. Fisher and Julia Child

Today is the 20th anniversary of M.F.K. Fisher's death, so in tribute and at the request of her friend Leo Racicot, I am reposting this, something I wrote last year after attending Barbara Wheaton's "Reading Historic Cookbooks" seminar at Harvard. Sometimes words, both spoken and written, take on terrible power. Use the wrong word and,…

The Gift of French Cuisine

The French peasant cuisine is at the basis of the culinary art. By this I mean it is composed of honest elements that la grande cuisine only embellishes. -Alexandre Dumaine I don’t remember exactly when it happened. One day I resisted even opening my then-pristine copy of Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking…

Les Rêves de Julia (Julia’s Dreams): Meditations and Memories

Food and cooking serve as metaphors for life and love. Each plays a huge role in the way I see and photograph the world. I seek to nourish both eye and soul with my photography, in much the same way I feed bodies through my cooking. The work of food photographer Penny de los Santos…

Remembering Julia Child, “Our Lady of the Ladle”*: A Reprint and More

(Julia Child died on August 13, 2004. Her birthday was August 15; she would have been 92 years old. The following article originally appeared in The Roanoke Times on Sunday, Aug. 22, 2004, page 3 of the Horizon section. I wrote this with tears in my eyes, I'd only met her once. And yet, what…

In My Grandfather’s Garden, or, a Long Apothegm on Apricots

I don’t really remember my grandfather very well, for he died just a month before I turned 14. Yet he left a legacy that lies hidden deep in my brain, a usually dormant place where I apparently shelve all my food memories. But in the right circumstances, and with the right stimulus, that place –…

Dear Julia, Happy Birthday! #100, or, Why I Loved You

Dear Julia, Happy 100th birthday! Today lots of famous food writers will write or post reams of flattering words about you. I know, I’ve already seen them, the New York Times leading the charge with three features about you, one by your friend Jacques Pépin. Like Jacques, many others will point out, once again, that…

Julia Child’s “The French Chef, ” by Dana Polan

“a history of early American television telescoped through the persona and history of Julia Child. . . . fascinating . . .” When you walk the streets of Cambridge, Massachusetts, you can’t miss the lingering traces of heroes and history. From the names of the men who brought you the Boston Tea Party to the…

Cooking Classic French Food, the Easy Way

If French cuisine, or at least the cooking of it, intimidates you, you're not alone. A perception of too many fussy techniques and hard-to-obtain ingredients stops people who might otherwise wield a wooden spoon with Julia Child's enthusiasm. The great popularity of Italian food testifies to people's desire to take simple ingredients and transform them…

Give the Gift of Cooking French Food at Home: Some Cookbooks That Make a Seemingly Impossible Task Possible

I have to tell you that the cookbook lists that come out every year around Christmas time drive me crazy. Like you’re really going to savor, say, 101 Recipes Using ___________? (Fill in the blank.) Or you’re going to run out and buy another Italian cookbook when you already own somewhere in the neighborhood of…

Acquiring Culinary Fluency

Can a cook become truly fluent in a cuisine other than the one into which she is born? And, if so, what must she do to acquire that fluency? These questions crop up constantly, especially when it comes to Japanese food. In spite of cookbooks by Elizabeth Andoh, the popularity of Bento boxes, and the…

Will It Be French?

For most Americans (and Britons), French food means memories of the insipid Steak au Poivre or bland French Onion Soup served in a pretentious “fancy” restaurant. That’s enough to condemn French cuisine to staying put between the covers of Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking (1961 and 1970). The perplexing and continuous popularity…

Madeleine & Julia

Appearances can be deceiving.* And in the food (foodie?) world, what smells of success --- however minor --- to one person may well reek like garbage to another. Take the case of Julia Child and Madeleine Kamman, for example. All the recent reminiscing about Julia Child (one of the Holy Trinity of female food writers…

Julie & Julia —

A kitchen, a bottle of wine, and a duck recipe. Easy, right? With the movie, "Julie & Julia," now out,  media commentators and critics find new fodder for chewing. One of the better perusals comes from The Boston Globe, written by Devra First and Wesley Morris. A video helps brings home the impact of cooking…

The Triumvirate of American Cooking

TRIUMVIRATE: Latin triumvirātus, from triumvirī, board of three [men] Americans owe a lot to the following three people --- without them our grocery stores and larders and pantries would still be filled with cans of baked beans and boxes of Jell-O.* James Beard Julia Child Craig Claiborne *David Kamp's The United States of Arugula (2006) …

*Critics’ Corner: Yum-O Gal, You’re No Fannie Farmer, or Julia Child, for That Matter

"Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery," C. C. Colton said in 1828 in The Lacon: or, Many Things in a Few Words; Addressed to Those Who Think. But what about parody, rife with derision? On September 3, Elizabeth Hilts, author of Getting in Touch with Your Inner Bitch, releases her big bad bash of Ray: Every Freaking!…