Posted 08 October 2003 - 03:20 PM
Many people have asked me about this. The real answer is -- lots of preparation. (Does that remind you a little of the old joke about how to get to Carnegie Hall -- "practice, practice, practice"?) I spend six or so months preparing a trip: contacting US residents originally from the region, obtaining suggestions, tips and leads. Lots of letter writing then ensues. I also engage in language study. I' no great linguist, but if I am going to visit Catalonia I make a point of learning the kitchen vocabulary in Catalan (not just Spanish); the same for Sicilian (not just Italian) for Sicily; and Georgian (not merely Russian) for Georgia. I also try to find the local experts, then write to them. I've been very lucky that so many people have been so generous toward me. As mentioned earlier, I always bring gifts, usually a little kitchen gadget, something they're likely to understand and quickly learn to use -- things like parsley cutting wheels and garlic presses, nothing expensive, but always germane to our mutual interest in cooking. When I'm there I'll ask: "Who makes the best such-and-such?" Usually someone will mention the name of an expert. This happened in Turkey when I was looking for a good manti recipe. The woman I finally learned from was truly the best in the whole country. I stay in touch afterwards too. I'm still in contact with the woman who first helped me on my first book in Morocco in 1972, an old dada from the palace of the grandfather of the present King. I really enjoy these people and I think they sense this and respond in kind to my interest and enthusiasm. As I mentioned earlier: food truly is the great connection between people, especially women, no matter the country or culture.
“C’est dans les vieux pots, qu’on fait la bonne soupe!”, or ‘it is in old pots that good soup is made’.