Editor’s Note: This week we introduce a new feature, Madame Gourmand, a restaurant spotlight and review column. Following is an introduction to our critic, Odette MacDonald, in her own words.
My experience and knowledge of culinary arts came at a very young age. My mother who was an avid cook was passionate about her own native cuisine, fine Mexican food as well as French cuisine. Unknowingly, she became a participant in the most important contemporary food movement of the past decade in America. Living in California at the time, in San Francisco to be precise, my mother decided to embark on a fabulous adventure. She took French cooking lessons at a local culinary institute. This first generation of French cooking students in the early ‘70s lead to a massive influx of French restaurants and culinary institutes in the U.S.
While most small children were eating mac and cheese, I was delighting Aspic de poulet (Chicken jello) and other French dishes such as pamplemouse a la vinaigrette (grapefruit with salad dressing), hmmm. I’m not sure that I loved this experimentation that was taking place at our table every night, but one good thing did come from it, I was learning to try everything that was served on my plate. Later in life my “bon vivant” attitude would exact a toll on my figure.
Mom never neglected to serve our traditional Molito Verde, Romeritos con Camaron, Huitlacoche, Capirotada and even Migas on a regular basis at our table. I guess my palette was formed thanks to these diverse cuisines.
Life in our family rotated around food and discovering new cuisines. My father, who was a diplomat, had many acquaintances of all nationalities who brought him delicious gifts of food often. I will never forget the endless trays of delectable syrupy Baklava topped with crunchy pistachio nuts that were made by some Middle Eastern Goddess’ hands or the generous invitations every Sunday to eat Indian food, by our dear friend Babu when we lived in Houston.
My sister lived in Paris for almost 20 years and in Madrid for three. I spent many months eating my way through the incredible towns and cities in Europe on my numerous visits to see her. Her husband who was like most French men extremely educated in the art of cuisine, it runs in their veins, often prepared traditional dishes including some that dated back to the Middle Ages.
Eating is a delight that I have mastered quite well and I admit that I am capable of relishing in an complex delicacy, yet I can let myself be seduced by a creamy dish of mac & cheese or a Texas burger with fries. It’s all good.
My passion for food has lead me not only to seek out edible delights, but it has also compelled me to seek out literary delicacies, by this I mean that my second favorite hobby is reading about foodies, the lives of Chefs, bio’s of Restaurateurs’. After reading Insatiable, the life of the notorious New York Times food critique, I knew that I wanted to do just that. Eat and write about it!
To me eating is an art form that you indulge in completely, only if the setting, the service and of course the food all line up like the stars.