The World In My Kitchen

The World In My Kitchen

by Colette Rossant
     
 

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"We are on our way to Le Havre. The train is going so fast that the landscape is all but a blur. From time to time, I can see a farm in the mist surrounded by a sea of green fields. I am excited but also scared. It is 1955, and we are on our way to New York."

So begins the marvelous journey of Colette Rossant, just married to an American architect and

Overview

"We are on our way to Le Havre. The train is going so fast that the landscape is all but a blur. From time to time, I can see a farm in the mist surrounded by a sea of green fields. I am excited but also scared. It is 1955, and we are on our way to New York."

So begins the marvelous journey of Colette Rossant, just married to an American architect and about to leave France for a new life in the heart of New York City. At first, Colette finds Americans' manners to be as mystifying as their cuisine, but before long, she discovers the myriad charms of her adopted country. Between taking on an astoundingly diverse series of jobs, raising four children, and renovating a Soho town house, Colette develops her own flair for food -- and for superb food writing. In this spirited and deliciously entertaining memoir, Colette shares the unforgettable stories of her forty tumultuous years at the heart of American and international cuisine.

The children's cooking school she starts for her daughter's friends turns into a starring role on a PBS television series. As New York magazine's "Underground Gourmet," she hails the city's staggering array of outstanding ethnic cuisine. Either with her husband and children, or on her own, she travels to Africa, China, Japan, and South America, exploring cuisine and culture around the globe. She rides camels through the Australian outback, barters lipstick for fresh vegetables in Tanzania, and is almost arrested as a spy by the Chinese secret police -- just because she is trying to eat like a local.

Charming, indomitable, endlessly curious and adventurous, Colette Rossant inspires us to savor every meal -- and every day. With a wonderful array of mouth-watering recipes, The World in My Kitchen is an irresistible celebration of family, food, and life.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Mostly French and all courage, Colette Rossant shows us a woman continually reinventing herself as she reinvents cuisine. Rossant is both funny and seriously reflective. She truly has had the world in her kitchen, and readers will feel as if they've been fed one of her elaborate, exquisite, but seemingly effortless meals." — Mary Jo Salter

"Rossant concludes her trilogy of memoirs with this mouthwatering reminiscence of marriage and her stellar epicurean career.... Great fun to read.... Delectable: Bon appetit!" — Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

"[Rossant] has had a genuinely adventurous life, with a lot to tell, both about her New York neighborhood and the larger world.... Rossant's writing is vivid and opinionated, which makes her good company, and the recipes that follow each chapter are as eclectic as one would wish from a well-traveled writer." — Publishers Weekly

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780743490290
Publisher:
Atria Books
Publication date:
11/12/2008
Pages:
240
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.70(d)

Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1: The Move

We are on our way to Le Havre. The train is going so fast that the landscape is all but a blur. From time to time, I can see a farm in the mist surrounded by a sea of green fields. I am excited but also scared. It is 1955, and we are on our way to New York. Jimmy and I were married a couple of months ago. Anne, his widowed mother, was at our wedding as was his brother, Murray, but without his wife. The week before our wedding, Anne and my mother fought all the time: two jealous women bickering about dresses, jewelry, food, me, and God knows what else. They were horrible, like two witches. They nearly ruined my wedding. But as usual Mira, my stepfather, saved the day. Mira, born in Normandy, believed that food, that is, very good food, could solve any problem. He took Anne to lunch in a two stars restaurant. She loved it. Back home, she talked lovingly about eating snails with Swiss Char.

"I had a great lunch! Snails with Swiss Char? I had never had that before. I simply loved it," she had said smiling happily for the first time in weeks. My mother looked slightly miffed.

"Well, Anne, I'm so happy you liked it. Mira does know the best restaurants. Maybe tomorrow you and I can try La Coupole?"

"Yes, of course! But only if you let me take you out for lunch."

From that day on, my mother and Anne had a truce that lasted until the day of the wedding.

Anne's choice of a dress for the wedding, a pale green tulle dress shocked my conservative mother. "Can you imagine? At her age! Wearing a young ballerina's dress!" my mother had whispered on the telephone to her best friend a few days before the wedding, recounting all the real orimagined problems she had had with my future mother-in-law. My stepfather once again saved the day by taking them both out to dinner at Potin on Avenue Victor Hugo, using the excuse that they should try the food as Potin was catering the wedding reception. "Anne loves sole," he had whispered to me, "they make the best one in Paris." He was right. The two women both chose and devoured the sole meunière. The next few days were calm despite the problems I had with my brother and my grandmother.

My brother, who was doing his military service in Algeria, had refused to come to my wedding on the grounds that Jimmy was an American and therefore not well educated.

"Marry a Frenchman," he had written, "not an American. He does not belong in our family."

I had not gotten along with him since I came back to Paris from Egypt in 1947 because he resented me invading his space.

My French grandmother, who also objected to my marrying Jimmy as he was not the young man of her choice, had refused to attend the wedding and had left the country for the States to visit old friends. I had loved my grandfather. Although he had died just before we came back to Paris, I remembered him quite well as we lived in Paris until I was six and left in 1939 when my father became ill, and my Egyptian grandfather, thinking that the hot Egyptian climate would help him get better, summoned us to Cairo. My brother disliked Cairo, the heat, the noise, and above all, seeing my father ill and helpless. I was too young and did not realize how seriously ill he was. Within a few weeks of our stay in Cairo, my brother who was then ten years old, wanted to leave and go back to Paris. My parents, ill advised, and despite the rumors of an impending war, sent my brother back, alone, to France to live with my French grandparents. I would not see my brother again until I was fifteen.

My father died a year later. Two years after that, my mother, now a thirty-year-old widow, decided that she needed to find herself, to seek a new life and a new husband. A young child, she felt, would hamper her style; therefore, she decided that I would live with my Egyptian grandparents, and for the next five years, I never saw or heard from her.

We were a large extended Jewish Sephardic family. We lived in an enormous house, near the Nile, in the posh neighborhood of Garden City. My grandparents, their two grown daughters, and I lived on the first floor. My grandparent's oldest son, his wife, and five of their children lived on the second floor. On the third and fourth floor lived two of his other children with their wives and children.

The family was large (my grandmother had had nine children), boisterous, and loving. Being the youngest of all the children and also being treated by everyone as an orphan, I was looked after by uncles, aunts, and older cousins. I had the run of the house, but my favorite hiding place was the kitchen. I loved the warmth of the kitchen. It is there that I fell in love with food and Ahmet, the cook who treated me like his own child. By the age of fifteen, my mother reappeared and insisted that I return to Paris to further my education. I was heartbroken to leave my Egyptian family, especially when my mother, once in Paris, left me with her mother, a paragon of rectitude. Mother once again disappeared for another three years.

