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Tuesday, May 09, 2006

'Le Making' of Chop Talk, or Chez Pim in Style

Livingspring06cover Taking a page from Pascale and Le Making of her cookbook, I'm doing a little post on Le Making of Chop Talk. Oh come now. Don't give me that line about tooting my own horn again. It's not every day a girl finds herself all prettied up in the T Magazine. So pardon my glee but DID YOU SEE ME THERE IN THE NY TIMES??

Wild speculations in the hinterland known as food forums go from the silly to the absurd. Even notes of congratulations here and elsewhere want some questions answered. Why was it in the Style section and not the Dining section? Are those people really your friends or are they models? Was that devil in the blue dress really me or someone hired for the occasion? So, here are your answers.

It all started one day in early January, Christine Muhlke from the Times asked if I'd be interested in doing a little entertaining for her paper. It'd all be pretty simple, she said. None of that overstyled [insert food magazine here] business, she said. Of course I said yes. Yes, Please, actually. (Might I repeat is THE NY TIMES?)

So we picked a date that's convenient to them, less so for me as we were in the middle of moving purgatory -but it's for THE..ok you got the picture- so we moved the location to Gary's über stylish house perched atop the Berkeley Hills.

As the date neared, a few minor details began to change. Would I mind being dressed up, they asked. Hmm, no, I guess, no harm in playing dress-up for a day. Would my friends mind being dressed up as well? Ok, now that's a little more complicated. We were perfectly fashionable on our own, I assured them, but to no avail. A few friends said they'd just come for the food and not for the show then. The remaining brave souls are so good looking some thought they were models. But that's hardly their fault, or is it?

How about a prop stylist, the Times asked? That'd be good I said. I drew the line, however, at hiring a Food Stylist. My food is plenty pretty thanks much.

And the day arrived. It was a Saturday morning and come hell or high water we go to the farmers market in the morning, so we got to Gary's house a bit late. Lucky pretty much everyone else was late too. After an eternity and about a hundred dresses later, the ever patient stylist Elizabeth and I settled on the two pieces I'd wear for the shoot: a very cute tunic by Etro, with ¾ sleeves so I wouldn't have to roll them up for chopping, and a delicious blue Missoni dress for the party later.

I'd rather prefer to cook in my simple white Gap baby-t, which I love so much I buy by the dozen. But this was the Times and the T magazine, so Etro it was for the prepping. --Ok, so it's not exactly honest but it's not like we lied about going to war or anything, was it?-- And the sweet hair and make-up people conceded my request to not do much, so I ended up looking pretty much my own self. A closer look at the Etro tunic would've revealed a few errant spots of curry paste. Now that –my dry cleaner can assure you- is perfectly moi.

The funniest moment of the day came when Sasha, the photographer, blurted out with exasperation "This is not Food Photography, this is bleeping Sports Photography." He'd spent the entire afternoon trying to capture me moving at the speed of light in the kitchen and most of his shots ended up with a spectre of me leaving the frame! That was the first time Christine was to taste my food, you see, so I was a bit nervous. It's not that I didn't want to pose for photographs, trust me, but if the food was crap it wouldn't make for a very good story: let's see how it'd go...she was kinda cute, her friends were even cuter, but her food sucked!

So ended the day with the gorgeous sunset and gimlets made with the blue Anchan flowers, which turned from indigo to ravishing light purple with a touch of lime juice.

As to why it was in the Style section: those who wondered probably haven't seen the paper version. The entire T magazine this Sunday is shock full of food content: from the new crop of resto-épiceries in Paris contributed by our Clotilde of Chocolate and Zucchini, to an article anointing La Rioja as the next It destination for Spanish gastronomy, to other bits and bites of beautiful, stylish, edible and otherwise-food-related things. Thanks to the Kitchen at Apartment Therapy for pointing out the obvious.

And for those of you thinking it was all too beautiful to be true. Of course it was. It's in the Style section for crying out loud. You should have seen the veritable army they sent! What's wrong with being stylish anyhow? The important thing is the recipes actually work -Times tested and all that! Try them for yourself

P.S. Thanks to all my friends for your help: Gary who let us set a bomb on his untouched kitchen, Chiraz and Marina my fearless sous chefs –could not have done it without you two for sure- Jess, Chris, Lynn, Patrice, Javier, and Nate, for tirelessly posing for the shots. And to my David, of course. ;-)

Thanks also to Hugh of Soif who helped chose the wine, none of which made it into the photos! They were delicious nonetheless. And sorry about the Hefeweizen from the bottle shot, Hugh....I was slaving in the kitchen and couldn't be responsible for anything going on in the dining room!

A note for the Bay Area readers, my source for most of my Asian grocery needs is the Chue's Family Farm. They are at the Saturday market, out front just by the Market Bar.

Another note, specifically to my dear friend Matt's sisters. I'd so love to have him but he was too busy....you know, being the high-flying direct report to the CEO of a certain massive multi-national corporation and all that. ;-)

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