Musings on Cooking–The Books. The Shows. And Me!

It’s pretty common knowledge that I enjoy cooking and baking. Given the fact my better half, Bonaparte, is a Frenchman, he is the Gallic essence of the saying “The way to a man’s heart is to his stomach”. Caveat on that saying, the stuff that is going through his tummy into his heart had better be delicious and well-prepared.


I can turn these little crawlers into tasty and garlicky Escargots….


I can also turn these little hippity-hoppers into a sautéed delight!

Served with Sliced orange and creme anglaise.

And there’s the French Grand Marnier Souffle dessert! I’ve had to practice with all!

I believe that a lot of reaching your goals of perfection or near perfection with the art of cooking lies in both trial and error and a determination to “get it right”. That isn’t to say cooking should be not be a chore nor should it be daunting. It should be fun and relaxed.

In my own experience, I grew up not cooking anything at all. My mother got really scared whenever I expressed a desire to assist her. She would chase me out of “her” kitchen with one of her many, yet unbroken, wooden spoons! Her fright was validated when, one Thanksgiving, she actually allowed me to help. She told me to take the pumpkin pie out of the oven. In my glee of being able to finally get my hands on at least one kitchen duty, I forgot, it never occurred to me to use oven mitts to remove the freshly baked pie! My palms were burnt, the pie fell to the floor, and I got in major trouble for ruining part of the Thanksgiving dessert and was run out of the house. It was actually a pleasure to place my palms on the cold lawn, and when I was called back into our house; my mother had a bowl of ice at the ready for me. (Glory be to God—we did go through quite the amount of ice cubes—especially with my “gift” of unintentional self-mutilation!)


Ice was kept mostly for wound reasons than to keep drinks cold!

I wasn’t to cook again until I was on my own. I can actually thank my ex-husband for that. Mentioning that I was a lousy cook, he stated “If you can read, you can cook”. That one sentence had me reading studying voraciously, “The Joy of Cooking”. Irma Rombauer taught me the elementary basics.


I’ve gone through two copies. The third copy is still in an unpacked box!


Irma and Marion at a book signing. A long time ago!

From then on, I started to amass quite the cookbook collection.

 A small portion of my books

 A small portion of my collection.

 St. Ignatius Loyola School Cookbook. My cheesecake recipe upper left-hand corner

 St. Ignatius Loyola Cookbook. Early 90’s. My cheesecake recipe is on the top left-hand corner and it is a winner!

My sloppy binder

 A binder full of recipes I found on the internet and from friends and family. It’s a sloppy mess and I had to “erase” random phone numbers from the cover! Oops!

 recipe from my slopppy binder of recipes

Magret De Canard recipe I found years ago on the net. This is my go-to!

Best French cookbook of all time

Hands down, this is the best and most frequently used French cookbook I use. I picked it up at Border’s bookstore many, many years ago for about six bucks. It’s even better than my Julia Child books!

Mary Margaret McBride

This remains the one cookbook that eludes me. I coveted it. My mother-in-law had it and every time we visited, I locked myself in the attic and read it. The old-school charm just floored me.  I really wish I had this book!

My travels also guided me in trying new cuisines and really making attempt sat cooking recipes that were so interesting to me!

I love USA regional cooking as well as foreign cooking. It’s all good. Oh. It’s ALL good!

Travels to New Orleans, along with Chef John Folse’s Louisiana style cooking show  “Taste of Louisiana”  led me on the path to expertise in Creole and Cajun cooking. In fact, John Folse proved to be a man of his word.

(c) 2007 Louisiana Educational Television Authority on behalf of Louisiana Public Broadcasting. All rights reserved.

(c) 2007 Louisiana Educational Television Authority on behalf of Louisiana Public Broadcasting. All rights reserved.

To this day, I’m STILL crushin’ on my favorite TV chef!

Here’s a great story:

When my son Jake was in third grade, he had to do a report. Each student was given a State and had to research, write and present their report. My son had to report on Louisiana. As part of this report/project, he, helicopter mem, I suggested it would be fun to make New Orleans style pralines for his class. I had a recipe from one of John Folse’s books that looked great.

Ingredients at the ready, I started to make them. Two failed attempts had me perplexed as I followed the instruction perfectly.

