Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Voulez-vous manger une salade, ce soir?

It's actually quite hard to sit quietly and listen politely to someone tell you stories about their life in Paris and their cooking school and vineyard in Provence. It's harder still when you realise that you actually paid to put yourself through such torture. And yet this is the very position in which I found myself tonight at the French Institute Alliance Francaise (FIAF) and the first in its "Art De Vivre: Garden for Gourmets" lecture series.

Tonight's event was ably hosted by the lovely Ina Garten (the very Barefoot Contessa that I basically stalked in the Hamptons a couple of years ago). I was sitting in the very back row by the Nespresso machines - hooray for corporate sponsorship! - so I couldn't really see Ina, but it wasn't too bad cause I could still hear everything. And then Ina introduced her good friend and fellow gourmande Patricia Wells, who was on hand to launch her new cookbook, Salad As A Meal.

Both Garten and Wells are good friends, and their banter clearly reflected that. But it's really hard to feel any sort of camaraderie when one guest speaker has fabulous houses in East Hampton and the other has a cooking school in Paris and a house and vineyard in Provence (for whose Cote du Rhone Robert Parker recently awarded 90 points). Ugh - hearing stuff like that really makes you feel like you haven't achieved anything in your life at all.

Then of course the ladies talked about what inspired them in terms of cooking, and how important it is to to have a really good time when you're in the kitchen. Just when I thought that Garten and Wells were miles from my reality, they talk about recipes that are "exotic yet do-able for everyone". Even I had to laugh when Patricia talked about buying Julia Child's old stove from her in Provence, quipping that "owning Julia's stove would be like owning Freud's couch".

Both ladies agreed that the kitchen essentials one must own include a good knife; a food processor; a good sheet pan; pasta pot; and a mandolin. Though when using the latter, Wells recommends you need to chant "I am slicing, I am slicing" so you can be sure to concentrate fully and not cut your fingers off. Good tip!

At the end of the chit-chat the moderator opened up to Q&A and other people asked dumb questions about a bunch of stupid stuff. Then Wells demonstrated two recipes from her book (which I couldn't see and none of us got to taste) and then she did a book signing. I didn't hang around for that part, nor did I even buy the book.

Primarily I went to tonight's lecture out of loyalty to Ina Garten as well as a curious interest in Patricia Wells after K's ex-room mate in Paris reviewed the book on her website. I don't doubt the book is excellent and I do love all manner of cookbook (let's face it), but I wasn't quite prepared to shell out $38 just yet. Maybe another time? I'm a sucker for these sorts of lectures anyway - I'm even signed up to go to one in June featuring the lovely Eli Zabar, whose deli on West 79th I absolutely love. Can't wait.

1 comment:

Batreg said...

I just had dinner at Madame Wu's and now I wish I had french food. Creme Brule to be precise.