picture: Ann Mah
Via Twitter invited Ann Mah to join in in my blog series “gesprekken en gerechten” Talk and Table American writer and traveler Ann Mah is the author of the book “Mastering the Art of French Eating” Her story on eating all kind of French delicacies when she stayed in Paris. Her husband, a diplomat took off for a year and Ann decided to discover the French fare. It took her from Troyes to Lyon, from the Provence to Cap Finistère. From andouillettes to soupe au pistou. Ann tried it all and wrote a book on it. At first glance the title suggests a connection with that other American writer, Julia Child, who made her way through Cordon Bleu and wrote “Mastering the Art of French Cooking”. The book of Ann Mah takes you in another direction. Not the preparation but the enjoyment and discovery. My friend Susan Herrmann Loomis says on the cover: “Ann Mah goes straight to the esential in this lively, mouthwatering book, as she explores the foundations of French cuisine. Bravo!” She did the same in a book on China. I am really happy to meet Ann in my series Talk and Table. Based on her answers Ann Mah will be rewarded a customized recipe. To pair with a wonderful wine.
Who is Ann Mah and what would you like to share with us?
I’m a writer, Francophile, devoted home cook, and tea drinker. I love to eat and travel and I never feel like I’ve truly experienced a new place until I’ve eaten the regional specialty.
You once stayed in China, wrote a book on it , can you give us a brief description of that special country?
I lived in China for four years, thanks to my husband’s post at the US Embassy in Beijing. I am ethnically Chinese and grew up eating Chinese food, and before I moved to China, I thought I was an expert on the cuisine. I was surprised and delighted to find an extremely diverse regional cuisine—one of my favorite discoveries was the food ofYunnan, a province in the south that borders Vietnam. They use a lot of ingredients found in European cuisine—fresh herbs, morel mushrooms, and even a special kind of cheese!
You ate yourself around France, in order to capture the flavours, can you tell something on that period?
I’d always wanted to take a road trip through France, using Julia Child’s classic cookbook,Mastering the Art of French Cooking, as a guide. When my husband and I moved to France for three years, it seemed like the perfect opportunity. Unfortunately, he left for Baghdad shortly after our arrival in Paris, and my dream of living in France changed. But with his encouragement, I still traveled throughout the country – albeit, on my own. The book grew from those travels, from my eating adventures, my fascination with the history I discovered, and my admiration for the home cooks and food artisans I met along the way. But, really, writing the book was just an excuse to tour around France and eat!
Your website speaks to the imagination, recipes, wines, travel, certainly to me. How do you do that?
Thank you for reading my blog! It’s been fun to meet fellow Francophiles and food lovers through my blog. Writing and taking photos for it certainly takes a lot of time, but it’s also a labor of love.
My parents were/are very French food oriented. The last two decades there has been a shift from French to a more international cuisine, certainly in my generation. Do you notice that too?
Definitely! Global flavors play a huge role in many popular new Paris restaurants. It’s exciting to see the Parisian palate expand—though I still love classic French country cooking.
What is your favorite cuisine? I think this is a needless question, but anayway nice to ask
Honestly, I don’t have a favorite cuisine, but prefer a diet of varied international foods – Indian dosa for breakfast, falafel for lunch, sushi for dinner… that would be a wonderful day! Perhaps that means my favorite cuisine is American?
What would you like to tell on your book “Mastering the Art of French Eating” ?
The book explores a topic that fascinates me: the connection between food, and place, and history in France, the sense of continuity, the way a recipe grows from the land, takes root, and is cooked and eaten in that same spot for hundreds of years.
Culinary speaking, you must be very experienced in cooking, which one is your favorite recipe?
Just as I don’t really have a favorite cuisine, I don’t have a favorite recipe—I tend to choose what I cook based on factors like time, season and mood. But I will say, my favorite recipe in the book is for soupe au pistou! I worked hard to get it (if you read the book, you’ll find out why).
For me as a French wine man, I would like to ask you: what do you think of French wines?
I love French wine and one of my favorite parts of living in France is getting to know the different appellations. Happily, I still have a lot to learn!
Which are your favorite wines?
I fell in love with Burgundy wine while researching an article about Thomas Jefferson in the Côte d’Or. I’m also fond of Beaujolais, particularly Moulin à Vent and Brouilly.
Do you know anything about the Dutch cuisine?
I have several Dutch friends who love to cook—though they always seem to make fantastic Italian food! I would love to learn more about Dutch cuisine—rijsttafel sounds especially delicious.
Tons of food are wasted every day in Western societies. Can you tall us something about your ”foodprint” ?
I used to go grocery shopping every day, which allowed me to buy just enough food for one or two meals and created very little waste. But as a new mother, this is now impossible. Instead, I find myself freezing a lot of food and raiding the freezer when I don’t have time to cook (which is often).I also hope it’s another way of curtailing waste!
Are you working on a new book?
I would love to write a novel about French wine one day. At the very least, it would give me the excuse to do some delicious research.
If you were to start all over in the Netherlands, what would you want to teach us? I know this is a though question.
It would be wonderful to discover the regional cuisine of the Netherlands—I’m more of a sharer than a teacher!
Last but not least, do you want to share anything else in my blog? Please be welcome
Thank you so much for inviting me on your blog—I’m very honored! I would be delighted to connect with your readers via my blog, www.annmah.net, or Twitter and Instagram (@annmahnet).
picture: Ann Mah’s delicious book.
Ann Mah tells she is a sharer, likes French food and and Beaujolais wines, wants to know about Dutch rijsttafel, dwells on soupe au pistou. She takes a global tour in her daily meals from, mornings in India, Middle Eastern food for lunch and dinner from the country where the Sun rises, Nippon.
To stay with her book I would make Ann my easy bean and confit de canard dish. Not a real cassoulet, that is not for me to do, since I am just a Dutch guy. (wouldn’t like to offend the confrères du cssoulet) You may either choose to make your duck confit yourself. But when you buy a good brand form the Bresse or so, like the one of Georges Blanc in Vonnas, it makes you a hearty and warming dish. So fill you plate and share it with a good glaas of Juliénas. Ann may thanks for your answers and bon appétit!
Ingredients 4 persons:
1 tin/jar of confit de canard
2 large pots of white beans/cannellini beans
1 red bell pepper
1 tsp dried thyme
2 red onions
2 cloves of garlic
2 tsp pimentón de la Vera or piment d”Espelette
1 glass of white wine
4 pork sausages
salt and pepper
Open the tin/jar carefully and get duck bolts out of it and place them in a baking dish. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius/ 356 degrees Fahrenheit and bake the meat in some of its own grease for 20 minutes until crispy.
Cut the onion, carrot and bell pepper into small cubes. Chop the garlic finely. Heat 1 tbs olive oil in a skillet p and fry the pork sausages on. Remove the sausages when they are done from the skillet and put them on kitchen paper towel. Then add 2 tbs duck fat to the skillet and fry the vegetables and garlic. The garlic last, because it can burn and add bitterness. Add the thyme, paprika and pimentón Followed by the beans. Cut the sausages into pieces and put back into pan. Pour the glass of wine and leave to simmer for 15 minutes. Add some extra salt and pepper. Serve the beans in big dish, together with the crispy fried duck bolts. Garnish with some parsley. Serve the dish with bread e.g a crisp baguette.
Let’s not waste food. What to do with te leftover grease from the confit? I always put it in a clean jar to keep it in the refrigerator The fat can be kept for quite a while and it is delicious to fry potatoes or vegetables in it.