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Turbot with sauce maltaise recipe

Turbot with sauce maltaise recipe

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  • Recipes
  • Dish type
  • Side dish
  • Sauce
  • Hollandaise sauce

Simply poached turbot is perfect with this lower-fat version of a classic hollandaise-style sauce flavoured with blood oranges. Serve with steamed new potatoes, mange-tout and baby corn.

6 people made this

IngredientsServes: 4

  • 300 ml (10 fl oz) fish stock, preferably home-made
  • 1 shallot, sliced
  • 1 lemon slice
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 6 black peppercorns, crushed
  • 4 turbot fillets, about 140 g (5 oz) each
  • Sauce maltaise
  • 85 g (3 oz) unsalted butter
  • 1 tbsp blood orange juice
  • 1 tbsp white wine vinegar
  • 3 black peppercorns, lightly crushed
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 1 tsp finely grated orange zest
  • 125 g (4½ oz) tomatoes, skinned, seeded and finely diced
  • salt and pepper
  • fresh tarragon sprigs to garnish

MethodPrep:20min ›Cook:25min ›Ready in:45min

  1. Place the stock, shallot, lemon slice, bay leaf and peppercorns in a pan wide enough to hold the fillets in a single layer. Bring to the boil, then remove from the heat and set aside to infuse while you make the sauce.
  2. Melt the butter in a small saucepan. Pour off the clear golden liquid into a small bowl, discarding the milky sediment, and set aside to cool slightly.
  3. Put the orange juice, vinegar, peppercorns and 1 tbsp water in a small saucepan and boil for 2 minutes or until reduced by half. Transfer to the top of a double boiler or a heatproof bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water. The base of the pan or bowl should not touch the water.
  4. Whisk in the egg yolks and continue whisking for 4–5 minutes or until the mixture thickens and becomes pale. Gradually whisk in the melted butter, drop by drop. Continue whisking after all the butter has been incorporated, until the sauce is thick enough to hold a ribbon trail on the surface when the whisk is lifted – this will take 4–5 minutes.
  5. If at any point the sauce begins to curdle, immediately remove it from the heat, add an ice cube and whisk briskly until it comes together again. Remove the ice cube, return to the heat and continue whisking in the butter.
  6. Stir in the lemon juice and orange zest and season with salt and pepper to taste. Remove the saucepan or double boiler from the heat. Stir in the tomatoes, then cover and set aside while you poach the fish.
  7. Strain the cooled fish stock and return it to the pan. Add the fish fillets – the liquid should just cover the fillets; if there is too much, spoon it off and reserve to use in fish soups. Slowly increase the heat so the stock just simmers but doesn't boil, and poach the fish fillets for about 5 minutes, depending on the thickness, until they will flake easily.
  8. Remove the fillets with a fish slice, gently shaking off any excess liquid, and set on warmed plates. Spoon over the sauce, garnish with tarragon sprigs and serve.

Some more ideas

Turbot is an expensive fish. For a more economical version, you can use 8 skinned sole fillets, about 70 g (2¼ oz) each, poaching them as in the main recipe. * Instead of the sauce maltaise, serve the fish with a fresh orange and tomato salsa. Halve and finely chop 200 g (7 oz) mixed red and yellow cherry tomatoes. Peel and segment 2 oranges, and chop the segments. Toss the oranges and tomatoes together. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and sprinkle over 2 tbsp finely chopped fresh herbs, such as tarragon, parsley and chives. Stir gently, then cover and chill until required. * The poaching liquid can be cooled and stored in the fridge for up to 1 day to use as the base of a fish soup.

Plus points

Turbot is an excellent source of niacin, needed to release energy from carbohydrate foods. * Tomatoes contain lycopene, a valuable antioxidant. Recent studies suggest that lycopene may help to protect against bladder and pancreatic cancers.

Each serving provides

B1, B12, niacin * A * B6, C, E, calcium, iron, potassium

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Turbot with sauce maltaise recipe - Recipes

To roast the turbot:

Finely slice all the vegetables and lemon and spread on a roasting tray, strew the herbs over the vegetables and lay the fish on top. Pour the champagne over the fish and place in the preheated oven to cook for 30 minutes.

Test with a food probe, the thickest part of the fish should read 42C. The fish will start to come away from the bone and the skin will peel back very easily when it is cooked.

Lift the fish out of the roasting tray and set aside somewhere warm to rest.

To make the emulsion:

Melt the butter in a saucepan over a medium heat, continue cooking until it starts to turn golden. You are aiming for caramel coloured granules in the butter–when that stage is reached add the lemon juice, simmer for 2 minutes and set aside.

To cook the pancetta and leeks:

Carefully remove the skin from the fish (it should peel off easily when cooked). Life 4 portions of turbot from the bone and serve with the buttered leeks, crispy pancetta and lemon emulsion. Garnish with sea aster and oyster leaves.

To roast the turbot:

Finely slice all the vegetables and lemon and spread on a roasting tray, strew the herbs over the vegetables and lay the fish on top. Pour the champagne over the fish and place in the preheated oven to cook for 30 minutes.

Test with a food probe, the thickest part of the fish should read 42C. The fish will start to come away from the bone and the skin will peel back very easily when it is cooked.

Lift the fish out of the roasting tray and set aside somewhere warm to rest.

To make the emulsion:

Melt the butter in a saucepan over a medium heat, continue cooking until it starts to turn golden. You are aiming for caramel coloured granules in the butter–when that stage is reached add the lemon juice, simmer for 2 minutes and set aside.

To cook the pancetta and leeks:

Carefully remove the skin from the fish (it should peel off easily when cooked). Life 4 portions of turbot from the bone and serve with the buttered leeks, crispy pancetta and lemon emulsion. Garnish with sea aster and oyster leaves.

Poached turbot with hollandaise sauce

Bring the milk to a boil. Add the thyme, crushed unpeeled garlic, bay leaf, and 1 pinch of fleur de sel and some black peppercorns. Simmer for at least 20 minutes to infuse the milk with the flavors. After 20 minutes, remove the aromatics with a skimmer. Fillet the turbot and cut the fillets into four 6-ounce (170 gram) supremes with the skin on. Lower the fish into the milk. Leave it at a simmer, and cook for 10 minutes. Make sure the milk doesn’t come back to a boil. While the fish cooks, make the hollandaise sauce.

Step 2: Hollandaise Sauce

Combine the egg yolks and a little bit of water in a small pot over low heat. Whisk until you have a nice zabaglione. Meanwhile, heat the clarified butter over low heat. When the egg yolk mixture reaches ribbon consistency, gradually add the clarified butter . Season to taste as needed, and add a few drops of lemon juice.

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Slow Roast Turbot In Lemon, Thyme, And Anchovy Oil

Slow roast turbot – Sweet tasting turbot, slowly roasted in an olive oil infused with zesty lemon, fragrant thyme, and salty anchovies.

It’s been a long time since I’ve eaten let alone cooked a bit of turbot. Last weekend that all changed. I’d made a rare trip out to Howth fish market in search of some black sole but due to bad weather there was none available. The best thing about visiting the bigger fish markets like Howth though is the sheer variety of fish and shellfish on offer, you’re nearly always guaranteed to find something spankingly fresh to tickle your fancy.

On this occasion it was some fresh looking whole turbot sitting on the shaved ice that caught my eye. After a bit of discussion with the French fish monger working behind the counter I discovered it was in fact a farmed turbot all the way from Spain.

Having never eaten farmed turbot I was curious to know how it tasted and was contemplating giving it a go. Before I could even ask what it was like, the french lad told me “is meard, but I have some wild turbo”

Without getting into the whole wild vs farmed fish debate, and leaving other considerations aside like nutrition, sustainability, and the environment, if I’m given a choice I’ll always go for the wild fish. Generally it just tastes better.

The only stumbling block can be the price. Wild turbot can be ridiculously expensive, up to 25 euro a kilo for fillets. Back when I was a young commis chef it was a lot cheaper. l can still remember these massive whole turbot, the size of a small child, arriving into the kitchen sticking out of styrofoam boxes. Weights of 10 to 12 kilo were not uncommon and If there was a couple of big ones in the box than it would take 2 of us to lift it. Maybe I’m been a bit nostalgic but these bigger fish always seemed to taste better. Simply cut into large stakes and charred over a hot grill then served with deep-fried parsley and half a lemon….delish.

Turbot this size are long gone because of overfishing and It’s one of the reasons you don’t see it on the average restaurant menu anymore, its cost is just too prohibitive. This time as I was buying a whole fish it worked out a good bit cheaper at 14 euro a kilo which is only 50 cents a kilo more expensive than the farmed fish.

The downside about buying a whole turbot like this is your paying for what you can’t eat as well as what you can. There’s a fair amount of waste – the head, the bones, and the fins, though you could make use of them in a stock. Even though my piece of turbot weighed in at a hefty 1.2kg by the time it’s trimmed and cooked there’s really only enough in it to feed about 2 hungry people, 3 at a push, and anything bigger wouldn’t fit in my oven.

Having spent all that cash on a pricey piece of turbot I wanted a recipe to do it justice. Normally when I’m in a hurry I just whip off the fillets and give them a quick pan-fry. However, on a lazy Sunday, a long slow roast in the oven seems like a good idea.

This slow roast turbot recipe is quite simple but requires a little forward planning. I didn’t want to roast the turbot in just any old oil. I wanted something to pack a punch and add a flavour hit to complement the sweet flesh of the turbot. Any plain oil just wouldn’t do, so i infused a fruity extra virgin with salty anchovies, fragrant thyme, zesty lemon, and a little garlic. Try to whip this up at least an hour before you roast the fish to give it a little time to infuse.

Having gone to all the trouble of making this oil it just didn’t seem right to bin it once the fish was cooked. You could save it and use it the next time you’re pan frying a bit of fish or use it to make a little dressing to go with the turbot. I kept this really simple by just using some of the ingredients I had to hand. So into the oil went some lemon segments, a spoon or two of piquant capers, and a little bunch of roughly chopped parsley for freshness.

A big concern for many with a recipe like this is taking the fish off the bone. People can get very paranoid about fish bones for some reason, but flatfish like turbot are amongst the easiest to fillet whether they’re raw or cooked. It’s one of the first things they teach you in the larder class at chefs school. Simply make an incision down the centre of the fish from just below the head to the tail. Then cut across, following the line of the central bones and remove each fillet by sliding the knife underneath. Then turn the fish over and repeat the process on the other side. Dead easy!

Some might get a little nervous about cooking a large whole fish on the bone like this. The biggest worry is you might somehow mess it up and the turbot will either be over or under done. If you’re concerned it’s a little under just insert a knife at the thickest part of the fish and have a little peek inside to see if it’s ready.

With this recipe, you don’t really have to worry about overcooking the fish. Its cooked at such a low temperature and in such an amount of oil that as long as you baste it while it’s cooking it won’t dry out. Cooking the fish at a low temperature like this also means it won’t shrink as much. Don’t be tempted to turn your oven up, turbot has a delicate flesh that flakes up really easily at a high heat.

I have to be honest and say that cooking fish fillets is a lot easier and quicker than roasting or baking a whole fish on the bone like this. If you’ve got a bit of time on your hands and you’re not afraid of fish bones than cooking a prime piece of fish by slow roasting it in the oven is a great way to do it justice. You won’t believe the moist and succulent results.

Turbot for Beginners

So there was some nice looking wild turbot on sale at Whole Foods Market. It was a fish that I didn’t know anything about, but I was game.
Research for turbot lead to a highly complementary article in LaRousse Gastronomique
from which I discovered the highly prized turbot is “a flatfish living on the sandy pebbly beds of the Atlantic” with a long culinary history. It’s been nicknamed roi du carême, king of Lent. Turbot à l’impériale, cut into slices, poached in milk, arranged with crayfish tails and coated with a truffle sauce, was prepared for Napoleon. Although it has many famous recipes, many considered it best cooked simply grilled or poached. The caution is to make sure it is not overcooked or it will lose its flavor and texture.
For fish Rick Stein is always the guy to look to. In Rick Stein’s Complete Seafood he gives three turbot recipes, all of which sound amazing, but for this first time going with the simplest one, Myrtle’s turbot, seemed best to really taste the turbot itself. The recipe originally calls for a whole turbot with the skin on both sides. I had a half pound fillet with the skin on one side so I had to modify the cooking times, and unfortunately I didn’t have the chives he called for in the original recipe.
Not to worry. The turbot was delicate and rich at the same time with a firm flaky texture that dissolved like buttered mousse in the mouth. The butter, herbs, and cooking juices add a touch of flavor without overwhelming the dish and would compliment boiled potatoes on the side. Delicious.

8 oz turbot fillet
A few sprigs of flat-leaf parsley
A few sprigs of thyme
2 tablespoons butter
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 400F.
Season fish with salt and pepper. Place fish in roasting pan and pour in enough water so that it comes halfway up the sides of the fish. Bake for 12 minutes until the internal temperature is 145F.
In the meantime mince the herbs. Gently melt butter in a small pan, stir in the herbs, and set aside.
When fish is cooked remove it from the pan and transfer to a warmed serving dish. Reduce the remaining cooking juices to a few tablespoons and add to the herb butter.
Pour the sauce over the fish and serve.

How to Poach a Turbot

“Until recently, turbot was a fish that few of us had seen. It is the second largest flat fish, only halibut being larger, and can reach a length of 3 feet. In the wild, it swims exclusively on the other side of the Atlantic where it rivals sole as the ultimate fish deluxe. What makes it so appealing is its firm white flesh that, when taken from a large wild turbot, can produce fillets over an inch thick. Turbot is never cheap.

Fortunately turbot is now farmed and is relatively easy to track down in the United States. It’s easily filleted—the technique is the same as for any flat fish—but it makes a dramatic sight when poached whole.

The problem with poaching flat fish, is the need for a poacher that fits the fish. There are such things—they’re called turbotières—but they can cost upwards of a thousand dollars since it seems they come only in copper. To get around this, I rigged up my own flat fish poacher by cutting a cake rack to the size of my largest roasting pan. I then strung string on the ends to act as handles.

When poaching any fish, it’s ideal to prepare a vegetable stock, called a court-bouillon, but given that this means chopping onions or leeks, carrots, and maybe fennel, in a pinch it’s ok to just use salted water flavored with a large bouquet garni containing plenty of thyme and parsley.

Bring the water or strained court-bouillon to the simmer in the roasting pan. Put the fish on the rack and slowly lower it into the simmering liquid. Control the temperature so that the fish is in liquid that’s barely moving. Poach for about 10 minutes per inch of thickness.

When the fish is ready, lift up the rack with the string handles and transfer it to a cutting board for filleting.”

A Quick Note: This recipe was a unique submission Jim created and shot especially for Browne Trading Co. from his home studio in Brooklyn, NY – literally days after Hurricane Sandy hit the area in November, 2012! Here he is using our Spanish turbot . This fish was a little under 4 pounds in weight, yielding a little under 2 pounds of fillet prepared, which serves 4-6 people. – Nick Branchina

Turbot with White Wine Sauce

Rinse the fish and pat dry with paper towels. Clean the mushrooms and cut into slices. Peel the onion and chop.