My French grandmother disliked me intensely for several reasons: one, for having, like my mother, converted to Catholicism; two, for speaking French with an Egyptian accent; and finally, for not being elegant. Furthermore, she felt I was unsettling the close-knit circle consisting of her and my brother (my grandfather had died at the end of the war). I was having quite a miserable time, trying to woo my grandmother and my brother, both of whom ignored me, and trying to lose my Egyptian accent and learning to become a Parisian. I failed to woo them, but eventually lost my Egyptian accent. As for becoming a real Parisian, the task was too tough as I was short, plump, and I had no one to teach me how to dress properly and be elegant.

Jimmy and I had met in 1949, when I was sixteen. Anne had offered Jimmy a trip to Europe after his graduation. She had met my grandparents before the war, and they had remained good friends; she had given him their address in Paris in case he ran out of money, which he did. To a sixteen-year-old teenager, this twenty-year-old, tall, handsome American was a dream come true. We fell in love, and to my mother's dismay, I announced that I wanted to marry him right away. My mother, who for years had not paid attention to me, became suddenly very involved. I cried, got angry, but I could do nothing to change her mind. She kept on repeating the same thing over and over: "Ridiculous! You are too young; you are still in high school; he has to go back to school and choose a profession. No more talk about marriage."

Her mother, for the first time, agreed with her. Then finally, to stop the argument, my mother said that if in five years we still felt the same way, we could get married. Jimmy and I swore that we would wait. He promised to come back for me. We corresponded from time to time, and five years later, as promised, he reappeared in my life. Jimmy was then doing his military service and was stationed in Munich, Germany. To the horror of my family, especially my grandmother, I joined him in Munich where we lived together for a year until we could get married. Jimmy was in the intelligence corps and getting permission to marry a foreigner while in the service took a whole year.

We were finally married on September 8, 1955. The wedding was lovely; the reception at Potin went well even if a former boyfriend, Francis, drunk and angry that I had turned him down, threw a glass of champagne in Jimmy's face. Everyone laughed; the rest of the evening was more peaceful. After the wedding, we went back to Germany. Jimmy had another nine months to serve. He was discharged in Munich, and together we went to live and work in Italy. By the end of 1956, Jimmy felt it was time to return to New York and start a new life there as an architect and also a family.

We went back to Paris to say our good-byes. On our last Sunday, Mira suggested that Jimmy and I go to the Boulevard Raspail market to buy food for lunch and dinner. As we walked through the market, the smells were overwhelming. Jimmy wanted to buy everything. We stopped in front of an asparagus stand. The first asparagus of the season: white fat asparagus with purple tops next to bunches of pale green wild asparagus that looked more like ferns. We bought some of each. Then we stopped at a charcuterie stand and bought some pâté de campagne, duck rillette, and boudin noir (blood sausages). We bought two pounds of cherries and I ate half of them as we continued our walk. The cheese stand was our next stop. There I bought a chèvre and a piece of Cantal's and Mira's favorite cheese, a ripe Reblochon. Just before leaving the market, I picked up crusty country bread and a dozen farm fresh eggs. Back at home, I showed Mira our purchases. Jimmy was hovering over us saying he was starving and wanted lunch. Mira and I decided to make asparagus with boiled eggs, one of Mira's specialties. We agreed that we would start with the white asparagus, then serve the boudin with mashed potatoes, and prepare the wild asparagus with mushrooms for dinner. As we peeled the asparagus, Mira handed me a raw one to eat. Crunchy and delicious, tasting like freshly cut grass.

Once cooked, I placed some asparagus on each plate with a boiled egg and clarified butter. I had to explain to Jimmy how to eat them.

"Pour a tablespoon of melted butter in the egg, add salt and pepper, and mix it with a spoon, then dip the asparagus in the egg."

We all laughed when Jimmy picked up his knife and fork to eat the asparagus. In France, I explained to him, you don't cut asparagus; you pick it up with your fingers and eat it, sucking the stalks. The light, creamy taste of the egg yolk enhances the soft, earthy taste of the asparagus. Mira said that sometimes he adds some truffle juice but that he had none that day. For dinner, we steamed the wild asparagus, sautéed the mushrooms, and served the asparagus topped with the mushrooms. Jimmy smiled. "Delicious. I never tasted something so light and fresh. I don't want to leave Paris!" We both looked at him.

"Are you serious?" I asked.

"No. I want to go back. New York is where I belong. But I will miss this sensational food."

The next day we left for New York. We were sailing on The Liberté, once a German liner, leftover from the war and now totally refurbished and renamed. Mira had pulled some strings, and we were given a first-class stateroom. Remembering how ill I had been on the passage from Egypt to Marseille on our return to France years before, my mother provided me with pills for seasickness. I hoped I would not need them. My mother swore that this new medicine would help. For the last three weeks, she had been very solicitous, even overbearing. I was not used to it. Normally, she would have nothing to do with me. Now she dragged me through stores to shop for a trousseau I insisted I did not need.

"I don't want to go shopping. I don't need anything."

"Yes you do. You cannot go to New York without nice sheets and some tablecloths. You need towels and..."

Resistance, I realized was futile. I gave in.

We bought towels, sheets with my initials, pillowcases, and tablecloths. My wedding presents had included fifteen tea tablecloths. "I don't invite friends for tea," I told my mother, who obliged me to keep at least two. The fancy silver went back to the stores; Jimmy hated it. We kept the china and the glasses, a gift from Murray, Jimmy's brother. They had been sent to America. My mother and I bought dresses, a coat, shoes, and handbags. I didn't understand why my mother, who had never bought me anything, thought it was so important that I be well dressed and have sheets with my initials. Who would see my bed? I was sure Jimmy did not care, but I went along with her wishes. At my stepfather's suggestion, she bought enormous wicker baskets to pack everything. Simpler to send, he explained to me. I think that perhaps she was happy to finally get rid of me.

Jimmy urged me to be more patient and kind with my mother.

"I can't. She never took care of me! Why now? I can't erase twenty years of neglect."

But looking at Jimmy's pleading eyes, I said, "Well I will try."

* * *

In the train, rolling fast toward Le Havre, I looked again at Jimmy, who was stirring about to wake up. He smiled and said, "I'm hungry Colette; let's go and have lunch." The restaurant had an elaborate menu. In 1956, food was plentiful, unlike in 1947, when I took a train from Marseille to Paris. Then I was fifteen and excited to be in France, but the war was just over and food was scarce. The menu was very simple. Now there was a prix fixe menu offering a pâté de campagne or a frisée salad with walnuts to start and then a choice of lamb shank cooked in cider, a salmon soufflé, a roast beef with truffle potatoes, or a sole meunière; dessert was a cheese tray, ice cream, or an apple and pear tarte. Jimmy chose the pâté de campagne and the lamb shank cooked in cider. I took the frisée salad and the sole meunière, my favorite fish. Jimmy explained that in New York there were no real sole, only gray sole. I wondered if the gray sole was what we call in France "limande." I planned to go to a fish market in New York and find out. I looked at Jimmy savoring his pâté. A layer of transparent light brown jelly surrounded it. I stole a bite from his plate. The pâté had specks of fat, and the herbs, especially the thyme, were too overpowering. I was about to say something, but there was a look of such pleasure on his face that I didn't.

