okay, perfect #15: musings on TV; cooking sketches vs. recipes; writing a cookbook
and a cooking sketch for a guac-a-salsa dip/sauce/avocado toast for breakfast
This is a long-one, and a heart-felt one. Which I am making public, for now. I might put it behind the paywall eventually because…It’s pretty vulnerable.
If you don’t give a rats patoody about that, and you’re just here for the tasty recipe? Scroll down to the bold text that says An Approach to Speedy, Fresh, Goes with Everything Guac-A-Salsa-Sauce-Vierge. This is the only free ‘recipe’ and full post this month. The next one will arrive in February.
If you want to subscribe? It’s $7 a month. You’ll get all the back issues too.
Can swing that financially right now? Message me on Instagram at @makennaheld with your email.
TL;DR? Being on TV is weird. Writing a cookbook is a lot of work, but worth it. I don’t hate recipes, really I don’t.
We’re now finished with the airing of our first season of La Pitchoune: Cooking in France. And it’s a marvellous thing to be on the other side, and a bit bittersweet. Receiving your weekly messages has been a joy to behold. And silly fun to be on tv regularly. We’re also now getting a lot of messages from people who are just finding it. Which is a joy to us too! Now y’all can binge the entire season in one sitting if you so desire.
I was asked by the first guests to have watched the TV show and then come visit us, if my life has changed due to the TV show. It’s hard to say really. I live in France, and I don’t really think our crew is all that recognisable unless we travel together. And since the show doesn’t air in France, it’s not really changing my day to day experience.
Chris has been in the US, with a fresh haircut, and hasn’t been recognised. But then again, he’s lost about 5 inches of hair length! Kendall, on the other hand, has been recognised in public. But admittedly, that’s the part that has made *me* the most nervous. But if you do see me in public someday, don’t hesitate to say hi! I’m just a bit of a muppet, and might be awkward. But *hopefully* that might be charming? I don’t really know.
Has it changed our business? Also hard to say. Before COVID, we were selling out 18 months in advance, and now we’re nearly back to that. And we didn’t raise our prices due to the show, although I am sure that has helped us sell at the new price point. We changed our prices due to the cost of running the school and the house, and to remain comparable to our colleagues (I don’t view what our ‘competitors’ due as competition because so many people come to us and go visit our competitors too. Which we highly recommend if you’re into cooking.)
Has it changed our social media numbers? Absolutely. We’ve nearly doubled in a few weeks, and for a business that doesn’t focus on social media that is a pretty significant bump. (Although our focus on social media is changing as we’re growing the company beyond our in-person Courageous Cooking School, growing this newsletter, growing the online school, and gearing up to sell my first cookbook).
All of this is to say, filming and airing the first season of La Pitchoune: Cooking in France has been a joy (mostly). Admittedly, it took awhile to navigate the inevitable negativity of some people on the internet. And while I am a tough cookie with a strong capacity, I still have feelings. And I am still a person with those feelings who has to navigate them. And no matter how much steeling I do of my nerves, nervous system, and ‘f*ck the haters’ chants I do, I am still a sensitive human with all the feelings. I mean, come on! I cry in every episode. That isn't an act.
And I am a quick crier. I am into feeling all my feelings. I was the kid who wept openly at the closing campfire every year at summer camp. Even if it was like a five day summer camp. And if I stayed for six weeks like I did one summer? HOLY GUACAMOLE I wept like a baby who hasn’t slept in 24 hours.
As an adult, like yesterday, I cried just barely listening to my daughter watching SNOW BUDDIES for chrissakes (it’s my daughters favorite right now, which I have a lot of feelings about because the filming was problematic in a big way). But yes. I cried. Because the thought of LOST PUPPIES being mushers! SHASTA lost her parents in a terrible accident (Shasta is a puppy)! Legacy! Ancestors! And a little kid follows his dream to win a sled race!
So yes, sometimes when ‘haters’ come a-calling I also sometimes cry. Not because it really hurts my feelings, per se. But because I find the cruelty so unnecessary and strange and out of place. And it’s so out of line with my entire world philosophy of generosity. As I like to say “Sigh, some people’s children!”
I think people sometimes forget that when they are peering into people’s lives and personalities on television, that we’re just people. I know I *used* to forget this, and think that these people I watched on moving pictures were larger than life. That they somehow were better, stronger, more important than say…me.
But here I am…On Tv. And I’m just a person. I’m a person who took a big leap to move to the South of France, and bought Julia Child’s house completely site unseen.
But I am also just a person.
So while yes, being on TV has shifted our world in marked ways, it hasn’t changed much of our lives. Yet. Perhaps that will change as the show develops a long-term audience or other seasons get filmed. *Crossing fingers for more!*
During all of this–filming for 8 weeks over the course six months, running 20 weeks of cooking schools, 16 weeks of rentals, and attempting to be a mom and steadfast partner to my husband and best friend–I have also managed to write a freaking cookbook.
57,000 words strong (thus far). 100 recipes written and tested. And developed. And WOOOF. What a feat it has been!
I am very rarely proud of myself. But this time? I am beyond proud. I never wanted to be anything other than a writer, and it was my number one–nearly silent, seemingly unattainable–dream I had as a child. I would quietly etch words into journals as a small child, and into my adolescence. Writing haphazard poetry, playing with words in lyrical phrases. I never really felt like I was good at it–do writers ever feel like they are *good* at it?–I just wanted it so desperately.
I constantly compared my writing to that of others, my style to that of my friends/lovers/compatriots in my MFA program (that I admittedly never finished). But that’s where the pain is. In comparison. I have found that when I ‘keep my eyes on my own paper’ rather than jumping into a deep well of compare and despair, that I ultimately find a lot more joy. And it turns out (after rereading my own cookbook a few times) I am actually not bad at this whole writing thing. A relief, to say the least.