Heat 50 grams (approximately 1/3 cup) butter in a saucepan and cook the onions until soft. Deglaze with the vinegar and pour in the white wine and fish stock. Add the vegetable stock and cook at low temperature for about 10 minutes. Stir in the cream and bring to a boil. Mix the starch with 4 tablespoons water and use to thicken the sauce. Preheat the oven to 200°C (approximately 400°F) convection.

Heat the remaining butter in a frying pan in the meantime. Sauté the mushrooms until brown. Season with salt, pepper and anise seeds. Add the mushrooms to the fish sauce and set aside the sauce.

Season the fish with salt and pepper and place in a baking dish. Brush with the melted butter and sprinkle with the almonds. Bake in the preheated oven for about 15 minutes.

Boil the sauce again and transfer to plates. To serve, place the fillets on the sauce and garnish with thyme.

Turbot with sauce maltaise recipe - Recipes

Alas, my new direction was parallel to my old one. Back to the perfunctory greeting, the boring press releases that are the heart and soul of a public relations office. And the organization that I joined was a massive building called the Merchandise Mart, then known as the world’s largest office building.

The Merchandise Mart was and, presumably, still is owned by what is known as the

Family. I must confess that when I joined “the Mart” in early 1950, I had never heard of the

Family. I probably had read that there was a congressman from Massachusetts called

but this had never settled into my consciousness as an interesting, much less salient, fact. Politics bore me.

But a few things of personal great moment happened during my second stay in the Second City. Not things you’re apt to broadcast nationwide. But important things. One of these involved Sargent Shriver, a handsome, urbane man who later married

. Sargent was second in command at the Mart (it was said that as

’s future son-in-law he was the éminence grise of the edifice).

The raison d’être of a public relations department of the Mart was, naturally, to impress the public favorably with the imposing nature of that august building. The better the public image that existed, the more tenants that would apply for leases.

It fell my lot one day to call the food editor of the Chicago Tribune about a potential article involving the building. There was on the ground floor of the Mart an organization called the Merchants and Manufacturers’ Club and the Friday special of the club’s chef was bouillabaisse. I had tasted it and, to my far from educated palate, it was superb.

I called the Trib and asked for Ruth Ellen Church, a pretty, enthusiastic lady who wrote a widely read food column under the name

. I told her about the chef’s bouillabaisse and she agreed to have lunch with me.

A couple of weeks later she wrote an article accompanied by step photographs showing how incredibly simple and fast it is to prepare a bouillabaisse, even in Chicago. We became friends, a fact that was, a couple of years later, to make a mark on my subsequent career.

“You will report to the U.S.S. Alfred Naifeh (DE 352) wherever she might be . . .” I could have kissed the ground and yelped for joy. Instead, I put on my most morose mask and told my roommate in mournful, if not to say funereal tones, that I was in a state of shock.

I telephoned my immediate superior at the Mart,

, and informed him (same mournful tone) that I had been recalled into the Navy.

Without so much as a pause, he said, “Don’t worry. Sarge will get you out of this. He’ll call

tomorrow and arrange something.”

At that, I did in truth become morose. A fine kettle of bouillabaisse that would be. Shriver calls Kennedy, Kennedy calls the Bureau of Naval Personnel, the bureau looks in its files and finds my patriotic plea, and I wind up, hooted, ridiculed, and jeered at on LaSalle Street.

The next morning I was ushered into Shriver’s office. Some remark was made about my age, that there were plenty of younger men, and yes, perhaps he might call

I felt sorry for my skipper. Real sorry. Captain

. Nice guy. He’d seen my record and looked forward to my coming aboard as though I were

. Brilliant career. College graduate. Four years World War II. Decorations for the invasions of Italy, Sicily, and North Africa. Total years of naval duty, including Naval Reserve, eight.

And the man who presses a switch to blow the tubes always asks the deck officer for permission to blow them as a guarantee that the ship is underway and there is a wind of sufficient intensity to waft away soot and other irritants.

It might not have required

’s “seven maids with seven mops swept it for half a year,” but it sure took the better part of the next day to get rid of the lampblack that enveloped that generally sleek and shiny vessel of which my friend the skipper was so proud.

“Not according to this chart,” I said. Then I stared straight ahead again and it occurred to me that something was wrong.

With that, the ship veered right with speed and emphasis. It coincided with a sudden ground swell that caused an upheaval grand enough to slide the skipper’s luncheon special off the table and onto the deck in the dining room.

In any event, there is such a thing in this world as a gooney bird. That is slang for an albatross and the scientific name for the winged creature is Diomedea Albatross.

In those days, the most talked about and written about cooking school in the world was the Cordon Bleu in Paris. Then located on the Faubourg St. Honoré, it was the ultimate place to have “studied.” It had been started by

and at the height of its excellence it must have been a formidable place with which to be or have been associated.

Within a matter of hours my offer was accepted and the official communiqué stated that I was to be transferred to Midway as “Communications Officer.” At that late date, communications from Midway (which had long since ceased to be an important military base) to anywhere would have been no more significant than extending birthday wishes or Valentine greetings.

For the fact was that a chief port director alone would have been an incredible case of overstaffing. I doubt that ten ships a year put into that magnificent harbor. An assistant in that office was as ludicrous and farcical as importing seagulls to increase the bird population.

My repertoire did not include fish meunière or a fine bouillabaisse, but I had mastered enough technique to turn out a decent platter of sautéed local fish and a few things in cream sauce. I could produce a creditable breakfast of poached eggs Mornay with ham. And beverages were certainly not lacking. My billet was next door to the “stores,” where one could buy wines and spirits and beer for pennies. I recall very well that a fifth of gin in those days cost sixty-five cents.

During that layover in Chicago I telephoned my old acquaintance Ruth Ellen Church of the Chicago Tribune to ask if I sent her articles on cooking, would she consider them. She gave me a tentative yes. And less than a week later, on April 15, 1953, I had found my destiny, although I did not know it at the time. I was issued a “livret pour étrangers, ” a residence permit for foreigners by the Swiss police. It was valid for eighteen months.

The courses at the hotel school were three. One for cuisine, one for table and banquet service, and a third for comptabilité, or accounting. I had no interest whatsoever in accounting and, therefore, eschewed it.

If, in those days, I had been asked to state my goal in attending that school, I could have given only a vague reply. As a matter of fact, it seems to me that once more I had gone to that school solely by instinct with nothing other than a vague pattern in mind. I had applied for admission, motivated by a desire to improve the quality of my life with little serious thought that it would lead to a solid career.

One of the most impressive characters on the staff of the school was a veritable balloon of a man, a

, who breathed with difficulty as he toddled up and down the stairs, admonishing students if their fingernails were not immaculately clean castigating them if they were so much as one minute late for one of his classes and giving a baleful look to anyone who was guilty of a trivial infringement. He held contempt for most Americans, for many of them a few years earlier had chosen the hotel school as a way of staying in Europe after the end of World War II. Like me, they had been eligible for study under the G.I. Bill of Rights. They treated the poor old man scandalously, a favorite trick being to hold a swinging door open until he approached, only to let it swing shut onto his belly.

came into the dining room, he thundered at me that flowers were suitable for a white tablecloth but not dead vines, and on and on and on. Fortunately for my ego, a conference was called with his colleague, Conrad Tuor, and it was decided that it was too late to change the décor and it would remain.

Of all the faculty of that school, it was M. Tuor whom I admired to the point of idolatry. A kind, handsome, well-tailored man of athletic build (he was an excellent skier), he seemed the very model of what that school stood for. He was civil, sympathetic, and yet aloof. He possessed a marvelous sang-froid and my single aim, it seems in retrospect, was to gain his approval. To have him look me in the eye and see the beginning of a smile tracing his lips because he admired how quickly I had mastered carrying a dozen wine goblets in one hand or how well I could navigate between tables while holding a dining room tray full of dishes. Or how expertly I could carry four bowls of soup (three on the left hand, wrist, and forearm and one in the right hand).

When one took the cours de service, the students “on duty” waited tables each day in the main dining room where the other students ate. We were dressed in traditional black trousers, white shirts, black bow ties, and white or black waiters’ jackets. The “crew” at each service station in the dining room would stand in line awaiting the bowls of soup to be served, or the main courses, or desserts. Other students would man each serving station, ladling out the soup, carving the meats, spooning out the vegetables, and so on.

The main course for that day was escalopes de veau viennoise—breaded, sautéed veal scallops garnished with anchovy fillets, lemon, capers, and chopped hard-cooked eggs. Plus a purée of potatoes. I managed to negotiate the veal scallops with suitable panache onto the plate that another student extended to me. And then I ladled on the purée. Not just a modest spoonful, but enough to cover half the plate.

,” M. Tuor said, color rushing into his face, “rien n’est plus vulgaire, ” or, “Nothing is more vulgar than an excess of food on a plate!”

It was customary for the students at the school to serve at various times—holidays, weekends, after hours, and so on—at a stage, pronounced stahj. You then became a stagiaire. Actually, a stage was simply on-the-job training. The students at the hotel school were much in demand in restaurants and hotels around the country. And it worked to everyone’s advantage. The hotels and restaurants got reasonably well-trained waiters at a minimum cost the students received experience and a small amount of money for their labors.

Although all the students at the school were required to take courses in the French language, my mastery of that language through the years had proceeded at an escargot’s pace. I was by no means fluent when M. Tuor told me (he did not speak English, or if he did he would not admit it) that (as I got the message in my garbled fashion) a group of international “pole-stairs” was assembling at the Beau Rivage and there would be several tables of Americans, among them “a Meestair Gahlue.” His eyes opened wide at the mention of the name as though it should throw me into a state of equally wide-eyed excitement. It didn’t register. But I got the message someone very important would be at a banquet at the Beau Rivage and I was to serve the head table.

I quickly leaned close to Mr.

’s ear and said, “Oh, my God, Mr.

, I poured red wine into your white wine glass.”

When summer came, the students were assigned to various hotels and restaurants around Europe—France, Germany, Austria, and so on —to perform their stages. Most of them, however, were assigned to hotels and restaurants in Switzerland. I was sent to a place called the Reinhard Hotel in a lake resort named

, a small mountain-climbing and ski area in the mountains that could only be arrived at by téléférique, or cable car.

It was a splendid summer, for the hotel looked out on magnificent mountains that were alive with edelweiss, and on a small, cobalt-blue lake that swarmed with salmon trout, which the chef cooked to perfection, poached and served with a hollandaise sauce. It was there, as a waiter, that I got my first taste of Bündnerfleisch, or viande séchée, one of the finest dried meats in the world. The customers, all of whom arrived on foot, must have consumed a ton of it in the course of my six-week stay there. It was sliced thin to the point of transparency, served on silver platters with garnishes of cornichons, sliced partway through at intervals and arranged to resemble small green fans.

As in many Swiss hotels, there was also a small basement room reserved to serve cheese fondues and that incredible dish called raclette, made with Bagnes cheese, half an enormous wheel of which is held close to a vertical charcoal fire, then scraped off onto small plates, to be eaten with boiled potatoes, pickled white onions, more cornichons (gherkins), and a generous grinding of black pepper for digestion. It was generally washed down with Swiss white wine or beer.

When I had arrived at Lausanne, my command of French was childish (I am still, regrettably, not thoroughly conversant in French). There were sixty students in the service class and I had graduated fifth. I have said repeatedly and only half jokingly that I was awarded that certificate of high standing, not because I was that proficient in the profession, but because I was always punctual in my attendance in class. The school put a high premium on ponctualité.

When my class in cuisine began, my euphoria and sense of wellbeing were heightened, if possible. What I felt at times bordered on ecstasy and for very good reasons. Basically I knew that I had found my niche, my place of comfort, and I was heartened by my success under Tuor’s guidance. I could wield a fork arid spoon with considerable grace and dexterity when serving the pommes soufflé or crêpes or asparagus or the various croquettes that came from the kitchen. I had learned to hurriedly replace, almost as if by legerdemain, a tablecloth suddenly wetted by an upturned glass of wine.

The wonders of the world that I learned to experience at that hotel school under the tutelage of my various cooking instructors are beyond measure. From the first mayonnaise and the first hollandaise the easy mastering of the making of puff pastry (at one point I was making uncounted pounds of it five days a week with no more thought than when I make a pie pastry today) the shaping and baking of bouchées, tartelettes, barquettes the making of ramequins and rissoles and pâtés the preparation of beignets, soufflés, and quiches. Quiches, Lorraine or otherwise, were wholly unknown to Americans at that time. I discovered blanquettes and fricassées, fish cookery and roasts. I learned to braise and sauté and to clarify consommés. And how to prepare glorious dishes like those named toulousaine, made with a suprême sauce with chicken, sweetbreads, quenelles of veal or chicken.

I have never doted on most desserts but the course in patisserie under the guidance of Charles Ganguillet was more fun than a carnival. Under him I learned to make breads, brioches, croissants, kugelhopfs, savarins, babas, and the dozens of good things that can be fashioned from pâte à choux, or cream puff pastry. There were meringues and creams and, most of all perhaps, for that is where my fancy lay, gelatin desserts like Bavarian creams, riz à l’impératrice, and charlottes. There was crème renversée and crème Beau Rivage, sweet soufflés—both baked and frozen—and omelets. And sherbets and frozen bombes.

My lines of communication with the Reinhard family had not been broken and I took the train to Zurich and the téléférique to the hotel, the grounds of which were three feet under with snow. Several acquaintances, English students at the school, had come along as paying guests.

It was a severe illness, not only physically painful but psychologically. I felt cheated and endlessly grieved that I was missing weeks of my beloved instruction. Gradually I recovered and at the end of two and a half weeks, the doctor came to tell me that I could leave the hospital the next morning.

That afternoon I had a call from Ernest Loewer, a chef de cuisine and one of my most respected instructors in the school. He was a tall man of serious mien, shy and not overly affable to the students. He very much kept his distance.

I don’t have any memory of

leaving or saying good-by. I only know that an hour later the pains in my chest became so intense that my doctor was summoned to diagnose a total relapse of my condition. I also know that he looked baffled and totally bewildered as though he had come across a disease that had not yet been catalogued in medical journals.

I remained in the hospital for two additional weeks and was not permitted to return to my classes at the hotel school until the first of February. In my absence I had missed two periods of instruction that I had desperately wanted to participate in—ice sculpture and sugar-working, including the making of spun sugar. The pains in my chest were incessant and I was in constant agony but at least I could function. And apparently well. At the end of the term exercises it was announced that I had finished eighth in my class with a coveted “mention très bien ” on my certificate of studies.

By far the most turbulent, inundating, tormenting, and tumultuous incident of my adult life was my final and total estrangement from my mother. In any summation of my life as it had thus far been lived, it looms so large as to be impossible to ignore. Whether good or bad, for better or for worse, I am at peace with myself, the cause and effect of my separation from her.

Prior to that separation I lived in an atmosphere of total suffocation as—it seems to me—only a mother’s love can suffocate. I felt emasculated in her presence. And even in the presence of her letters. I was inundated with her letters, which served as a giant-sized umbilical cord wrapped unceremoniously and noose-like around my neck.

Throughout my college days and my years in the U. S. Navy, I would receive at least once, and more often than not twice, each week, fat documents filled with gossip and remembrances, but more than that, declarations of love and admiration that make the exchanges between

seem adulterated and naïve.

