“Ah, Bistro” …. a tale of two cities

I’ve been enjoying a glass of wine with some good bread and  Comté cheese whilst reflecting on the approach of my birthday which signifies the passing of yet another year and confirms me in the knowledge that I am more content in my own skin. My hopes and aspirations are more modest and the path ahead seems clearer. The similarity between Omar and I are remarkable with our taste for jugs of wine and bread whilst relaxing, but I could do without the singing in the wilderness. I was in part reflecting on the madness of the renowned blogger who was Julie in “Julie and Julia”. The point of the film evaded me as it beggars belief to think that anyone could undertake the daily penance of slowly but surely recreating every complicated dish from the many wordy volumes that make up Julia Child’s “Mastering the art of French Cooking”, any one of which could severely reduce my interest in good food and cooking. Meryl Streep’s characterisation was encouraging in that she fleshed out a jolly, enthusiastic expatriated lady who seemed to be happiest with a warm cock in one hand and a glass of wine in the other whereas the reality was less exciting. My love of food and cooking is based on pleasure and excitement whereas Ms Childs passion appeared be based on detail and exactitude. Whilst in the midst of these ruminations a good thing happened in the guise of an early birthday present from, Jenny, my wife. I can reveal that the present was a copy of “Bistro Cooking” by Patricia Wellswho is amongst my favourite food writers. She has a similarity to Julia Child in that she is an expatriate American living and writing in France, but there the similarity ends. Sometime ago I was commissioned, by the now defunct Sonoma Williams “Taste” magazine, to photograph her and her cookery school in Paris. I followed her through little known markets, underground cheese affineurs, magical patisseries and the shops of every sort of exclusive alimentary artisan whilst she imbued her gaggle of young and old students with her knowledge and enthusiasm as they gathered the ingredients for the simple classic dishes that they would later prepare in the kitchen of her apartment that houses her cookery school. Her writing, although fulfilling the purpose of a cookery book with a raft of her own recipes and those of others, is filled with emotive descriptions of the atmosphere of a particular restaurant or the colours and freshness of ingredients that she has seen waiting to be used in the kitchen of another establishment, together with addresses of suppliers and notes on tastes and sights not to be missed. “Bistro Cooking” is filled with the tastes that are synonymous with the legend of French cooking. Here, to whet your appetite, is a recipe for a dish that I  have not eaten, but I will have done pretty soon after finishing this post.The dishes rely on terroir and care, but not on a chef’s toque. This is food to eat and enjoy with friends. Régalez!

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About Food,Photography & France

Photographer and film maker living in France. After a long career in London, my wife and I have settled in the Vendee, where we run residential digital photography courses with a strong gastronomic flavour.
This entry was posted in Bistro, Cookery School in France, Cookery Writers, Cuisine bourgeoise, desserts, Digital photography, harmony, Julia Child, Omelette aux poires, Patricia Wells, Pears, photography course, Photography holiday, Recipes, Uncategorized, Writing and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

30 Responses to “Ah, Bistro” …. a tale of two cities

  1. Hi Roger!
    Another beautifully written post. Already add Bistro Cooking to my wish list at amazon 😉

  2. ChgoJohn says:

    Although I’m aware of Ms. Wells, I’ve never been even remotely tempted to purchase her works — until now that is. It’s nothing against her, it’s just that I’m not a cookbook-owning kind of guy. After reading so glowing a review and so tasty a recipe, i think I just might check her out. And, Roger, the 2 still-lifes are really quite beautiful.

  3. Lovely post and I hope we get to celebrate your birthday with you in some small way! Bizarrely last night I made tortilla and jokingly said “we´ve got potatoes or strawberries – what do you fancy”. Of course, la tortila Española won for supper but I found msyelf playing with ideas for a sweet soufflée omelette and here you are giving me the recipe for one. Thank you!

  4. Terroir and care, that’s all you need to eat well wherever you are. Enjoy your souffle omelette!

  5. Mad Dog says:

    How fantastic to have been able to spend time following Patrica Wells – it must have been delightful 😉

  6. I’ve extolled before my loathing for the Julie part of the movie. I don’t think the blogger bothered to enjoy or truly learn and appreciate the process of French cooking. She just did it to have something to write about. How uninspiring.

  7. Michelle says:

    Patricia Wells’ “Bistro Cooking” is probably the most-used and most-falling-apart cookbook in the hundred or so on my kitchen shelves. I hope you enjoy the Omelette aux Poires as much as we have. Pears have seldom looked more beautiful than they do here.

  8. Mary Cadogan says:

    You are so right Rog. Have you been watching Raymond Blanc? His enthusiasm for ingredients and the artisans who produce them is wonderful. Forget complication- shopping for good stuff and cooking them well is the key I reckon

  9. Very cool article Roger! How to mix history and culture through food.

  10. spree says:

    First, congratulations on an other year of growing comfortably into your own skin. I sure love how that happens. Second, I so enjoy Patricia Wells’ writing and her recipes are flawless! How lucky for you to have followed her around…I can only imagine how rich that must have been! and Third, your still-lifes are quite gorgeous Roger, so evocative, mood-y (in the best way) and Old World reminiscent. Beautiful.

  11. Beautiful pictures! Looks delicious.

  12. argone says:

    Great post and thank you for the recipe !

  13. ceciliag says:

    I love pear with just about anything, but mostly with a slice of good strong cheese but never thought of putting pear together with an omelette. Do you have chooks Roger? Isn’t it lovely to get to an age where all the madness and clamor has settled down. c

    • First time I’ve seen a pear omelette as well – but I’ve got a feeling it’s good. No chooks, because no room. We have a simple walled gravel courtyard with olive trees, herbs, pots and a swimming pool. No mowing, low maintenance. That way I write, cook and take pictures but I can still talk to the farmers and benefit from their labours – don’t tell the big man:-)

  14. ....RaeDi says:

    Here’s to all that can grow comfortably into their own skin… Happy Birthday to you and what a wonderful post and beautiful picture. Growing older is what we each make of it!

  15. Tandy says:

    I did not enjoy Meryl Streep in the movie at all – she did not seem real. Enjoy each day leading up to your birthday and beyond 🙂

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