Browsing: Good Movies and Reads

“My Life in France” by Julia Child


“My Life in France” was the story that Nora Ephron adapted for the screenplay of “Julie & Julia”.  I loved the movie which was one of my initial inspirations to my becoming a food blogger.  But more than the role of Julie the blogger, I thought that Meryl Streep was uncanny in her depiction of Julia.  I remember watching Julia Child’s cooking shows in the 60s and knowing that I wanted to be a TV cook.  To this end I was going to obtain my degree in Home Economics but this plan derailed when in high school, I landed an on camera job with the CBC.  Everyone of my teachers allowed me to be tutored in the classes that I would miss when filming.  Everyone, except my chemistry teacher who said “You aren’t in my classroom, you don’t pass the course”.   I had already obtained a portion of my goal (the TV part) so I decided to switch gears and obtain my degree in Theatre instead.  It wasn’t until years later that I returned to my original love to focus my career.


This summer whilst at the summer home of a friend, I found a copy of “My Life in France” on her bookshelf.


I found a beautiful place to read and then I couldn’t put it down.  Here is an excerpt from the first chapter of Part 2 entitled “French Recipes for American Cooks” (page 280):

We knew we’d have to emphasize the simpler cuisine bourgeoise dishes over the grande cuisine.   After all, our readers wouldn’t have mortars and pestles for pounding lobster shells, or copper bowls for whipping egg whites, and they weren’t used to taking the time and care over sauces that the French were accustomed to.  Perhaps that would come with time.  For now, I could see clearly the challenge was to bridge the cultural divide between France and America.  The best way to do that would be to emphasize the basic rules of cooking, and impart the things I’d learned from Bugnard and the other teacher-chefs-not the least of which was the importance of including fun and love in the preparation of a meal!

Kath’s quote: “Find something you’re passionate about and keep tremendously interested in it.”  ― Julia Child

heart1Love-that is all.




Chocolatier Constance Popp


Constance and I met a number of years ago, brought together for Canola Camp.  I had been to her first location in old St. James on Portage Ave. but had never had the opportunity to visit her at her new home on Provencher Ave.


This amazing creation was made to celebrate the upcoming Dali exhibit at the Winnipeg Art Gallery.  Constance is always promoting something to do with a not-for-profit organization or cultural event in our fair city.


I spotted this in the front window of her Provencher Ave. shop.


Look at the detailing and artistry of the work?  Even the lace is edible, having been made from spun sugar.


Wouldn’t it be fun and delicious to eat your way through this chess game?


Everywhere you look in the pristine little shop, there is something delectable to purchase as a treat or a great gift.


On the day that I visited, they were promoting their extended selection of baked goods and I was very impressed with the classic pastry offerings.


But my very favourite treat, when I visit Constance’s shop is her hot chocolate. Remember the scene in the movie “Chocolat” when the character portrayed by Juliette Binoche prepares a chocolate elixir for one of her patrons?  I cannot imagine that the concoction could possibly taste better than this-heavenly.


There are a couple of bistro tables in the shop to enjoy said hot chocolate or perhaps a croissant.  I look forward to taking our Frenchman there for a visit very soon.

Kath’s quote: “If you are not feeling well, if you have not slept, chocolate will revive you. But you have no chocolate! I think of that again and again! My dear, how will you ever manage?”-Marquise de Sévigné


Love-that is all.



The Hundred-Foot Journey by Richard C. Morais


This book published in 2008 has recently been made into a movie with Helen Mirren.  Because I have not had the opportunity to see it, I do not know what parts of the book are detailed in the movie and so you may want to consider this a spoiler alert.

My name came to the top of the wait list at the library for this book just in the nick of time.  I was preparing for my week at our beach house and much as I like uploading (or is it down? I can never keep it straight) books on my tablet, I am hesitant about lugging my Toshiba to the beach which is my favourite place to read).  I have this amazing back pack beach chair that I found on line a number of years ago.  It includes a pillow and foot stool and I can easily have a comfortable nap in it, let alone devour a long anticipated story.

