The Best Cook I’ve Ever Known

Recette-de-lAligot-traditionnel

Years ago when I was still quite young in my culinary education I met a woman who was the best cook I have ever known.  During the time I owned The Hungry Moon diner I met some of the most amazing people.  When you live in a small town with long winters you find people with whom you can share interests, conversation, and the ability to visit even when it is snowy.  One of the best perks of owning the H.M. was the ability to meet people simply by showing up to work every day.  Bonnie and her husband David arrived one evening for dinner during the brief time I tried offering dinner, and they were the only customers that night, so I was free to chat, and they were happy to talk to me.

Bonnie and I became friends immediately, and she introduced me to her friends, many of whom were transplanted New Yorkers like me, all of whom were fascinating and as charming as she was.  Bonnie’s husband David was a sculptor, and did wonderful figures in motion from found metal.  I was very sad to hear recently he had died.  I lost touch with Bonnie and David several years ago, though I think of Bonnie and all I learned from her often.

Going to Bonnie’s for a meal always meant that I’d have something I’d never had before, or if I had, I’d never had it cooked like that!   One winter night we had Brussels sprouts that had been sliced thin and cooked with shallots and bacon for hours on their wood stove and melted in my mouth.  She served aligot, a sublime dish of potatoes and melted cheese beaten to a silky smooth consistency and not like any other mashed potatoes I’d ever had, despite a few trips to France.  We had veau au thon— veal scallopini sauteed and topped with a sauce made from pureed canned tuna (high quality imported tuna in oil) which sounds gross but was divine!   Bonnie loved to travel, loved both French and Italian food, and entertained in a style that  was casual, relaxed, filled with lively conversation and encouraged her guests to savor each course.

veau-saute-au-thon

Their house was an old converted chicken coop on a back road in Delaware county.   The house was filled with beautiful objects, tons of books and laughter. They collected and sold antiques, had impeccable taste, and were the most kind, generous and intelligent couple I had ever met.  They folded me into their lives, into their wide circle of friends, and enriched my life for including me in theirs.

When I was getting ready to go to culinary school, I think Bonnie was as excited as I was.  Her love for food was so much a part of her, and knowing her has inspired me as a cook, and as a friend for the past twenty five years.  I am now the age Bonnie was when I met her, and one of the things I hope is that I can impart some of the joy and passion for food and life that I was able to get from her.  In my fantasy a copy of this post finds its way to her, and she will know how much she meant to me, and how she did, and continues to influence me.

Was there someone in your life who continues to inspire you in your life?

8/9/2013

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One thought on “The Best Cook I’ve Ever Known

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