The train slowed down and stopped very near the harbor. The port of Le Havre was large and very busy. There were several ships ready to leave, and ours at the end of the quay was easily the largest one. It was white with blue, red, and white stripes painted on its funnel. We slowly walked the length of the quay. This is it, I thought, once we are on the boat there is no turning around.

Going up the plank, I looked back at the people milling around. Most of the people boarding the boat seemed young. One teenage French girl on the deck was crying. I wanted to go to her and help her, but Jimmy told me we had to follow the porter to our cabin. Our cabin was one floor below the main deck. In it, there were two beds, a closet, a small bathroom, and two armchairs, and a porthole through which we could see the sea. The ship rocked gently, and already I thought I was going to be sick. I quickly took a pill and hoped that the uneasy feeling I had in the middle of my stomach would soon disappear. Back on the main deck, I looked again for the young girl. I did not see her and looked below at the crowd waving their good-byes. There were no shouts and very little confusion. I thought back to when I had left Egypt for France nine years ago. The crowds were shouting, women were crying, and I had felt lonely and sad to leave my Egyptian family for France and an unknown future. Today was very different. I wasn't scared, just sad. Jimmy's arms were around my waist; he was kissing my neck and whispering words to reassure me. The ship slowly glided out of the harbor. "Let's go to the bar and have a drink to celebrate our new life," he suggested. As I entered the bar, I suddenly knew that I would not make it. I had to be on the deck, or I would be sick. Back upstairs on the deck, I found a chaise lounge, and a young sailor wrapped a blanket around me.

"How do you feel, miss? Would you like a cup of hot broth?"

"Yes, please," I said faintly, thinking I was soon going to be so sick that I would certainly die before reaching New York.

As I drifted into a sort of waking dream, my thoughts turned to New York. What will it be like living in New York? How will his family greet me? Would I quickly make friends? Jimmy told me that everyone works in America, will I also work? And what kind of work can I do? As I dozed off to sleep, I felt better. The boat seemed steadier. Maybe I was wrong. I will be alright, and the crossing will be fine.

An hour later, I was awakened by the same young sailor bringing me a cup of very hot bouillon and crackers. Jimmy reappeared and insisted we take a walk around the deck. Later, I was back at my chaise until the evening, when once again I tried to go to the dining room. A steaming onion gratinée was placed in front of me. I slowly took a bite. The warm soup with the golden melted cheese and thick slices of transparent onion tasted great and warmed me. I wasn't feeling too bad and finally ate the soup with gusto. While we ate, Jimmy talked about his relatives. His favorite being his aunt Edie, his mother's sister. She had never married. She was an executive with Dunhill, and she lived, Jimmy explained, with another sister, Gina, also unmarried. Gina kept house for them.

"Edie is great; she is fun and very intelligent. You will love her, and she will love you." Naturally, there was also his brother, Murray, with his wife, Naima. They had two young children. I knew Murray. In 1948, he had come to my grandmother's house in Paris. In 1949, he had met Naima and brought her to our house. But I did not remember her well as they had left for the United States a few months after their wedding.

"My mother lives with them in the summer," Jimmy said, as if he could read my thoughts. I had been afraid that we would have to live with her. Jimmy's mother reminded me of my favorite mystery detective, Miss Marple. I thought she looked like her. Her hair was wavy, with curls like tiny sausages at the nape of her neck. She often looked serious and dowdy. I hoped that since we were now going to live in New York, I would get to know her better and we would be friends.

After dinner, I wanted to go back to my chaise lounge, but Jimmy insisted that I try to sleep in the cabin. As I lay in my bed, I tried not to think of the ship's movement. I closed my eyes while saying to Jimmy that I could not stay in the cabin, that I was afraid I would be sick. I woke up the following morning in bed!

For the next five days, life on the ship assumed a routine. I spent a lot of time on my chaise lounge, took long promenades, drank hot bouillon, and only ate once a day. Jimmy talked about the future. He was happy to be going back home. He talked about our living in New York or Boston. He then made drawings of Manhattan, explaining how Manhattan was divided in two, East and West, in a grid, and that all the streets had numbers. It was all very confusing. I remembered reading a book written by two French journalists about their travels in America. I must have been sixteen when I read it. I was fascinated with the authors' tales of New York, the Rocky Mountains, California, and ice-cream sundaes.

"I want to try an ice-cream sundae," I told Jimmy, who looked at me with astonishment.

"But why an ice-cream sundae?"

How could I explain that the vision of a mountain of ice cream topped with whipped cream, chocolate sauce, and a red cherry fascinated me. Could I tell Jimmy that for years America for me was defined by an ice-cream sundae? Never!

On the sixth day the sea got rougher and I refused to go down to the cabin. I slept on my chaise wrapped in blankets. Jimmy woke me up at five. "Get up. We are going to pass the Statue of Liberty. You must see it." We stood next to each other. Jimmy was hugging me as we passed this extraordinary statue wrapped in fog. The scene was eerie. It seemed to me that the Lady was smiling. She was so tall! Much taller than the one on the bridge, the Pont de L'Alma, over the Seine in Paris. And suddenly there was New York. I had not expected the incredible vision of a mass of skyscrapers, shimmering in the early sunlight. I was in awe. Viewed from the ship, New York looked beautiful. As the ship glided slowly down the Hudson lead by a red tugboat, I saw that there must have been a major snowstorm in New York because the roofs of the buildings we were passing were covered with snow. I thought of Paris, which I had left just a few days ago. The parks there were already full of yellow daffodils and tulips under an intense blue sky. So beautiful!

As the ship anchored, I saw people waving on the quay below. I waved back. I recognized Murray and Anne. Jimmy waved also and smiled to me.

"They are down there. Did you see them?"

It took an hour before we could disembark and gather our belongings. Anne embraced me and then Jimmy. She looked sad. Murray stood near her. He was shorter than Jimmy, I thought, with wavy brown hair. He too looked sad. Jimmy asked what was wrong. Anne blurted out that Edie, Jimmy's aunt, had died a week ago. They had not wanted him to know for fear of spoiling his last week in Paris. Jimmy cried, he was crushed by the news. I held his hand trying to comfort him. He blurted out to me, "I wanted her to meet you. I wanted her to see who I married.... Oh Colette, this is so terrible." I felt sorry for Jimmy, but I hadn't known Edie, and with the excitement of arriving in New York, I quickly forgot about her.

