On Rue Tatin

March13

I just recently finished a wonderful non-fiction book entitled On Rue Tatin by Susan Herrmann Loomis about a young family who takes on the dream of renovating a historic home on an ancient little street in Louviers, France.

I loved her writing style and her honest recounting of their wonderful and sometimes trying adventure.  Most of all, I appreciated her relationship with food.  This is an excerpt from earlier in her journey:

That year and all through college I cooked whenever I had free time.  When I wasn’t cooking I was reading about it, planning my next meal, designing my next dinner party.  After earning a degree in communications and working at newspapers and in public relations, it dawned on me I could incorporate food into my professional life, which is what lead me to La Varenne.  I wanted to be a food writer, but first I had to learn how to cook.

So here I was in 1980 in a two-hundred-year-old building in Paris, near the Place de Invalides, basking in the world`s best butter; the fattest, most pungent pink garlic; spinach whose leaves were so firm and meaty that they stood up on the table instead of lying flat; brown eggs whose yellow yolks tasted as rich as they looked.

I thought that I knew good apples, fragrant strawberries, juicy pears.  But never had I tasted the likes of the fraises des bois I had on a tart at la Varenne, and the pears I sniffed made me want to fold them into cakes, slather them with chocolate, poach them in fragrant herbs and spices.

The food was so whole.  Chickens came with the head, feet and pinfeather, and so did the pigeons and quail; the fish looked at me with big, dreamy eyes as I took them from the cooler; the lettuce still had soil clinging to it.

Once my onerous receptionist stint was finished I moved to washing dishes at food demonstrations, a job I much preferred.  At least I was in contact with food.  I lived in a blessed cloud of ecstasy about food, the flavours, the techniques I was learning.  I jumped at the chance to run errands at the market, the cheese shop, the bakery.  When I wasn’t at La Varenne I took jobs cooking for embassy families, catering bar mitzvahs, making canapes for special occasions.  Anything to be with food.  Whenever I could I went to spend the day at a bakery or patisserie, often getting up at 1 am and arriving when the baker did, so I missed nothing and could still get to work on time.

Kath’s quote: “France has found a unique way of controlling its unwanted critter population. They have done this by giving unwanted animals like snails, pigeons, and frogs fancy names, thus transforming common backyard pests into expensive delicacies. These are then served to gullible tourists, who will eat anything they can’t pronounce.”-Chris Harris

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