The Joy Of Cooking And Eating.
Here in France, we are in the second national lockdown due to the Covid 19 health crisis. Restaurants, bars and cafés are closed and we are not able to socialise with friends or extended family. In a country where the importance of cooking and sharing a meal with your tribe, is fundamental to the way of life, the current imposed isolation is an anathema, like slow dripping water torture wearing down our moral.
Back when life was normal, I did this food shoot for chef Carmen, at a friend’s country house in a village near my own. I loved styling this Autumnal shoot using my hand painted background and spot lights, so different from my usual bright style.
I first met Chef Carmen several years ago in a group of women entrepreneurs, based west of Paris, the Femmes Entrepreneures, a dynamic group of French and expatriate women.
From the website:
Run by volunteers, the association allows women entrepreneurs to join a dynamic network to develop and promote their businesses in the west de Paris area, with events dedicated to networking, entrepreneurship and related themes.
Created 5 years ago by seven anglophone women, the association has a great cultural diversity (with more than 20 nationalities) where international meets local.
Become Who You Are.
Carmen, was born in Madrid (Spain) and after 15 years as an engineer in the automotive industry in Spain, Japan, Germany and France, she decided to embark on an improbable adventure: to move from the world of industry to the world of cooking!
She retrained at the Professional Cooking School of the Atelier des Chefs, in Paris, and created her own company My Cooking World, in early 2015.
Seasonal and Comforting Recipes For Autumn.
For the photo shoot Carmen came up with a impressive choice of seasonal recipes: pumpkin and mushroom soup, chestnut soup with goats cheese and puff pastry croutons, black pudding, apples and kidney bean timbal, duck magret with apples, pumpkin and chestnuts barley-risotto.
I shot around two hundred photos, far too many to show you here, so I have chosen my favourites.
Pumpkin and mushroom soup ……
Chestnut soup with goats cheese and puff pastry croutons …..
Black pudding, apples and kidney bean timbal …..
Pumpkin and chestnuts barley-risotto …..
And last, but by no means least: pear and almonds gratin and marron glacé cheesecake …..
After the shoot we got to taste all of these dishes for lunch. Carmen’s cooking is delicious and unusual, as she incorporates flavors and influences from around the world.
I can safely say that this cheesecake is one of the very best desserts I have tasted and I’ve eaten a lot of desserts in my life.
UNESCO and the Intangible Cultural Heritage.
The gastronomic meal of the French was inscribed in 2010, on the Representative List, of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
From the UNESCO website:
The gastronomic meal of the French is a customary social practice for celebrating important moments in the lives of individuals and groups, such as births, weddings, birthdays, anniversaries, achievements and reunions. It is a festive meal bringing people together for an occasion to enjoy the art of good eating and drinking.
The gastronomic meal emphasizes togetherness, the pleasure of taste, and the balance between human beings and the products of nature. Important elements include the careful selection of dishes from a constantly growing repertoire of recipes; the purchase of good, preferably local products whose flavours go well together; the pairing of food with wine; the setting of a beautiful table; and specific actions during consumption, such as smelling and tasting items at the table.
The gastronomic meal should respect a fixed structure, commencing with an apéritif (drinks before the meal) and ending with liqueurs, containing in between at least four successive courses, namely a starter, fish and/or meat with vegetables, cheese and dessert. The gastronomic meal draws circles of family and friends closer together and, more generally, strengthens social ties.
One of the few happy outcomes of lockdown, is that more and more people are cooking from scratch at home, a traditional approach to feeding your family, which was becoming less prevalent due to the pressures of working hours.
If you live locally, and would like to have a break from meal preparation, Carmen is catering for family meals at the weekend in Maisons Laffitte and Mesnil le Roi. This week’s menu is shown below and on the website My Cooking World.