I called his restaurant, “Lafitte’s Landing” and left a message. He actually called me back and realized there was a glitch in the recipe. The third time being a charm, I made those pralines and they were a hit with the kids! In addition, Chef Folse and I got to talking and I mentioned the “Steen’s Cane Syrup” being popular with his recipes. I told him it wasn’t available in New York City (this was during the  early 1990’s). He asked me for my address. Two days later I received a case of the stuff. I’ve always had a special place for this man ever since!


Those sugary sweet pralines were quite the hit!

Steens cane syrup

Would any celebrity chef these days send some one a case of this? Thank you Chef Folse!

Book that Folse Sent Me

My other prized possession–another gift from Chef Folse. Wait. It gets better…

He remembered the can syrup.

Years later he still remembered the cane syrup he sent me!

Years later from the Praline incident

I’ll admit it–I was a chef groupie long before “foodies” came to be!

Besides John Folse’s “Taste of Louisiana”, there were the other  cooking shows. The ORIGINAL reality shows!

Does anyone remember the “Great Chefs” series on PBS? I didn’t know what relaxed me more—the laid back vibe of the show or the soothing voice of “Great Chefs'” narrator, Mary Lou Conroy. Mary Lou Conroy’s voice alone could take any stress out of one’s spirit and turn them into a state of complete Zen!

Great Chefs Logo

One of the PBS gems!

Two Hot Tamales years later

Trivia time!  You may think that Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feniger got their start as “Two Hot Tomales” on the original TV Food Network.  Nuh unh–they were featured on one of the “Great Chefs” episodes and they made a nice spicy turkey dish. I remember it well!  Might I add, Susan Feniger has one of the coolest looks for a mature woman. She has a cool/hipster look that fits her so well!

I could so  relate to Nathalie Dupree. Her show, also on PBS, taught me some great basics. At times, she could be slightly clumsy, which was incredibly endearing. But—she said something that forever stuck in my mind. While making a pie crust she said that it was better to make your own and further stated that if you mess it up, it’s just flour, water, and butter.   Her words were my epiphany of if at first you don’t succeed try again.


Remember Nathalie Dupree? I loved her show and her genteel but sometimes clumsy ways. She was the real deal!

Her book “Matters of Taste” was a staple for me when I was a relatively new cook. Her planned menus were great and simple. She was kind of like a pre-“The Barefoot Contessa”, without the little subplots of life in The Hamptons!

Matters of taste cookbook

This  is a GREAT book filled with easy -to-follow menus.

She is also a gracious woman. I wrote a letter to her decades ago thanking her for her great book and shows and she wrote back! (Some people write fan letters to actors and celebrities. I wrote to chefs—and this was before the chef-as-celebrity days)

Julia Child, Justin Wilson, Jacques Pepin—all kept me well-informed and entertained during those cold winter afternoons and rainy summer days. The days when I didn’t venture outside. All gave me wonderful culinary advice and a free culinary education which proved to be priceless in so many ways!

All informative TV chefs, they paved the way for the new genre of celebrity chefs!

 I thank these old-school TV chefs. The chefs who gave true “instructional” hands-on shows.

Food Network, which was launched in 1993, was a great concept—and in the early days was informative and entertaining.


Original and simple logo. My how this network has changed!

These days, the Network is nothing more than cupcake and various other competitions. The few remaining “good” (“good” being pronounced in my Ina Garten voice) shows are relegated to odd times. Although Ima (pun intended) Ina”Barefoot Contessa”Garten fan, many of the “cheflebrities” have become caricatures of themselves.

Ina collection.

I’m  a fan. Never had a fail with her recipes. She’s a treasure.

Giada with her ever-growing smile and her instance on pronouncing every ingredient with an over-exaggerated Italian accent used to be somewhat shy during her early days. Now I find her a bit annoying.

giadaShe’s very pretty but her exaggerated pronounciations drive me “a-lo-co”

 Paula Deen morphed from a sweet Southern woman that you would like to have tea and cake with, into an over-the-top, heavily “y’all”ed, over-exposed personality whose artery-clogging food would never make it to my table.

TODAY -- Pictured: Paula Deen appears on NBC News'

TODAY — Pictured: Paula Deen appears on NBC News’ “Today” show — (Photo by: Peter Kramer/NBC/NBC NewsWire via Getty Images)

Rachel Ray was more tolerant before she became “Rach”.


Ray was far more interesting and subdued in her earlier days.

I cannot even look at Bobby Flay without thinking of Alfred E. Newman.

It would be great if Food Network could return to its original roots.