On the evening in question we had quarreled. Quietly. I had been drinking moderately but in her presence at that moment I felt a powerful need for a drink. We had just returned from the theater and I was depositing her at the hotel as all good southern sons and lovers must do, at her “doorstep.”

“Your friend?” Her cold, unsentimental sarcasm was rising and frightening. She twisted her mouth right and left, up and down, and turned away.

“How can you speak to me like that?” she asked plaintively. “I know I haven’t been much as a mother. But it wasn’t easy to maintain my family. To make ends meet. I made every sacrifice and . . .”

“Mother,” I said. “Good night,” and walked out of the room, knowing full well that the indomitable Miss

would survive with or without my presence.

There were beer “gardens” and Konditoreis and Brauhauses and assorted other restaurants that specialized in dishes like sauerkraut and pork hocks and pickled pigs’ knuckles and hogs’ head cheese. It was there that I would of an evening, almost any evening, drink myself into a stupor, touring the streets, dangerously roaming in search of sexual gratification. Some of my uniformed objects of desire would have been capable of arresting me on the spot.

“Okay,” he said, “come back Friday. We’ll give you consultations twice a week and the cost will be five dollars a week. When you come back you will see Dr.

In my books there is today no conflict between psychiatry of a benevolent sort and religion. I don’t mean a “born again” feverish type of religion or a God-of-our-fathers token-style religion. But I believe in God, a merciful, protective Being, somewhere out There, Everywhere and Nowhere, a Being who cares. Or perhaps I’m superstitious to the core. My God may be only my lucky stone, my healing worry beads, something to caress or appeal to in times of danger or distress. What I’m trying to say briefly is that in my mind some Being (my own father who was then in heaven), some caring Thing, led me to that clinic.

Psychotherapy, in my own case at least, simply involved lengthy and detailed conversations, explorations in cold and sometimes painful details of every disturbance, major and minor, in my own life. Dr.

did not preach, he rarely admonished me to conduct my life in one way or another. He simply directed me to let my own feelings, thoughts, truths, and falsehoods come forth, out of those regions where I was most deeply disturbed. Through my own probing, through his persistent questioning to determine the “real” reason that certain events had occurred in my life, I was able to forgo, millimeter by millimeter, day by day, my self-detestation and therefore, self-destruction. My God, what forgotten truths and happenings the mind can dredge up, what horrors lie buried under layer after layer of fantasy and wishful and unwished-for hope and self-hatred.

Briefly, I simply explored my life from the crib to the present. I learned and somehow came to understand the devouring nature of the woman from whose womb I had emerged. I learned to shed ties, more often than not with hideous effect but without retreat or apology. I learned that my father might well have been, probably was aware, and with God knows what inner pain to his own being, of my sexual dreams, of my desire to possess him.

I desperately needed advice and direction. In search of that I visited various publications, including McCall’s, then considered the best magazine for food articles, Ladies’ Home Journal, and Gourmet to talk with food editors. Each of those with whom I spoke dropped one man’s name. One of the editors agreed to arrange an interview with him.

The reigning man on the hotel scene in those days was a bifocaled gent named

, the grand panjandrum (he often signed his name Claudius) of the Waldorf-Astoria. I gained admission to his august presence and found him to be a thoroughly terrifying, unpleasant bully. Among other things, I was still suffering those residual chest pains following that bout of pneumonia and other complications in Switzerland.

“Well, speak up,” he commanded. “What are you here for?

,” he said to an assistant, “call room service and tell them to deliver two dozen long-stemmed roses to the Duchess of Windsor’s suite and tell them that

said that the magnum of champagne delivered to her room last night was lukewarm.”

My chest was killing me. And yet I was genuinely amused at this tawdry, Alice-in-Wonderland performance. The man’s crazy, I thought, and if he’s willing to employ me so precipitately, without so much as an inquiry as to whether I know the difference between a white wine and red wine glass, whether I know the difference between a hollandaise and béarnaise sauce, between a finger bowl and a soup bowl, this man who is banquet manager of what is generally touted to be the finest hotel in America, then by God, I’ll sign on for a while. Besides, I was dead broke and needed money. Even the pathetic sum that he’d mentioned. I was hired on the spot.

Newspapers had society columns and it followed that these various events were published as news of the day. “The April in Paris Ball will be held at the Waldorf next week,” “The Grande Dames of Champagne will hold their annual festival at the

,” I began, humility dripping from each syllable. “I have spoken to the entire list and have plans to meet them for next year’s . . .”

It was a Friday morning when I walked out of that famous address at Fiftieth Street and Park Avenue. I was feeling rather spry and, for me, I had an unaccustomed sense of self-confidence. I made my way on foot to the Plaza Hotel, that grandest of New York hostelries. I had not gone there for sentiment, however. I was there because the editorial offices of Gourmet magazine were located in the penthouse.

I asked to see the editor and was ushered into the offices of

, a tall, bosomy, glorious-looking blonde who, I learned years later, was really named

, from Hamilton, Canada. Ann was on the food scene long before the world ever heard of Julia Child. And of all the people who have had no professional training in food, was, and still is, one of the greatest, most creative food personalities in America. She started out in her very young years as companion/ housemistress for Crosby Gaige, a theatrical producer who was considered to be one of the few great gourmets in America in the first half of this century. Gaige signed his name to several cookbooks that were actually written by Ann.

During Ann’s years with him, he requested that each morning he be served an egg dish and it was his wish that he never be served the same egg dish twice. Ann prepared his breakfast each day and, sure enough, she never duplicated a dish made with eggs. There were eggs poached, cooked mollet, scrambled, turned into omelets, made into soufflés, shirred, and so on. She accumulated over a period of years sufficient recipes to prepare another book and she showed the manuscript to Crosby Gaige.

“I told him,” she declared later, “that this book was too personal and that I couldn’t have another name on it.” She found a publisher, Doubleday, rightly affixed her own name to it, The Art of Egg Cookery, and its success was admirable.

’s I walked into Ann’s office, she stood and smiled with a warmth that could have roasted chestnuts. But she was pressed for time.

“No,” I said. “Nothing serious. I once sold two brief articles to the Chicago Tribune. ” And that was the truth. Each of the articles, I told her, had measured less than six-column inches in the newspaper.

So I walked to the public library at Forty-second Street and Fifth Avenue and checked out every conceivable volume that might be related to tea. En route I had purchased a note pad. I must have, within the course of that Friday afternoon, painstakingly copied down a hundred pages of notes in longhand.

I dubbed this effort “Steeped in History” and on Monday morning, promptly at 9 A.M., walked into the offices of Gourmet magazine. I greeted

when she came in the door.

“Well, I must confess I never thought I’d see you again.” She paused. “Okay, how about doing an article on vodka?” That did it. I felt finally free to move my body and belongings to Manhattan. No more ferry boats no more dining in the bosom of relations with whom relations were strained. I moved within two days to the West Side YMCA, which was and is located on Sixty-third Street, only a step or two from Central Park. My room wasn’t much larger than a small cubicle but it had a comfortable bed and a bare table on which to place a rented typewriter. Less than a week later I had an article on vodka in Ann’s hands. The article on tea appeared in Gourmet in the January 1 955 issue, the article on vodka, “Blithe Spirits,” two months later.

And thus I did what countless generations of unemployed New Yorkers have done before me. I consulted the employment pages of what was then known as the good gray Times. And wound up one Monday morning at a sleazy, small, ill-staffed employment office in the mid-forties on the West Side of town.

Once, years ago, I confided to a friend that there was one role in the world that I would love to play. I wanted to be a bartender for the simple reason that alcohol bares men’s souls and allows them, nay, bids them, to remove their masks and disclose their confidences and frequently in a voice of sufficient timbre that these “innermost secrets” can be overheard by a bartender. I wanted to tune into the world’s “innermost secrets.” Little did I dream how boring and deadly those secrets could be. At the end of two days you pray for a hearing aid to tune them out. A bartender becomes confidant and psychiatrist to some of the most stupefyingly dull and repetitive people on earth.

The normal complement of the restaurant was four employees, although that number varied depending on the temper of the boss from fray to fray. The staff consisted of a cook, for whom the cares of the world had long ago driven him to drink a slightly demented and woefully scented scullery lad, whom I knew to be a petty thief and a second bartender-waiter named

, whom I happened to admire because he was so awesomely contented and without ambition.

had a bottomless collection of filthy stories and he was a fine drinking companion, full of total insouciance and nose-thumbing. On the days when the boss, whom I shall call Josh, made his weekly trip to New York,

and I would try to outdo each other in drinking up the profits, more often than not buying drinks for any and all comers who happened to arrive half an hour before the bar closed.

Josh must have been aware of our indulgences but he would never have fired either

or me. He had never dreamed that he would have in his employ so much talent at his disposal to be paid such insignificant salaries. And that we would augment our salaries that summer by consuming our patrons’ drinks I will not deny.

The summer was one of the hottest on record. Irremediably scorching. The employees were bunched together in what would have been an attic if such quarters could have been dignified by so lofty a term. We slept in single cots directly beneath a sullenly, unremittingly hot tin roof. On alternate days,

and I would go to the bar to swab the floor, toss the empties into the garbage, and clean the toilets when the scullery lad had—or willed—a day off. Because of the heat, sleep was almost unthinkable.

I couldn’t space that job through until October when I could become receptionist at Gourmet magazine. Not because of the throbbing heat not because of the riveting hours but because of a curiously old-fashioned sense of ethics.

I spotted Josh behind the bar, seated. He was fiddling with bottles, which especially at that hour seemed strange and unaccustomed. He didn’t drink. (I have always been suspicious of uninitiated thoroughgoing teetotalers.) He wasn’t aware of my presence. In his left hand he held an empty bottle of Chivas Regal. There was a funnel in the neck of the bottle. In his right hand he held a bottle of bar scotch, an inexpensive, chemical-tasting blend. He was pouring it into the bottle labeled Chivas Regal. I quietly made my way back up the stairs. It would be dramatic to say that I was shocked. To my great regret, I wasn’t. It was to my mind a hitherto unformulated pattern of his. The fact was simply too perverse, too believable to be shocking. I thought about it for a considerable time and shrugged my shoulders. After all, it was his life, his ethics, not mine. He was corrupt. I was not through professional association corrupted by his evil. We weren’t “buddies,” although he had fascinated me over the weeks and I accepted, had even liked him on his own distorted terms. But there was certainly no need for a sentimental confrontation nor for me to give him moral preachments. So be it. The event passed in silence.

The days passed and the nights and at long last September came. A month remained before I was to part with the tortures of that summer forever. I had twice spoken to

, who expressed pleasure that I intended to join the staff of Gourmet.

Gourmet magazine was, in those days, no worker’s paradise and my jobs were multiple. I manned the telephone, directed incoming calls to the proper parties, and answered “reader correspondence” both by letter directly to the reader and in print, courtesy of a column called “You Asked For It.”

Within a short period of time I relinquished my job as receptionist and was elevated to an untitled position working in the magazine’s elegantly paneled library and sitting behind a massive oak desk. In that position I continued to make entries in the letters column. More importantly, I took over a column called “Along the Boulevards.” I also edited the recipes that came in under the name Louis Diat. His monthly contribution, called “Menu Classique,” was, in fact, written by his amanuensis, a lady named

. My labors also included writing and supplying recipes for major articles each month.

And so I contrived the piece quoting Samuel Johnson as well as Wilde: “It is very strange and very melancholy,” Johnson had written, “that the paucity of human pleasures should persuade us ever to call hunting one of them.” I concluded the article, a spoof on my own inability to ride, with serious recipes for dishes that included a double partridge pie, a grits soufflé, broiled tomatoes, veal kidney flamed with Cognac, mushrooms in Burgundy wine, beaten biscuits, a pecan and Bourbon cake, and pocketbook rolls. The recipes for the biscuits and pocketbook rolls had come from my mother’s manuscript cookbook.

During my days of employment Gourmet was in no sense known for its largess. Although my output then was prodigal, my income was staggeringly small. It was something along the lines of five thousand dollars a year. I could have made double the sum by selling them two articles an issue as a freelance writer.

had resigned, in part, at least, because her efforts to get me a raise of a few hundred dollars a year more in salary had failed. Her replacement was a pouter pigeon of a lady, a sarcastic, domineering martinet (or is it martinette?), for whom I had no respect.

Although I was overjoyed to leave Gourmet magazine, there was still that constant crick in my neck from looking back over my shoulders at imagined disasters. Here I was working for a small unknown public relations firm called

and Gaden. The principals were Ann and Eileen Gaden, a photographer and stylist whose greatest claim to fame was that she had taken all the photographs for Volume I of The Gourmet Cookbook, one of the earliest all-time great money-makers among cooking tomes.

The principal product to be “sold” by

and Gaden was something called Fluffo, a golden shortening. There were a few other piddling nickel-and-dime accounts on the firm’s roster but “golden shortening” paid the bills.

I was known as the contact man at

and Gaden. That is to say, it was my job to act as swain to the food editors in New York in an effort to peddle them ideas involving one of our products or another. Mostly Fluffo.

The first time I escorted one of my newspaper ladies to the Colony we were seated way to the rear at an obscure and, as I remember, miniature table that would have been ample only for someone who was dining alone. In retrospect, I certainly don’t blame the captain or maître d’hôtel or whoever seated us. I was certainly not dressed in what might remotely be thought of as sartorial splendor. And, the ladies who graced my arm certainly did not look as though they had stepped out of the pages of Vogue or Town and Country. To tell the truth, they looked underpaid and dowdy.

, now deceased, was the wine steward, a tall, gaunt, well-tailored man with a hawklike face and deadly serious mien. He had a natural air of aloofness and disdain, a coolness, one publisher observed, sufficient to chill a case of white Burgundy.

I had invited the food editor of the New York Post, the late Alice Petersen, to join me for lunch at the Colony. Alice was an amply endowed, cheery sort who laughed a lot at my most innocuous pleasantry, and shortly after our arrival we ordered from the menu and the wine list was presented.

He unwrapped the napkin and almost fainted. The keeper of the wines below had, indeed, sent up the wrong bottle. A short while later, Stritch, full of apology and embarrassment, brought

himself over to meet and shake hands with this Wunderkind with the mythical palate. I must say that while I never made it to the corner table in the bar nor the left or right red banquette in the main dining room, I was never given a seat in obscurity again.

was food editor of The New York Times and she was, to my mind, the most inventive and diligent food writer in Manhattan. What she did not know she researched with great gravity and concern.

She had had no formal training in food, however, and we at

and Gaden offered her the plums of our creation—a genuinely fine cake recipe plus photograph, exceptional cookie recipes, and so on— all made with yellow shortening.

in 1954 and my introduction to her had not been wholly without guile. The month I returned from that Swiss hotel school my life was both physically and emotionally miserable. I was disturbed and perplexed and had as little sense of direction as on the day I graduated from college some twelve years and a couple of wars earlier. I felt a sense of desperation that evidenced itself in an acnelike condition on my face.

The sum of my professional experience as noted had been in public relations in Chicago and almost from the beginning I had come to regard that “profession” with contempt. I considered it sordid to barter my friendship, to bestow it on people whom I would never have invited in my home, except for the favors that they might dole out to me.

