The Paris Cook Club: Connecting through Cooking

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The Paris Cook Club: Connecting through Cooking
The Paris Cook Club continues to commune through cooking virtually, comparing our food creations with photos online. The Covid-19 crisis persists in France with virus numbers rising as la rentrée brings vacationers home and children back to school. Masks are mandatory and gatherings are restricted. In this pandemic year, our group of nine retired expatriates – three in Paris, three elsewhere in France, and three back in the USA – has substituted cyber challenges for our previous ensemble cooking sessions. A cook club is a fun and useful way to help pass your time in confinement. Start by assessing the interest of your friends — no matter their cooking expertise. Set up a communications pathway – we use WhatsApp. Select the timeframe for your food challenges – once a week, once a month. Explain the process: a theme is selected to which members prepare a dish. Internet searches are made and recipes are exchanged. Appoint someone to keep track of your themes, creations, and recipes. The real kicks come when outcomes and photos are compared. Be prepared for unsuccessful ventures and accidents. But you will feel satisfaction in learning new skills while eating better. Pumpkin soup. Photo courtesy of Candice Stevens The Paris Cook Club initiated its online existence in April 2020 when everyone prepared the same dish on Easter: slow-cooked lamb. We soon branched out to broader motifs. While Sunday remains our chosen feast day, the themes have evolved from types of dishes (lasagna, tajine) to regional creations (Tuscan, Greek) to selected ingredients (fresh peas, eggplant). We have also mounted gourmet barbecues (chicken and apricot skewers, orange-soy salmon, grilled avocado) for holidays like Independence Day and Bastille Day. In the summer months, many themes were based on seasonal produce and what was growing in our potagers or kitchen gardens. An abundance of plums inspired Plum Tortes based on the delicious recipe by Marian Burros first published in The New York Times in 1983. Related creations were plum sauce for pork filet as well as plum and rhubarb soup. A zucchini or courgette (small squash) surplus led to roasted zucchini with pine nut salsa, zucchini bread, and zucchini latkes. More garden gourds spurred pumpkin soup (with poached egg, walnuts and ham), roasted summer squash as well as stuffed zucchini flowers. Abundant apples in mid-August stimulated savory rather than sweet concoctions:  apple and goat cheese (chevre) tart, fennel and apple spaghetti, and an Ottolenghi salad of apples, watermelon, and lemongrass. The Israeli chef Yotam Ottolenghi is a Paris Cook Club favorite for his innovative vegetarian conceptions despite their lengthy lists of ingredients. But we always tweak recipes to ease shopping and preparation as well as to improve results – even his –before putting them on our PaprikaApp recipe site. Roast cauliflower with tahini sauce, leek fritters, potato tarte tatin, and sumac strawberries are all his oeuvres which we fiddled with. In September, Ottolenghi starred in a mushroom theme – roasted with poached egg, mushroom and herb polenta, and Portobello steaks. Champignons. Photo courtesy of Candice Stevens

Lead photo credit : The Paris Cook Club. Photo courtesy of Candice Stevens

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Candice Stevens is a retired American living and cooking in France.

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  • Martinn Key2paris
    2020-09-25 07:33:49
    Martinn Key2paris
    Hello Bonjour, is it possible to contact the Paris cook club. ? I am Parisian, bilingual and cooking is my passion. Just contacting for now, if possible. Thanks


  • Alice Adams Avina
    2020-09-25 04:46:13
    Alice Adams Avina
    Such a fun article. It reminds me of the time my husband ordered a hamburger in Paris and he was served a lump of raw ground beef topped with a raw egg. He kept sending it back to be cooked more but it always was returned just slightly warmed up. I’m sure the cooks rolled their eyes.


  • Dell Brady Thomson
    2020-09-24 10:55:47
    Dell Brady Thomson
    I am a retired. Ballet dancer/teacher and have always enjoyed cooking - something I think I inherited from my Mother. However most dancers have an interest in food having been on a diet of one kind or another for most of their dancing life. I still love to cook and as my vegetarian daughter lives with me I have become a part-time vegetarian. I’m always looking for interesting and easy (minimum effort/maximum effect is my preferred kind of recipe!) recipes for vegetarians. I once had a small cooking club with a neighbour - when we were young mums - and made all sorts of tricky recipes including pulled strudel dough. I remember that with fondness and a certain amazement - like looking back on the courage one had for adventures when young. I’m looking forward to receiving your newsletter.


  • Muriel
    2020-09-24 06:09:23
    This was great. Look forward to starting my Cooking Club group in a couple of years as a way of enjoying retirement!