The car was waiting for us near a highway. Our luggage baskets would arrive later. On the way to Murray's house, no one talked. I looked out of the window and thought that, at the street level, New York was so dirty and ugly. There was so much snow pushed against the edges of the sidewalks. It looked like dirty gray mountains. Where was the beautiful city I had seen from the ship?

We finally arrived at Murray's apartment house on West Seventy-seventh Street. A doorman in uniform took care of our hand luggage. The apartment house faced a very large brick building surrounded by a garden. "That's the Museum of Natural History," Jimmy said. "A great museum; I'll take you there."

Naima stood waiting at the door of the apartment where she embraced Jimmy first, then me. She was a tall, handsome woman in her mid-thirties with jet-black hair tied in a bun at the back of her neck; she was wearing a bold colored, loose dress. I would later learn that these dresses were fashionable and made by a Danish designer called Marimekko. Next to her stood a cute little boy. "This is Maxwell; he is three. Say 'Hi' to Auntie Colette." Maxwell looked at me and smiled but said nothing. "Later you'll meet John; he's eighteen months, and he is sleeping now. Come, I will show you to your room. We gave you our room. Murray and I will sleep in the maid's room."

Immediately we protested, but to no avail. I was too young to understand that this would turn out to be a great mistake; taking their room would later provoke fights and problems. But we were happy to be there, and we settled in their room as we were told. For the next few hours, I explored the apartment. It was as large as my grandmother's in Paris, with four bedrooms lining a somber corridor. The dining room was old fashioned with a large dining table in the center. Later, I joined Naima there as she was preparing lunch. I heard a baby crying. "Why don't you go and pick him up," she said. As I entered his bedroom, John was standing in his crib. Such a lovely baby! I picked him up and kissed him on his neck. In return, I got a gurgling laugh. I knew right away that I was falling in love with him because he looked like Jimmy. I picked him up and took him back to the kitchen. Naima looked flustered, so I asked if I could help. "No thank you. I must feed John and Maxwell; you go back to the living room. Another time maybe." I was too shy to insist, and so I went back to the living room to join Jimmy. Anne was telling him what had happened to Edie.

"She had breast cancer but refused to see a doctor until it was too late."

"What do you mean she refused to see a doctor? Why didn't you drag her there?" There was silence. I realized that Jimmy was angry, Anne upset. I had to do something. How crushing to arrive in a new country and be faced with such horrible news. I was worried about Jimmy. I looked at him, went closer, and squeezed his hand with a smile. We shared a glance and I knew we would be fine.

That night as we sat down to dinner, Naima brought to the table a roast. It was enormous; I had never seen anything like it. Jimmy told me it was a rib roast prepared in our honor. "Very American," he said with a smile.

A thick slice was placed on my plate alongside a very large, unpeeled potato. "Baked potato," Naima explained, "also very American." I looked at Jimmy to see how I was supposed to eat it.

"Split in two; add some butter."

The potato was fluffy, hot, and tasted like the best mashed potato I had ever had. The skin was crisp, and Naima told me I could eat it, too. I discovered that the crackling skin was even more delicious. The slice of beef was bright pink and tender. I took a bite of the brown crackling fat with a piece of meat. I thought that I would have loved to suck on the bone, but no one seemed to do it, so it was with regret that I left it on my plate. To this day, a rib roast is still my favorite meat, but I always suck the bone clean! Next to the meat was a vegetable I never saw before. It looked like a small tree and tasted somewhat like cabbage. I thought it was good, but lacked some garlic or spices. "What is it?" I asked. "Broccoli," Anne explained. "Do you like it?" I didn't really know what to say since I realized that she had prepared it. For my taste, it was too bland. "Strange," I answered, and everyone laughed.

Murray served a very good French wine and told me that in a few years California would produce wines as good as the French. I thought it unlikely at the time, but he was right. Years later, as a food writer, I would go to wine auctions in California and taste wine as good, and sometimes better, than the French.

There was no bread on the table, and I missed it, especially when Naima brought in the salad. The salad was iceburg lettuce, the same type of salad that the American army wives bought at the PX in Germany, served with some strange dressing that they called "French." However, Naima's dressing was much better. She was, I thought, a very good cook. I looked around the table at the family. I didn't as yet understand the relationship between Naima, Murray, and Anne. There seemed to be tension, but I did not know why. I felt slightly nervous and unsettled, maybe even a bit scared. I looked at Jimmy. He smiled encouragingly, and I felt better. Everyone was looking at me, expecting something. But what? I thought I should do something. Picking up my wine glass, I made a toast to the family and said that the meal was great and that I was so pleased to be here.

The next morning I found my mother-in-law in the kitchen preparing breakfast. Maxwell and John were both there. She was making oatmeal. She offered me some, but I could barely eat in the morning and asked for just a cup of coffee and a piece of toast. Jimmy had left to see some friends and get reacquainted with the city. I didn't really know what to do with myself. I did not want to unpack since I hoped to find an apartment of our own soon. I asked Naima if I could help her. She suggested I take John for a walk in the park's playground. Maxwell would be dropped off at a play school. Central Park, I had learned the night before, was the large park near the apartment house. Would I get lost? I was slightly afraid, but thought Naima would explain where the playground was.

While Naima dressed John, I talked to Anne about her plans for the day. "This afternoon, after lunch, I have to visit Gina; she is very sad and upset," she said.

"Can I come with you?"

"No, some other day; she's not ready to meet you."

I left her and wandered again through the apartment. Murray, who was a financial writer for The New York Times, had already left for work. John was dressed and ready to be taken outside. Naima drew me a plan of the neighborhood and told me where the playground was. "He can play in the sandbox," she explained. "He likes the swings. Be careful as you cross streets and don't get lost."

We walked across the street to Central Park. I was astonished. The weather had changed, the sky was blue, and the park, as in Paris the previous week, showed signs of spring. There were daffodils on the lawns and buds on the trees. I pointed them out to John, picked a flower, and gave it to him. He tore it apart in two seconds and laughed. He had such a lovely smile, but he never said a word, just laughed.

The playground was surrounded by a cast-iron fence. There were benches all around, and a large sand box in the center, swings on one side, and in one corner a sort of wooden sculpture on which children could climb. So different from a Parisian park where "Défense de marcher sur la pelouse" (Keep off the grass) is the rule. I plopped John in the sandbox and sat and watched him play. I looked around. Women were sitting, talking, and once in a while, one got up and said something to her child. I was bored; I should have brought a book with me. A mother, a tall blonde woman, came and sat next to me.

"Are you new to the playground? Did you just move here?" she asked.

"Yes."

"Is this your son?"

"Yes."