And yet in my meeting with

, that P.R. background stood me in good stead. I had learned that editors are not all that unapproachable. Most newspaper writers are hungry for a new idea, a different point of view, something that can fill up so many column inches day after day after day. I telephoned

,” I began, “how would you like to interview a young American who knows all about French cooking and a lot about wine?”

,” I said, emboldened by the gin. “You have the one job in the world that I want.” It was a pleasantry, something said in passing, a token remark to tell her in what grand esteem I held her position. She smiled wanly and the interview began. It appeared on May 10, 1954, and the column began, “Craig Claiborne, a fresh-faced young man who has just completed ten months of study in a hotel school in Switzerland, enthusiastically talked to us about French cooking the other day.” She went on to describe the details of the final cooking examination when I had prepared poisson au vin blanc, my newly learned “secrets” of making mayonnaise and hollandaise sauces, and so on.

I went about the trimming and scraping and chopping of the vegetables and herbs for the fish broth, which I wanted to make first. One, because the hour was fast approaching when the guests or sponsors of this affair would arrive. And second, because a good fish broth is crucial to any poisson au vin blanc.

During the early months of 1957,

had informed The New York Times that, for reasons of family, she was resigning as food editor. At that time she was married to

, who had moved to Florida to make his fortune as an entrepreneur in the manufacture of yoghurt, which was not, twenty years or so ago, a staple dairy product in every home refrigerator. If anything, it was a product that seemed a trifle exotic to most Americans and the largest consumers were Europeans and health food addicts.

were the parents of two young children and it was in their interests that she decided to make that move.

Since the time of my interview and first meeting with

we had become casual friends, the kind who meet at what is commonly referred to as “food gatherings,” which is to say in the home of one or another food professional who presumed to be a good cook. We were certainly not intimate friends of a kind who would pick up the telephone to discuss personal cravings and destinies.

’s decision until one morning, months later, when

came into the office and announced to

had told The Times that she “is leaving on the first of September, whether they have found a replacement or not . . .”

I was a bit startled at the news because of my respect for

as a journalist and also because I knew of her devotion to her job. She was a workaholic, a lady who often went into the office seven days a week to pursue her career. She was a diligent researcher with a thoroughgoing interest in learning more about the world of cuisine.

that she had the one job in the world that I wanted, it never occurred to me, with my beleaguered feeling of nothingness, to wonder, even remotely, if I might fill her chair.

A man as the food editor of a major metropolitan daily, especially the august New York Times, my fingers racing over her typewriter keyboard, would seem wholly bizarre.

“Call ‘21,’ ” she demanded, “and ask for a table for four. Let’s take

was in a state of semi-exasperation.

“I honestly think,” she said, “(The Times didn’t believe me when I said I was leaving.” People simply don’t leave The Times. They stay there until they die or are dismissed. For her part, she indicated, it was the toughest decision she’d ever made. The waiter brought a bottle of Chassagne-Montrachet and I sampled it. We raised a glass to

“But The Times is being strong-willed about it. And now I have no choice. I have to call their hand by walking out.”

At that moment, it was like having a light turned on inside my brain. I swallowed another glass of wine and could scarcely wait for that meal to end. We finished the meal with coffee and Cognac and said good-by to

. This is not a letter of application. You said today at lunch that everybody in New York has applied for your job and, after a few glasses of wine, I have screwed up my courage to ask you for advice.

“Do you think that The Times might even remotely consider an application from me?

“You know as well as anyone my qualifications . . . and the esteem in which I hold The New York Times.

. And I think I know why I did.

It seemed highly unlikely that

would not answer a letter from me. Perhaps she had not received my letter. Or, perhaps . . .

“Yes,” she said, “I did receive your letter and submitted it to The Times as a letter of application. Don’t get your hopes up. You mustn’t, for I think the chances are very slim. A man as a food editor …” she said, her voice trailing off and leaving a few marks of insinuation of her own.

Two days later, however, the phone rang. It was

. Would I come into the office, she asked, for an interview with

Elizabeth Penrose Howkins

, who was then editor of what was known as the women’s page. It was on that page that the food column appeared.

It was an interesting interview, conducted mostly, in, of all places, The New York Times cafeteria.

office that day, she was simply, stylishly, elegantly dressed in a little black dress by

. She wore a strand of pearls, a close-fitting black hat, and white gloves.

I later came to learn that Betty Howkins was one of the last of the great grande dames who acted as the editor of a women’s page. Trim and pretty, soft-spoken but firm when occasion demanded, she had been editor for several years of Glamour magazine before joining The Times.

One of my favorite stories about her concerns an interview she had had numerous years ago, when a young woman named

applied to her for a job with Glamour.

was fresh out of college when she met Mrs.

told her, “you are too young and you do not have enough experience, but I shall hire you anyway because you have style, and that’s the only thing we can’t teach you.” Mrs.

came to be known as a woman who hired unseasoned but hungry writers who were to achieve notice on a wider scene. Miss

later went on to become president of Henri Bendel.

died in January 1972, and I think I did not know the depth of her feeling for me until I read her obituary the morning after her death.

“Perhaps,” I read, “her proudest appointment was that of Craig Claiborne as food editor. In breaking tradition by choosing a man for what had been considered the powder puff side of journalism, Mrs.

argued with conviction that the best chefs had always been men.”

Over tuna fish sandwiches and tea, I told her briefly about my past. I gave her copies of all the articles I had written that had appeared in Gourmet magazine a hastily typed résumé of my “career” a tear sheet of

’s interview with me. We chatted briefly—she had another appointment early in the afternoon—and after lunch went back to her office. She shook my hand.

“I like you,” she said. “But you must meet

. They will decide whether you join The Times or not. It’s their ultimate decision.”

was the managing editor of the daily newspaper.

was a “good ole boy” from Mississippi, a slow-talking, genial, smiling man with a thousand southern anecdotes. I must say that it had taken me years to try to talk like a Yankee. But in the presence of Turner I slowed my speech and slurred it more than I normally do.

I was then dispatched to the eighth-floor offices of

, about whom I had learned a good deal within the space of a day.

was a lean, leathery, bespectacled man with a short shock of hair that always seemed to be standing up on the top of his head as though he had been suddenly startled.

had one woman in mind as a replacement for her. I knew the person in question and must say that she had a fair share of talent. Not exceptional. Just fair.

greeted me without enthusiasm and I have no clear memories of that interview except for one exchange that is italicized in my brain.

Out of the blue, he asked me, “If you joined The Times would you consider the food column as a service column or a news column?”

I don’t know why but a lyric I had recently learned from Leonard Bernstein’s Candide, then a current Broadway show, came into my mind.

I had been told to stop by

’s office once more after my meeting with

When I left the building I was not all that encouraged. Sure, Catledge was the one to make the grand decision. And I sincerely believed that he liked me. On the other hand,

had terrified me and I felt that in a final confrontation he would be the tougher man in a two-man encounter.

yelled. “It’s The New York Times!”

I grabbed the phone and it was

One of the most curious facets of my life has been the ability to turn out what might be considered prodigious amounts of work that, in the long run, has produced a reasonable amount of success in my given field, while living—even today—with a feeling of blight and a lack of self-esteem and a feeling of general unworthiness. For years I have been haunted by the New Yorker cartoon in which a patient, discussing his condition with his psychoanalyst says, “Doctor, why do I feel so inferior to people I know I am superior to?”

In the Jump, there are two arcs, like an arched bridge that has been severed in midsection and each arc removed to a distance. As I climb one of the arcs I am compelled by God knows who or why to glance into the space beneath and the character varies. At times it is a dark void, at times a bottomless pit, and at times a churning cluster of clouds or smoke. The problem is to jump and land safely on the second arc. I’ve never made it, my heart beating like that of a lamb pursued by hounds.

A curious thing happened in 1958 when I had been with The New York Times for approximately one year.

One of the most important and well-established figures in the world of food at that time was Helen McCully. Helen had been for many years the respected and talented food editor of McCall’s magazine, which during her years there had considerable clout in what was then known as “shelter” publications. Let me say as an aside that when I first came to New York, desperately in search of work and advice, I applied for a job with Helen. I outlined my high-flying visions of what I considered the future of food—serious cooking and classic sauce preparations and so on—and she scoffed at the idea. As it turned out, I was at that early age something of a Nostradamus in predicting what is now called this country’s gastronomic revolution.

Despite this clash of ideas, Helen and I became good friends and at the time of which I speak she had lost her position with McCall’s. In addition to which she had invested a good deal of money in a fly-by-night food venture and had lost every cent. She may not have been destitute at the time but she could certainly classify as being “broke.” And her condition bordered on desperation, although she hid it well.

She asked me one evening if I would invest with one or two other friends in an evening of having our palms read. The cost of that one-night session would be about fifty dollars, which she felt she couldn’t afford alone. Helen would serve one of her cold buffets for which she was famous (come to think of it, famous or not, Helen’s buffets generally turned out to be vitello tonnato served with cold rice tossed with parsley and, as often as not, a cold ham).

Within six months I had signed a contract to publish The New York Times Cook Book. Within a year I had traveled around the world on an eating expedition with James Beard

, owner and host of the London Chop House in Detroit, and his wife and the late Helen Evans Brown, the well-known West Coast cookbook author. Within four years I had purchased a plot of land in East Hampton on which I subsequently built my first “shelter.”

By 1959 I had received a number of letters from various New York publishers of considerable stature inquiring whether I would consider publishing a cookbook bearing The New York Times logotype. My ego was, as usual, in delicate balance. I was flattered at their offers but not nourished by their encouragement. Couldn’t be. Mustn’t dwell on it, mustn’t contemplate such sweet gratifications.

It must be said that I was aware in my mid years that The New York Times was the ultimate job of my life. I was never unmindful of my great good fortune, the seemingly endless blessings that had been bestowed on me by having my name—me as the least of these—associated with that stately journal. It was, to me, the grandest newspaper in the world. I am not ashamed to say that there were times when no one knew, in solitude, I was literally moved to tears when I reflected on my association with the paper. As much as I could possibly be, I was gloriously happy. To walk inside that building on Forty-third Street, to enter it and read, engraved on the left wall, these words of

’s: “Each day a new beginning every morn is the world made new,” gave me a feeling of abstract completeness. It was a heady experience, like a first love affair.

It was with this feeling of rapture that one morning in March 1959, I wrote a memorandum to the publisher, Arthur Hays Sulzberger, with a proposal. In it I stated that I had had numerous inquiries as to the possibility of publishing a cookbook bearing The New York Times logotype. I was wholly altruistic in this matter.

Within a day or two I received in the interoffice mail a brief note from his deputy, Ivan Veit, dated March 27, 1959. I don’t think I fully comprehended the scope of that letter. It gave me the rights to the title of a book to be called The New York Times Cook Book and that gift was, to borrow a phrase, too strong for fantasy. It was, in fact, in the first few days, hopeless for me to conceive of the implications.

I realized in later years that I would not have needed an agent to sell the book, but I did need a helmsman to steer me through those various offices, and so I engaged

, who, at the time, was literary agent for

With me in tow we visited approximately ten publishing houses, at each of which I was greeted by one menial editor or another. The only publishing firm where I was greeted in person by the president was Harper & Row. It was

, Sr., who came out personally to shake my hand. For that simple reason, I signed a contract with that organization.

It is not said with a sense of denigration or any lack of appreciation for the monumental nature of the gift that had been so suddenly delivered into my hands. But I don’t believe for one moment that the management of the paper, meaning Mr.

, were really aware of the magnitude of their gesture.

In the spring of 1959, food and cooking had not, as they eventually would, become the major topic of conversation at cocktail parties, even more than ball games. Fact of the matter is that if the males of those days had shown so much interest in food, they would have been put down as a little odd. I am amused, incidentally, to think that The New York Times , in hiring a male as food editor, went far in taking the onus off the male role in food preparation. It also helped in the years that followed my joining the paper that I interviewed scores of male cooks.

It was in that climate that I was given the rights to use the title The New York Times Cook Book . And thus, I am convinced that in my early years with the paper, the management regarded the food page as so much trivia, an amuse-bouche, so to speak, that no one of serious mind would swallow.

And to put things in total perspective, I would have been inclined to agree with that notion. I suspected that there were a few thousand people out there who perused the columns and some few hundreds or dozens who cooked from those pages, but I could not possibly have foretold that some time The New York Times Cook Book would become a standard item in American kitchens. Five years after it was published, a junior executive in a major publishing firm (not Harper & Row) stopped me at a cocktail party in Manhattan.

“In time,” he said, “you will realize that you have a classic book on your hands. It will find its place in cookbook literature with The Joy of Cooking and the Better Homes and Gardens cook books.” I laughed at him, but for the first time I started to take a detached look at this gift of my great, good, and generous benefactor.

I will make this brief. When The New York Times Cook Book first came off the press, I greeted it with as much anxiety and depression as I did elation. Oh, God, I thought, there are probably a thousand errors in each chapter. Readers will be telephoning and screaming at me at all hours of the night and day. I had no confidence in the recipes, all of which had appeared in The Time’s food columns and all of which had been tested.

Here I will make a confession of a truth known only to those who have edited and published my books. I have never proofread a galley before a cookbook of mine was published. I am psychotically fearful of discovering errors in recipes, typographical or otherwise.

It was my honest belief when that book first came off the press, a belief that I maintained for several years, that The New York Times Cook Book would not sell more than thirty thousand copies. I firmly believed that at the end of five years it would disappear from book shelves and thus go into oblivion. I was not even comforted, not given a warm feeling of encouragement, when at the end of three years, Harper & Row saw fit to deliver me a gold-embossed edition of that book, bound in leather and with the inscription, elegantly printed, “Presented to Craig Claiborne in celebration of the sale of sixty-five thousand copies of The New York Times Cook Book from the publisher, Harper & Row.”

A short while back there was an advertisement in The New York Times for the book. It stated, “More than a million copies sold.”

There are not many people, even on the staff of The New York Times, who know that because of that book, the newspaper set up a special book division. Today it has become a reasonably important publishing house and it is called Times Books.

There was one insane moment at this time in my life when I was on the brink of marriage and, to my bride-to-be’s infinite good fortune, she was miraculously saved from having that knot tied, if ever so inadvertently, by

. Although that splendid, and much admired musician, whom I have briefly met only once or twice in my life, was unaware of his interference. The wedding banns, for that intended and ill-founded marriage, had been published in a house organ of The New York Times titled “Times Talk.”

I was enchanted by her. Within the next few weeks, it was my great pleasure to escort her to the theater, to dinner parties where she blossomed as “a friend of The New York Times restaurant critic,” and so on. The fact that she would not drink spiritous liquors, even wine, interested and somehow disturbed me. She did, in fact, tell me that she had parted from her last spouse because when she drank she tended to “blow up.”

Our courtship continued over a matter of a few weeks and ended in bed. On a fairly regular basis, either her bed or mine. She informed me that she found me wholly compatible sexually and her demands were often impassioned. I was also interested and slightly bewildered that, although she enjoyed the theater, she had a particular loathing for opera in any form. I was disturbed by this because I have a thoroughgoing love for opera in almost any form. I say almost. I detest

One day, however, she told me that there was one person, her closest friend, named

, whom she would enjoy inviting to dinner, a very special meal for only the three of us. The conversation at that meal was to be quite intimate.

