food diplomacy through the story of a meal

Archive for miss lunch

Our gal Hillary and the importance of food diplomacy

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton never once wanted us to think of her as some little woman waiting for her husband to come home from work with an evening cocktail and a home-cooked meal.  But that does not mean she does not know the persuasive power of food as a diplomatic tool.  She’s turned the State Department kitchen into a tool of international diplomacy.

Clinton put her Chief of Protocol, Capricia Penavic Marshall, in charge of what’s come to be known as “food diplomacy.”

Classic French food that used to dominate diplomatic functions is largely gone.  New and innovative chefs, cuisines, ideas are bubbling up all over State from social media, and now culinary creativity.  Foreign diplomats are served American food with fresh local ingredients, along with reminders of home.

Even in the White House, the desire to know when food comes from and how it informs who we are and what we stand for can be seen in the First Lady’s garden.  Listen to a great NPR story from this past May on how the garden came about and why it is an important aspect of presenting the U.S. to foreign publics.

“It’s really important because they’re going to talk about some tough issues with one another,” Marshall said. “We want the framework of those tough discussions to be relaxing, to be welcoming, to be inviting.”
Marshall says that when Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was at the State Department recently, he was surprised and pleased to find good hummus at the table.  My colleague’s crowdsourcing project, JEWCER, has a project titled, “Hummus Wars” which brings together foodies and publics of Israel and Lebanon for the coveted title of “best hummus.”Christopher James, the State Department’s deputy chef, said they use a spice visitors are accustomed to or they present a dish in a way that has never been seen before in their country.

And when China’s Vice President Xi Jinping visited this year, a top Chinese-American chef was brought in to cook Chinese delicacies. “Vice President Xi’s eyes lit up,” Marshall said. “He was so honored by the gesture.”

What I think is missing is the story.  Rarely do we use foreign foods, dishes, recipes, and spices to inform our narrative of  U.S. foreign policy to global publics.  By integrating this story and our values behind it, we can demonstrate respect, engagement, and listening through the food to deepen international relationships.

Even this week, acclaimed chef, Jose Andres, created the menu for a meeting of protocol chiefs from all over the world.  He went on to say, “I believe that dinner, gathering people around a table, you have a true opportunity to send hidden messages,” Andres said. “… Through a menu and through the food that you put on a plate.”

To remind the foreign diplomats of the tragic losses and recovery from Hurricane Katrina, Andres served Louisiana Gulf shrimp. “Doing this simple gesture all of a sudden at the State Department is sending a message that we need to be supporting American ingredients, we need to be supporting our fishermen.”

It would be hard to prove that good food makes for better diplomacy especially at a time when nations are so sharply divided on so many issues – but don’t tell that to Andres, who believes all things are possible through food. He said, “With better food and a happy table, probably, probably, we will have a better world, a happier world.”

To watch CBS News’ piece on Clinton’s food diplomacy project, click here.

To watch Jose Andres’ 2011 TED talk, “Creativity in Cooking Can Solve Our Biggest Challenges.”

Links to others talking about food diplomacy:

Twitter:  Gastrodiplomacy


Smorgesboard LA – Exploring the Culinary Underbelly of Los Angeles

Culture Kitchen – Delivering Ethnic Food Kits

Miss Lunch – Lunch in the Loft

New Friends Table – Underground Supper Club in Paris and London


What inspires you when the good is gone?

I have been thinking about inspiration now that I have crossed the 1-year mark post surgery.  Let me share with you stats, since I think some you may want to know.  I lost 81 lbs.  While saying that and feeling great about the accomplishment, there is still lots of adjustments that are not tied to the weight.

As you know, I love food.  Thinking, eating, cooking, blogging, and watching it takes up most of my waking hours.  I have had to find new inspirations that go with these permanent changes.  As I am not going back!

After my trip to Paris, I was deeply moved by the local, innovative, and the classic all rolled into each meal.  I know that the trend for molecular preparation is all the rage, but it lacks the emotional connection for me.  I want to have a deep and meaningful relationship with the butcher who prepares my rabbit; with the fish monger who cleans my monkfish; and with the producer who harvests my olive oil.  Cultivating new friends with a re-jiggered stomach that are not part of the surgical weight loss community is few and far between.

