Learning To Cook From Everyone You Meet

So I have an informal goal from everyone I meet and become friendly with: learn a recipe from them. It’s not something I disclose or even have said out loud (until now) but something I’m really happy I’ve actually done over the last ten years.

It all started with Madame Granier who was my host mom during my semester in France. I really loved her cooking so about a month in, once I was a bit more confident in my French, I asked if she would mind giving me her recipes. This began an almost nightly tradition of sitting at the kitchen table with tea with Petite Beurre biscuits and Mme. Granier dictating me a recipe.  Looking back on it, maybe this was so M. Granier would do the dishes while we chatted but she seemed to enjoy dictating recipes to me. She was not expecting my follow up questions like “How much salt?” but she tried to guess as best she could. Even almost ten years later, I’m still making crepes from the original recipe along with an occasional endives au gratin and soupe au lentils. (The lentil soup involves three containers and has a drawing complete with arrows that goes with the recipe).

Ever since Mme. Granier, I’ve tried to learn a recipe from everyone I meet. And whether we become life long buddies or the relationship fizzles, I can always take something really tangible away from each person who has been a part of my life. And making the recipe makes me think of other good memories from them.

A side effect is that learning ended up being a great way to get to know people. I would have never known about my friend Alice is Armenian had she not shown me how to make her delicious version of tzatziki (served with zuchini crisped up in a little olive oil- yum!). I discovered a boyfriend’s Italian roots when he revealed his grandmother’s calzone recipe. What better way to know someone then to cook with and eat with them something that they love?

The biggest cooking experiment was the Vinalhaven dinner club. As five single women living on an island bound together by our weekday supper club, we certainly learned a lot about everyone by taking turns cooking and eating with everyone five meals a week.

I love that most of my fondest memories involve food and getting back to those times just involves an hour or so in the kitchen.

What’s your favorite thing to cook that reminds you of someone? (Share links to recipes if they are online!)

Nicole Ouellette
Nicole runs Breaking Even Communications, an internet marketing company in Bar Harbor Maine. When she's not online, she enjoys walking her short dog, cooking with bacon, and trying to be outdoorsy in Acadia National Park.

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