This was a lie. It had flown out of my mouth. Why did I say yes? I felt foolish, but claiming to be John's mother seemed to give me some stature with this woman who started to chat about the weather and the maids in the playground. Pointing to a small, little girl, she said that she was very nasty. I should watch that she did not hit my son. Suddenly I heard a scream; it came from the little girl. John had taken something from her. I jumped up and ran to him. He had a piece of what looked like bread in his hand. The little girl's babysitter arrived, saying in an angry tone of voice, "Your son took Molly's pretzel. Get him his own." She pulled the piece of bread away from John. I picked him up and put him back in the carriage. The blonde woman walked over again and told me that the pretzel man was at the park's entrance. "Children love pretzels. You should get him one."

Naima had given me a couple of dollars, and so I bought a pretzel, cut it in two and gave half to John. As I bit into the slightly warm pretzel, I spit it out immediately. It was disgusting! Chewy, salty, and with a taste of gasoline...I pulled it away from John, who started to cry, and threw the pretzel in the garbage can. "Don't cry," I whispered to him. "Colette will buy something good right away." As I looked at Naima's map, I saw that there was a large avenue on the other side of Seventy-seventh Street, and so I walked toward it. I read the sign -- Columbus Avenue. Naima had told me that this was where I would find all the shops. I pushed the carriage along the avenue, peering inside the shops. I passed a shoemaker, a butcher, and a dress store. The butcher looked nothing like a French butcher. As I looked at the window display, I recognized nothing, so I continued my walk. Then I saw a bakery where I thought I could get something for John. As we entered the empty store, the woman at the counter asked me what I wanted. I said, "Good morning!" and she looked startled. Well, maybe here you don't greet anyone as you enter a store. In France you have to say, "Bonjour messieurs, mesdames..." If not, no one will serve you. There were long loafs of sliced bread on the shelves, but no baguettes. There were cakes, sweet pastries, and in a bin, round circles of bread -- some with sesame seeds. As I pointed to these, the woman said, "How many bagels? Plain or with sesame seeds?" So these were the famous treats Jimmy had been talking about in Paris. This was a bagel. They looked good, so I asked for "One sesame bagel, please." I gave a piece to John, who stopped crying and sucked on the bread. I took a bite, and I was very surprised. The bagel was chewy, and the crust hard but very tasty, so much better than the pretzel. Happy now, we walked for an hour before heading back to the house.

Back home, Anne was preparing John's lunch. Maxwell would return from school after three, and Naima was out shopping downtown. Once John was asleep in his crib, Anne prepared our lunch and called me in. In front of me was a sandwich. I wasn't sure I knew what it was. White bread, no crust and very soft. The sandwich was stuffed with, my mother-in-law told me, tuna fish salad. It was a sickening beige color. I took a bite, and I nearly choked. It was sweet with bits of what I thought were celery.

"What's in it?"

"Mayonnaise."

I knew two things: It was not really mayonnaise, and I couldn't eat this sandwich. I looked around not knowing what to do. While Anne went back to the kitchen, I quickly wrapped half the sandwich in the paper napkin she had given me and hid it in my pocket. I told Anne I could not eat the remaining half and brought it back to the kitchen. As I sat at the table sipping a cup of weak coffee, I thought of Paris and the ham sandwich in a crisp baguette I would have eaten in a café. I suddenly missed Paris and felt out of place and lonely. I wished Jimmy was there with me to cheer me up, and tell me everything would be all right.

I will never know if Anne knew I had thrown out the sandwich, but she never served me another tuna fish sandwich.

Later that afternoon, Jimmy came back and announced that in a few weeks there was going to be a large planner's conference at Harvard. We would go together to Cambridge. Lots of architectural and planning firms were going to be there, and he could find a good job. I felt better, and my spirits rose further when he whisked me away for some sightseeing.

Times Square overwhelmed me. I found the space exhilarating, with its lights, its immense advertisements panels, the crowds pushing you around, and the traffic. I stood speechless for a while, looking at the large panels of advertising with moving forms. One was advertising cigarettes, and real smoke was coming out of a woman's mouth. There were so many people, so much noise, and so much color. I loved it and found it astounding. Then we walked over to Fifth Avenue, toward Rockefeller Center. I stood for a while watching people skating in the center of the complex. Suddenly Jimmy whispered in my ear. "What do you want most from New York?"

"An apartment."

"No, what's something you want to eat."

"An ice-cream sundae!"

Hand in hand we walked to a small restaurant near an elegant department store called "Saks Fifth Avenue." The restaurant, Schrafft's, was on the side street. As we were ushered to our table, I looked around. The customers were mostly women sitting at small wooden tables, eating ice cream or drinking tea. There were banquettes against the walls, and the low round soft lights gave the restaurant a sort of genteel look. Jimmy ordered a sundae -- the dish I had dreamt of for so many years. A bowl of ice cream was placed in front of me. I looked at it in disbelief. It was a monstrous architectural construction. The ice cream was hidden under a mountain of whipped cream with chocolate sauce dripping artistically, topped with toasted almonds. A bright red cherry gloriously crowned it all. It was exactly like the one I had read about years before. But I took one bite and found the ice cream far too sweet and very creamy. The whipped cream was not like Chantilly, the cherry inedible. The dish was so rich that after two teaspoons I couldn't eat any more. I whispered to Jimmy, "Can you finish it?"

Why did I ever think that an ice-cream sundae would be so marvelous? I don't even like sweets!

We then went by subway to Wall Street. We first stopped in front of City Hall, which looked like a lovely copy of a French chateau. We walked around the park in front of it and then continued to the Woolworth building. Jimmy explained that the building was famous for its intricate façade.

"I love skyscrapers; there is so much poetry in them. You know it was the tallest building in the world at the time. Look up, Colette. Don't you think it is like a giant towering cathedral?"

I looked up and looked at the building with Jimmy-eyes, listening to what he was saying. The building was beautiful! But I did not know if it was as beautiful as a French cathedral, and I said so.

"Colette, look at the terra-cotta skin. Its machine made and celebrates the world of today, but it is able to produce a version of medieval stone of the Gothic architecture, just like the Gothic churches celebrated in their own way, the merchants and the artisans." I wasn't sure I really understood, but I tried to look at New York though his eyes.

Then we walked to Wall Street. The streets in this part of town amazed me; they were so narrow, and the buildings were so tall. I felt like an ant crawling in the street, looking up and barely seeing the sky. Suddenly, what seemed like an army of people came out of every building, pushing and shoving us.

"What is happening?"

"People are going home, Colette. Downtown is filled with offices and at 5:00 p.m. they all go home. In a few minutes, Wall Street will be deserted. Let's wait, and then we can walk around Fulton Street and down to the Battery to look at the Statue of Liberty."

