French Cooking, The Easy Way

French Cooking, The Easy Way

It's French Week at The Kitchn which is funny since I haven't exactly been whipping up macarons and pot-au-feu lately. The real picture of my week is less romantic: returning from two weeks of intense travel to a hot, rainy city and a daughter turning four, which means making felt party hats and writing her birthday verse for school, all with my final book deadline looming so close that I'm cross-eyed.

From what I've seen from the way French people cook and from what I learned in French culinary school, the French either torture the hell out of their ingredients (one day I'll tell you about the tournage week in culinary school) or they just let them be, pure and simple.

Of course, it is this second approach that I like best, and that makes me feel most French on days like today when I have great ingredients but not much else.

For our daughter's birthday, not only did we have to write a birthday verse, we had to bring fruit salad. Sounds simple? Yes. But you know I'm not the type to just cut up some bananas and call it a day.

So yesterday I strolled the Union Square Greenmarket with Gluten Free Girl and The Chef (what a complete pleasure it was to meet Shauna and Daniel, finally) and bought ten absolutely perfect Seckel pears. And some blooming mint. And pea blossoms. Pea blossoms aren't exactly a classic pear pairing but they went into the salad because they were pink and purple and that, in all honesty, is really all my daughter cares about, and I wanted to make her happy.

These were the ingredients at hand. This is what the earth was producing and these are flavors that work together. I made a quick mini broth of warm honey and lemon juice to barely tenderize the fruit then tossed the mint blossoms and pea blossoms in, and voila, I felt kind of like the French mother of a French preschooler.

It wasn't the recipe, technique or particular ingredients that made it sort of French. It was the attitude behind it: easy, colorful, fresh and happy. Those are the qualities of French cooking that have always spoken most to me, not the tournage.

• Related: Faith, lucky lady, was in France last week and put together this Kitchen Tour from Paris. Check it out: Kitchen Tour: Paule Caillat's Splendid Paris Kitchen

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