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Life as a "food person"


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Dorie, I am intrigued by this line in your biography:

"Dorie divides her time between New York City, Connecticut and Paris, France."

When I read that, I wonder if your living arrangements are a result of your career or if your career is a result of your living arrangements. Could you answer that and talk about how the goals you've had for your life and how you have or have not realized them? What do you wish you'd done differently? What are you so glad worked out the way it has?

Also, without getting too personal, can you talk about how your family feels about your profession? For example, in my own life as a home cook who likes to try new things, I am blessed with some children who'd probably be happier with a mom who made Hamburger Helper or hot dogs every night. :smile:

~ Lori in PA

My blog: http://inmykitcheninmylife.blogspot.com/

My egullet blog: http://forums.egullet.org/index.php?showtopic=89647&hl=

"Cooking is not a chore, it is a joy."

- Julia Child

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Lori, you're asking big questions.

The easiest one to answer is about my living arrangements. Yes, I divide my time -- very unevenly -- between New York City, Westbrook, CT and Paris, France. New York is where I was born and raised and it's always been home; Connecticut is a weekend place we lucked into 24 years ago -- it's also where I now spend summers and do lots of recipe development and testing (I've got a bigger kitchen there than I've got anywhere else); and Paris was a dream.

Michael, my husband, and I went to Paris for the first time 35 years ago and, from the moment I got there, I felt like that was where I should have been born. Michael thinks that I arranged my career -- for as much as my career can be considered arranged -- so that I could be in Paris. For sure, being in Paris has helped my career in that it has been a source of infinite inspiration. It's a pretty swell place in general, and the swellest for anyone with a sweet tooth.

As for goals -- I never really had a plan. I started baking when Michael and I got married (I was a college student then) and I loved it, but it didn't present itself as a career opportunity and really wasn't -- there were hardly any women in restaurant kitchens then. I went to graduate school, did the course work for a doctorate in gerontology and thought I'd have a career in a university, but baking kept pulling me. I was very lucky -- I met people who encouraged me to bake and I seemed to fall into odd jobs.

A friend got me my first baking job and then my first food writing job. I was incredibly lucky to meet -- really by chance -- the food editor of Elle magazine and then to have the opportunity to work with so many famous French chefs who were contributing to the magazine. That was probably the experience that convinced me that I wanted to be in food forever and that French pastry and food was going to be my specialty.

When opportunities arose -- I grabbed them. I said "yes" to everything. After deciding not to finish my doctoral dissertation, there really were no forks in the road.

The only great opportunity I almost missed was writing Baking with Julia. When I was first asked to do the project, I was working at the Food Network and I turned it down. Luckily for me, the Baking with Julia project was slower to get started than anticipated and I was able to do it. It was a turning point for me and I can't imagine what life would have been like had I missed the chance to work with Julia.

A quick story about my family. I've got a husband who eats almost everything and who always says he is happy to be the spouse of a "food person". Our son, is a different matter. While he was always happy to have cookies and stuff to bring to school, he didn't eat very much of anything when he was little -- not even my cookies. Imagine a kid without a sweet tooth! I used to think it was some sign of not-so-passive hostility and then I had a conversation with Nancy Silverton, one of America's best bread bakers. She told me that, for her kids, the greatest treat was going to the supermarket and buying squishy packaged bread! Of course, I felt better immediately.

Now, my son not only eats just about everything -- he's in the food biz too.

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Can you give us a "typical" day in the life of Dorie Greenspan? I remember you saying that you bake daily -- is that true all of the time or just when you are working on a baking cookbook?

Also, I love the photo of you in your New York kitchen -- there is abundant light, everything is close to hand, and you look so happy! Wonderful! What tricks have you developed to make working in cosy quarters easier? What do you love most about each of your kitchens? What about each makes you growl? (Or do you growl? I do, now and again...)

~ Lori in PA

My blog: http://inmykitcheninmylife.blogspot.com/

My egullet blog: http://forums.egullet.org/index.php?showtopic=89647&hl=

"Cooking is not a chore, it is a joy."

- Julia Child

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A quick story about my family.  I've got a husband who eats almost everything and who always says he is happy to be the spouse of a "food person".  Our son, is a different matter.  While he was always happy to have cookies and stuff to bring to school, he didn't eat very much of anything when he was little -- not even my cookies.  Imagine a kid without a sweet tooth!  I used to think it was some sign of not-so-passive hostility and then I had a conversation with Nancy Silverton, one of America's best bread bakers.  She told me that, for her kids, the greatest treat was going to the supermarket and buying squishy packaged bread!  Of course, I felt better immediately.