A half an hour later, Wall Street looked like a ghost town, empty and silent. Slowly we walked to the tip of the island and stood together, admiring the Hudson River and the Statue of Liberty in the distance. New York, once again, seemed to me so extraordinarily beautiful.

The next few days went by slowly. I had little to do. I took John for rides in the park and walked around the neighborhood for hours. There were no cafés where I could just sit and look at people passing by. I also felt shy about entering a restaurant alone, not knowing what to order. I explored the shops on Broadway, looked at the clothes and the beauty salons. I noticed women had very strange hairdos; their hair was teased and puffed up. I thought as a young woman of twenty-three, I must have looked very old fashioned with my curls.

Every night, Murray and Jimmy came home late. Jimmy was busy renewing contact with his old friends and job hunting. At night he often told me who he saw and what he did. The search for an apartment did not seem like a priority to him. We had been in his brother's house for three weeks, and I felt tension building up in the family. I felt there was tension between Murray and Naima -- we were still staying in their bedroom -- and between Murray and Anne, who spent every summer with them. Dinners were difficult. There were many silences. Murray would talk about people he had seen without any explanation of why or for what: "I had lunch with the CEO of..." or "As the mayor said to me this morning..."

Growing up in Cairo, the conversations my family had were lively and interesting. The family was large, prosperous, boisterous and loving; my grandmother had had nine children. Here it was more like my French grandmother's house. No one talked because there was no love between her and me or between my brother and me. Here it seemed it was the same. Anne resented Naima and seemed not to like her very much. Also, Naima and Murray did not seem, at least in my eyes, to love each other. I started to dread these dinners. I tried to tell Jimmy about it, but he thought I was imagining things.

There was also the problem of the food. Naima was a good cook, but on the nights Anne cooked, I ate nearly nothing. I was not invited to help in the kitchen and was too shy to offer. I spent these awkward dinners dreaming of a tomato salad, a good Camembert, and above all, a French baguette stuffed with ham. I would make my escape at lunch. I had discovered a restaurant that did not have tables, just a counter that made it feel more like a French café. The luncheonette, Chock full o'Nuts, served a cream cheese sandwich on very good walnut bread. I became addicted to it and went there every day, telling Anne not to wait for me for lunch. A few days later, I received a phone call from an old friend of my mother's inviting us to dinner. The night of the dinner, I went looking for a flower shop to bring flowers. I could not find any, and I was worried. Go to dinner to someone's house and bring nothing? Jimmy kept on telling me it was all right.

My mother's friend was a tall, slim American woman with dyed red hair. Mr. and Mrs. Lowenstein lived on Park Avenue in a very grand apartment. They had lived in Paris for a year after the war, where they met my mother. "It was a relief to find someone who spoke English so well," Molly said. "She helped me shop, and we had a great time together." Philip, her husband, a banker, was slightly pompous. He made fun of the French, saying they took long hours for lunch and did not work hard. At the same time, he told me how delightful my accent was. This was something I would hear time and time again. There were many other guests, but I could not distinguish one from the other as everyone was introduced by their first name. I didn't know who was married to whom. The men stood at one end of the large living room and the women at the other. They all drank hard liquor. I was offered whisky but turned it down. I would have loved a glass of wine but ended up drinking orange juice. The women talked about shopping, babies, and baby-sitters while I tried to listen to the men's conversation. Their conversations were about politics and the stock market. I would have liked to join them but decided it was best if I stayed with the women. I had nothing to contribute to the women's conversations, as I had no children and no home of my own.

Dinner was served from a buffet by a black maid in uniform. We didn't sit at the dinner table but on chairs and couches. I was not used to it and was afraid to spill my food. The whole evening was painful and boring. As we took our leave, I thanked Molly for the lovely dinner. "We must see you again soon," she said, as I thought that I would have to find friends of my own very soon.

A week later we left for Boston. I was so happy to leave the house and be alone with Jimmy. The city delighted me. I loved the row of town houses around the Green; the scale of the buildings was a relief after Manhattan's skyscrapers and mammoth apartment buildings. On our first night, Jimmy took me to his favorite restaurant -- a small fish place where we ate broiled flounder and where I had my first taste of clam chowder. The light creamy broth, filled with chopped clams and cubed potatoes, had a wonderful aroma of the sea and fresh thyme. Oysters followed, thick fatty oysters so different from the French ones but still wonderful. They slid down my throat in one gulp. The next day we went to Cambridge for the conference on planning. I liked Cambridge with its small streets, funky boutiques, and cafés with students sipping espresso and discussing their classes, books, or politics. Jimmy left for the conference and mingled with his friends, while I walked around Harvard Yard. What an extraordinary campus, so beautiful, so free, and so peaceful. There were students lying on the grass, talking or just sunning themselves. I thought of my own experience at the Sorbonne. Dreary, immense amphitheaters where the teachers never knew your name. You sat with your friends on hard benches, never meeting the other students. Our only fun was after class, where we'd meet in a café over a ham sandwich and a glass of beer, discussing world politics or Sartre's latest novel.

As I entered the conference hall, a woman was on the platform talking about the American cities and urban planning. I looked at the program and read that her name was Jane Jacobs, a journalist for Architectural Forum and Fortune. She was talking about urban renewal and how it had destroyed American cities by creating large bands of highway that were changing neighborhoods for the worst, killing small businesses. She pointed out how the immense building heights had a dehumanizing effect, their massive blank walls seeming almost hostile to the pedestrians on the sidewalks. I recalled then my own experience arriving in New York, how I felt like an ant crushed by the heights of the buildings. She added, "We need more people who care. We need to save our city centers, and stop the exodus to the suburbs." She was passionate and electrifying. She got a standing ovation. I wanted to meet her, but there were too many people. Later when I met Jimmy, I told him how much I enjoyed the woman's talk.

"We will meet her in New York, I promise. I know her husband. He is an architect and, like her, fascinating."

That night Jimmy took me to Durgin Park Restaurant, an immense place, packed with tourists like us. The restaurant had long wooden tables for communal eating. We sat next to a family with four children from Ohio. Everyone was very friendly, so different from the French. They were all excited that I was French, and questions flew at me:

"How do you like Boston?"

"Love it, it's more like Paris."

"New York?"

"More difficult to know...I haven't really explored it yet."

"What part of Paris do you live in? I know the Eiffel Tower and..."

It turned out that the father had been a soldier in the war and had visited Paris and enjoyed the visit tremendously. Here the food was different but also very exciting as Jimmy chose dishes I had never tasted before, such as a strange corn pudding, light and fluffy, more like a soufflé with a very strong taste of corn. I loved it!

"It's called Indian pudding," the woman told me. This was followed by a broiled fresh fish and scalloped potatoes. It was the first great meal I had had in United States. The next morning Jimmy took me to the Italian section in North Boston. There was an open market, he told me, like in Paris. All along the street were stands with merchants calling to customers to buy their fare: oysters piled high, smelling of the sea; clams; and large crabs.