The story as you might have seen in the movie trailers is about an Indian restaurant opening across the street from a classic French one and the stand off that ensues.  But more than this, the novel is a dissection of what makes a chef tick and this I think is what makes the book a foodie must read.

Here is an excerpt (page 151), photos are from our time dining in France:

“Chef, is there any particular way that you want me to cook the hare?”

“Yes. I want you to astonish me.” she said, and without further instruction, she and Monsieur LeBlanc were out the door.


Well, you can imagine, no sooner had they left than the three of us went to work, lips pursed, brows beaded with sweet, keenly aware that each had been given an exam to determine how flexible we were in the kitchen.  Jean-Pierre was soon dusted with flour, whipping up mille-feuille with preserved citrus cream made from Menton lemons, while Margaret, stern-faced with concentration, made a crayfish-and-sherry saffron sauce to accompany meaty chunks of pike grilled perfectly on metal skewers.

If I am honest, most of the day is lost to me in a blur of relentless hard work conducted at a furious pace.  I do remember that after I butchered the hares, I marinated the pieces in white wine, bay leaf, crushed garlic, malted vinegar, sweet German mustard, and a few crushed and dried juniper berries, for that slightly pungent and piney aftertaste.  Suitably softened, the hare then spent several hours cooking slowly in a cast-iron pot.  It was nothing grand.  It was simply my take on an old-fashioned recipe, fleetingly glanced at during a study session up in Madame Mallory’s attic library, but it just seemed right for a chilly day and windy autumn night.


The side dishes I prepared were a mint-infused couscous, rather than the traditional butter noodles, and a cucumber-and-sour cream salad dashed with a handful of lingonberries.  I thought together they would make soothing and light counterpoints to the heavy mustard tang of the stewed hare.  Of course, now, looking back I realize the cucumber and cream was, conscious or not, inspired by raita, the yoghurt-and-cucumber condiment of my homeland.

Madame Mallory and Monsieur Leblanc returned in the early evening, as promised, and we watched anxiously as the chef took off her overcoat an donned her whites, and made the rounds, inspecting what each of us had prepared. I recall that she actually had fairly kind words to say about all of our efforts, for her, albeit she never missed an opportunity to point out how each of us could have improved our dishes, with this adjustment or another.

Jean-Pierre’s red fruit tarts, for example, had a very respectable crust, firm and the lip-puckering crème de cassis filling also had the right balance of fruity sweetness and tart acidity.  But when everything came together it lacked somewhat in originality, she sniffed.   A little grated nutmeg on the crème fraiche would have elevated the dessert into something special, as would have a few wild strawberries from the woods, sprinkled around the rim of the plate.

Margaret, meanwhile, had besides the grilled pike, made rouget stuffet with asparagus, and simmered in a grapefruit boullion, before wrapping the fish in a filo jacket that was lightly baked in the oven.  “very unusual, I grant you Margaret.  But the pastry ruins it for me.  It is a nervous tick with you, always wrapping everything in pastry dough.  You must be more confident and leave your comfort zone. Such strong flavours-rouget and asparagus and grapefruit-they do not need a pie crust slapped on top.”

By now she had wandered over to my station, where I stood nervously, a greasy tea towel hanging from my shoulder,  Madame Mallory inspected the gigot-the spring lamb, its skin perferoated with garlic slivers, dusted in cumin and herbes de Provence, all ready to enter the oven-but didn’t comment.  The pork joint was already roasting in the oven, but as still too raw for tasting, and pigeon avec petits pois simply received a head nod.


Madame Mallory was, however, drawn to the cast-iron pot bubbling on the stove, pulsing and filling the air with a vinegary steam.  She lifted the heavy lid and peered inside at the game stew.  She sniffed, took a fork to a joint of hare, and the meat broke off easily.  Chef Mallory then snapped her fingers, and Marcel rushed over with a little plate and spoon.  She tried the hare with some of the mustard gravy spooned over the minty couscous and the accompanying sour-cream-cucumber salad.

