Showing posts with label UW-Madison. Show all posts
Showing posts with label UW-Madison. Show all posts

20 May 2008

Patricia and Walter Wells: They've Always had Paris...and a Good Deal More


It might have been Bill Ragsdale who told me about Patricia Wells all those years ago.

Wilmot Ragsdale - Rags, as he was affectionately known - was a rather legendary journalism professor at UW-Madison. I never took one of his classes, but I had a drink with him once at a friend's celebration. S., my friend, had finished defending her master's thesis and a rather large group of us celebrated over wine and spaghetti at an Italian restaurant near the sprawling campus.

In the early 80s, Jane Brody, a prominent journalism-school alumna, was all the buzz, but someone - was it Rags or his friend and colleague Hartley E. Howe, who was one of my professors? - said there was another J-school grad who had just begin to write about food in Paris.

I was envious. I was studying French in those days, after a long hiatus, and I was struggling. I was also struggling financially, trying to hold body and soul together by writing news releases, crunching numbers for one historian and running errands for another.

Learning and writing about food in Paris sounded like a dream to me, but it was reality for Patricia Wells, a fellow Wisconsinite, and her handsome husband Walter, also a journalist.

Imagine how delighted I was to learn a few weeks back, that the couple had written a book together, "We've Always Have Paris...and Provence."

Patricia begins her acknowledgments quoting Bill Ragsdale. "Be bold," he used to say, and he said it to Patricia, too. I, too, have kept those words in mind and they've propelled me forward often.

Walter and Patricia alternate writing passages, and so their story is told in two voices, with two perspectives.

I like these people - and not just because they are or have been fellow journalists. They have high standards and they've worked hard. Their life has not always run smoothly, but it has been good - very good. I've learned a lot about Paris and Provence from them over this chilly Wisconsin weekend, and a good deal about myself and where I want to go in the future. As role models, Patricia and Walter Wells are good ones to have.

Read this book. Try the recipes. (Of course, there are recipes!) If you like food and you like France, it is necessary.


Note: The photo above was taken outside a Paris restaurant on Rue de Monttessuy a year ago. It bears no relationship to Patricia or Walter Wells, except that it was taken near a restaurant recommended by Patricia. The restaurant is Au Bon Accueil. On our first night in the quartier a year ago, a small jazz band seranaded someone at the restaurant. We were charmed.

28 January 2007

Patricia Wells' Fricasee of Chicken with White Wine, Capers and Olives

When I was a student at UW-Madison in the 1980s, everyone was talking about alumna Jane Brody, the New York Times writer who was making a name for herself writing cookbooks about healthy food.

I very much wanted to write about food, but was not sure how to start. I wrote my first “how-to” feature about baking bread, which at that time was one of the few things I knew how to do.

Somewhere along the line, I heard someone say, “Yes, Jane’s doing very well but there’s another grad over in Paris who is doing some interesting things with French cooking.”

That was Patricia Wells.

It took me a while to put two and two together — to connect the name Patricia Wells with the J-school alumna I'd heard about — but I have followed her career and cheered her many successes.

And I’ve made my share of Patricia’s recipes. I have never known one to fail.

Sunday we had Patricia’s Fricassee of Chicken with White Wine, Capers and Olives. It's from The Provence Cookbook, published in 2004. I did not have a whole chicken and did not feel like leaving the house to get one, so I used two chicken breasts and halved the recipe, which calls for tomatoes, onions, green olives and capers.

Here is the recipe (scroll down).

It's easy: Season the chicken and brown, then remove from the pan and soften the onions. You then add everything else and simmer over low heat for an hour. I served this with penne pasta flavored with butter, truffle breakings and a dash of grated Gruyere.

"Ah, the tastes!" my husband exclaimed after the first bite. "And the chicken is so tender."

I've said it before, you cannot go wrong following a Patricia Wells recipe.