A little grateful munching

December 31st, 2006

In these last hours of 2006, I am awash with gratitude. There are so many kind, generous and talented people to thank - the eGullet Society for Culinary Arts & Letters and the Culinary Trust top the list, as these culinary wizards waved their magic wand in my direction. The grant to research and finish the Ah, Almonds book has been a great help, spurring me on. Their generosity made travel to Spanish Catalonia possible last September. In Reus, I spoke with Mr. Barriach, director of the almond processors, Morella Nuts. He spoke of his concerns and of the role his Morella research team is playing in collaboration with Califronia Almond Board researchers on almonds’ nutritive role in fighting ‘the obesity epidemic’. During that busy week, Carme Ruscalleda - a three-star Michelin chef on the Costa Brava - enthusiastically shared her ideas along with clever twists on Catalan traditions using almonds. I had asked for a short interview, but after two hours we shook hands and agreed to meet again! These are but two of the high points of the travel and research in Catalonia. There are numerous individuals to whom I am grateful (as I munch on a few paprika-roasted almonds -yes, from Casa Gispert in Barcelona) and look back on 2006. My daughter, Julia, introduced me to Olympe Versini during a memorable autumn dinner at Casa Olyme in Paris - Merci, Julia! An interview with this Corsican chef will appear on vagabondgourmand in upcoming months.

During a thoroughly relaxing Noël in south eastern France, I spent an afternoon at La Fenière in Lourmarin, learning about les Treize Desserts, the finale of a Provençal Noël feast.  I want to thank Reine Sammut for taking time to talk with me about her favorite variations on the almond theme. The frosty Calissons d’Aix glacées that topped off our La Fenière lunch were just a sample of this well known chef’s inspired interpretations of sweet Mediterranean traditions. Our welcoming Noël hostess in Apt, Mme Virginie, graciously let me restore my sleep bank and offered support through the weeks since my mother’s passing. To all of these kind individuals, and to Michel - chief proof-reader, chef extraordinaire and the driving force on yet another project - I am ever grateful.

Merci et Bonne Nouvelle Année 2007!

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