This is not a book review. If you want to read a book review of "Around my French Table" by Dorie Greenspan, then use Google. There are a million reviews and the book just made the New York Times bestseller list and it is Amazon's number one cookbook of 2010. My verdict on the book: BUY IT. NOW.
This post is about something totally different.
When I saw a note on FB that read that Dorie Greenspan was coming to NoVa to speak about her new book, I knew I had to go. I have never met her. And yet, i feel as though I know her....
I went into Borders, where her reading was, filled with nerves. I held on tightly to my copy of her book "Around my French Table." I was hoping she could sign it. I was also hoping she wouldn't ask me if I had cooked from it. I had not. I have never cooked anything even remotely French in my life and I was totally sure I would fail.
The room was filled with Dorie lovers and I sat in a row quietly.. looking around and wondering where she was. I could not believe, could not imagine I was going to come face to face with Dorie.
Why you ask? It isnt just because she is one of the most amazing writers I know. It is much more. In 2004, I had just quit my corporate job to start writing. In truth, I had no idea what I was doing. I was overwhelmed, I was scared, I was petrified. I was sending out query letters (read pathetic emails) but not getting anywhere. Then, someone introduced me to Dorie. This person gav e me Dorie's email and told me to writer her for advice. I did not realizing quite how big and famous she was. She did not hesitate, not one bit. She talked patiently to me.. advising me on how to pitch, on what the freelance writing life was about. On how to focus my efforts. She had read a piece of mine that she liked and was very complimentary. After I got of the phone with her, I called another friend to tell her about this lovely conversation I had with another writer. My friend screamed so loudly into the phone, I think she damaged my ear. "OMG, you talked to Dorie. Do you have any idea who she is?" I did not know how big she was. But my friend explained. I was grateful then. But today, six years later, i am more than just grateful. Dorie talked to me, a writer with one clip to her name. She encourage me, gave me hope and made it possible for me to continue. How do you really thank someone for that?
My hands were sweaty as I hugged my copy of Dorie's book. I did not feel worthy at the moment, I have to say, because as I mentioned, I hadnt cooked from the book. I did not feel I had the skills. Then, I saw her. As beautiful in person as she is in all the photos I had seen of her. She was walking up the side of the room with her family and the Border's staff member who was walking with her stepped up to the podium and got ready to introduce her. As soon as she opened her mouth, Dorie interrupted. "Stop, stop. I see someone I must hug before I start. I have to."
I could not believe she had recognized me. She came up and gave me the biggest hug. I cried. I held my book closer. She had recognized me. In this world of millions and billions, there are people like her. I vowed that day that I would pay her generosity forward and help people who I did not know and those who were just starting out as well. I think she would be proud.
She stepped up to the podium and began to speak of her love of French food, of why she loved going to Paris, of her experiences with a cheese monger, a French butcher, a random person in a French grocery store. The more she spoke, the more mesmerized I became. Her love of French food reflected my own love of Indian cuisine. I kept thinking if she loved the food so much and if this book is like her others, then surely even someone with no French cooking skills like me could cook from it. Surely.
It was as if she heard my thoughts. She began to talk about this pumpkin recipe in the book. A pumpkin that was stuffed with cheese and bread and cream and thyme and cooked until it literally melted.
I could do that, I thought. Even I could do that.
She kept on talking and I found myself getting lost in her world. And then, i realized i had to leave. My ride was there to pick me up. And the line to get my book signed was really long.
As I left, i realized that the reason the Universe had not allowed for Dorie to sign my book was that I hadn't earned it yet.
The next day at home, I decided to make her pumpkin recipe. I followed the recipe (which you can find here) I felt Dorie with me each step of the way. I was back in Borders listening to her talking about the way the French eat, how cheese should be sliced and truly all the amazing things you can do with a stuffed pumpkin.
Then my dish was ready and I served it to my family.
My kids and hubby are used to trying new recipes all the time since I am always trying new things. My son asked whose recipe this was. "Well, you see," I told him, "Once upon a time, there was this amazing lady named Dorie Greenspan....."
Now, I have cooked several wonderful dishes from the book. And i ask out loud with great pleasure and pride: Dorie, will you sign my book?
Dorie Greenspan's wonderful publisher has agreed to giveaway one copy of "Around my French Table." To win it, tell me why you love her.
I will chose a winner at random and post the result here on Nov13th at 5:00 pm