So, I have discovered new pockets of inspiration.  In Paris, Au Passage, Agape Substance and the brilliant Miss Lunch bring inspiration, creativity and passion to their life, every day, each day, with their relationship to food. Believe it or not, Communal in Provo, Utah does the same in this food desert community.

Each day, those who give of themselves in the kitchen see food choice, prep, and cooking as a spiritual expression of who they are. Similar to a Sunday church service, there is drama, rejoicing, humility, and beauty.  There is faith in the gut of knowing what is right and what is false.  They honor the goddess who brings the bounty that then is transformed into a meal of memorable dimensions.

So I encourage you to discover what inspires you and then to take that inspiration and share it with others.  Be it a meal, a story, a poem, a song, or a newly configured stomach.

I am inspired by what I know about myself.









The Simply Wonderful Miss Lunch

A treat for anybody who is a foodie and visiting Paris is a cooking experience with Miss Lunch.  She is a multi-talented artist, chef, entrepreneur, and bright light.  I had participated in a Lunch in the Loft event in 2010 and vowed that at my next trip, I would do a cooking class.

We had kept in contact and shared updates with one another.  During this winter trip to Paris, we coordinated a meet-up at the Marche d’Aligre  to shop for our lunch.  The cold December morning at the market did nothing to damper the activity.  We picked up fruit, vegs, rabbit and rabbit livers, rose-water, cardamom pods, and finally staples at the market.

Gilles chatted us up while picking the beets, onions, endive, and mushrooms for our meal.  If you are in Paris, check out stand 101-102 for a great resource while shopping, and has a lovely smile!

After busing in to Miss Lunch’s friend’s apartment off Étienne Marcel, we unpacked all our goodies to get ready for our lunch.

Le Menu

Rabbit liver tartes with onion marmalade

Endive salad topped with Pulpe de Tanche (olive pulp with herbs) and marinated beets

Rabbit (saddle and legs) braised with shallots, mushrooms over roasted potatoes and a sauce charcuterie

Cardamom and rose-water creme and passion fruit coulis

The olive oil and pulpe de tanache caem from Oliver Baussan’s Premiere Pression Provence.  This amazing and organic line of olive products are a must for any foodie.  You can visit their website, but it is best to visit one of the stores in Paris.  I brought home a jar of their black truffle pesto to try.

After being the sous chef for our lunch, I meditated on prepping the shallots, beets, mushrooms, endives, and potatoes.  We put the onions on to cook low and slow in olive oil like a confit.  Once soft, we added balsamic vinegar, water, thyme, and salt & pepper and reduced down to a thick syrup.  These will be placed on the bottom of the cooked tart shell.  To top the onion confit, we sauteed the rabbit livers in PPP olive oil, shallots and then deglazed with Armagnac.  Once cooked, they were placed on top of the onions and the one-bit tartes were utterly divine.

We then cooked the rabbit, which came from the butcher on the outside of the Marche d’Aligre.  The rabbit was cut into pieces–saddle and legs.  We lightly dredged them in flour and then got some color on them in butter and olive oil  before transferring to a platter.  Meanwhile, the mushroom caps were peeled and then sliced and added to a stock pot with thyme, water, white while, and the browned rabbit.  It was cooked on the stove-top until tender (40-50 minutes).  We served the rabbit over the cooked potatoes flesh which was mixed gently with butter.

Finally a charcuterie sauce was prepared with diced cornichons, diced ham, and cooked down in PPP olive oil and shallots.  The sauce was deglazed with 1/2 cup of wine and if you wanted to add a small pat of butter to finish.   Reduce the sauce so the flavors come together and then spoon over rabbit and potatoes.

This warm stew was perfect for the rain that started as we were cooking and light enough as to not feel weighted down for a late lunch in the 1st.

Our lunch concluded with a cream (not caramel) that was infused with cardamom and rose-water and then surrounded by passion fruit coulis.

The afternoon ended with four well fed people who all share the joy and love of the City of Light and a beautiful afternoon enjoying a meal together.

It was a moveable feast.

