Showing posts with label cooking from the heart. Show all posts
Showing posts with label cooking from the heart. Show all posts

12 February 2014

Cooking from the Heart: Chef James Haller

This morning I opened my e-mail to find that Chef James Haller of Portsmouth, NH, would be cooking a very special meal on March 3 at The Wellington Room in Portsmouth. The menu consists of: 

21 March 2007

A Mystery, a Memento and a Spring Salad

Among my father’s mementoes of World War II is a yellowed and tattered calling card.

My mother always believed it held the names of the people with whom my father might have stayed while in Paris in August 1944; it certainly must have been a couple he befriended, as he was friendly and charming as a young man.

The last time my husband and I went to Paris, my mother could not put her hands on the card and did not recall the address. But my niece has a WWII project and together they were rifling through the family archives.

The card reads “Mme. and Mr. Pierre Harel.” It gives their address as 23, Avenue Foch in Vincennes-Seine.

Thanks to Google maps, I found such an address near (but not in) Vincennes, one in Paris and about five other Avenue Fochs in Ile de France.

I will never know, unless I chance upon a 1944 phone book, which one it was.

I do know that American writer Henry Adams stayed at 23 Avenue Foch in Paris. (Thanks to Google, I know that.)

But I don’t know who the Harels were or what the card means. (The card is pictured above set against one of my father’s toques, in a box for a quarter century now, still neatly starched but growing fragile.)

I was pondering this mystery as I prepared a simple salad today. It was cool and damp outside and I could hear the lilting songs of finches and other birds as I worked. Spring!

It’s mid-week and I’m trying not to overspend on groceries. So tossing something together from odds and ends was my intention. I made a Caesar Salad from leftover red leaf Romaine and butter lettuce and then topped it with roasted asparagus.

Very simple, very springy. I ate it with a hunk of jack cheese rolled in chives and dill.

My father once told me you could make a meal of anything if you were inventive. He could do that, and his hands were deft as he invented something for us.

"You will never be hungry if you learn this," he told me.

Once when his combat engineer unit was hungry, they scrounged for dried vegetables in a barn, somewhere in France perhaps or in Germany. My father liked to retell those stories and relished the challenge of making a meal from very little.

06 February 2007

Not Really French, Maybe Not Even Food, But it Worked for Me

A few weeks back, I came down with a bad case of stomach flu.

It crept up, as these things do, in the middle of the night. In my experience, the bug is usually gone by mid afternoon the following day, but this time, I was not so lucky. I called in sick and languished on the sofa all day, devoid of enthusiasm for anything. Around 3 p.m., I dragged myself into the kitchen to make tea, using my Yixing tea set, shown above.

I bought the set a few years ago in April. The sleek jade green teapot and cups were my gift to myself after an especially taxing and stressful winter. I use it for green tea only, this time making green tea with mint. It helped. I think the beauty of the tea set was soothing, too.

But what really made me feel better was supper. When my stomach is upset, I crave French toast, which some say is the American version of the French "pain Perdu," or lost bread. French toast and milk.

So my husband, who is nice about these things, made me French toast. He was tired, after a long day of meetings, and made it from what we had on hand. Which happened to be somehting no self-respecting foodie would admit to eating: Mrs. Karl's Bread.

For the unfamiliar, Mrs. Karl's in its blue-and-white check wrapper, is like Wonder Bread. You get the picture.

My husband and I differ on the issue of bread. I grew up in a household where it was baked regularly, by my father, or his mother. I love baking bread. I love kneading bread. I love the aroma and the taste of freshly baked bread.

I loath most of the stuff for sale at grocery stores.

But on this particular night, the French toast my husband made was the sweetest and most delicious supper I could have eaten. It settled my stomach. It made me feel cared for and loved.

The toast melted in my mouth. The butter was soft and, well, buttery. The syrup was sweet (Mrs. Butterworth, meet Mrs. Karl). I felt better after the first bite. Plus, it tasted like childhood.

Sometimes, the love with which a meal is prepared and served makes the most ordinary food taste good. That is one of the secrets of cooking from the heart, my reoccurring theme this month. (It also helped that I was feeling so lousy.)

When we were kids, mother would make beanburgers at the end of the week. We loved 'em, but as my brother once pointed out, they were probably served because they were cheap and it was the day before payday. Same principle.

(OK, food blog police: Come and get me. Just remember, Tanna, who recently made a delicious-looking onion-cheese bread with Bisquick, and I want kitchen privileges.)

Now, we've all had these meals. Maybe it was a quick bite from a street vendor after a bracing walk in winter. Maybe it was the time you and your best friend (or lover) bought sandwiches and ate them at a park in the middle of town or at the lighthouse. Maybe it was a meal mom cobbled together during hard times. Share?