I almost moved back to the US a few years ago. The carrot was that big. My mother knew my weakness and repeatedly -- even only a few months before her death -- held out the offer of room, board and full tuition at CIA in upstate New York. To sweeten that deal further she tried to offer me a condo in France she couldn't actually afford but would have bought anyway so that I could go the full classic route.
My parents knew a lot of other chefs, many of whom would go on to become famous, including Martin Yan, Madame Grace Zia Chou, Paul Prudhome, Mario Batali, Friedman Paul Erhardt (a.k.a. "Chef Tell"), Emeril Lagasse. Our entire family had considered opening a restaurant in NOLA, with me running the kitchen, my sister running the floor and my brother managing the munniez. I was too much of a hardcore vegan at the time to be ready to try and cook whatever some guys in a boat managed to scrape up off the bottom of the bay that morning.
When our family met, it was over dinner. Or lunch. When we did anything together food played the starring role. And if we weren't talking about what or where we wanted to eat, we were in the middle of actually eating, discussing both what we were eating and what our next meal together would be.
The last time my brother got married BG and I went to Florida and cooked a meal for all the "insiders" the night before the wedding. Our family, her family, some very close friends. We cooked for about 15 people and the night was excellent. I still get questions about the lamb we made -- a dish BG and I had perfected in preparation for the restaurant we had planned on opening together before we split -- but no one remembers what the hell we ate the next night at the reception. All I can tell you is there was a beef, chicken and salmon selection, and that's 50% guess, 49% knowledge of the catering industry and about 1% vague memory.
I own a lot of cookbooks. I don't actually use them. I sure as hell don't actually follow the recipes as laid out in them. They're mostly for ideas and vague guidance. I recently came across a very old Chinese cookbook which, while requiring a lot of work to figure out the recipe, has a lot of back-to-basic style stuff, like red-cooked X or hung-sao-ABCD.
I also have two books that very few people would ever want to own. The first is Fergus Henderson's The Whole Beast with an intro from Bourdain and a cover quote from Batali. It's all about cooking offal, from jellied tripe to salted duck legs to crispy pig tails to calf heart. It was a Hanukwanzmas present in 2008.
The second book is truly classic modern offal cookbook, Allen & Gin's Innards and Other Variety Meats from 1974. I mentioned it and three days ago it was presented to me again by my wife. She heard me mention it as I muttered while reading through weird foodness.
Until rather recently my wife was a vegetarian, and while not for quite as long as I was one, for a greater portion of her life and more recently. She tolerates my pig foot experiments, the pot of red-cooked tripe, the smelly kidneys soaking in salt water to remove the pissy taste, the pot of pig tail stew simmering on the stove. I mostly serve the good bits but love the challenge of making something edible out of parts that would otherwise become dogfood or fertiliser. And she, in turn, is willing to sample the chicken feet, fatty ribs and tripe at a dim sum brunch.
Only a couple of weeks ago RIG had to go out with MNP. On her way back back she hit the supermarket. Along with butter, onions, carrots and other basics was a pig heart. Eighty-four cents, unappealing to her, something to keep me busy in the kitchen. She knows and loves me.
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