“A bit heavy-handed -handed with the juniper berries, I would say.  You only need three or four to feel their presence.  Otherwise, the taste, it’s too German.  But really, other than that, very well done, particularly the untraditional side dishes.  Simple but effective.  I must say, Hassan, you have the right feel for game.”

The explosion was immediate.

Kath’s quote: “The hare has always been game, not an adjunct of feudal economy, and highly regarded as a richly flavoured food. That’s really the difference – the hare rich and gamey in flavour, the rabbit (good wild rabbit) fresh and succulent. The hare makes one think of port, burgundy, redcurrant jelly, spices and cream; the rabbit needs
onions, mustard, white wine, dry cider and thyme.” –
Jane Grigson


Love-that is all.

Head over heel -Seduced by Southern Italy by Chris Harrison


Perhaps like you, I read non-fiction about residing in Europe and traveling there, to live vicariously through the lives of the authors and to anticipate sojourns that I may (or may not) ever get the chance to take.  Rarely do I come across a story about a little known destination that I have visited and loved tremendously, but this is one.  Here is an excerpt in writer Chris  Harrison’s words, illustrated by my photographs of an area in Sicily.


Guidaloca was shaped like a slice of melon and its water looked just as refreshing.  After dumping towels on the beach, Daniela and Francesco ran for the blue water


while I scaled the headland on my way to a World War II watchtower.  Built from the stone of the headland, it was perfectly camouflaged, the attraction, no doubt, for the teenage lovers I surprised inside.  Despite their vantage point they had failed to see me coming. It’s little wonder the allied invasion of Sicily was a cakewalk.  …

Kindle Page 80 of 320


Daniela and I swam in the caves while Francesco trapped crabs, ripped them apart and ate them raw.  Both in Sicily and in Puglia I enjoyed paddling in the placid sea, but have to admit I found unruffled water rather dull after a time.  Having grown up surfing the Bondy breakers, I associate going to the beach with wipe-outs rather than relaxation.  In Australia I took a surfboard.  In Italy I took a book.

Kindle Page 82 of 320

As in Andrano, the second half of the day began around five, when Daniela assumed the role of tour guide and whisked me off to places of interest near Alcamo.


First up was the ancient city of Erice.  Perched on a mountaintop overlooking the sea, according to legend it was founded over 3000 years ago by the son of Venus and Neptune.


I should have photographed the town’s eighth-century walls,


the twelfth-century castle


the twelfth-century castle and the cobblestone lanes so narrow they must be walked single-file.  But I didn’t.  I had intended to.  I had even bought a guidebook.


But next to the bookstore I found a pasticceria which sold fruit made from marzipan, a sugary Sicilian specialty.  So I sat on a bench scoffing miniature bananas, an orange, a mandarin and a peach, while watching the sun set on the seaport of Trapini over 700 meters below.


Next stop was the ancient treasures of Segesta.  Erected in 420 BC, the 36-column Doric temple was billed in my guidebook as “the best preserved Greek architecture site to be found anywhere”. Quite a claim, but one archeologists dispute less than whether or not the Greeks intended to put a roof on the building.


Another topless attraction was Segesta’s amphitheatre, a primitive arena carved from a rock atop Mount Barbarian,


venue for summer performances of Greek tragedies other than the Olympic Games.


Other excursions took in the monument to Garibaldi at Calatafimi, which commemorates a famous victory of his Red Shirts over the Bourbons, an as much of Palermo as the heat and our resultant late starts would allow.  We would return to the hill at sundown, to be greeted on the driveway by the scents of dinner, which I must confess, enticed me more than the treats in my guidebook.

