Books & Cookbooks

Help Me Name My Book!

Notebook

As you may or may not know, I have a new cookbook in the works that’s all about French cooking and vegetables, scheduled for publication in the spring of 2013. (You can read more about the project in the posts About my new book, and Shooting photos for my new book.)

I wrapped up the manuscript shortly before I had the baby, and it then went into my editor’s hands for some edits, and in the copyeditor’s for more tiying up of loose ends (copyeditors are my personal eagle-eyed heroes). The designer worked on the layout of the inside of the book, submitting a few different ideas for our consideration before perfecting the one we all felt happiest about (and I am very happy about it).

I should be receiving the first dummy soon, i.e. the complete text integrated into the layout, and there will be a bit of work there to make the copy fit neatly within the boundaries of the pages.

But at the forefront of my mind now is this all-important question: what should we call the book?

Up until now, the book has been referred to as “Untitled French Vegetable Book” (glamorous, no?) and my editor and I have been exchanging title ideas back and forth, but we haven’t yet found the one.

So I thought I would come to you, dear readers who are so good with words, and ask for your help: what would you name a cookbook that celebrates the love story between French cuisine and vegetables, one that focuses on fresh, seasonal ingredients combined simply but tastefully in vegetarian dishes, one that comes with lots of stories about shopping, cooking, and living in Paris?

Of course, there is a prize! If you’re the first person to suggest the title we end up using, you’ll receive a signed copy of the book when it comes out, and a surprise gift from Paris that I will tailor specifically to you and your tastes*. (I’ll send that out to you at any postal address on the planet, so feel free to participate regardless of your location.)

If you want to play, I’ll be so very grateful for your ideas! We most likely need the words “French” or “Paris”, and “vegetables” or “vegetarian” in there, but don’t let that cramp your style. Please submit your title suggestions — with optional subtitle — by Sunday, September 23 in the comments section below, or send them to me privately, if you prefer, via the contact form. (In both cases, make sure you enter a correct email address, or I won’t be able to contact you if you win.)

Thank you so much!

Edit: The call for submission is now closed. Many, many thanks to all who participated with such enthusiasm. You’ve really outdone yourselves, and I am thrilled with all your ideas! As soon as the definitive title is chosen, I’ll announce it here, along with the name of the winner.

* It is understood that we will then be able to use the title free and clear of any obligations.

Shooting photos for my new book

The French Market Cookbook

We have just wrapped up the final photo shoot for my new book about vegetables and French cuisine, and as someone who loves to know how things work behind the scenes, I thought I would tell you a bit about what the process has been like.

For my first two books, I shot all the pictures myself, but I felt that being a one-woman-band was not the most relaxed experience of all, so for this new project I wanted to work with a team of pros to produce the photos.

This meant finding a photographer and a stylist for the photos of the finished dishes, and I was hoping to work with Françoise Nicol and Virginie Michelin, because I loved what they had done for Alain Ducasse’s Nature book. They were up for it, and my editor approved the choice after looking at their portfolios, so we were in business.

Because produce and seasonality are central to my book, it was important to me that we shoot each chapter in season. Had we shot everything at once, as is often done for practical reasons, we would have had to work with out-of-season fruits and vegetables, and it would have bothered me (a lot) to practice the opposite of what I was advocating. A secondary bonus was a lower food budget, since seasonal produce is generally cheaper.

The one hiccup in this carefully laid plan was that the stylist injured her hand a week before the fall shoot, so we decided to postpone it until she had fully recovered, and shoot fall and winter back-to-back. This was doable without compromise because, in truth, fall market stalls are not that different from winter ones, and it turned out to have a silver lining: instead of enduring the dark of December, we were able to benefit from the longer, brighter days of late February.

The French Market Cookbook

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About my new book

Notebook

In my Best of 2011 post earlier this month, I hinted at the new book I’m working on, and after receiving several kind requests for details, I thought I’d tell you a little more about the project.

The general idea of the book is to talk about the love affair between French cuisine and vegetables.

It is admittedly a challenge to dine out as a vegetarian in France, where meat and fish are treated as the main character of any special-occasion dish, yet the French culinary repertoire is rife with delicious ideas on how to cook vegetables.

It seems to me that when cooks try to shift their habits to use fewer animal products, French cuisine is not the one they turn to spontaneously, so it is a source of inspiration that is vastly untapped.

Over the past few years, as has no doubt been apparent on C&Z, Maxence and I have transitioned to a more and more plant-based way of eating — for reasons of ethics, environmental concern, and natural inclination — so I’ve had plenty of opportunities to explore unusual and exciting ways to use up my weekly selection of seasonal vegetables.

It is the best of those colorful, seasonal dishes that I want to share in this new book. Some are personal creations, others are drawn from my research into lesser-known regional cuisines. All are simple and flavorsome, so you can make the most of the time you spend in the kitchen.

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Bi-Rite Market’s Eat Good Food

I am of the mind that the process of learning how to cook should always begin with learning how to shop.

If you know how to select the highest-quality, freshest ingredients you can afford, and if you can organize your life so there’s time to stock your fridge and pantry with those, you’ve really won half the battle.

First in terms of cooking motivation — we all know the magical inspirational powers of vibrant produce — but also in terms of results: the exact same recipe and skills will yield an incomparably tastier dish if you’re working with the good stuff. (And in truth, the good stuff barely needs your intervention to shine.)

This is why I was thrilled when I received a copy of the just-released Bi-Rite Market’s Eat Good Food book, co-written by Sam Mogannam, who runs the popular independent grocery store near Dolores Park in San Francisco, and food writer Dabney Gough.

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En Cuisine avec Alain Passard

En Cuisine avec Alain Passard

France has a vivid culture of comic books and graphic novels, which are grouped under the general term bande dessinée (literally, drawn strip), often shortened to BD and pronounced bédé. It is a remarkably rich and diverse genre, with titles to appeal to all ages and interests, from kids’ comics to historical sagas, from humorous social commentary to science fiction.

My father has an extensive collection of them, one that filled an entire room in the apartment where I grew up: from floor to ceiling, shelves groaning with several thousand albums he had amassed since his teens, reflecting a passion he further fueled by weekly expeditions to the specialized bookstores of the Latin Quarter.

My sister and I were shaped by this. From the moment we could read we started reading bandes dessinées, and while other children watched television (we owned no tv set, our parents were not interested), we spent our childhood and teenage days ravenously working our way through these storytelling gems, constantly discovering new age-appropriate (and sometimes age-inappropriate, but no less educational) series to delve into.

It was still a time when most people viewed the genre in a mildly disparaging way, believing it boiled down to silly little drawings to keep the kids entertained, but we knew better.

Some series I read and re-read dozens of times, and for a very long time, they were the primary window through which I saw the world, the stories they told and the characters that inhabited them leaving a deeper imprint on me than any book I ever read or movie I ever watched.

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