Yes, I did graduate from a French culinary school in NYC and got to cook graduation dinner with my seven compatriots. Dinner was at the James Beard House and my large, extended family sat upstairs in his bedroom at the largest table in the room and stayed for a feast of re-imagined leftovers, 20 new dishes for family and the entire neighborhood.
Well, not the entire neighborhood, I excepted the guy who made me have a doggie bag in my hand, visible at all times when I visited, and who told my parents they were not allowed to have a holiday wreath on the front door. He lived his life to complain to the homeowners association for suspected violations. Hey, I cleaned up after the family dog in 4′ of snow and deposited it appropriately when I visited. The fact that the bag was in my coat pocket at the time is not worthy of a complaint.
Anyway, they were not invited. Later that day, for extended family, I prepared a side of salmon with scallop mousse, covered with sliced zucchini to look like fish scales and my cousin made fried parsley for garnish. I don’t remember what greens or potatoes we had with it. That was the only time I ever made that dish.
Yes, I’ve made cassoulet with lamb and sausage and all the trimmings. Once, for my father. He told me it was the best meal he ever had. It only took two days to prepare.
Then I decided that all the great French chefs, Escoffier, Careme were creating master sauces to cover the smell of rotting meat, because there was no refrigeration. Come on, the French only bathed once a month and used perfume instead.
Immediately I went south to Italy and Greece, have yet to visit Spain. Few ingredients, best ingredients and care taken in selection, preparation and execution. We’re set up for homemade hand-cranked pasta, and fluffy pancakes with whipped egg whites. My husband loves basic spaghetti and meatballs in a jarred tomato cream sauce but it all comes from the premier Italian market right down the street.
I can make a fantastic beef stew that includes sauteed onions, bacon and a bottle of good amber beer. Moussaka, though my husband hates eggplant, Veal or chicken Milanese. He has favorites that made their way through powdered lemonade, individually packaged string cheese, all the way to discussions about a 4-5 year-old cheddar, and whether it will be filet au poivre or skirt steak with a parsley chimichurri. That’s the way it rolls here. Gotta go check on the dog to see if she’s breathing. Cook! Dee