Every evening Valeria laid a table in her garden for twenty, to which neighbours would bring food for forty.  A typical feats began with Zia Tina’s antipasti, which include prosciutto with sugar melon, pizza slices, burschette, fried eggplant, zucchini and peppers in olive oil. That alone would have done me.  But Luisa’s primo piatto as net, a daring but delicious mix of baked potato and mussels.  Then Nona Lina’s horsemeat pieces in tomato sauce.  ‘Eat quickly,’ said Antonio.  ‘It was a racehorse.’  The meat was springy, yet surprisingly tasty although I couldn’t heal thinking that I may have been eating something more intelligent than me.  Valeria usually prepared the terzo piatto: kebabs of liver and other animal sundries the origin of which I preferred not to ask.  Fruit followed for those whose arms could still reach further than their stomachs: watermelon, apricots, peaches and figs.  And then came the coup de grace, an onslaught of calories called cannoli siciliani-a sweet comprised of flour, sugar, chocolate and white wine, fried into a wafer in the shaped of a hollow bow tie filled with ricotta cheese and chocolate.  Stuffed, both dinner and desert.

Reading Chris Harrison’s account of this and his time in Puglia brought the agony and ecstasy of Italian ways to life, love it or leave it.  I would like to get a chance to love it please.

Kath’s quote: “They eat the dainty food of famous chefs with the same pleasure with which they devour gross peasant dishes, mostly composed of garlic and tomatoes, or fisherman’s octopus and shrimps, fried in heavily scented olive oil on a little deserted beach.” –Luigi Barzini, ‘The Italians’ (1964)


Stones collected on Guidaloca.

Love-that is all.

“The All You Dream Buffet” by Barbara O’Neal


When I saw that this book was featured recently in the book section of the Winnipeg Free Press, I could not  wait to get my hands on it-literally and figuratively.  I was looking forward to reading the story of four women united by their mutual foodie blogs.  But I literally wanted to put my hands on a “real” book; one that I could throw in my beach bag and sink into on the shore as opposed to risk taking my tablet with me.  I now upload books from Kindle, which is how I keep up with my book consuming obsession.


I always find it fascinating to read a work of fiction that closely intercepts my own life.  This is why I love reading fiction that is food and/or travel themed.  This really is where the intrigue of this novel ended for me.  I found the premise had been done before and the almost instant success of the food bloggers unrealistic (unless I just jealous that one blogger had more than ten times my audience).  Blogging and especially food blogging is very hard work but somehow these fictional bloggers were able to whip off blog posts before turning out the light at night. Case, in point: mine typically take me in the two hour range and that is not including recipe testing, photo taking and reformatting.

But, you decide for yourself.  Here’s an excerpt (the novel includes blog posts, recipes, photos and emails):


O Cherries!

I am in bliss.  Purest, deepest cherry bliss.  I am going to become a cherry in my next life, born to open my soft pink petals to the new spring sun.  Honeybees will buzz around my stigma and drink of my juices and bring me the secret nectar to impregnate me.  I’ll close my petals tightly and rest in the cradle of bright mornings and rainy afternoons until I grow big and fat and red, the very red of lips, and luscious, and then I will be plucked with gentle fingers and carried, ever so tenderly, into the hot, waiting mouth of a hungry woman.  I’ll feel her tongue wrapping around my roundness, feel myself explode into her throat and cascade into her body.

Cherries are in season.  You can cook them if you want to, make them into pies, or put them in pancakes or slice them into a salad.  But, really, why?  Just eat them.

If you’ve heard fabulous culinary photography called “food porn”, I think that this except might classify as food porn as well.  Actually I am being unfair to the author because when I read it again (I just finished the book this morning) I can see how this was intended to be foreshadowing.  But, and I guess that this is my key complaint, the narrative kind of strayed from the food blogging business and became more of a story of “coupling” with everyone finding the perfect mate in the end.  I don’t think that I am wrecking the story for you as the conclusion was pretty predictable in my mind.  Novels of this genre often climax (pun intended) with a multitude of persons paired off like a Shakespearean comedy or even a more ancient story-Noah’s Ark.

As I say though, if you are a foodie, food writer or blogger, you might find this a fun summer read.

Kath’s quote: “And I don’t care! How about that! I love French fries!”-one of Barbara O’Neal’s fictional characters.


Love-that is all.

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