SO, WHAT ARE YOU COOKING?
Timing is everything. And, in my case, timing became a blessing! As I was preparing to test the traditional French recipes for my upcoming culinary travel memoir, Book Two of Searching for Family and Traditions at the French Table, a literal “shut-down,” due to the pandemic, arrived on my doorstep. The ability to go freely about shopping for ingredients at my favorite markets came to a halt, and I was faced with the prospect of an unmet deadline with my publisher. How was I going to get these nineteen recipes tested? No, my book is a memoir and not a cookbook, but I certainly wanted to provide accurate culinary directions to the recipes I provided.
Attempting not to panic, I wrote an SOS in my monthly newsletter, enlisting help from some of my followers, who were also sequestered at home. “Would you like to join me in my virtual test kitchen?” I wrote, not knowing if anyone would respond. But respond, they did. Within less than a week, I heard from over forty-five people, and sent out more than eighty copies of those nineteen traditional French recipes to be tested.
Over the course of the next three months, there was a flurry of activity with masked Instacart and Uber drivers rushing heavily-sought-after ingredients back and forth from store to home. Bartering in grocery lines and trading up and down hallways was known to have taken place. I received notes, edits, and photos of completed recipes from as far away as England, France, and across the width and breadth of the U.S. All, like me, were under quarantine. And all, like me, struggled to find these simple, yet unique ingredients. And all, like me, realized that substitutions can be part of that creative force when it comes to cooking.
As it turns out, traditional French recipes, better known as cuisine pauvre, or peasant dishes, are foods originally prepared from the simplest of ingredients—as long as they are available and seasonal. That is the norm. As this simple correlation dawned on me, I realized this experience was a blessing—it brought a better understanding and resonance to the very themes I hold dear in my culinary travel series: family favorites, traditional in nature.
Within a few short months, all the recipes were tested and retested. Mission accomplished. I was able to compile the edits needed and accumulate photos of many finished dishes of which I featured in my newsletter. And most of all, I was able to add all of my virtual testers names to the Acknowledgement page in the back of my new book. Called Searching for Family and Traditions at the French Table, Book Two, it is due to be published August 18, 2020. Check it out, and bon appetit!
Thanks for stopping by to share more food for thought, Carole!
|Photo by Chris Loomis|