I’ve jumped ship to The Cooking Channel instead. Only to watch Mo Rocca with the lovely grandmothers in “My Grandmother’s Ravioli”. This concept cooking show is great—maybe not much instruction on the recipes, but it’s just a nice testament to the women who cooked with love and by feel.


This show is so touching that I’ve actually cried. Yes. I’ve bawled like a baby watching this!

“Extra Virgin” is my other fave cooking show.


I never miss an episode! I love Gabriele and Debi!

Two words: Debi Mazur. She is my glamour icon.

attends the 18th Annual Elton John AIDS Foundation Academy Award Party at Pacific Design Center on March 7, 2010 in West Hollywood, California.

attends the 18th Annual Elton John AIDS Foundation Academy Award Party at Pacific Design Center on March 7, 2010 in West Hollywood, California.

Debi also needs a beauty show. Please be my friend Debi! Please?

I love watching her cook with her adorable husband Gabriele because when I cook I need to take any clothing item of worth off and replace with old t-shirts and ratty old sport shorts. I am that sloppy!

Debi and Gabriele

If I wore a dress while cooking, it would have a similar print–but from stains and spills!

So yeah, I’m guilty of having a few “cheflebrities” on my list—especially Christina Tosi of Momofuku Milk Bar. Honestly, I fear I will be banned from the Milk Bar Facebook page for stalking, if I keep posting my corn cookie pictures and admiration!

My most-used dessert cookbook

My all-time favorite dessert cookbook. Soon I will need a new copy!

My latest Tosi Book. On display in the sunroom for easy reading.

My latest Tosi addition. It sits on the coffee table in the sunroom–for easy reading and enjoyment!

All that aside, cooking and baking is truly a form of relaxation for me. I love the process of “gathering” the ingredients. I love watching the motion of the stand mixer, incorporating those ingredients into a soft and luscious batter. I love the process of watching how a raw onion or shallot goes from being opaque to transparent in a matter of minutes. It’s mesmerizing to me and puts me in a happy place!  I’m just a woman who enjoys to cook and, naturally, eat!

Hmmmmm…it’s Monday—but I’ll soon have Friday night’s menu on my mind! But wait! That reminds me of a song that has nothing to do with food or cooking…..The Easybeats. Friday on My Mind! XOXOXOXO–enjoy!

About Catherine

Far from perfect, but enjoying life as a non-perfect and flawed individual at 60 years young. I'm still wondering what I'll be when I grow up! The characters in my life's screenplay include my better half. He is a refined Frenchman who grew up in Paris and summered in St. Tropez. I grew up in Long Island and summered in Long Island. I am not refined. My three grown children are also a big part of my life. For their sake, they happily live where their careers have taken them! But I can still mother them from a distance! I write about the mundane. I write about deeply shallow issues. But whatever I write or muse about--it'll always be a bit on the humorous and positive side! It's all good!
This entry was posted in Cooking Channel, Extra Virgin, Food Network, Great Chefs, Ina Garten, John Folse, Mo Rocca, My Grandmother's Ravoli, Nathalie Dupree, Taste of Louisiana and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to Musings on Cooking–The Books. The Shows. And Me!

  1. Margaret says:

    Love your blog, I get a good chuckle just about every time I read it and it’s so informative too. Jacques Pepin is my absolute favorite (it’s so charming how he refers to Julia every now and then), along with “My Grandmother’s Ravioli” and “Extra Virgin”. I’ll drop everything to watch these shows, can’t get enough.

    • Catherine says:

      I love watching Pepin refer to Child as well. Do you ever watch them together? They are adorable. I wish I were a grannie so I could hang with Mo!

  2. Jean says:

    Haha re Paula. Haven’t watched her for years, is she still on? Last show I saw she was making bread pudding, substituting Krispy Kreme donuts for the bread. Really?

    • Catherine says:

      Jean, I haven’t seen “Pauler” in a while. FN dropped her, but I think the most disgusting thing I saw her make was fried lasagna that was placed on a roll. Ugh. It turned my stomach!

  3. You are making me hungry and I rarely eat breakfast! I agree so much with your observations on those “celebrity chefs” it seems after they become overexposed, much of the charm dissipates. Speaking of charm, I have a request. Would you be willing to write a post sharing how you and Bonaparte met? Since becoming a loyal follower of your blog, I have been curious 😆

  4. lori says:

    You can find Mary Martin McBride’s Encyclopedia of Cooking on Amazon

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