Hedonism in the Kitchen: A Q&A With Mireille Guiliano (Recipe)

WOWOWOW: The first review of your new book, The French Women Don’t Get Fat Cookbook, in Booklist, the digital counterpart of the American Library Association, raves about your recipes, the warm tone, the anecdotes and your final list of reasons to cook. You’ve done different lists at the end of each of your books; is it the summary of the message you hope to share?

MIREILLE GUILIANO: Yes and no, insomuch as lists are never complete. I can think of another dozen or more reasons to cook, but when I wrote the book these two dozen or so definitions came to mind. Although they are more my personal take on cooking, the list is not exhaustive and can be different for anyone. The fundamental message is that cooking is pleasure.

WOW: Can you elaborate on this hedonistic concept?

MIREILLE: It’s pleasure in the sense of using and awakening all your senses and also as an integral part of what is called l’équilibre alimentaire, a balanced approach to eating.

WOW: With all the overweight and obesity challenges in this country, how do you see us reaching balance?

MIREILLE: Well, if one understands that cooking is both healthy and slimming, that’s a start. One needs to look at the pleasures and balance both the physical (our shape and the way we look and feel when we eat well) and the psychological (how our mind feels is just as important). It’s what I referred to in my previous books, the notion of being bien dans sa peau, feeling comfortable within one’s skin. So, by cooking, you see what you put into your body – you can easily control salt, sugar, portions, freshness – and by doing so it will impact your morale and well-being, key to achieving this balance.

WOW: Yet, in our busy world with so many women working and finding little time or interest to cook, how can we change this?

MIREILLE: First, time is something we have control over. And cooking doesn’t need to take hours. I generally use recipes that take half an hour or less, something most of us can manage. The best thing is to try, and see what happens. I can’t tell you the number of women who have told me or written to say how cooking changed their life. Remember that feminism not only discouraged cooking but put it down, so a whole generation barely knows how to boil an egg or cook a scallop. If you look at cooking as an act of love with so many other ramifications, like connection, conversation, conviviality, generosity, sharing and much more – values and principles that play an important social role and that anyone can appreciate – then one looks at cooking no longer as a chore but a way of physical, emotional and spiritual nourishment.

WOW: And you dare incorporate the notion that cooking is sexy. What do you mean?

MIREILLE: Easy: Cooking is emotions, like someone giving you a kiss, a physical emotion that transcends and makes you feel good, no? Cooking unites human beings and is an experience that is highly sensual, engaging all of one’s senses. So, now please go into the kitchen and cook something and tell me how you feel. Merci.

SALMON WITH LEEKS AND ASPARAGUS EN PAPILLOTE

Serves 4

Ingredients:

3 oranges
2 teaspoons sesame oil
2 medium carrots, peeled and grated
1 leek, white part only, cut into thin strips
8 asparagus tips, cut in half (reserve asparagus stalks for a salad)
4 (5- to 6-ounce) salmon steaks
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro
1 teaspoon chopped fresh dill

Instructions:

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

2. Remove the zest of 1 orange in long strips and julienne; reserve the orange. Place the julienned strips of orange zest in a small pot of cold water and bring to a boil. Drain the zest and set aside.

3. Prepare the orange segments: Cut slices off the top and bottom of the remaining 2 oranges and then slice away the peel and pith, top to bottom, following the curve of the fruit. Working over a bowl and using a small, sharp knife, cut between the membranes to release the segments and juice of all 3 oranges.

4. Cut four pieces of parchment paper into 12- x 16-inch rectangles and brush the centers with sesame oil. Place one quarter of the carrots, leeks, and asparagus tips in the center of the first piece of parchment paper and top with 1 salmon steak. Add the orange segments, blanched orange zest, 1/4 teaspoon sesame oil, and 1 teaspoon orange juice. Season to taste and seal the packet by bringing up the sides to the center and folding them down tightly. Seal the ends by folding each in tightly. Repeat with the remaining ingredients, creating four packets.

5. Place the packets on a baking sheet and cook in the oven for 18 to 20 minutes. Remove from the oven (the packets will be puffed and lightly browned) and allow to rest for 5 minutes before placing each packet on a plate and serving. Allow guests to open their packets and garnish with cilantro and dill.

Editor’s Note: Mireille Guiliano is the internationally bestselling author of French Women Don’t Get Fat. Her latest book is The French Women Don’t Get Fat Cookbook. Born in France, she now divides her time between New York City, Paris and Provence. She can be reached at mireilleguiliano.com and frenchwomendontgetfat.com.

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