Shortly after Erika arrived we sat at table and as the herring was eaten with black bread, the aquavit started flowing into the small glasses. “Skål,” we all said in unison, lifting our glasses and tossing the white, dazzling, caraway-flavored liquid into our open throats.

The embarrassment around that table swelled and Erika stood and felt for her handbag. I tried to quiet Owens and persuade

to stay but there was no balm to be had or used in the Gilead of that night.

left. There was silence in the room and I refused to be drawn into the passion that soon subsided. I walked into the kitchen to clear up the dishes and put away the untouched leg of lamb and the opera torte. I rinsed the Baccarat and placed them on a rack to drain and dry. Owens, who had become contemplative, went into the bedroom and put on her dressing gown.

At this point I walked over to the phonograph and put on a recording of Leonard Bernstein’s brilliant music for Candide. It is a spectacular score and includes an extraordinary spoof on the world of opera and all its foolish plots. It is called “Glitter and Be Gay,” and contains a bagful of runs and trills and tessitura hijinks that are hilarious but might be mistaken as serious opera by the unaccustomed listener.

As the musical spoof from Candide continued there was a sudden crashing sound like the thunderous shattering of a window. Accompanied by the voice of Owens at high pitch.

When I became food editor of The New York Times, on September 9, 1957, I had small acquaintance with the first-rate restaurants of New York, let alone those of Europe and elsewhere. The simple and obvious fact was that I had never possessed enough money to dine in the style to which I might have liked to become accustomed.

At that time, I could have pretty well summed up on one hand the “good” restaurants with which I had some conversance. They would have included Trader Vic’s and the Blue Fox in San Francisco (I had eaten there during my navy days) and

’ restaurant and the Cape Cod Room of the Drake Hotel in Chicago. I had dined but not often at the Colony, “21,” and Voisin in New York.

But I knew that my professional credentials were beyond dispute. I had not waited banquets at Lausanne’s Palace Hotel and the Beau Rivage—now remodeled and still one of the grandest hotels in Switzerland—for nothing. Because of my training at the hotel school there wasn’t a poorly made sauce that could be pawned off on me. I was a till-the-death defender of the faith of classic French cooking. I knew the names of the répertoire de la cuisine from américaine and andalouse and anglaise through viennoise and zingara by heart and taste. My connoisseurship of wines might leave something to be desired, but I could not be traduced by an uppity waiter or captain or maître d’hôtel or a second-rate chef de cuisine.

After joining The Times I did not suddenly become what might be called an avid restaurant-goer. I did, however, dine routinely at some of the best-known restaurants in Manhattan and, inevitably, when a new restaurant would open, I would visit it twice or more to make a report of its quality. The two most important restaurants to be reviewed in my first years of serious restaurant criticism were La Caravelle in November 1960 and Lutèce in March 1961. Stars were not yet awarded.

It has long been my contention, and I can prove it by thumbing through vintage dining guides, some of them nearly half a century old, that New York was not, fifty years ago, a great city in which to dine. Most of the premier dining spots appear to have been the great hotels —the Ritz Carlton at Forty-ninth and Madison the Brevoort at Fifth Avenue and Eighth and the Lafayette at Ninth Street and University Place.

, in his guidebook, Dining in New York (

Day Company, 1934), reserves his most lavish praise for Henri Charpentier’s Café at Rockefeller Center, for The Marguery at 270 Park Avenue, and, of all places, Barbetta’s. I admire, in particular, the author’s commentary on the mâitre d’hôtel: “Probably the most bored mâitre d’hôtel in all New York is Mario, the chief gloom at the otherwise delightful Barbetta’s.”

Lüchow’s, the author adds, had lost most of its luster although the food was still the best German cooking in America.

’, which eventually became the “21” Club, is relegated to the back of the book and given three lines. The once celebrated Sherry’s, he states, “is another name that has outlived its earlier elegance.”

I will accept the testimony of my long-dead predecessors in food criticism that dining in New York at the turn of the century in the company of such people as

was, in some small sense, comparable to dining in some fine European capital. But I will accept it with vast reservoirs of doubt.

I was first taken to the now defunct Pavilion by the late, great wine authority,

, for whom I had a tremendous admiration. In years to come I was to spend almost a month in his company touring the vineyards of Burgundy and Bordeaux and eating in the great restaurants of those regions. The menu at Le Pavilion on that visit included a rice pilaf with mussels—one of the world’s ultimate dishes—followed by tournedos Rossini, followed by a salad with Brie cheese, and, finally, my favorite dessert, oeufs à la neige, or poached meringues in a custard sauce.

and I were seated, Bemelmans occupied the banquette directly behind us. I was introduced, shook his hand, and glanced down at his plate. He was eating viande haché, a fancy name for hamburger. And undoubtedly the greatest hamburger to be found in a French restaurant in America. Or France.

The only much-read and much-quoted critic in town was

, a well-meaning soul, whose prose was so lush it could have been harvested like hay and baled. At this distance (Clem died in 1967), I don’t think I could be charged as a jealous enemy of my Colleague. She was hailed by many (her reputation was nationwide) and held in grand esteem by some of her readers even in Gotham. She was, of course, food editor and restaurant critic of the late, lamented New York Herald Tribune.

The truth of the matter was, however, that

would not have been able to distinguish skillfully scrambled eggs from a third-rate omelet. I am not at all sure that she ever cooked a serious meal in her life.

To quote from her obituary that appeared in The New York Times, to Clem, an ordinary radish was not just a radish but “a tiny radish of passionate scarlet, tipped modestly in white.” Mushrooms were the “elf of plants,” or “pixie umbrellas.”

Pussy Willow slept on her desk in the food editor’s “In” basket. When Pussy Willow was gathered to Abraham’s bosom, Miss

was overcome with sentiment. She declared that the cat must receive a proper funeral and be buried in the “In” basket.

In that atmosphere, I took it upon myself to write a devastating attack on the restaurant situation in Manhattan. It was one of the most momentous decisions of my life. Because of it I met

There was one restaurant in town for whose kitchen and dining room I had nothing but unreserved praise. And that was Le Pavilion under the expert guidance of

, a man whose influence over even the present, generally admirable state of dining in New York will never be reckoned. He was a short, robust, puffy-faced man who terrified certain members of his staff and not a few of his customers. He was king and his customers were his courtiers, who willingly danced to his tune, be it a jig or a waltz. The likes of Le Pavilion have not been equaled in Manhattan and I don’t think there is a restaurant owner in town who would dispute that.

a bit timorously one morning and, rattling on as fast as possible so as not to lose my courage, I said, “

, I am writing an article on the restaurant situation in Manhattan and in it I claim that Le Pavilion is the only great establishment in town. I need a photograph to illustrate that point and I would like to photograph the chef in your kitchen.”

With photographer in tow, I descended the stairs from dining room to kitchen and shook hands with the chef, who turned out to be

. We spoke the same language. Even our origins were similar, born in St. Vinnemer, a tiny village in Burgundy, he grew up in a small town in soil-rich Burgundy called Tonnerre. Tonnerre in French means thunder. I was born in a hamlet in the soil-rich region of the Mississippi Delta called Sunflower. We were born on opposite sides of the Atlantic within four months of each other.

But more than that, we spoke the language of cuisine. I was capable of discussing with him a well-made court bouillon, the makings of a glace de viande or fond brun the fine points of a sauce Choron or sauce Maltaise, a sauce Bercy or Marchand de Vin or Bordelaise. We both doted on the same types of food—charcuterie grilled pigs’ feet boudin noir or blood sausage andouillettes or tripe sausage confit d’oie or preserved goose thick peasant soups, and so on.

(he was thirty-eight years old at the time and had a fresh, innocent, boyish face) wearing an immaculate, starched toque blanche and apron, standing, arms folded, before a boneless striped bass stuffed with a mousse of sole and a champagne sauce made with wine, shallots, mushrooms, butter, and cream.

is, simply, the greatest fish cook in America.

The article, bearing the headline “Elegance of Cuisine is on Wane in U.S.,” appeared on the first page of the Sunday New York Times dated April 13. It won a publisher’s award for that year.

That might have been the end of my acquaintanceship with

except for a third, penultimate meeting, which involved him and

, that one far less tranquil and, for both men, a bit traumatic.

had had for many years a curious relationship with

. It was a father-son, love-hate entanglement that gave

approximately equal amounts of pleasure and pain, depending on

’s whims, moods, humors, and caprices, which seemed to most people who knew him to be in a constant state of flux.

I had the greatest respect for

as a restaurant owner and enjoyed his friendship. He was even responsible, as I will mention later, for my move to East Hampton, another of the greater happenings in my life. As a human being, however, his sterling nature was at times tarnished by petty, personal matters.

’s twenty-five years at Le Pavilion, he was asked— perhaps allowed is a better word—only once to come into the dining room while the customers were eating and drinking and enjoying themselves. That was when I dined there with friends and asked if I might speak to

. This was only a month or so after that article about “Elegance on Wane” appeared.

’s tenure as chef, as follows: He would meet with

in the dining room each morning promptly at eleven-thirty. It was

’s pleasure at each noontime meal to lean slightly toward a customer whom he particularly favored and say in a discreet tone, “I have something very special that my chef has prepared for you today.” It might be a roast boneless squab, lobster américaine, poussin or baby chicken polonaise, and so on. Each morning

would discuss these special items with

and prepare only eight or ten portions.

would then return to the kitchen.

In those days, attendance at the luxury restaurants in Manhattan fell off during the hot summer months when le beau monde went to the country for weekend jaunts.

decreed that throughout the coming summer there would be no overtime.

, enormously sensitive to the plight of his staff, was hurt and confused.

. His workers, he maintained quietly, would be earning less than a living wage without overtime. The entire staff was essential to the quality of the kitchen on weekends, even though the number of customers dwindled.

Soulé was adamant. Discussions upstairs, sometimes downstairs, between the two turned into negotiations.

would not go to the kitchen.

refused to go to the dining room. They both became embittered and stopped speaking.

walked out for the last time in mid-February of 1960. The restaurant closed temporarily on the last Saturday in February.

I went over to the restaurant and

was there in those cavernous surroundings, so mausoleum-like without the roses and lights and crystal reflecting in those mirrored walls. Nothing can look more hauntingly desolate than a restaurant without illumination and people.

was a solitary figure, wandering aimlessly around those premises.

He was cordial but reserved and we talked briefly. There wasn’t much to say. Within the hour I walked over to the Vatel Club on West Fifty-seventh Street, the leading chefs’ organization in America.

I went back to The Times and wrote the article that bore the headline “Restaurant Men Simmer and Menu Goes to Pot Le Pavilion Shut in a Gallic Dispute.” “A feud,” I wrote, “that appears to be more than a tempest in a demitasse cup appears to have closed what many consider the finest French restaurant in the United States.” I must say that my sympathies lay more with

and it showed. I dedicated a major part of the article to the injustices as outlined by the chef, and the article ended with the following: “ ‘From the beginning,’ Monsieur Soulé reminisced, ‘Pierre or Pierrot as I called him, was like my son.’ And Monsieur Franey, for his part, acknowledged his filial feeling. Both are choked with emotion at times when discussing the other. Tears well up and the wrath begins.” When the article appeared there was a photograph of

to the left and a photograph of

to the right. The next morning the gossip columns were filled with barbs directed at

And I believe to this day that this episode was the first planting of the seeds of the long-lasting friendship between

and myself. He could not believe that he had been given equal space, even been sided with—by my simply reporting the truth of the affair—against his former patron.

and his wife, Betty, came into my apartment in Manhattan where he and I joined forces in the kitchen for the first time. The three of us dined on quail beauséjour (with bay leaf and garlic cloves) a purée of celery root watercress and endive salad vanilla ice cream with strawberries sweetened and perfumed with kirsch. We drank toasts with a vintage Château Lascombes.

That was the beginning of a relationship without which my life would have been impoverished, a relationship that for twenty years and more has enriched the food pages of The New York Times. My debt to

and the debt of the readers of my column to him are well beyond measure.

I have been asked and I have often asked myself, “What if our paths had not met? What if he had never crossed swords with

I would have remained as food editor of The Times. I would have continued to write what I hoped was a creditable column from the beginning, a year and a half before we met.

With two exceptions, The New York Times Cook Book, the manuscript for which was almost completed before we began our association, and The Chinese Cookbook, co-authored with

, every book that I have written is weighted with recipes that

has offered me with a singular affection and unselfishness. After

joined The New York Times, we shared in all cookbook royalties.

The climate has been, in short, favorable for restaurants. Hundreds and thousands of people who a dozen or twenty years ago had to think twice before going to some small French bistro for their coq au vin or beef bourguignonne, now find it financially feasible to visit restaurants that are relatively luxury-style to sup on the nouvelle and traditional cuisine.

And that is why New York has, indeed, become an incredible place in which to dine. If when I joined The New York Times I could count the number of fine French restaurants on one hand, today there are a score or more. And not only is the city blessed with excellent French cuisine but Italian and oriental as well. The number of good Japanese restaurants in Manhattan is staggering, whereas in 1955 there was but one of any stature, the Miyako at 20 West 56th Street.

In my earliest youth I can recall eating clover leaves, some of which were deliciously sour like sorrel. I remember trying spears of dried grass that, I realized later, tasted like buffalo grass, which Russians put into vodka and call zubrovka. I sniffed a garden herb that, in more mature circumstances, I came to know was a member of the basil family even though I had not known basil until I was in my mid-thirties.

But don’t think I was “taught” to write. I write because of association. Childhood associations mostly. My mother was a fine writer although her writings were limited mostly to letters to family and friends. But her frames of reference were first rate. She had studied the Bible in depth. My home library when I was quite young included all volumes of the Encyclopedia Britannica, the complete works of Shakespeare and

In junior high school and high school I was exposed to a great deal of popular poetry—

Edward Arlington Robinson

—but my fondness came not from my adult teachers, but from a shared enthusiasm with that one friend,

But equally as valid in the learning process of how to write was a keen, rabid admiration for the well-made lyrics to popular music. As I have noted I could quote you the introduction and bridge to all the finest popular music of my day—that of

and his collaborators, including Oscar Hammer-stein II and

I graduated with a degree in Journalism from the University of Missouri but I did not learn to write at that school, nor was whatever small talent I had for writing nurtured at the school. I am simply of the opinion that you can’t be taught to write. You have to spend a lifetime in love with words. The only two tools you need are the best encyclopedia and dictionary that your purse can afford. After that you’re on your own.

It must be said that I did have a role-model in my writing through many years although he was unaware of it. His name is

and he later became a neighbor and friend in what are known as the Hamptons. I cannot analyze the writing of Berton nor can I say precisely what there has been over the years that has exerted an appeal to my mind that is undeniable. He writes with an incredible craftsmanship, so neatly tailored and disciplined that it is more like hearing a good and never boring story, seated before a roaring fire while sipping a fine snifter of Cognac. His writing is warm and conversational. And superb.

has written many short stories and a couple of novels but his writings have mostly taken the form of countless essays for the New Yorker magazine, the best known of which appeared under the name “Annals of Medicine.”

And, too, there were those interminable years as restaurant critic when I did write about the opening of The Four Seasons and Lutèce and La Caravelle and there were those endless visits to the restaurants of Europe, but there wasn’t a great deal of panic about getting there first. Revolutions and heart-stopping moments in the world of food and restaurant criticism are hard to come by or feel breathless about.