Now, my son not only eats just about everything -- he's in the food biz too.

Hi Dorie,

I am from a family of 'food people', and I think a lot of my interest in food was ingrained in me at an early age. I'm curious - were you raised in a house filled with good cooking and baking? "Food people' are often raised in families who appreciate good food and inherit the appreciation or they grow up in homes with with no appreciation and rebel. Do either of these fit the bill?

Thanks,

Pam

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"Food people' are often raised in families who appreciate good food and inherit the appreciation or they grow up in homes with with no  appreciation and rebel.

I agree with this statement, I rebelled. I am interested in the answer to this as well.

-Becca

www.porterhouse.typepad.com

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Some time after my first cookbook was published, a reporter found my mom in Florida and called her. She asked, "How did Dorie learn to bake?" and my mom said, "Darned if I know -- she certainly didn't get it from me!"

It's true. My dear, wonderful, adorable mother rarely (read, almost never) cooked and certainly never baked a thing in her life. Her idea of a dressy dessert was to shove a can of fruit cocktail into the freezer and, at the appointed moment, pull it out, open both ends of the can, push out the frozen concoction, cut it and serve it -- maybe with a few maraschino cherries as decoration, if the occasion was really special.

And my father didn't cook either.

That said, both of my parents knew and loved good food -- they just didn't want to be responsible for making it.

(My mother's mother was a wonderful cook and a terrific baker. I was lucky enough to taste a lot of her food when I was very young, but I never had the chance to work with her in the kitchen.)

For sure, I didn't follow in my parents' footsteps, but I didn't rebel against them either. I started to cook and bake because I had to -- I got married when I was a 19-year-old college student, my husband had his first job and we couldn't afford to go out to eat or buy anything that was prepared. I was really lucky -- it turned out I loved to be in the kitchen. My mother was really surprised -- and still is.

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I would also be interested to know if you bake everyday "just for the sake of baking." I find myself always wanting to bake even though I never develop recipes as you do. All of my friends and family can't understand this. They think it's too much work. For me, it is actually very meditative and calming to cook and bake. Also, it just always feels like there is so much left for me to learn.

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I'm sorry I didn't get to your question earlier, Lori.

As I'm sure would be true for everyone, it's hard to describe a "typical" day, particularly because, as you mention later in your post, I live in three places and life is pretty different in each place. What most days always include is work -- writing (I write pretty much every day), either recipes or headnotes or articles; baking -- either developing or testing recipes for books or articles or baking for fun (although I do less baking and more cooking in Paris); cooking -- for my husband and me during the week and for friends on the weekends (and very often on weekday nights in Paris, where everyone stays up late, even on "school nights"); walking, for exercise, or strolling, for fun; and time with family and friends.

I spend Monday through Thursday in New York City in that small kitchen, which you so adorably called "cozy"; weekends in Connecticut, where I have a large kitchen with plenty of spread-out space and where my desk and computer are right near the oven; and about 3 months a year in Paris, but in small chunks of time, where I've got a compact kitchen that works surprisingly well for the lots of entertaining that I do there.

My New York kitchen is narrow enough for me to be able to stretch out my arms and touch both walls, but I've got that loooooooooong butcherblock counter and lots of storage space. I've got drawers under the counter for pots, pans, baking gear and gadgets, the hanging pot rack and, above the counter, lots of storage space behind sliding doors -- that's what I'm reaching for in the picture. And, as you pointed out, I've got light -- which makes any space a pleasure to be in. If I were a more organized person, the kitchen would work even better than it does. But I'm not organized, so that when I'm baking lots of things, I'm glad to have the dining room table nearby.

The easiest kitchen for me to work in is the big one in Connecticut -- not a surprise. It's also fun because it leads out to a deck, so I can cool things outdoors. In addition to outdoor cooling being fast and efficient, I love walking outside and seeing a pie.

The kitchen in Paris has the least counterspace and the teensiest sink. But, hey -- it's Paris, so I never complain.

However, I do growl and when I do it's usually because I've been sloppy and not cleaned up as I've gone along, so that when I'm finished, I'm left with a sinkful of dishes and crumbs everywhere. I always tell myself to work neatly, and then I get carried away on a project, and then ...

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I bake even when I'm not developing or testing recipes and I bake for exactly the same reasons that you do, Jean: I find it very relaxing. I also love the way I feel when I've baked something -- that enormous sense of satisfaction that you get when you've made something completely by yourself, by hand, is a real high. That it's something that can be shared makes it even better.

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