It is a perfect time of year to reap the benefits of the last days of summer. With the ending of summer, comes the last of our favorite fruits and vegetables of the growing season. Mimi Thorisson with Mangar is a cook and writer living in France. She shares her story of seasonal food inspirations and old-fashioned cooking.
“I have been thinking that two of my favorite things, when it comes to cooking, are old-fashioned “grandmother’s cooking” and, of course, seasonal cooking. The former is often categorised (sometimes in a deprecating manner) as “comfort food”, meaning not serious food, something warm, tasty, satisfying but ultimately not exciting, modern or inventive. Then we have my other favorite, the much-loved, very fashionable, seasonal cooking or even better, local, seasonal cooking. Seasonal cooking can be of any variety, it can range from just cooking old family recipes with the vegetables from the garden behind the house to the avant-garde lab cooking of hyped up restaurants. But taking a closer look, “granny cooking” was always seasonal and usually local too. The vegetables in the stew never came from South Africa or New Zealand (unless that’s where the granny lived), they came from the garden or the market. I suppose the moral of the story is that when we look to the future we should always keep one eye on the past, when it comes to most matters granny knew best.”
“Inspired by these two muses of mine I have been cooking a lot of seasonal, old-fashioned food lately. And at the moment nothing is more in season than the most beautiful of greens, the endive (or the chicory as it is known to many). In France everybody’s grandmother used to make “endives au jambon” since anyone can remember, it’s a dish so unoriginal that few restaurants would dare serve it, which makes it rare, hard to find and thus priceless. Of course you can make a real mess of “endives au jambon“, you need good quality, crunchy, endive (chicory). And you need really, really good ham. Which brings me to a recent discovery. In our village there is a hairdresser and a shop that is also a bar. In the morning you can find camouflage wearing hunters drinking beer or stronger at the bar and in the evenings you can find the same camouflage wearing hunters drinking beer but usually stronger at the bar. The little store has a bit of everything, mostly canned products and such but they have wonderful eggs and the most amazing cooked ham that I’m in love with. The ham comes from a local producer by the way. When you bring home a box filled with endives and ham it just seems so obvious to wrap one around the other and cover them with a blanket of béchamel and grated cheese. I’ve been making it a lot this month and I will continue for a while until my appetite tells me to take a pause and have some more … next year.”
Photography: Oddur & Mimi Thorisson