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I live on the ocean, write women's fiction, love to read so much that it's an addiction rather than a hobby (I read an average of a book a day). I live on the wet west coast so it's a good thing that I like to walk in the rain.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Food and literature -

My book club meets only every six or eight weeks, and there are, as you can see, only four of us. But we read great books, eat, as you can also see, and drink wine. It's a perfect book club for me.

Last night was my turn to pick the book and I chose Irene Nemirovsky's Suite Francaise. We also try to pair the restaurant with the book so I took us to the restaurant in the French Cultural Centre, Salade de fruits Cafe. The food was pretty close to and the conversation matched it, as always.

I had lamb chops cooked rare and they were as good as lamb chops can be - which is excellent. I had vegetables - sugar peas, asparagus, broccoli, beets, squash and fabulous mashed potatoes - all of which were cooked and served with flair. And paired with a lovely, inexpensive French red - Domaine de Bastide. Reasonably priced, this restaurant is definitely French bistro food and cooking at its best.

And all of this made me think about mashed potatoes and the conversation we had over dinner. I don't know if you've read Suite Francaise but it's a book about the Second World War and its effect on the people of France. I loved it, the writing was exquisite, the stories poignant but practical and real. But the conversation we came around to ended up being about the way the French take pride in the small things - I can't remember a meal I had in France (and I've had many from Michelin starred restaurants to the tiniest of cafes in small towns) that wasn't cooked, served and presented with a special flair. Each of those meals mattered - in the cooking of it, in the serving of it, and perhaps most importantly, in the eating and enjoying of it.

So mashed potatoes for me are like eggs. Relatively easy to cook and relatively easy to make them an everyday experience. Relatively easy to do badly, as well. But if you think about those mashed potatoes, if you consider how to make them extraordinary - and it may not take a lot more time or energy - you can end up with something special.

And Salade de fruits Cafe managed that with every part of our meal.

Oh, yeah, and I forgot to tell you another thing that made it special. I made the reservation and the waiter used my name all the way through the meal. He remembered it, used it, and made me feel as if I were a part of their tiny family. I'll definitely be going back and taking visitors and friends with me. In fact, on my desk next to the computer is the two-month calendar that came with our bill. It shows the specials for the next two months and I've already picked out a couple of don't miss weeks - the week of the salmon papillotte and the week of the prime rib. I can hardly wait.


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