Yesterday I had the pleasure of signing books with the Center for Women at the Citadel Alumni House here in Charleston, South Carolina. I was one of sixty local authors in attendance and it was the second time I’ve had the honor of attending the event started by Ms. Jenett Alterman, who does so much for women and entrepreneurs locally.
Remember how I said I’d be giving away a signed copy of Mastering the Art of Southern Cooking by Nathalie Dupree and Cynthia Graubart? Well, I was not only able to get the autograph for Melissa Jones (commenter #42, as selected by random.org), I was able to get a picture for myself. Win!
Since people weren’t exactly beating a path to my table -and I’m not complaining at all. I ducked out for a little while and attended Ms. Dupree’s talk, which I’ve heavily paraphrased below, with her permission.
Nathalie spoke about cooking in Spain after training at London’s Le Cordon Bleu (Wouldn’t that be amazing?) and about her restaurant in rural Georgia -the state, not the country.
But what caught my attention was her commentary on cooking as a craft. (She never described it as such, but I interpreted it that manner.)
Ms. Dupree illustrated her point with a story about a man going out and spending thousands of dollars on a country club membership, more money on a top of the line set of clubs, and fancy balls -tee hee- and noted that he would not invite his entire family out to the very first time he teed off and expect to get a hole in one.
Yet women—and yes we’re generalizing and stereotyping, suck it up for a moment and just listen- will spend ten or twenty dollars on ingredients and be crushed if the results are not the equivalent of a hole in one the very first time they attempt a recipe.
Give yourself time to learn the craft of cooking.
Our country is so very wasteful in so many ways and I’m still paraphrasing from her talk, but I completely agree, except with food. It used to be after the Great Depression that everything was saved. Now we live in a disposable society, but still try to be members of the Clean Plate Club because there are starving children in [your country / region of choice].
Give yourself permission to fail.
I’ll say it again, give yourself permission to fail. Not every recipe is written perfectly and it takes practice to learn what flavors you love, what textures make your soul sing, and how to combine the two.
Ms. Dupree pointed out that, in her mind, it’s more wasteful to spend good money on a restaurant meal that doesn’t keep you awake a night, dreaming of the food.
Aspire to master a dish to the point that your descendants lie awake in their beds and think, “If only Grandma were here to make her biscuits just one more time.” “What I would give to have my aunt’s cornbread.”
That’s what I want, maybe the neighbor kid will remember Ms. Heather’s …[why can’t I remember what it is he likes?].
Don’t attempt new recipes on company. It doesn’t have to be a fancy, showcase meal to be memorable. Give yourself time to master it, don’t feel bad if you create a disaster that needs to be thrown out. It’s okay. The world won’t end and you aren’t a failure. If it’s the main dish, just suck it up and serve PB&J or grilled cheese instead, it’s not the end of the world.
And if you aren’t Melissa Jones, I highly recommend you buy yourself a copy of Mastering the Art of Southern Cooking, it deserves a place of honor in your kitchen or on your nightstand, wherever it will be read most often.