We all have ways to cope. When life brings its stresses, as it always does and will continue to do, we seek comfort. For some it is drink, for others it is shoe shopping. Some of us get a massage or a manicure, while others scope out the nearest French bakery. I can personally attest that chocolate works quite well. All of the above sound very fine and I would welcome any one of them. But the ultimate for me is walking into a book store, which is what I did yesterday. The smell of a book store is probably as alluring to me as an opium den was to Sherlock Holmes. The world suddenly seems a kinder and gentler place.
As always, I headed straight for the sale table. Even in the distance I could see it. At first, I doubted my perception thinking my eyes must be cruel deceivers. I could not...simply could NOT...believe them. Stacked in beautiful, plump splendor were three copies of "Essential Pepin", the cookbook by Jacques Pepin that accompanies his PBS TV cooking series. I honed in on the table like a hawk that had spotted a mouse (fearing a hoard of shoppers had noticed the same thing at the same time and was hot on my heels to grab them up before I got my chance) to snatch a copy. I ran my hands over the cover and hugged it. Yes. I hugged it. My mission was accomplished in spades. No. More than spades. In fireworks and a brass band. No. More than that even. Not a brass band. An orchestra...with Pavarotti singing the famous aria from Nessun Dorma. "vincero, vincero, vinceeeeerrrrrooooo". Well, I might be exaggerating just a bit. But it was pretty darn exciting nevertheless. The TV show is on The Create Channel, a public broadcasting channel in South Carolina. It comes on in the middle of the night, though, and unless I can't sleep (which is not usually a problem) I miss it. And now, here he was...Jacques, in all his adorably handsome and culinary splendor for the bargain price of $11.68 - with my B&N membership card - a substantial savings over its original $40 cost. I admit it might not work for everyone, but it made my day.
After returning to work and doing what I get paid to do, I finally went home, patted the dog on the head, scratched the cat under her chin, and put dinner on to cook. I poured myself a glass of Pinot Grigio and hit the play button on the stereo - Doo Wop on that day. Comfortably seated in my reading chair, I released Jacques from his shopping bag and noticed for the first time that the cover announced the book came with a 3 hour DVD! Could this get much better? Yes. When I opened the front cover I saw that the book was signed! In the DVD Pepin shows in detail all the techniques I would ever need to know (from how to tie an apron - seriously, he explains the correct way a chef ties an apron - to proper knife work, prepping vegetables, making meringues, the difference between croissant dough and puff pastry and why the techniques are different, the special preparation needed for certain vegetables, classic French omelets, correct techniques for making proper French breads, dealing with shell fish, as well as the preparation of certain wild game - which I admit I had to fast forward through because, let's face it, French cuisine or not I doubt I will ever need to know how to remove the lungs, liver and kidneys from a fresh rabbit carcass. And then, of course, there is some discussion of wines. It just goes on and on and on. 3 heavenly hours of learning at the feet of the Master.)
The book itself is hefty and is lovely to hold. It has what I can only explain as a padded, hard cover. The pen and ink artwork is, well, artsy - with lots of flourishes. There are no pictures of the dishes, but my favorite cookbooks don't have them anyway. But the endpapers do contain photos of Jacques in his many stages of life, my favorite being the one of him and Julia Child facing the camera. He is seated and she is standing behind him, with her arms around his neck in a warm hug. I felt a warm hug myself as I slowly turned the pages. Once again, life was good.