It is true that within the past ten to twenty years America has become the most sophisticated country in the world where communications about food are concerned. There is an embarrassment of great literature that has been made available to the public in books and magazines that is without peer anywhere else on earth.

The greatest volume on the food of France—and perhaps the finest analysis of one nation’s cooking and eating habits ever written—is Waverly Root’s The Food of France. Not only will this book give you an idea as to how one nation’s food culture is structured, it will indicate how almost any nation’s food use is structured if you analyze it properly.

Although an intimate reading knowledge of food and cooking is essential to the making of a good food critic and/or restaurant critic there is nothing to equal a direct acquaintanceship with the taste of food and wine. This is best achieved by learning the techniques of cooking and sampling the food under the guidance of a professional chef either in a restaurant kitchen or a professional cooking school.

I have often been asked if, during my years as a restaurant critic, I was ever offered a bribe, and the answer is no. Only twice have I had a “problem” with gifts that might smack of bribery. One of these involved

, the other, one of the oldest established roast goose and bock beer, which is to say, German, restaurants in Manhattan. I must add that that restaurant, located somewhat south of Forty-second Street, has changed management once and perhaps twice since that long-gone era.

In late December of the year I joined The Times, I returned to my Yorkville apartment one cold, late afternoon and opened the door. There, in stacks of twos and threes, from one end of my living room to the other, were a galaxy of gaily wrapped packages. I had to step over them to make my way through. I opened one package—a case of Black Label Scotch then another—a case of Cognac and another—a wooden crate containing a magnum of vintage champagne and so on. There were no cards, no name attached to any but one of that mind-and eye-boggling collection of wines and spirits.

Eventually I came to a package that contained a crystal decanter and there, glued on with Scotch tape, was a card that said simply, “Merry Christmas” and the signature of the owner of the famed Bierstube.

The owner was Jean Larriaga, who had worked under

at La Cote Basque. It had occurred to me many times over the years that there are scores of restaurants in America, even today, the owners and personnel of which had at one time “trained,” which is to say worked under

. Among a few there was the still-celebrated La Grenouille, founded by the late

, who had worked not only at Le Pavilion but under

at Le Restaurant du Pavillon de France at the 1939 World’s Fair. There were

, chef, of La Caravelle. There was

, then chef at The Four Seasons and so on. His disciples could be found in fine restaurants throughout America.

At the time my review of the new Le Mistral was to appear, I decided to run in the same edition a “family tree” which would diagrammati-cally detail the restaurants and the names of the personnel who had worked under

The following week I had a telephone call from

. He did not say “Thank you.” He spoke to me somewhat sternly.

Back at my desk I telephoned

, then managing editor of The Times.

,” I began. “I’ve a beautiful problem.”

,” I said, “if I must give that watch back, I’ll have to do it soon. Can I keep it or not?”

“No,” he said. “I know it wasn’t given to you for any awkward reason. But as a member of The Times staff you simply cannot accept a gift like this.”

, each of us explaining that we knew the goodness and innocence of his generosity, et cetera, et cetera, but et cetera, et cetera.

When we entered, I was greeted warmly by

. He embraced me with a warm bear hug.

“If you ever leave The Times, or when I die,” he said, “that watch is waiting for you.”

died January 27, 1966, and I wrote in The Times that he was “the Michelangelo, the Mozart and the Leonardo da Vinci” of the French restaurants in America.

He was a man of towering standards with cool disdain for the commonplace and the sham and a keen appreciation of those who dined in his company on such fare as vintage champagne—almost always Dom Perignon—mousse of sole tout Pans pilaf of mussels pheasant with truffled sauce, and the dessert that I admire most, les oeufs à la neige.

For one reason or another I spent many hours in

’s company and, although his niche was beyond question, he was damnably hard to portray in words.

was born March 12, 1903, in Saubrigues, a small village near Bayonne in the southwestern corner of France. He began his career as a bus boy in the Continental Hotel at Biarritz. From there he went to the Mirabeau Hotel on Paris’ Rue de la Paix and thence to the Claridge on the Champs Élysées. At the age of twenty-three he was said to be the youngest captain of waiters in Paris. One of the great influences of his life was the late Louis Barraya of the Café de Paris, under whom

became manager and chief of staff.

, of a distinguished French restaurant family and brother-in-law of

, to help run a restaurant at the World’s Fair in New York. He arrived in this country in March 1939, with sixty kitchen workers and thirty-eight maîtres d’hôtel, captains, waiters, wine stewards, and the like.

was designated general manager of Le Restaurant du Pavillon de France, most often referred to as the French Restaurant. It opened May 9, 1939.

In October 1941, a short while after the fair closed, he opened Le Pavilion at 5 East Fifty-fifth Street. From the beginning it became the haven for the beau monde. The restaurant moved to 111 East Fifty-seventh Street on October 10, 1957.

The restaurateur then opened La Côte Basque at the Fifty-fifth Street address. That was in October 1958. For several years

also owned The Hedges, a summer restaurant in East Hampton. It was opened in 1954 for summer dining only.

He was a man of so many contrarieties of temperament it often seemed he was at least half a dozen men. There was

, the elegant and thoughtful host.

, the nervous and fretting supervisor of napery and tableware.

, the haughty and frigid feudist with former employees.

, frequently an amusing conversationalist but just as frequently withdrawn. There was

, the man with a perfect eye for food.

, the imperious and disdainful eminence for those who think food is merely something to eat. And there was, most enigmatic of all, the third-person

by and of himself and a person apart from himself, not I or me, but with regal grandeur,

When European restaurateurs, such as Louis Vaudable of Maxim’s and Claude Terrail of La Tour d’Argent, visited this country, it was rarely without paying their respects to

One anecdote about Le Pavilion, told by

, concerned a series of dinners offered him several years ago in a number of swanky homes in Manhattan.

“At the first of these dinners I was served a quenelles de brochet—a. feather-like forcemeat of poached pike—and it was superb. I praised it without reservation. The second night in another home we were seated at table and suddenly I was served quenelles de brochet again. I frowned but said nothing and at the end of the meal I repeated my compliment.

“Well, on the third night I was taken to Le Pavilion for dinner and

, the maître d’hôtel, bent close to my ear and said, ‘May I suggest the quenelles de brochet? I recommend it.’

, what is this with quenelles de brochet in America? Is it starting to replace the hamburger?’

solved the mystery. Each of the hostesses had telephoned the restaurant and ordered a principal dish sent to their home. How was

to know? They only specified it must be something exceptional.”

was an unabashed snob. One of his former maître d’hôtels once told me that

deplored, above all, people who weren’t well dressed or, in his mind, were physically unattractive.

Two of the qualities that characterized

were an intensely stubborn nature and an iron will. Once he had made a decision, no amount of cajoling or reasoning could talk him out of it, a fact that once became humorously apparent to

was still chef at Le Pavilion, he and his wife were invited to dinner at

’s country home in Montauk. It was to be a simple evening of champagne and lobster américaine, the latter prepared by

“If there was one point about which

was absolutely single-minded,”

reminisced recently, “it was the use of hot plates for hot food. On that day the oven was set for about 400 degrees, and

put the plates—Limoges, I believe they were—in the oven, eight or ten of them. There was more champagne and when we were about to sit down to dinner, the plates were hot as a blast furnace.

took them out of the oven and put them in the sink to cool them slightly. He was about to turn on the water and I watched him, speechless. Finally, I said, ‘

, I don’t think you ought to turn on the water those plates are hot.’ He said, ‘I have a very good heating system and the water is very hot.’ Well, he turned on the hot water and the bottom plate cracked and as the water level increased the second plate, then the third plate, and the fourth plate, and so on, all the way to the top. Not a plate was left intact.”

had the temperament of a man who could never indulge in physical violence or in fisticuffs except under extraordinary duress, and as far as anyone remembers he only came close to it once. That was when a bad character entered the restaurant and proceeded to the bar. No one, not even the bartender, realized that the man was intoxicated until he had finished a second martini and staggered over to the cold buffet with its lobster in aspic, pâtés in crust, and all the rest. Fred Decré, one of the owners of La Caravelle and then a captain at Le Pavilion, saw the man pick up a knife to slice the Paris ham and when Decré rushed over, the man directed the knife at him.

Other members of the staff rushed to

’s aid and they managed to guide the offender to the door but not before

arrived at the fracas and offered one swift kick that missed by a mile.

“There,” he said, dusting his hands, and throwing out his chest. “There, you see, that is how

treats a man who is not a gentleman.”

, another owner of La Caravelle and former employee of Le Pavilion, later recalled. “But he walked around like a peacock for a week.”

Because of the prominence of Le Pavilion, it is natural, too, that it had its share of the bizarre personalities who dined there or attempted to. One time a woman came through the revolving doors with hat slightly askew, a tawdry shawl around her neck, and the seams of her stockings in a spiral. When she demanded a table, the restaurant owner tried to use gentle persuasion to get her to leave the dining room. The more adamant she was, the more insistent he became, and eventually it was necessary to give the lady a gentle push. With this, she screamed into the room, “Don’t you touch me, sir! Do you know who I am” she shouted. “The daughter of the Pope.”

There were many reasons why

dominated the field of the French restaurants in New York. First and foremost, the restaurant was as much a part of his life as anything could be. It was in a sense his passion, and he gave to it beyond the point of exhaustion. His attention to detail, his concern with the minutiae of a restaurant, were phenomenal in a city where many of his colleagues were merely businessmen and mercenaries, men with black ties and small backgrounds who turned to the restaurant field because of a supposed aura of glamour.

, the reason for his success was always his équipe or team. He said a thousand times, “The équipe is everything,” and his équipe was, to the greatest degree possible, the Tiffany of the restaurant world. But behind the équipe there was a spirit that never would, never could settle for mediocrity. And the équipe was always aware of it. On the day of his death, a former employee and one of the finest chefs in the United States, called me and said quite briefly, “Our leader is dead,” and I suspect he spoke for the most conscientious members of the restaurant industry, because there was not a French restaurant in Manhattan that was not the better for the standards imposed by

on the American restaurant world will never be measured, but if one travels in restaurant circles there is a phrase that recurs like a timeless refrain: “You remember him he worked under

Although I did not admire

for the sang-froid and hauteur that he had displayed in terminating his relationship with

, I liked him. And he did have, as I have noted, an ineradicable, indelible, albeit inadvertent influence on my life.

’s thought to open a restaurant in the Hamptons that would become the summer watering place for his well-to-do clientele when Le Pavilion closed for the summer. He purchased a handsome, old, many-roomed mansion known as The Hedges, so called because it had belonged to a family named Hedges who first settled in East Hampton in 1725. He spent several thousands of dollars refurbishing the old house, inside and out, landscaping, installing a professional kitchen, building a wine cellar stocked with the finest Burgundies and Bordeaux, and so on. He also brought along the staff from the Pavilion, headed, of course, by

rented a small cottage on Gardiners Bay where he installed his family for the summer. The following year he purchased another small cottage on the same body of water and he and his family were living there at the time that my friendship with him started to flourish.

left Le Pavilion he became associated as a vice president with the late Howard Johnson, the founder of the ice cream and fast food empire. And thus, for the first time since his childhood,

had weekends to relax and enjoy himself as he might choose.

In 1962 I had received my first six-month royalty check from The New York Times Cook Book and, while it was not a vast sum (it was something like ten thousand dollars), it was more money than I had ever dreamed of having in a bank account.

encouraged me to buy property in the Hamptons. I scoffed at the thought.

On December 8 of that year, one of the longest newspaper strikes on record hit The New York Times. It lasted nearly four months and I became despondent. In those days my passion and ardor for the paper were profound and, in that I belonged to the Newspaper Guild and could not cross the picket line, I grieved and felt totally displaced.

cautioned, “it would take your mind off your troubles.” And in the same year we were invited to dine on Shelter Island at the home of Marion Taylor, who was known to a few hundred thousands on her WOR radio program as Martha Deane.

of a piece of property located on Gardiners Bay—elevated about twenty feet above the water—that was about to go on the market. After a couple of glasses of Cognac we said good night to the Taylors and drove at midnight (there was a full moon) to the side of Gardiners Bay off a road named King’s Point. It was a forested site, but we got out of the car and made our way through brambles and bush to the edge of the water. The view was more intoxicating than another glass of fine champagne, the name for the finest blend of Cognac.

The next morning I telephoned the owner of the lot and asked if it were for sale. She said yes and I agreed to purchase it. The same morning I made an agreement with an architect with equal celerity. And the following December, with a friend who is a decorator, I walked through Bloomingdale’s and within the space of two hours, every room in that soon-to-be-completed dwelling was basically furnished— bed, dining table and chairs, a few antique pieces, and all.

From the beginning, 271 King’s Point Road was a place of Saturday night revels. There was in truth a golden age of gastronomy in my home that lasted until 1976, when

joined the staff of The Times as my collaborator, as the “60-Minute Gourmet,” and as equipment editor. After that date we worked more normal hours, cooking together during the week rather than only on weekends, or on Wednesday nights as we had done in my New York apartment, and entertaining only occasionally.

I would often regale guests during the course of an evening’s revelry with Duff Cooper’s famed quotation from Old Men Forget:

The more serious part of the Saturday night ritual was that as

(and any visiting chefs) cooked, I stood at my typewriter and recorded exact ingredients and instructions for all the dishes we would dine on. These would subsequently appear in The New York Times Magazine.

I note that on the seventeenth of December, 1979, we dined on a cream of wild mushrooms a roast haunch of venison St. Hubert purée of chestnuts and endive meunière. There was salad with Brie, followed by orange sections marinated in Cointreau, and “les cookies de

was the son of the famed founder of the Dugan Bakery in Brooklyn and he had dispatched the cookies as a pre-holiday gesture.

On the fourth of May, 1976, with guests, the main courses included saddle of venison with sauce poivrade and a civet of rabbit plus noodles. There was salad and, for dessert, profiteroles filled with vanilla ice cream. The wines included Château Haut-Brion 1971, Château de la Chaize 1974, and a nonvintage Krug Champagne.

On the twenty-seventh of October, 1968, we dined on coquilles St. Jacques au gratin rack of lamb en couronne salad with assorted cheeses, and, for dessert, a mélange of fruits. The wines included a Puilly-Fuissé 1966 Château Brane-Cantenac 1959 Château Léoville Lascases 1959 Dom Peri gnon Champagne 1961 plus “alcools et liqueurs.”

Some of the pleasantest of meals were those of midsummer when the food was served buffet-style. On the last day of August in 1969, we sampled les crudités, a cold cream of sorrel soup a hot casserole of tripes à la mode cold poached striped bass with a mustard mayonnaise mussels à la ravigote cold, baked country ham cold ratatouille niçoise “le melon en surpnse” assorted cheeses and fresh chilled pineapple with rum.

The wines included Beaujolais and Chablis, plus “La bière Rhein-gold.”

That is not to say that all the meals served in my home were elaborate French banquets. Far from it. There are entries for Chinese chrysanthemum pot. For pizza and hamburgers and chile con came. For a cheese-grits casserole. Cold grilled chicken with a simple salad of sliced, in-season tomatoes with Stilton cheese and watermelon for dessert. And there are menus for all the dishes that were cooked when Virginia Lee came into my home for almost two years when we were preparing The Chinese Cookbook.