"Can we have some now? Right here?" I asked one of the sellers who was pushing me to buy oysters. "I don't live here, but I would like to try them."

"Get yourself a lemon. I'll open some oysters for you. How about clams?"

"I never ate clams; I will try some."

"Bella, anything for your great eyes," he said.

I felt I was back in Italy where we lived after our marriage. There, the men compliment you at every corner, bella or not. I bought a lemon, and Jimmy and I ate half a dozen oysters and clams. I had never had clams on the half shell. It was a revelation. So different from oysters. You have to chew the clam. They are soft and hard at the same time, slightly salty, and so delicious. We continued our walk and stopped at a stand filled with vegetables. I recognized Swiss chard and Sorrel, but near them was a vegetable I didn't know. It had broad, waxy, blue-green leaves. Next to it was still another vegetable with dark green leaves, frilled with curly edges. "It's kale," the seller told me, handing me a large bunch. I cut a small piece and tasted it. It was spicy and bitter at the same time.

"What are these?" I asked pointing to another green vegetable.

"The blue-green one is collard greens, and this here, lady, is mustard green. Buy some and cook it with a piece of salted or smoked pork, and you will love it."

I wanted to buy some, but Jimmy said no because no one at home would eat it. I promised myself that when I had my own apartment, I would try them all. Then I saw stands with lettuces. "I hate iceburg lettuce," I told Jimmy. "I have to bring this lettuce home." I also bought large, round, purple eggplant and some green sweet peppers. The fish stand was great; there were all sorts of fish that were new to me. I would have loved to buy more, but to my disappointment Jimmy said no. "We are going back home on the train. You cannot take fish with you. It will spoil, and the whole compartment will smell."

On the train back to New York, I dreaded returning to Murray and Naima's apartment. I started to understand that Murray resented being kicked out of his room and sleeping in the maid's room. We had been staying there too long. I knew we had to move. On the train, Jimmy told me that he had an interview the next day with a firm of architects and planners who had a great reputation. "I hope I will get the job" he said. So do I, I thought, so that we can afford an apartment. I also decided that I had to take over the task of apartment hunting. Having made that firm resolution, I felt free to daydream about the vegetables I had just bought and wondered how I would prepare them.

That night I made a sort of soufflé with the kale. I thought it was delicious, but no one, not even Jimmy, said anything. I put aside my apparent failure as a cook and put all my energies into finding a home. Every morning, with The New York Times in hand, I walked through the city's streets looking at apartments. Jimmy had been hired as designer and planner at a firm called Mayer and Wittelsey. Meanwhile the tension in the house was becoming unbearable. Murray had refused to move back into his room. I had the feeling that he and Naima were fighting, but not only about us -- they also fought about Anne, who like most mothers-in-law gave her opinion on everything that took place in that house. Dinners were hard to take; Murray barely acknowledged our presence; Naima, wanting peace above all else, was busy with the children and refused to intervene. Jimmy was lost in his own world, and I desperately tried to make conversation, so I talked about the apartments I had seen.

"I saw an apartment on a street called Bleecker. Wonderful. It's on the third floor, a walk up. Great view from the windows, and you know, the bathtub is in the kitchen. So romantic! Next to it is a great charcuterie with prosciutto, hams, sausages, and cheeses. Also there are street vendors selling vegetables and fruit. And best of all the rent is only $85 a month. I want to show it to Jimmy tomorrow. We can move in right away."

My announcement was greeted with exclamations of horror. "Bleecker Street, that's in the village and a three story walk up! The bathtub in the kitchen! Ridiculous Colette, you need a real apartment! Furthermore, it is too expensive."

Too expensive! I heard that statement every night as I would describe what I had found that day. Nothing was good enough for my mother-in-law, nothing was elegant enough for Murray, and Jimmy would smile at me and always say, "Tomorrow you will find something better." I was getting so angry with Jimmy. I tried to explain to him that we were causing strife between husband and wife and that even Maxwell, the three-year-old, was acting up because of it. Jimmy told me I was exaggerating, that things were not that bad, and that tomorrow I would find an apartment. Day after day, newspaper in hand, I went looking for a place to live. By now I had learned the bus system and could move up and down Manhattan quite easily. Lunches were a slight problem. I could not always find a Chock full o'Nuts to order my favorite sandwich. I tried a street vendor sausage and threw it in the garbage -- nothing like Munich's sausage that we used to eat in the street. Eventually, I discovered a BLT, a tomato and bacon sandwich that I liked, but I had to learn to say, "No mayonnaise and on toasted rye bread." I could not eat the thin, soft white bread even toasted.

One night when Naima was out, I made artichokes stuffed with breadcrumbs and herbs, as I had learned to in Italy, and cooked them in olive oil. I thought that everyone would be happy, the tension would disappear, and I would be praised as a great cook. But no, no one said anything, not a word. I looked at Jimmy, who wore his far away look I now knew so well. It meant that he was thinking of an architectural problem and was totally oblivious of everything around him. Suddenly, I decided to leave the house. I had enough of this family who did not talk, who seemed not to like one another.

Slowly, I got up, left the dining room, put my coat on, and waited to see if anyone noticed that I had left the table. I waited ten minutes. Nothing happened, so I left. I walked down Central Park West toward Columbus Circle. By now I knew that part of the city quite well. I sat on a bench outside the park and looked at the people walking by. I thought I had made a mistake, coming to New York. I did not like the city, I had no friends, and Jimmy did not seem to care for me as much as he did in Italy where we first lived as husband and wife. Everything I did was either criticized or dismissed. What was I doing here? I wondered. I am twenty-three years old, I am still young, and I must go back to Paris, find a job, and start a new life again. But I did not want to go back to the apartment. I decided I would stay on my bench until morning and then go back, pack my bags, and leave. I must have sat down there for more than an hour when suddenly I heard Jimmy's voice.

"Oh, I found you! I was so worried; I have been walking for the last two hours. Why did you leave? I was panicky. What's wrong? I don't understand what happened. Please tell me."

I looked at his face; he looked exhausted, upset, there were tears in his eyes. "I love you," he kept on repeating, hugging me. "Why did you do that?" And so I explained and talked about my loneliness: Murray and Naima, Anne and him not understanding, not listening to me. Not helping me find an apartment.

"We have been here over two months. I want my own home with you. I want to find a job. Have a real life." I told him of the apartment I had found on Sixty-eight Street and Central Park West. "It is in the back, on the second floor. It isn't great, but please can we take it and move?" Jimmy promised that the next morning we would go and see the landlord and sign a lease. We slowly walked back to the house. They had all gone to bed. I did not have to explain anything to anyone.

