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Success and food writing

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#1 Adam Balic

Adam Balic
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Posted 06 October 2003 - 04:07 AM

Paula – I have never found your recipes particularly complicated. They could be, but you have a very good talent of breaking down a complex recipe into a number of simple and logical steps. If there are people that say that your recipes are ‘complicated’, then I would think that they have not really read them carefully.

It would seem to me that even now people prefer ‘assurance’ from their food and food writers, rather then any hint of doubt. When you originally had the idea for a Moroccan cookbook, did you think that it would be as successful as it has been? And if so, why? At the time it was published there was very little in the way of Moroccan food writing in print and the book must have stood out on the shelves of bookstores like a poppy in a field of daisies.

Obviously, the popularity of these books in part reflects the excellent nature of Moroccan cuisine, but a very large part of their popularity is due to your skills as a food writer. What do you think these skills are and how conscience are you of these abilities when you are writing?

#2 Wolfert

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Posted 09 October 2003 - 02:01 PM

Hi Adam:

Certainly one of the great pleasures of being a food writer is to meet and work with sharing people who share a love of food. There's nothing more gratifying than learning something exciting in, say, Northern Greece, than passing it along. Early in my career, shortly after embarking on my "culinary adventures," I found that most of the dishes I loved best could be best presented with a story -- about people, history, the place where I learned the recipe, as well as the whys and wherefores that made it work. I enjoy putting a recipe in context this way; it's a means of expressing the happiness I associate with a dish, and my enthusiasm for life (food being = to life). So I hope people don't think of my food as simply "complicated," but rather my attempt to reproduce what I learned and experienced in foreign lands.
As to my Morccan cookbook, I had no idea when it was first published that it would remain in print for over thirty years. Certainly I was fortunate to have been in the right place at the right time. Morocco was the first foreign country I lived in, the first one I ever visited as well! As soon as I set foot there I was wowed! Later, with the help of some of the finest cooks in the country, plus a marvelous editor in New York (who somehow convinced Harper & Row (it later became harper Collins) to send her over to Tangier to work with me!), as well as several "mentors" who helped promote the book when it came out, it remained, one book at a time, on the shelves by popular demand, as you put it, "a poppy in a field of daisies." I thank you for that very generous compliment, and hope it was earned. As to what qualities have enabled me to write as I have, please forgive me for not listing them here. My ears are already burning from this great Egullet reception, and I don't want to spoil that by bloviating and blowing my own horn. Something tells me you of all my correspondents will understand this best.

warmest regards,
“C’est dans les vieux pots, qu’on fait la bonne soupe!”, or ‘it is in old pots that good soup is made’.