First days, first meals

I arrived in Paris on Saturday to a grey and rainy city.  I am going to enjoy all it offers and make sure my food offerings and choices meet the usual expectations. 

I have visited both the Marche de Vanves and Marche de Clingnancourt this past week-end to see remarkably similar stuff to the fleas in Los Angeles.  We are all connected.  However, there is much more furniture and less of interesting jewelery.  Is it the economic times that is forcing sellers to keep back the good stuff to got a better price when needed?  The grey skies are looming large and they break away to rain on a daily basis.  Metro to Marais, for a Sunday of retail therapy as they are the only stores open in Paris and the people-watching will be good! 

The best falafel is found on Rue des Rossiers. However not eating the pita is a bit anti-climatic.  I have had less carbs in the last six months and nothing is as challenging as Paris.  I eat the falafel with a plastic fork and the lack of joy permeates the experience.   Perhaps dinner will give a sense of the foodie joy that is missing.   Walking around the Marais is like being in the most stylish shetel. I stopped into a fun Parisian store Zadig et Voltaire and found out that I can try on Parisian clothing now that I am about 64 lbs lighter. I am surprised that things fit.  Old images die-hard and the purses, which I was only able to buy until recently, still call my name. 

Dinner ended up being a warm bowl of mussels and frites as the rain was coming down cats and dogs.  The delicate mussels and warm wine broth were a perfect vehicle for the frites that have been sprinkled with salt and pepper.  Dunking them into the soup did make the frites soft, but sharing the spoon with the tender mussel was a traditional taste of Paris.

Tonight I am at Au Passage in the 11th.  It is s brand new restaurant off the Passage Saint Sebastien which serves tapas and regional fare.  I have started with a glass of rose from Corsica and roasted pumpkin with basil leaves and shaved ricotta salatta.  I spread the softened pumpkin and a mint leaf on the crust of multigrain bread.  It called my name!  The saltiness of the cheese and the floral note of the mint leaf is lovely with the warm roasted and carmelized pumpkin.

For the 2nd plate, I am having pan seared scallops on a bed of brussels sprouts purée.  These three scallops are topped with a bit of tapenade and mint leaves again.   The brussels sprouts purée is lovely, the scallops are crunchy on the top and soft on the underside.  I imagine that the entire scallops are cooked on the just one side and that residual heat cooked it through.

The place is packed and it would be wise to book in advance, however you can sit at the bar and enjoy the meal.  I finished my dinner with a mild blue and one last bite of the multigrain bread crust.

Not bad when you can only have 6oz per each meal.

Tomorrow is my cooking salon with Miss Lunch and I cannot wait until we plan, shop, and eat.  I plan to photo and post throughout the day.

J’aurais toujours Paris

I have been quiet of late on this blog as I have been taking care of the young man in my life and blogging about that on Tea and Sympathy.

As a treat, I will be traveling to Paris this December for a pilgrimage to my “holy land”.  I have never been in the City of Light in December, so I am looking forward to the beauty of the holidays and the cool winter air.  In addition, I plan to explore new parts of the city and to do participate in specialized cooking/foodie activities.

I want to still have the love of the city through these new eyes after the surgery.  I want to be able to sample and eat new and exciting meals and still be committed to this new chapter in my life.

This brings me to finding the balance between joyful abandon and adherence to a program.  I will be learning how to make the beautiful French macarons like they sell at Ladurée and Pierre Hermé.  Granted, they won’t be as stunning as those, but to learn how to make them in Paris is a special treat.

I also will be participating in a cooking salon with Miss Lunch again.  This time we will plan, shop, and cook together as we construct and deconstruct a meal while sharing the love of fresh and seasonal food sold at the local farmer’s market.

For the last few weeks, I have gone to bed dreaming of the trip, the food, and the possibilities.  I am giddy with excitement about my time wandering the streets of the city that will feed my soul, my heart and my mind.  Preparing for this trip, I have thought about what food means to me and how integral it is to the happiness in life.

It is not a small part, a take it or leave it element.  Cooking, planing, and creating gives me pleasure and meaning.  The senses are awakened and with that the heart is moved.

I will have seconds of that!

Here are a few Paris blogs that I have been following – may they inspire the Parisian in you.