Next, go inside Rebekah Peppler dinner in Paris.
Have you ever considered leaving your current life behind in search of adventure? Leaving your job and moving to another country to start a new life, immersing yourself in new perspectives, sounds and tastes? Well, get ready for the roller coaster ride, but I’m sure Rebekah Peppler agrees that the university of life is always the best professor.
When the American food writer and stylist and famous author moved from New York to Paris in 2015, his intention was clear: to focus on writing, and he did just that. This period led to his best-selling book, Apéritif: cocktail time The French Way In 2018, and most recently her cookbook, At the table: French Way Cooking and Eating Recipes. While any change is tremendous, moving to a country that speaks a completely different language around the world, not to mention a cultural change, is tremendous, but for Peppler “it remains one of the best decisions I’ve ever made, personally and professionally”.
So naturally, he welcomed us (almost) when he invited us to him apartment in the 18th arrondissement of Paris, for an intimate soirèe with friends to share a delicious French meal with the balcony of the Eiffel Tower. Peppler is also known for its stress-free hospitality, its essential cooking tool and its ingredients in its fridge / pantry and much more. Prepare to be inspired!
French cooking and lifestyle have a big influence. What are the biggest differences between French and American cuisine and the food / cuisine approach?
It’s hard not to! Without romanticization also much more, there is a distinctive kind of magic around French cuisine and way of life. I wanted to defend that “French way” for myself At the table connection and enjoyment of the centers. I think it’s inherently sexual in nature. The recipes are usually simple and tasty; quality and beauty outweigh the intricate technique nine out of 10 times.
The biggest difference I’ve found in cooking in France and America is the way I buy food. I go to one or both stores to buy everything I need in the US. In France, I shop regularly, and I have places in the neighborhood for different things: my cheese factory, my bakery, my product stores if not market day, a place with very good chocolate, a place with very good spices, and so on. It takes more time, but for a long time, it’s as charming as it sounds.
Tell us more about “new French” dishes that reflect the modern French table?
From the initial vision of Mahaian, It seemed to me that it was my concern, in part, that France — and by extension, its food, cuisine, and food — is much more than the Julia Child recipes and main sauces that so many Americans imagine. The modern French table is diverse, and also has a strong influence from Africa, Asia, and America. As is often the case with many ways of traveling around the world with food and flavors, many of these dishes took root in France during the colonial era, as it is dark and true and a reason to avoid not entering. The lie that “cooking” was basically born in France is not what interests me forever!
What’s the secret to preparing simple but sophisticated meals?
Good ingredients, attention, some time.
You organize weekly weekly meetings at your home in the 18th arrondissement of Paris. What advice can you give to organize evenings that capture this precious French charm?
I’m so eager to get people back to that regular weekly pace. I like to send a sudden text in the morning come at six o’clock at night. I love the ritual of buying in the market before spending quality time in the kitchen and then at the table. I love the first person to arrive and pour the first drink right away. Wherever you are I think the key to a great encounter is to first enjoy the space you are creating for yourself and then to welcome people into that space.
In terms of charm, many of us have been doing it alone and eating at home for a year, so a little atmosphere and daily luxuries go a long way. Put the table in advance, take out the good glasses (and don’t flip them if someone breaks them), light a candle (odorless) or three, break the butter very well.
How did you learn your culinary art?
I think it’s a trick to continue doing any skill and beauty. Keep practicing, asking questions, pointing and eventually starting to overcome the fucking victories. Learn from these mistakes, they will make great dinner fodder someday. Finding inspiration through art, travel, poetry, literature or things from the kitchen or the plate has been very helpful for me as well.
Describe the usual day for you.
As a freelancer, writing days, avoiding writing, preparing for filming, developing or testing recipes in the kitchen, taking out a demo of one of my recipes, looking for an ingredient that is hard to find, being in the set, can be billing. or, rarely but sometimes, open something bright on a weekday evening without looking at your phone or computer and spending a few hours reading a book in the sun.
What do you drink when you wake up? And what is there for breakfast?
When my partner is home, coffee with warm lemon water; when he is not there, until the coffee is a dehydration headache and he remembers drinking water. I’m not for breakfast but if I get hungry, I choose tasty and sweet every time.
What is your essential cooking tool?
Not a sexy answer, but for work, my scales and measuring cups and spoons are American. I travel with them. I work in metric and American measurements, so both are essential no matter where I am in the world. I also have plenty of pepper mills, but the most functional is the one that has a small compartment to catch the grind so you can get the exact size without spilling it anywhere. The other two may not be very beautiful.
What are your kitchen utensils and why?
A fish spatula, a food processor (it doesn’t have to be a guy: my current one is very cheap, it’s almost broken and has been doing its job for 5+ years) and a plate of salt. In my case, I use a small container to prepare fine sea salt and I have two ceramic storage containers nearby that have different types of common salt for finishing.
What cooking tools do you always give to beginners and why?
A sharp and beautiful knife. I love a tool that is functional and beautiful.
What are your favorite cookbooks and why?
I love the cookbooks they transport and teach. Right now it’s been Hetty McKinnon’s Asian, With Love and Mature figs By Yasmin Khan. I also have a special place in my heart for Madeleine Kamman When French women cook. They are memoirs mixed with recipes and each chapter is dedicated to a woman (and a different region of France) who studied in her kitchen.
Tell us some things we’ll always find in your fridge?
Butter, cheese, sparkling wine, sparkling water, cornichons.
And what about your pantry? What do you always have on hand?
Good olive oil, maybe plenty of vinegar, rice, chocolate, canned fish, Chicharrón de Serrano from Casa Glotón. I also always have lemons, garlic and shallots at home.
What gives you the fear of entertaining? What scares you about cooking?
I’ve spent a lot of time cooking people up and cooking personally and professionally, I rarely have any real fear unless someone in the industry sees the knife with great skill, but I’m always anxious to meet new people at mine or at a dinner party when I’m not a bit anxious. Social anxiety! It’s real!
Your signature plate for the holidays?
Did you know that real estate agents prepare cookies before showing this trick? I smoke gougères before dinner. The house smells great and is an ideal aperitif snack. Also, the potato is a bowl of fries, my favorite snack.
The only meal you always make at home and why?
The tuna melts. It’s one of my favorite meals and I control the amount of cheese and vinegar involved (both of which are plentiful).
Afari party pet peeve?
Assigned seats and / or alternate men and women. Social anxiety (see above) is a real thing, gender is a construct, and the alternation of binary seats is deductive and presumptive.
The perfect playlist for dinner includes:
I’m the worst of the dinner playlists, but I know that good music is essential in a party atmosphere. I represent, put on one of my partner’s very great Spotify playlists and send them questions and congratulations.
Go to the middle ground:
I don’t usually choose the middle level — there’s too much food to put on the table — but I always put a nice little walnut dish in the shell, my favorite nutcracker on the table at the end of the meal. It can be a dessert with fresh fruit and chocolate or just something to keep snacking on for a long time after washing all the dishes.
Dream dinner guests?
Most of the people I would dream of at the table are friends who have ever gathered around my table. Spreading my closest friends around the world, the dream would be to televise all in one place at a time. If we’re dealing with people I don’t know but would like to nurture, it would be a mess of poets and writers I admire: Hala Alyan, Kate Zambreno, Ada Limón, Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha, Jane Hirshfield, on the list.
Fill in the blank:
“Perfect meals … should promote connection.”
“It’s not dinner … a good conversation and without someone spilling or breaking something.”
“Every chef needs to know … season with confidence.”