a romantic cook . . .

by mulberryshoots

antique carved breadboard

antique carved breadboard

I was reading a follow-up article in the NYTimes this morning about chickens who are fed scraps from gourmet restaurants from NYC (trucked to an Amish farm in Pennsylvania) and how improved the flavor is over commercially fed birds. If it’s true for us humans that “we are what we eat,” then it should be little surprise that this holds true for animals as well, doesn’t it? In any case, I have been comparing the taste and texture of chickens available through our grocery markets ever since the original article was published last week. I try to avoid Perdue chickens in the supermarket because of the documentary a few years ago showing caged chickens in a filthy barn as one of the Perdue suppliers. Wouldn’t touch one after that. I’m tempted to order one of the D’Artagnan Green Circle chickens after these reports of incomparable flavor and juicy white meat, silky dark meat.

One of the letters to the editor wrote about living “on our frugal little farms” which made me laugh. Especially since my recent Bon Appetit magazine which arrived a couple of days ago featured a gorgeous spread about Mimi Thorrison who is half-French/half-Chinese, has beautiful dark hair and a slender figure even after bearing four children and cooks for a family of nine everyday filled with fresh foods from the farm markets, seafood, butter, chicken, cream, calvados and gougeres. In case you haven’t noticed, there is a wide breadth of life between living frugally on our little farms and living fully on a farm in Medoc, France with a husband who is a professional photographer and breeds Jack Russell and smooth haired terriers. At latest count, I think they have forty dogs running around the place. Mimi also favors providing the best wine you can afford, sets flowers all around with lit candles with beautiful bases. And, astonishingly, none of it looks or sounds pretentious at all, that’s the most amazing part of her aura.

It takes a lot to bowl me over since I read a lot and peruse magazines from the U.S., U.K. and Australia at the local bookstore, even keeping up with editorial changes which seem to be happening more often, or at least more quickly these days. There has been nothing close that takes my breath away as much as the description of the Thorisson family and photographs described on Mimi’s blog, Manger.  Apparently, this is a shared response because there is a TV cooking show being filmed on site and she is writing a cookery book that will be published by Clarkson Potter in the Fall of 2014. I can’t wait.

Not only are the goings on so evocative and tenderly personal, they are written without being at all self-promotional (her two year old daughter, Gaia’s yearning for blackberries that she could reach [not spoiled by the foxes brushing by the low branches] and not finding them where she was sure there were some; then their father, Oddur [yes, that’s his Icelandic name] speaks earnestly to their son, Hudson, asking him to look carefully for patches of blackberries elsewhere on the property.) Which he does!, to everyone’s delight, yielding ten bowls of blackberries, which Mimi then makes into blackberry ice cream and blackberry souffles dusted with fine sugar and frozen blackberries on the top. It is so beautiful and yet so charmingly described (a fine line to walk) that the reader is entranced. Charmed by reading about and peering into such a very charmed life.

So, I wish the best for them, and have Manger on my bookmark bar (among the few) where I gain inspiration from people who are living their dreams (along with breeding so many dogs) raising a family with such thoughtful care and looking so beautiful amongst it all. What it has also done is to reinforce my awareness once again of how much beauty and bounty resides within our own homes: old wooden bowls collected over so many years and Shino glazed pottery plates and bowls that we use every day. Old copper pots, one a huge hammered one, is perfect for roasting a leg of lamb, turnips, carrots and onions now that the weather has cooled off. Yesterday, a friend brought a sheaf of freshly picked basil which I harvested and stored in the fridge with a slightly dampened paper towel. Tomorrow, I plan to make pesto with toasted pine nuts and pair it with whole wheat fettucine plus bella mushrooms. Trimming fresh basil leaves off an armful of two foot stems seemed like light work compared to cleaning ten bowls of wild blackberries!