One of the grandest accounts of life in those days appeared in The New York Times on March 28, 1976. It was written by

, for many years the distinguished obituary writer for The Times. He is the husband of

, once women’s news editor of the paper, who was very much involved in my return to The Times after a two-year hiatus.

Alden’s account was preceded by a mockup of a listing in the style of the Guide Michelin. The account appears in full below:

3 Stars, No Waiting ‡‡‡‡***Chez Claiborne (Craig Claiborne et

Pierre Franey

) “bord du mer, parc fleuri.” East Hampton. — wc Spec. Cuisine Variée.

The rubric above, adapted from the

guide, that indispensable Koran of Frenchmen and those purse-free enough to visit France these days, means that Craig Claiborne, the food editor of The New York Times, and

, his associate and former chef of Le Pavilion in Manhattan, operate a splendidly appointed restaurant, one with a particularly fine ambience and, above all, one that serves the very best meals—repasts that are worth a special trip to savor.

There are several exceptions to be noted immediately. Mr.

’s country cottage is open only on Saturday evenings and on special feast days such as New Year’s Eve, and that admission is by invitation only.

In the opinion of those upon whom an invitation has been bestowed and who have eaten in many of the world’s ranking restaurants, the

establishment richly merits a three-star rating (the most Michelin accords any restaurant). “Craig Claiborne is the proprietor of the only three-star restaurant, certainly on Long Island and perhaps in the United States,” Paul Bocuse, himself a chef of renown in France, remarked last summer.

Apart from sociability and the pleasures of the table, Mr.

’s Saturday evenings serve a practical purpose. It is then that he and Mr.

prepare and test the recipes that appear in Mr.

’s articles and books. This has been going on since 1964, when Mr.

built a home on a bluff overlooking Gardiners Bay. A couple of years ago he remodeled the house to accommodate a full professional kitchen, with a Vulcan gas range along one wall and a collection of equipment and gadgets that one would not ordinarily see outside of an outstanding kitchenware emporium.

Because Saturday evenings are a time for creation and testing, guests over the years have sampled dishes from all over the world, from Annamese fare to Zanzibarian delights. When Mr.

was writing his Chinese cookery book with Virginia Lee, the menus were invincibly Chinese. Guests never know what’s in store for them, but few have been known to offer regrets. And one regret is sufficient to blackball a prospective guest almost forever.

Those who are asked are drawn either from among friends of Mr.

or from those whose palates Mr.

believes are likely to be impeccable. He draws the line at gourmets, a word and a concept he regards as insufferable. Epicures, yes, gourmets, never.

Some are fairly regular patrons. One is Henry Lewis Creel, an affable retired Shell Oil financial specialist, who minds the bar and whose margaritas have made his reputation. An amateur cook of talent, Mr.

is publishing this year “Cooking for One Is Fun,” a collection of his recipes for single persons. Before her death in 1975, Jeannette Rattray, a regal and jolly woman who was publisher of The East Hampton Star, was a regular. But the number is small.

Those who have come to eat and to participate include chefs of great distinction. Mr.

was there last summer. André Soltner of Lutèce is always welcome, as are Roger Fessaguet of La Caravelle, Jean Vergnes of Le Cirque, René Verdon, President Kennedy’s chef,

Laverne of La Cote Basque and Jacques Pépin.

Among the hundreds of notables who have been guests are Alfred A. Knopf, the publisher and oenophile

Guests seldom sing for their supper, but for Burton Lane, the composer and lyricist, Mr.

led a sing-along of his compositions.

Saturday evening begins Saturday morning, when Mr.

) does the shopping for a menu planned days ahead. If the dinner is to have a fish course, Mr.

’s in Southampton, stopping for fresh vegetables (in season) at The Green Thumb in Water Mill. Or he may go to Stuart’s Fish Market in Amagansett. It all depends on the availability of local fish. For groceries and meats, it’s to Gristedes. And for table flowers, to Buckley’s in East Hampton.

Serious work on the various dishes starts after a late lunch and reaches its peak from 7:30 to 8 o’clock. By then the guests have arrived and Mr.

will have set the table, the wine glasses polished to a sparkle and the silverware burnished to a gleam. Dress, except for feast-day galas (when it is black tie), is informal. Mr.

greets his guests aproned and in slacks. Mr.

conflates his margaritas. He and the guests generate small talk as Mr.

vanishes into the kitchen.

Music—anything from Verdi’s Requiem to Porgy and Bess—floats from recessed stereo speakers. Mr.

, who came to the United States with

in 1939, is chopping, measuring, cooking— and tasting with a forefinger. Simultaneously, he keeps up a running conversation with Mr.

and with the guests, swinging effortlessly between French and English. Mr.

, meanwhile, is noting ingredients and precise amounts in notebooks equal to the number of dishes on the menu—and talking in French or English.

’s hands are so practiced that he can mince onions or garlic, skin a fish, or cut the meat reflexively while conducting several animated conversations at once. Just as skilled, Mr.

, when it is required, can duplicate the feat.

is precise in his measurements—virtually everything is weighed or meted out by fractions of a tablespoon—he remarked the other evening as aromas emerged from the oven:

He is also adept at creating dishes from Mr.

’s descriptions of them. Mr.

had partaken of a fish soup in Halifax, N.S., a few weeks ago, and Mr.

recreated it as provençale fish soup.

Some time before dinner Mr.

selects the wines from a capacious cellar maintained at 56 to 57 degrees. For the recent Saturday, he chose Rioja Clarete 1971, a Spanish red, and Pinot Chardon-nay (Mâcon-Luguy) 1974, a French white.

Finally, there is a semblance of order in the kitchen, and Mr.

calls out, “On mange,” or “A table,” and he and Mr.

and their guests sit down—Mr.

As usual, although the dishes were many, the portions were modest —the better, Mr.

believes, to appreciate their subtleties. He rarely serves anything “minceur,” or slimming, but there is no gourmandizing. And only a simple dessert of fresh fruit or sherbet. The meal, over which guests tend to linger, concludes with coffee and a digestif—usually a stinger.

The other seeming imperatives at the gatherings are oysters on the half shell that incomparable salt-cod mousse called brandade de morue and two kinds of boudins—black and white sausages cooked on a grill and served with mustard. There are, inevitably, magnificent pâtés and terrines, some baked in pastry, and as far back as I can remember, baked country ham, generally fancified at the insistence of one French chef or another and served with a Madeira or Port wine sauce. There is always a purée of chestnuts, another of celery root. Brie cheese is always there as well as fruitcakes, mincemeat pies, pumpkin pies, and, on a few occasions, a bûche de Noel.

Thumbing still further through those wine-stained pages, I find among the appetizers or first courses, in addition to those oysters on the half shell (often served with small grilled sausages), oysters Rockefeller, a mousse of pigeon, taramosalata, hog’s head cheese, smoked salmon, a terrine of venison liver, celeri rémoulade, a hot pâté in crust with a beurre blanc and “Ed Giobbi’s bathtub tuna.” Ed always blends his tuna in the bathtub before processing it in olive oil.

Main courses have included striped bass stuffed with oysters, a leg of lamb baked in pastry, paella à la valenciana, a Mediterranean fish stew, pheasant braised in red wine, civet of rabbit, a truffled roast capon, and garlic sausages with lentil salad.

If there is one celebration that is even more joyous to my mind, it is New Year’s Day. That, too, has become a ritual, but for a smaller group—those who have driven great distances plus close neighbors of many years’ standing. That régale is much simpler. Less preparation is involved and the champagne generally flows freely. The menu consists of les restes, meaning the leftovers from the night before—cold roast goose, cold roast suckling pig, and so on. Plus a baker’s dozen of great cold foods.

If I have enjoyed a certain amount of “fame” in my profession within the past few years, it was relatively slow in materializing. Although I had been with The New York Times for several years, I am of the opinion that any “celebrity” that I now enjoy dates largely from a picnic that took place in 1965 and is elaborately outlined in my menu books.

When I moved into my home in East Hampton, I used to sit in a swing chair in my glass-paneled living room gazing out across often calm, sometimes turbulent bay waters at a marvelous, mysterious stretch of land called Gardiners Island. To those of us who lived facing it, it was five acres of fascinating legend. We all knew that Captain Kidd had plied the waters of that bay and had buried treasure on the island. It was a place with hordes of deer, wild turkey, and pheasant. Through binoculars from a distance, one can see the osprey birds, once nearly extinct, wheeling in large arcs above their nests made of twigs. There are three thousand privately held acres that, we had been told, had been held in the Gardiner family since 1635 when Lion Gardiner came here from England, fifteen years after the arrival of the Mayflower. This Lion Gardiner was made “lord of the manor” by

The island is now controlled by

Robert David Lion Gardiner

, a direct descendant and the present lord of the manor.

On the days that I would visit the Franeys’ (their cottage also faced the island) we would sit around grilling fish or feasting on freshly harvested littlenecks and cherrystones taken only moments before from

’s “back yard,” another small bay called Accabonac, or on steamed lobsters taken in traps in that very Gardiners Bay. As we would sip our white wine, someone would muse, “Maybe we could sneak over during the week when he’s not around.”

and I decided to have a picnic on the beach and invite a few close friends, all French chefs who worked in Manhattan, and their wives. We talked in vague terms of menu and dates.

“If we gave a picnic on that island,” I mused to myself, “and if

Robert David Lion Gardiner

likes to eat, maybe he could be persuaded . . .” What the hell, I thought, I have nothing to lose.

The next morning I telephoned Gardiner and got the usual, not unanticipated response, “Craig who?” I explained that I was food editor of The Times, that I knew all these famous chefs, that we wanted to give a lavish picnic, and we would like him and his wife, Eunice, to join us. Preferably we would make it easy on them. We’d give the picnic on his private island.

His reply was not ecstatic. Nor did he refuse. Rather, he proposed that I come to his office. Understandably. He didn’t know me from Adam’s off ox (another of my mother’s often used expressions) and, I was quite certain, had never seen my by-line or read my column. Which did not disqualify him in my mind as a fin bec or connoisseur.

was as joyful as I that we would finally make it to the island and our plans became more elaborate. We called the White House and asked for René Verdon, the chef. I had, several years earlier, broken the story—to the dismay of the White House—that Jacqueline Kennedy had engaged a Frenchman to head the presidential kitchen. It made the front page of The Times.

The next morning, the equipment and supplies for the pique-nique nearly filled a Land Rover and the back of a station wagon. There were two dozen Baccarat wine glasses a small grill a large grill that weighed 120 pounds two cases of wine ten crates of food a giant clamshell to be used as a service piece and, to hold a mélange of fresh-cut fruit in liqueurs, two hand-carved watermelons.

“Isn’t it delicious in this crystal?” Mr.

asked. “You can feel the bubbles through the glass.”

The giant clamshell was unloaded to receive seviche, the raw fish appetizer made from a recipe concocted by

after a visit to Mexico two years earlier. Mussels in a delicious herbed sauce ravigote a piquant salad of beef vinaigrette the pâté in its terra cotta container and freshly caught bluefish from the bay, cooked with white wine and onions, were set out. So were a giant wheel of Brie, a large wedge of goat cheese, and small wheels of Camembert to get to the proper temperature.

To the tune of “Auprès de Ma Blonde, ” “Le Petit Vin Blanc, ” “Boire un Petit Coup,” and “A la Bastille, ” the bluefish was poached, squabs were grilled, and the children arrived with a net to sweep in the sea for thousands of small whitebait. The whitebait were batter-fried in hot oil to a crisp, succulent, and delectable turn and eaten out of hand while the music played on.

M. Fessaguet prepared cold lobster with egg stuffing, and Mr.

noted that at one time a fisherman rented a shack on the island and paid for his rent with lobsters.

“I wish someone were doing that now,” Mrs.

Having a mind geared to public relations, I telephoned Life magazine, at that time in its heyday, and asked if they would like to cover the picnic. They answered eagerly in the affirmative.

I was certainly in no position to invest in crystal for the affair and I was sure that The Times would never foot a bill for, what would seem to them, such a frivolous occasion.

I was blunt and to the point when I explained the nature of my call. A few chefs and I were going on a picnic on one of the legendary islands of America, just off Long Island. The chefs, including the chef of the White House, were internationally known. Life magazine would cover the outing. Would Baccarat like to lend us two dozen crystal goblets? The ones I had in mind cost, in that long-lost age, fifteen dollars a glass.

“The company has reconsidered and they will lend you the glasses provided you return them without a flaw. There must be no sign of lint and, of course, no chips or other signs of breakage.”

That evening I went to bed with that fine feeling of bliss that comes from good food, good wine, and an outing in the open air. The picnic had been an uncompromising success Life magazine was obviously pleased and, what’s more, I had a good and entertaining article in my notebooks.

There isn’t much more to tell except The Times suddenly found itself confronted with an unanticipated bill for crystal that had been used for a “frivolous” occasion.

I had become familiar with the awesome fascination of clambakes under the tutelage of a man named

, who worked for a nursery on Long Island. He moonlighted weekends by staging clambakes from one end of the island to the other, so many in fact that he was often referred to as Stanley Steamer.

I learned that in addition to sun, a properly made clambake takes protean labor and boundless enthusiasm and over the years

and I have supervised a dozen or so on his rocky beach or mine. You start by gathering wood. Any wood so long as it burns, driftwood, logs, kindling, broken-down furniture, no-matter-what, as long as it is combustible. But there must be enough to keep the fire burning incessantly for six hours or longer.

The proceedings begin by filling the pit with rocks, covering them with firewood and firing it, taking care that more ignitables are added as the wood burns away. As the fire burns you prepare the assorted foods, each category of which is carefully tied in squares of cheesecloth to make packages. These include (at our clambake for 60 persons, at any rate) 2 bushels of cherrystone clams, 60 one-and-one-quarter-pound lobsters, 10 pounds of small peeled onions, 120 ears of freshly shucked corn, and 200 pieces of chicken that has been cut into quarters. It is important for flavor that the chicken pieces be sprinkled with paprika and grilled over charcoal until slightly charred on the outside and not cooked in the center. When cooled, the pieces, a dozen at a time, are tied inside the cheesecloth squares.

At this point, the participants at a clambake can revel in four hours of what the Italians call dolcefamiente, my favorite phrase for idleness, meaning sweet doing nothing. At our gatherings this has taken the form of water skiing, reading, boating, fishing, swilling gin and tonic or, more to the occasion, ice cold beer.

They were desirous of shooting the film within one week’s time. I did not indicate to them that our lobster pots were not yet in place but that was a small matter.

On the day before they were to arrive,

and I got into his small boat with our lobster traps aboard and ready to be sunk. To ensure our catch before the cameras, we had also had the foresight to go to our local fish market to purchase six lobsters, which we intended to plant in the traps.

How the camera crew would marvel at our good fortune when they discovered that we did have such co-operative lobsters in our local waters.

One of the greatest pleasures during my stay at The New York Times has been the ability to travel around the world, as well as in all of America, to dine on the finest foods offered by any restaurant that I deemed to my liking or even idle curiosity. I was also privileged on these trips to be a guest in private homes and to spend time in the kitchens of local cooks par excellence.

