I was in Washington, DC at the end of June for the American Library Association annual conference. It's funny how you can spot a librarian in a crowd. There were definitely some interesting fashion choices on parade. My fashion tastes are always impeccable, of course. My cardigan always matches my sneakers and grocery tote bag.
The ALA conference is huge. This year's attendance was over 26,000. There were some relatively famous names there: Toni Morrison spoke at one of the general sessions, and Marlo Thomas, Amy Sedaris, Natalie Merchant, and Fergie (as in the Duchess of York), not even counting library stars like Nancy Pearl, were also there.
There was a "What's Cooking @ ALA?" demo in the exhibits area. Dorie Greenspan was one of the presenters. I've been a fan of Dorie's for a few years. I was on a big NPR kick (okay, still ongoing), and I heard her relate baking tips and recipes on Kitchen Window and All Things Considered. I started following baking blogs and found an entire blogger group dedicated to Dorie recipes, Tuesdays with Dorie, wherein dozens of bakers make the weekly Dorie recipe and blog about it.
At ALA, I attended Dorie's demo with my friend Shelley. Dorie showed the small audience how to make salmon rillettes, a recipe from her new cookbook, Around My French Table. I'll post her recipe here as soon as I find the little recipe card she handed out. If memory serves, her recipe was very similar to this one by David Lebovitz: Salmon Spread Recipe: Salmon Rillettes. I tried a sample and it was quite tasty. Very buttery!
She told a few stories about cooking and living in France. She said people often ask her if she is a cook or a baker. She explained her answer, "Both," the way I often do. With cooking you can improvise and really experiment, but with baking, you have to be meticulous in measuring and using called-for ingredients. Be precise and don't adjust the recipe until you know it well. Cooking and baking are very different. That's why it's fun to do both and not limit yourself to one or the other. She told a story about how she always keeps a tiny plastic tub of fleur de sal in her purse. She was a joy to watch.
After the demo, she took questions from the audience. Someone asked Dorie about her recipe for gougères. Shelley turned to me and asked, "What are gougères?"
I said something like, "They're light and puffy - like cream puffs without the cream and with cheese."
Dorie started giving advice about making the recipe correctly, then she stopped and said, "Oh wait! If you don't know gougères are, they're light and puffy - like cream puffs without the cream and with cheese," or something that was basically word for word what I had just said. Shelley and I looked at each other and laughed, and I patted myself on the back.
After the demo, people formed a line to meet Dorie and get her autograph. As Shelley and I stood in line, I tried to think of a question to ask Dorie, or something I could say or a compliment I could give so that I wouldn't sound like a complete idiot. I actually started to get a little nervous about it.
Shelley was in front of me in the line and got to meet her first. She said, "We live in Lubbock and sometimes it's hard to get out of the ordinary ingredients in local stores. Where do you recommend we order from?" Dang, what a good question!
Dorie suggested that people that live in God-forsaken places buy food from Amazon, Penzey's, and Kalustyan's. At that point I piped up, "I love Kalustyan's! That's the first place I go when I go to New York! I have to buy their peppercorns and cinnamon!"
She said, "Isn't it wonderful? You are a good cook if you go to Kalustyan's."
Dorie told me I was a good cook?!?
We chatted for another moment and then I asked if I could get my picture taken with her.
Dorie invited me to visit her in Paris. Well, she invited everyone at the demo... I have decided to accept. How glamorous that would be! Cooking with Dorie, who's baked with Julia Child and dozens of other cooking legends... in Paris!
As we left the demo, Shelley spotted a poster advertising a book that was certainly more like my status quo: