You Are What You Eat

I crave France the most when I read about food. Both belong to each other and are made for each other. So when one member of my book club suggested The Scavenger’s Guide to Haute Cuisine from Steven Rinella for our March meeting, my mouth watered.
Yet this memoir isn’t just about food. As it names implies it is an obsessive search for the ingredients to cook a forty-five-course meal. Each recipe being from Le Guide Culinaire from Auguste Escoffier, it eventually led Rinella to a hunt across the United States. Since the fish and game Escoffier use are native of France, Rinella has to look for the closest match. It definitely reminded me of my own struggles when I moved to the USA and couldn’t find the fish or piece of meat I used to cook back home.
An accomplished fisherman and hunter, Rinella is also a compelling storyteller and his memoir abounds with funny, corky and even moving anecdotes. His father is very ill and Rinella talks with subtle emotion of their father/son relationship. His girlfriend is a vegetarian and he wants to convert her to a carnivore. Eventually she’ll become a fish lover. The bunch of young men dragged into the scavenger hunt are truly good friends and in the end when all of them cook, including their girlfriends, I longed for the time of impromptu dinners in France when my friends would also jump into the kitchen to help me out. Except that Rinella’s feast isn’t an impromptu dinner at all.
Although I’m not a carnivore and no stranger to the pâtés, dindonneau, huîtres, fromage de tête, bouillabaisse and aspic de crevettes Rinella prepares for his banquet, these dishes don’t taste of my childhood.
Since I agree with Rinella when he says, “You are what you eat,” it made me homesick for the food that shaped me.
I am from vegetables and fruit picked from my parents’ garden in lush Normandy, meat grown locally in small farms, and fish bought fresh at the market.
I am from sole meunière, coquilles Saint Jacques, moules marinières, herring filets, dandelion salads, green beans, leek tart, crêpes and beignets.
I am from the apple pie, the fruit compote, the mousse au chocolat, the crème caramel, the strawberry charlotte and crème anglaise poured over pound cakes.
And I definitely missed Escoffier’s Pêche Melba when I turned the last page of The Scavenger’s Guide to Haute Cuisine.

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