A Shift

written by liz on Monday, September 08 2008

I bought a new cook book. Because of that cookbook, we had an actual meal inspired by said cookbook. No, not Dino Nuggets, or grilled cheese, no tacos, spaghetti, or things in the usual rotation.  We had an amazing dinner for the first time in weeks, no make that months. In an effort to simplify life, I have not been cooking the elaborate meals I once did. I decided it was not worth the effort. As my children ran rabid through the kitchen as I attempted to cook, I would finally deliver dinner to the table frazzled and exhausted. Everyone would eat the meal in 10 minutes and in what sometimes felt like time travel -I'd be back at the sink doing the dishes. Not worth it I decided. So, I still cooked at home, but the frozen pizza and pasta with butter were on the menu more than ever before. Funny thing about it: noone seemed to mind.

Last weekend I had the chance to wander around Sur la Table by myself. In my wanderings there, I found Jacques Pépin's, last book on sale.  Anyone who knows me knows I love and admire Jacques Pépin, so I bought it. The Book is Chez Jacques  Traditions and Rituals of a Cook . Jacques Pépin, has always been a culinary hero and I have several of his other books but this one is the most beautiful by far. It includes his paintings, excerpts about his philosophy on food and life. It also has 100 recipes. He gives a little window into his life and how he enjoys food. In one section he writes:

“For me, the greatest taste may be a perfect crunchy baguette slathered generously with the very best sweet butter, and the greatest dessert (besides dark, bitter chocolate) may be a succulent apricot or strawberry jams made with very ripe fruits and spread thickly on pieces of warm brioche. My favorite ritual is sitting every night at the dining-room table with my wife and sharing our meal and one, sometimes two bottles of wine and discussing the events of the day. Throughout the last four decades, this daily ritual has been ingrained so profoundly within us that we could not live without it.”

What can I say? It inspired me. I needed a nudge back "in" the kitchen and this book did that for me. The recipes are simple and not too difficult. A busy mom even has time to try a thing or two. The recipe for Saucisson of pork tenderloin is as simple as can be, but when Pepin says he discovered it at a market in Provence I think I have found a culinary gem. I want to try it soon.

We recently harvested red cabbage from the garden. I have been at a loss at what to do with it. I have sautéed it with olive oil, Dijon mustard and apple cider vinegar, which I love. I also sliced it thinly at put it in a salad. But when I browsed through the Jacques Pépin, book I was excited to see something simple and delicious to try: red cabbage salad with anchoïde dressing. Jacques handwriting at the bottom of the page says: cabbage and anchoïde is your standard French coleslaw. It is basically red cabbage with a garlic anchovy dressing. You probably either love or hate anchovies but there is no disputing it, anchovies really adds a new dimension to the food it is combined with. The recipe is basic and simple, as are alot of the others in the book.

Michael actually made the red Cabbage Salad with Anchoïde Dressing while I made a Black Bass with orange bell pepper and green beans from the garden. I finished it off with a little hoisin garlic sauce. I also made pasta for the kids as I figured they might not eat enough fish to satisfy them, but as with anything new, they were forced asked to try both the cabbage and the fish. Alex tried to spit his out. The look on our faces persuaded him otherwise and he swallowed it. Sam, Mr. Food Sophisticate, actually seemed to like it.  Michael and I had some wine and viola we were eating in style. It felt great. Civilized. Like a real treat.

After dinner, we sat on the porch (it's sweltering hot) so it was nice to sit and enjoy the breeze. After screaming at the boys to close the door fifty times (If I have to chase one more fly out of the house I may have a stroke) Alex came up with the fantastic idea to go for a walk. So, we ended up walking. The best part of it, for me was stepping out of the routine and doing something different. I didn't jump right up after dinner to do the dishes. We actually sat for a few moments. Then we went for a walk.

It's always good to remember one has options.  That, and meandering through unfamiliar streets every once in a while is always a good idea.  

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