11 June 2006

A Good Book

Last week I was supposed to have my wisdom teeth removed. Two days before the appointment, however, the oral surgery department notified me that they were closing immediately, and I would need to take my business elsewhere. Mysterious, no?

At first I was distressed about the cancellation, for I had purchased several books to read while guiltlessly lying around the house and asking my husband to please make me a smoothie! I was much looking forward to the reading and the lazing and the not feeling guilty, and then my joyous anticipation was stolen away with one phone call.

But then…I realized that I could still lie around the house, not completely guilt-free, but completely pain-free (hooray), and still able to eat solid foods instead of sloopy foods. One of the books that I lazed around the house reading is The Apprentice: My Life in the Kitchen.

What a cheery man Jacques Pépin is! Always ready to celebrate the ordinary day with friends, family and good food. For all of his experience working in elegant four-star restaurants, he still delights in an informal approach to cooking and eating. Example: sometimes he mixes leftover wines from different bottles and drinks them together in one glass! Isn’t that mind-boggling? There is no doubt that he can recognize a great wine and appreciate it, but at the same time, he is content tasting whatever there is wherever he happens to be. That makes me feel better about how I will act the next time a guest brings Yellowtail wine to my house to drink with dinner (really, people should know better by now); if Jacques Pépin can enjoy a homemade concoction of whatever wine is around at the end of the night (he even admitted to mixing red and white!), then I can make myself enjoy a glass of Yellowtail and not complain about it after the guest leaves.

Here are some excerpts from his memoirs that made me smile (a smile that includes my still-intact wisdom teeth):
In contrast to my small, energetic mother, my father was big, barrel-chested, and jovial – a happy guy, a man’s man, more like one overgrown kid under our roof than an authority figure. He’d throw us into the air and catch us, bounce us on our beds, and wrestle with us, and he was always up for a game of soccer or rugby, a sport at which he excelled. He loved to drink wine in the company of his many friends. It always put him in a cheery mood, and when he had a few too may glasses of Côtes du Rhône, he would sometimes remove his shirt and dance on a table, La Bresse’s answer to Zorba the Greek. When fooling around like this, he would show off by hurling walnuts against the outside windows of the café with the accuracy of a major league pitcher. The nuts shattered each time but never broke the glass. It was his private trick, and he got a kick out of seeing our puzzled faces. No one ever found out how it did it. My mother, who tried it once, broke the window, and Roland and I never dared attempt it .

To match our engagement party, our wedding feast was going to have to be truly special. As soon as Gloria and I told Craig that we planned to get married, he insisted that the wedding be held at his home in East Hampton. Gloria spent the night before the wedding in a motel nearby. I slept at Craig’s. Or, rather, tried to sleep. Sensing that it wasn’t quite right for me to be a cook at my own wedding, I went to bed early so I would be fresh and thoroughly rested on the big day. Who was I kidding? Lying in bed, I heard the amiable buzz of my friends cooking in the kitchen. I felt left out. So I came down and joined Jean Vergnes, Jean-Pierre Lejeune, Roger Fessaguet, Michel, Pierre, Jean-Claude, and Craig. I was still in the kitchen and hour before the ceremony.

...I have always tried to make my kitchen the site for special family occasions, the heart of our lifestyle, and the setting for celebrations. I had always hoped for a dwelling built around a kitchen open to all the other living spaces. The Madison house allowed me to realize that dream.
I felt no need to kowtow to convention or to conform to the design of a standard kitchen. Mine had to be functional, easy, and friendly. The first rule for me is to feel good in my kitchen. The worktable should be the proper height; pots, pans and lids accessible; outside light plentiful. There should be wood-textured cabinetry with smooth, non-porous counters, a stove with alot of BTU's, a large refrigerator, an ice machine, and plenty of sharp knives and rubber spatulas.
Our kitchen is wide open; I do not mind when the smells of cooking drift through a house.

1 comment:

elle said...

so sorry about your teeth but I will be buying this book as it sounds full of cozy memories.