Adam Gopnik, Patti Smith and Laura Esquivel


What makes a day into a happy day is often the presence of a good dinner.

The Table Comes First by Adam Gopnik

Three days ago, just because I run out of fresh parsley for the chicken soup, I used some coriander and tofu cheese. And it was a revelation. The Polish chicken soup with homemade noodles, a generous portion of coriander and some tofu cheese cut into small dices is one of my favourite dishes now. Polish miso soup. Since I was so happy about this discovery, and I also love reading about food I thought I find some interesting pieces of text about cooking. So, today’s post is about food and cooking and matters of taste… The quotes below are fragments of Adam Gopnik’s “The Table Comes First” (French cooking at its best), Patti Smith’s “Just Kids” (cooking for starving artists) and Laura Esquivel’s “Like Water for Chocolate” (cooking for lovesick).

The restaurant, it turns out, was a thing to eat before it was a place to go. “Restaurant”, appearing around 1750, was the new name for bouillon, a chicken or beef broth. At that time, if you wanted to eat in Paris you had to go to a table d’hôte. This was a big public table where you took what was being served, a little like a tavern or an eating house in London. As you ate, you were expected to talk and joke and kid around with other people at the table, including the host. (…) This could be fun, but if the guy next to you at the table d’hôte was drunk and beery you were stuck, and if you were in the mood for chicken and only veal was being served you were stuck, too. If you were a women, you couldn’t go at all.

People who didn’t like the tables d’hôte because of the company started to say that they didn’t like them because they made you sick when you ate there. (…) Health scares usually are haloed by habit. Every panic has its profit-seeker, though, and someone was around to exploit this one; in the same spirit in which egg-white omelets and frozen-yogurt stands appeared in New York a couple of decades ago, places appeared in Paris offering healthy broth cooked in clean kettles–restaurants.

The Table Comes First by Adam Gopnik


I could easily quote the entire chapter of “Just Kids” by the same title, but since it supposed to be about cooking I’ll just limit myself to the following fragment:

Robert got laid off from Brentano’s. He spent his unemployed days in the continual transformation of our living space. When he painted the kitchen, I was so happy that I prepared us a special meal. I made couscous with anchovies, and my specialty: lettuce soup. This delicacy consisted of chicken bouillon garnished with lettuce leaves.

Just Kids by Patti Smith

Here you can listen to Patti herself explaining how to prepare the lettuce soup.


The last fragment today is Laura Esquivel’s Like Water for Chocolate.

Chapter Seven, July, Oxtail Soup


2 oxtails

1 onion

2 cloves of garlic

4 tomatoes

¼ kilo of string beans

2 potatoes

4 chiles moritas


The cut-up oxtails are placed in a pan to cook with a chunk of onion, a clove of garlic, and salt and pepper to taste. It is advisable to add a little more water than you normally would, since you are making a soup. A good soup that’s worth something has to be soupy without getting watery.

Soups can cure illness, whether physical or mental – at least, that was Chencha’s firm belief, and Tita’s too, although she hadn’t given sufficient credit to it for quite some time. But now it would have to be accepted as the truth.

About three months ago, after tasting a spoonful of soup that Chencha had made and brought to Dr John Brown’s house, Tita had returned to her senses.

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