The next morning as promised, we went to sign the lease. The apartment had one large living room, a small bedroom overlooking a brick wall, and a small kitchen with a dinette. Jimmy did not seem too happy but said nothing. Then we ordered a bed, and a few days later we moved in. Murray and Naima were upset with us. We had not asked their advice, and they felt offended. Anne thought we should have waited for a better place. No one was happy for us except me.

A few days later my large shipping baskets arrived with my entire trousseau. Together we unpacked, and mentally I thanked my mother for the lovely towels and sheets I now had. We went to the Salvation Army and bought two dentist stools for a few dollars and a writing desk that Jimmy stripped and painted white. (Forty years later, I still have the writing desk and the stools.) I bought a vase at the Five and Ten and filled it with flowers because by now I knew where the flower shop was. I placed one basket in the dinette and covered it with one of the tablecloths I had not wanted to take. This became our dining table, and after buying some pots and pans, I was ready to play housewife and cook my first meal.

I was finally home!

* * *

Snails with Swiss Chard

Wash 1 pound of Swiss chard. Cut the leaves off the stems. Set aside the leaves and finely chop them. Dice the stems. Bring a quart of water to a boil with a pinch of salt. Then add the stems and bring to a boil; turn off the heat and drain. In the same saucepan, heat 2 tablespoons of butter, add stems, and sauté for 5 minutes or until they are tender, but do not brown. Then add the leaves and sauté for 4 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside. Meanwhile, in a skillet heat 2 tablespoons of butter. When the butter is hot, add 2 dozen large snails, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and sauté for 5 minutes, while stirring. Remove from the heat and set aside. Peel 8 garlic cloves. Place the garlic in a saucepan, cover with 1 cup of milk. Bring to a boil, lower the heat, and simmer for 5 minutes or until the garlic is cooked. Drain the garlic. In a food processor, puree the garlic with 1Ž2 cup of heavy cream. When ready to serve, add the Swiss chard to the snails and heat for 2 minutes, then add the cream sauce, mix well, and heat through. Do not boil. Serve sprinkled with chopped parsley.

Serves 4.

Lamb Shanks with Hard Cider

Marinate the 4 lamb shanks the night before. In a bowl, mix together 2 tablespoons of lemon juice with 4 tablespoons of olive oil, 2 tablespoons of soy sauce, and salt and pepper to taste. Place the lamb in a deep bowl, and add the marinade. Turn the lamb shanks several times so that they are covered with the oil mixture. Cover the bowl with foil and refrigerate overnight. Scrape, wash, and dice 2 carrots; peel and dice 3 medium size onions; peel, seed, and dice 2 tomatoes; peel and chop half a head of garlic. In a large saucepan, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil, add the vegetables, mix well, lower the heat, and simmer for a few minutes, while stirring. Add 1Ž2 cup chicken bouillon and 2 cups of hard cider. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and skim the top. Cook for 4 minutes. Remove from the heat, cool and refrigerate overnight. The next day, in an ovenproof saucepan, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Drain lamb shanks and add to saucepan. Brown on all sides. Remove to a platter and discard the oil. Place lamb shanks back with the vegetables and broth. Sprinkle lamb with 1 tablespoon of fresh thyme. Add more broth mixed with hard cider (equal parts broth and hard cider) if necessary, as the meat should be covered. Close with a lid and bake in a preheated oven at 350° for 2 1Ž2 hours. Meanwhile, peel and quarter 1 pound of small fresh turnips and 3 celery stalks. Wash and scrape 1 pound of baby carrots. Cook each vegetable separately in salted boiling water until tender, do not overcook. Drain and set aside. Remove the shanks from the saucepan. Place the cooked vegetables in a food processor and puree. Pour sauce back into saucepan, add 2 tablespoons of butter, and simmer for 3 minutes; add the shanks, carrots, turnips, celery, salt, and pepper. Heat through. Place shanks with the sauce and the vegetables in a deep serving platter, sprinkle with fresh chopped parsley, and serve.

Serves 4.

Apple & Pear Tart

Make the dough: In a food processor, place 1 3Ž4 cups of flour with 8 tablespoons of cold butter, cut into small pieces, and a pinch of salt. Process until the mixture forms a coarse meal. In a measuring cup, mix together 1 egg with 1 tablespoon of oil and 1Ž4 cup of ice water. Beat with a fork. Then, while the food processor is running, slowly add the oil mixture. It will form a ball. Remove and wrap it in wax paper and chill in the refrigerator for 1 hour. Butter a 9-inch pie pan. On a floured board, roll the dough. Line the pie pan with the dough and crimp the edges. Peel, core, and thinly slice 3 Macintosh apples. Peel, core, and thinly slice 3 large Anjou pears. Form concentric circles of apples and pear slices. Dot with 2 tablespoons of butter and sprinkle the top with 2 tablespoons of sugar. Bake in a 375° oven for 40 minutes. Serve with ice cream or whipped cream.

Serves 4 to 6.

Asparagus with Boiled Eggs

For this recipe, you need to choose thick asparagus, not pencil thin ones.

With a vegetable peeler, peel 12 large asparagus and trim ends. Place the asparagus in a large skillet and cover with boiling water. Bring to a boil, lower heat to medium, and cook until tender (about 8 minutes). Drain immediately. Place the asparagus, 4 to each plate, alongside an egg cup. In a saucepan, place 4 eggs, cover with boiling water, and cook for 4 1Ž2 minutes. (For this dish, the eggs should be runny.) In a small dish, place 4 tablespoons of butter. Add a few drops of truffle oil to the butter (optional). Melt butter in a microwave. Add salt and pepper to taste. Pour the butter in a small milk pitcher, being careful not to pour in the solids, which are at the bottom. Cut off the top of each egg and serve with the butter on the side. Each person pours 1 tablespoon of butter in the egg. Mix and use the egg as a sauce for the asparagus.

Serves 4.

Onion GratinÉe

Peel 3 large sweet onions and thinly slice. In a deep skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of butter, add the onions, and sauté over a medium heat until transparent but not brown. Then add 2 quarts of strong beef stock. Simmer for 5 minutes. Correct the seasoning with salt and freshly ground pepper. Toast 8 slices of French baguette. Divide the soup among 4 ovenproof bowls. Add

2 tablespoons of grated Swiss cheese to each bowl. Top with 2 slices of toast. Place 3 thick slices of Swiss cheese on top of the toast. Dot with butter. Bake in a 375° oven until the cheese is melted and golden brown. Serve immediately.

Serves 4.

Copyright © 2006 by Colette Rossant


Meet the Author

Colette Rossant is the author of eight cook-books and the memoirs Apricots on the Nile and Return to Paris. A James Beard Award-nominated journalist, she divides her time between New York and France.

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