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Today I was watching Jacques Pepin on the cooking channel. He was showing fast food his way. It not like my way. It sooo much better and takes just a little more time. And he uses everything, nothing goes into the garbage that he can use somehow.

I am so tired of eating something off the coffee table in front of the TV. It doesn't matter what it is, if I make it or it is something in a bag from a fast food place. Which brings me to my real subject for the day.

What does it mean there is nothing to eat? There are usually a few items in your cupboard that you can use to prepare a meal. But what if your business includes serving food? Let me share a story.

On a trip to France we were a group of eight. Our plane was late in arriving in Nice. They had to find our rental van. It was noon and we headed for our hotel outside of Nice. Traffic was heavy as it always is in Nice. We finally reached the road to our hotel. We could see the hotel from the road but somehow we couldn't find the correct off ramp that would take us to the hotel. Finally found it and then we couldn't locate the driveway to the hotel. At last we found our way in and went to the dining room. We were tired and hungry travelers.

Of course by this time it was well past the noon hour and a half. Our travel leader who is from France convinced the owner to prepare us something to eat. The maitresse was concerned that she had "nothing" to serve but she would see what she could put together.

We were seated at a lovely table in a sunny window overlooking a bright pool. After a short wait a fabulous little lunch of "nothing" began to arrive. First came a two big platters, one had a variety of cold meats, ham,  roast beef, saucisson sec. The other platter  was sliced cucumbers on one side and grated cheese on the other side. Turns out what looked like grated cheese was actually carrots "rapinee"....grated carrots in a vinaigrette. Presented beautifully on silver platters. Then came poached eggs wrapped in leeks with a butter sauce. Next was a huge platter of geziers..sauteed chicken livers. Not one of my favorite foods but they were quite tasty. And a platter of sliced cold potatoes in a vinaigrette sauce accompanied the geziers.  And of course there was the tossed green salad and the ever present baguette. A tray of assorted cheeses and a plate of different deserts finished of the meal. Not only was there plenty to eat the presentation was terrific. It was not a meal that made you think that something was thrown on a plate and served without thought.

When we done the maitresse again apologized for having "nothing" to serve!  It was a delicious lunch served beautifully by a gracious hostess. 

I try to remember this meal when I say I have nothing in the house to eat. What I don't seem to have in my house is imagination. This hostess has it and so does Jacques Pepin. They awaken my food imagings and I do try to think of different ways to fix that little piece of cheese, a couple of green onions, eggs, butter and cream, a leftover bit of ham. Maybe a cold potato or some asparagus spears are in the frigo. How about the few spinach leaves, a lonely carrot? I can make a quick pie crust. I am seeing a quiche. Some lettuce that needs a quick cold shower to bring it back to life? My vinaigrette. Tossed in a nice wooden salad bowl. It is coming together. There are pears that aren't  quite ripe but simmered in a sauce of honey and butter, some eau d' chateau, a splash of wine or Calvados served in a compote and voila.....elegant dessert. Put it on the table with some candles and soft music or lunch outside under the umbrella. A glass of wine to complete the meal.

Don't ever let me say I have "nothing" to eat. For most of us there is something to eat but maybe lack of imagination is what is missing. Yes and a bit ambience can make the simplest of eats quite lovely and memorable.

What do you fix when you "nothing" to eat?


One of my Facebook pallys made a couple of Jacques Pepin recipes over the weekend. He gave them full approval.

I am facing that situation of “nothing” to eat today. It is somewhat more complicated as I am not currently permitted any of the easy, starchy items that are the bulk of ordinary meals. What to do with some turkey breast, a few bell peppers and half a carton of mushrooms on the edge of starting to grow their own fungus?

If I had a proper dining table, a decent kitchen, and essentially unlimited time, more of my meals would be more beautiful.

But I am not so concerned about eating in front of the TV. Maybe it was how I was raised. But I have had all kinds of beautiful and delicious food while leaning over the kitchen counter and watching reruns. Given my somewhat-limited “free time”, I would rather spend it washing vegetables and sauteeing bacon than washing placemats and arranging centerpieces.

Not that I don’t love a well-set table. There are gifts before us all, if we only stop to recognize them.