When writing my cookbook, I am writing 90% of the beast -that-it-is as a fully recipe-driven, well-tested to the letter cookbook. The other 10% of the dishes are approaches–with key tasting notes, visual cues, and reasons why making it a recipe basically doesn’t work. Have you ever split a sauce despite following it to the umpteenth degree? I know I have. Ever made a dish and was horrified by the final flavor result? Yeah, me too.
The reality is that we’re all wired differently, have different palettes, different equipment, and are often faced with this problem when eating at restaurants or following recipes. That’s the joy of learning to cook with the Courageous Cooking Method.
There is a distinct difference between ‘cooking without recipes’ with the Courageous Cooking Method, and just ‘cooking willy-nilly’. When you actually learn how deliciousness happens you become a better and more competent home cook. There are a lot of people out there who work on this, not just me and Kendall, but the key difference is that we’ve figured out a method that works to not just improve your own cooking, but to analyse deliciousness in pretty much any recipe, in any cookbook, which means…Just by reading a cookbook, and diagramming recipes you can become a supremely better, more intuitive, speedier on the uptake cook. It requires practice, just like any new skillset, but it gives you more tools and a framework in which to create any dish.
(A favorite photo from filming. Pilou!)
What the method does is short-cut how to think about delicious-ness, and it shortcuts building flavor profiles. Which is what we need to be efficient and intuitive in the kitchen. We need shortcuts. We need to be able to go ‘Ok, I have 2 fennel leftover from my darn CSA, and I have exhausted all the fennel recipes I could muster from my cookbooks. Now what?’ The method gives you a way to ground into deliciousness.
(Here’s the link to our last live training about the method. I’ve started it at the exact point where we discuss the pyramid. Watch for an hour (until the pitch of the online cooking school, we’re not currently enrolling but WILL BE REALLY SOON!)
In the spirit of Courageous Cooking, and in the spirit of being VERY TIRED of writing step-by-step recipes this week (WOOF FINAL DAYS OF COOKBOOK WRITING!!!!!!!) I want to offer instead a ‘cooking sketch’ or an approach to something this week instead. Cooking Sketches are the way in which I approach all my recipes from the get-go. I come up with flavor profiles, put them onto the pyramid, make sure I have all the bases covered, and then I get to turning it into a recipe that matches my tastebuds. Perhaps not yours, which is the beauty of food right?
It’s a fresh bright thing that you can put on many things. Including chips as a dip, serve with a piece of fish for dinner (red snapper would be marvellous), or simply on top of toast or eggs or both for breakfast.
An Approach to Speedy, Fresh, Goes with Everything Guac-A-Salsa-Sauce-Vierge
Basically this is a take on a sauce vierge, which is a raw topping common in French cuisine typically made from olive oil, lemon juice, tomatoes, and basil. Which obviously is delicious, it’s like a deconstructed caprese salad! In this rendition I add avocado, cilantro, and lime to lean it very much more into Salsa/Guacamole/Mexican flavours.
This is here this week as a reminder that making something can be speedy, delicious, and multi-use.
2 tasty tomatoes, cut into a 1/4 inch or so dice, ideally heirloom because of color variety. I like a big red one and a big yellow one. OR a pint of cherry tomatoes, halved. I like some of the seeds removed, but not all because the liquid is useful in this.
1-2 avocados, same size dice as tomatoes, not quite ‘ripe ripe’ but ripe enough to cube and dive into
2 garlic cloves, microplaned (if you don’t have a microplane, get one)
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds, obliterated by a mortar and pestle (I always use Wild Afghan Cumin from Burlap and Barrel) or cumin powder, if that is what you have on hand.
Salt, smoked ideally, but if you only have regular salt, a pinch of smoked paprika will solve that flavor
1/2 to 1 red onion, minced finely
Cilantro, minced finely, or Dill/Basil, if you have the genetic predisposition and unfortunate aversion to cilantro
Olive Oil, OPTIONAL (better when using as a sauce or topping, not as a dip)
Take your diced veggies, and mix them carefully with a spoon. We don’t want to smoosh the avocado in this case, at all. We want nice diced here. The mouthfeel is just…better. If you want to mash it? Your life, your food. But like, maybe…Don’t? :D
Add garlic, mix carefully again.
Squeeze lime juice from at least one lime over the mix. Taste. Add more if it feels like it could use more punch.
Hearty pinch of smoked salt/smoked paprika and salt. A pinch of chilli flake (I like Cobanero for this from Burlap & Barrel). Mix again. Carefully. Taste. Adjust spice and salt to taste by adding a small amount at a time.
Add the onion about two tablespoons at a time. Tasting as you go. Onions are fickle beasts, sometimes strong. Sometimes not. Also what’s your personal tolerance for onion?
How to use this?
Dip in tortilla chips.
Use in a quesadilla.
Spoon over a tortilla soup or Posole.
Make Avocado Toast: Soft boil two eggs, and make a piece of toast. Top the toast with the mixture, add two halved jammy eggs, drizzle with olive oil, a pinch of salt, and a crack or two of pepper.
Top Salmon or Other Fish: Cook fish however you like (grilled is really good for this, but baked works fine too). Remove from heat, and top with this and a drizzle of olive oil.
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. BUT MAN OH MAN! Did we laugh a lot. (This is Freddy, one of our camera ops guys)
Some of my links may be affiliate links, which means I might earn a small commission if you buy from my recommendations. All my recommendations are made because I actually use these darn things myself and love them to high heaven and back. Not because I make $$ on them. Matilda would hate if I promoted things I didn’t personally love.