I once traveled to Alaska to investigate the Brower Café in Barrow, where I was introduced to mukluk, made from the skin and the fat of the whale, and reindeer stew. I had been curious to meet Thomas Paneahtak Brower, a half Eskimo whose father, Charles Dewitt Brower, was born in Brooklyn in 1863. His father had come to Alaska in 1884, the first white settler in Point Barrow, to establish a whaling and fur trading company. He married an Eskimo girl, became wealthy and widely known as the “King of the Arctic,” and wrote one book, Fifty Years Below the Arctic, which enjoyed considerable fame over a several-year period.

Much later I sampled a dish in Paris called cha gio, a delicate Vietnamese version of egg roll. My enthusiasm for the dish was boundless and I persuaded The New York Times to let me travel to Vietnam to write about native cooking. I arrived in that country seven months before the end of the heartbreaking hostilities.

It was curious to be writing about food when a war was going on, but I was reminded of Graham Greene’s The Quiet American of twenty years before, when he had written of life in Saigon: “Ordinary life goes on—that has saved many a man’s reason.” There were certainly terse indexes everywhere of a nation at war. Up and down the streets of Saigon were soldiers with their guns and walkie-talkies and jeeps and many of the cross sections had rolls of barbed wire on the side and at the ready, but after a day or so both the soldiers and the barbed wire became another random part of the landscape. I certainly did not find Saigon a somber place and, to my great surprise, I found a deep-rooted respect for good food conscientiously prepared. It might be a traditional and well-seasoned pork soup or perhaps prawns in tomato and chili sauce sold at small open-air street markets or more elaborate dishes such as an elegant and delectable curried eel soup or deep-fried crab or chopped shrimp grilled on sugar cane skewers. During one memorable meal consisting of oc nhoi thit, delicately seasoned snails stuffed in the shell lined with fresh ginger leaves, and cha ca, filleted fish with dill eaten with noodle pancakes, artillery fire sounded somewhere north of the restaurant, which was harbored in the middle of a lotus pond. Everyone turned to look and without comment returned to the meal at hand.

It was in the home of an ingenious Saigonese, Mrs.

, that I learned the fine points of making cha gio, that savory fragment I had first tasted in a few of the flourishing Vietnamese restaurants of Paris. Cha gio consists basically of morsels of ground meat, sometimes with chopped crab, shrimp, or chicken, wrapped in pastry and deep-fried. These morsels, cooked to a golden brown, crisp without, tender within, are served hot at table with an assortment of fresh herbs, including mint, basil, and coriander, cold Boston lettuce leaves, and that ubiquitous Vietnamese spicy fish sauce, nuoc nam. Cha gio are as irresistible as peanuts, popcorn, new radishes, fresh cider, and caviar. And cha gio are but one small savory fragment from the Vietnamese kitchen, which surely must rank among the most outstanding on earth.

I have made several trips to Japan, reveling in sushi, sashimi, yakitori, and tempura long before Japanese restaurants became commonplace in the United States, and dining at the Akahane in Tokyo, where gastronomic luxury was heaped on gastronomic luxury but in the most delicate manner possible. There were fiddlehead ferns served in sesame seed sauce and a tender beanlike vegetable known as aiko prepared in a bean curd sauce. Wild vegetables that grow in water, dozens of green leaves, each with its own delicate flavor, and small mushrooms with long stems that resemble hat pins. The predominant specialty of the restaurant, however, is game—cormorants and wild duck when I was there.

One memorable meal in Tokyo was enjoyed in the company of one of Japan’s most famous surgeons, Tokuji Ichikawa. He took me to a restaurant to eat fuga, or globefish, a much-coveted specialty from Japanese waters and available only from the time of the autumn equinox to the spring equinox. Globefish, the doctor explained on the way, is sometimes toxic, a thought that did not do a great deal to stimulate the appetite. But, he added, they wash it well in cold water and this sluices away all the poisonous substances. That was indeed comforting and, after all, a little game of Japanese roulette never hurt anybody. We quickly downed a diminutive bottle of sake before the first course, a tiny individual tray with three items—salmon caviar on a lemon slice, a small, whole, uncleaned fish salted, grilled, and designed to be eaten in one piece, and something in a fishy-tasting pastelike sauce. The “something” was cold and cooked and a little firm—like rubber bands that had been cut into bite-size lengths. We asked the doctor what it was, though by now we should have known better.

At about this point the kimono-clad waitress brought in another part of the fugu ritual, piping hot sake in beautiful porcelain glasses. And inside each glass was a burnt fugu fin. And I must add that the rest of that meal was delicious. The delicacies that followed began with sashimi—beautiful, almost transparent slices of raw fugu served with soy sauce, grated radish with hot pepper and chives shimmering, tender lengths of globefish cartilage and skin batter-fried fugu. After that a large ceramic cauldron of boiling stock was placed on the table and into it went even larger pieces of globefish, bean curd, mushrooms fluted in a most elegant manner, sections of Japanese leeks, and, finally, fresh, tender chrysanthemum leaves. Then came rice with egg and chopped scallions, pickles, and persimmons for dessert. If you should be in Japan between the autumn and spring equinox, you shouldn’t miss fugu. It is a rare treat and delicious, and the meat tastes like American blowfish, sometimes called chicken of the sea.

One memorable Easter season in Athens, I found myself a most willing participant in a celebration of the holiday with my friends Leon Lianides, the proprietor of New York’s much-esteemed Coach House restaurant, and his wife, Aphrodite. It was Holy Saturday and a night of brilliant stars and moonlight, and as midnight approached we strolled through otherwise darkened streets to a tiny church. Hundreds of other “pilgrims” had preceded us to the small plaza in front of the church, to await the tolling of the bells that would signify the arrival of Easter morning. In the darkness someone handed us candles and as bells were tolled the priest emerged bearing a candle with which he kindled the candle of the closest member of those assembled.

“Chnstos anesti, ” he declared. “Christ is risen.” The second candle illuminated a third, the third a fourth, individual to individual, until moments later that entire square was awash with light.

The second event of that evening remains equally vivid in memory. The Lianideses and I joined a Greek artist, Jannis Spyropolous, and his wife for a traditional Greek Easter feast. It consisted merely of soup and bread, but it was an incredibly delicious meal, including one dish of which I had had no prior knowledge. I had, of course, dined on avgolemono soup, that typical Hellenic specialty made of an abundantly rich broth thickened and flavored with lemon and eggs. But on this occasion I was told that the soup was named mayentsa avgolemono and that at that moment in thousands and thousands of households throughout Greece, celebrants would be dining on this particular soup made with the head of lamb and assorted other parts of the animal including the neck, knuckles, and liver, all bones removed and the meat chopped fine. The Easter bread was made with a lightly sweetened egg and yeast dough of surpassing flavor and texture. Red-dyed Easter eggs were offered the guests and these, too, are traditional, representing both the rebirth of the season and the resurrection of Christ. And those three elements were the sum and substance of that meal. Earlier, when asked why the mayentsa soup was so traditional in Greek homes at the beginning of Easter, Leon explained that roast baby lamb is the almost inevitable main dish for the principal feast of Easter day.

I have dined on spider crab in Madrid, the best rijsttafel I have ever eaten in Bali, roast suckling pig in Segovia and Puerto Rico, wild boar in Nova Scotia, and I once spent five days in Rio de Janeiro going from restaurant to restaurant searching in vain for a menu that listed feijoada, the national dish of Brazil. I learned that it is traditionally served only on Saturday at noon and my time schedule had not permitted my remaining over the weekend. A short while after this trip, in New York, I had my first full experience with that marvelous and inspired blend of black beans, salted meats, beef, and assorted parts of the pig, and those wonderful Portuguese sausages, linguiça and paio. It was at the home of Dona Dora Vasconcellos, Brazilian consul-general in New York, and a splendid hostess. Since that experience, I have indulged an incurable appetite for feijoada on numerous occasions in the home of a friend and native of Rio, Dorotea Elman, who makes what may well be the finest feijoada to be found in the United States. Dorotea also came to my home one summer day and re-created, with all the dexterity and authority of a cowboy, that Brazilian feast known as churrasco à gaucha, which I had first sampled in Rio.

And, of course, I have made many business trips to Europe, particularly to France. The first was in 1959 in the company of Frank Schoon-maker, in that era the most celebrated and by far the most knowledgeable wine expert in America. I was much in awe of the gentleman inasmuch as he was well established in his field long before I joined The New York Times. Frank disarmed me early in our travels, however, by repeating the history of his initial interest in wines. Early in his career he had written a guidebook called Through Europe on $2 a Day, and intended to become a serious travel writer. In his early days in France he lived with the family of a wine merchant.

I was intrigued and asked him to stop by The Times.

When he arrived he asked if I had an unopened bottle of wine. I led him back to The Times test kitchen and pulled a bottle of wine out of a cabinet. He pulled out an aluminum cigar-shaped gadget with rounded ends. He unscrewed it at mid-point and withdrew one half with a needle-like object protruding from it like a hypodermic needle.

He replaced the cork in the bottle and handed me the gadget. I plunged it in and out came the cork. I called other reporters and editors into the kitchen to show them this marvel, this merveille d’ingéniosité. As they gathered around, I kept pushing the cork in and pumping it out.

That evening we went to the Dubern restaurant where we dined on, among other things, shrimp bordelaise and woodcock with foie gras.

I told Alexis that I had finished my meal but that I would join them with a glass of Cognac. By this time I was plotting. I could scarcely wait to see the look of étonnement in Lichine’s eyes when I did my magic with the needle.

I plunged in the needle and, voilà! The damn thing exploded, sending wild splashes of red wine upward to the ceiling and drenching the lady’s ermine coat.

Comme Chez Soi in Brussels is another culinary treasure that I return to frequently. One particularly cherished meal there was on the occasion of the restaurant’s fiftieth anniversary in 1976, and a more distinguished roster of gastronomic geniuses will rarely be assembled. There was Jean-Claude Vrinat, proprietor of Taillevent, and Jean-Pierre Haeberlin of the treasured Auberge de l’Ill in Alsace,

Troisgros of the restaurant that bears his family name in Roanne, and

, whose name is synonymous with the restaurant in Lyon. Royalty arrived at eight-eleven—eleven minutes late—in the person of Prince

, brother of the King. The champagne flowed for all assembled. The celebration dinner, which began promptly at eight-thirty was a model of simplicity, and all the more laudable because of it.

The first course was a total novelty to most of those at the gathering. It consisted of a consommé of locally harvested baby shrimp, each shrimp not much larger than a man’s thumbnail. Each serving of consommé, a long-simmered clear, rich broth made with the shells of the shrimp, contained, in addition to a score or more of the tiny shrimp, shreds of citronelle, an uncommon herb with a pungent, lemony aroma. The soup was followed by a terrine of vegetables—green beans, peas, carrots, and artichoke bottoms—held together with a delicate aspic with chopped parsley and tarragon, sliced and served with a gossamer sauce of watercress. With a slice of fresh foie gras on the side.

There honestly is nothing in all the world to compare with fresh foie gras, and it should be sampled at least once in a lifetime. It is a paragon among foods with the finest texture and flavor. And the Auberge de l’Ill in the small Alsatian town of Illhaeusern is a prime source. One ultimate fantasy that I dined on there is called “la fameuse truffe sous la cendre.” It is wild and wonderful, a whole fresh truffle packed with fresh foie gras into a ball of thin pastry and deep-fried. And if that were not enough of an embarrassment of riches, it was served with a thin, beautifully perfumed sauce of fresh truffles.

I had the rare good fortune in 1974 of sitting next to Mado Point, the elegantly styled widow of Fernand Point, at a dinner in her honor. M. Point was, of course, patron-chef of the celebrated Pyramide restaurant in Vienne and one of the undisputed geniuses of French cookery. After his death in 1954, Mme. Point ruled the restaurant with an unswerving allegiance to her husband’s memory and her dedication was acknowledged at this spectacular fete given by

at his restaurant in Lyons. Mme. Point was wearing a simple, floor-length silk dress set off with a diamond-studded silk brooch. On one arm she wore a modest, single-chain diamond and silver bracelet and on the other a diamond and silver watch, all gifts from her late husband.

, almost without question the most famous chef in the world today, was but one of fifteen chefs at the dinner who had worked under M. Point. But of them all, it was

who seemed to occupy a special niche in Mme. Point’s affection. Of him, she said, his is the fils spirituel of Fernand and they are very much alike in their talents and invention.

And then there was a succession of meals in what I termed in 1969 “the finest French restaurant in the world.” This was, of course, the first-class dining room of the late S.S. France, on which I traveled from Le Havre to New York. (The following year I celebrated my fiftieth birthday at a party on that marvelous ship.) In that leisurely voyage, not one of the ship’s headily composed menus was repeated, and each menu for lunch and dinner was a veritable cornucopia of things to amuse, beguile, and conquer the palate. Hors d’oeuvre? Caviar almost every night. Or, if one wished, fresh foie gras baked in a crust. Or, if one coveted more earthly things, cold langouste with freshly made mayonnaise, or a handsome ballottine of duckling, or a pâté of veal, or a fancifully marbled terrine of chicken. Among the courses that followed, a cream of petits pois Lamballe or a double consommé, then a médaillon of brill with sauce perinette followed by roast saddle of lamb, stuffed squab with truffle sauce, or perhaps something more prosaic such as steak with maître d’hôtel butter or superb pasta dishes tossed with sauce at the last moment from a movable wagon next to the table. If one still hungered, there was always a splendid cold buffet with turkey and more terrines and Italian hams and Paris hams. And cheeses and desserts of myriad patterns and forms.

An incredible thing about the France was that if there was nothing on any given menu to tempt the palate, almost any dish of classic or regional cooking could be commanded a few hours in advance and it would be made with brilliance and no particular ceremony. It was not at all uncommon to see an unlisted rack of hare being carved in the dining room or a venison stew being ladled out or an intricately put together chartreuse of pheasant or a heaping platter of snails being served.

In 1976 Pierre and I had been told of what was conceivably the greatest French restaurant on the European continent. So we set out for the tiny Swiss town of Crissier, three miles from Lausanne, to investigate the phenomenon called Fredy Girardet. On the night that we dined on an elaborate succession of dishes at Restaurant Girardet, the meal was bliss. Not a dish to be faulted, a genuine feast for the season, a repas luxueux. The proceedings began with a fragile hors d’oeuvre, bite-size pastry tarts filled with small crawfish tails in a delicate Nantua sauce with sorrel, this accompanied by a light, dry, nicely chilled local white wine.

We were richly regaled with Girardet’s much-talked-about cassolette of duck livers, the slices of liver quickly sautéed so that they were crisp on the outside, melting within, and with a hot vinegar and shallot sauce. There were glorious slices of loup de mer with oysters and a fine julienne of vegetables in a cream sauce that plus a celestial lobster dish with basil, a poularde de Bresse with truffles studded beneath the skin, roasted and served on a bed of finely chopped leeks and truffles in a cream sauce, and an exceptional high-standing soufflé made with a purée of fresh passion fruit.

Afterward, we talked to Fredy Girardet about his rise to fame among the likes of

, Troisgros, and Guérard. Although he is very much his own man and his inspirations are pure Girardet, his thinking follows closely the precepts of la nouvelle cuisine.

“La nouvelle cuisine,” Mr.

noted, “is nothing more than good taste. It is to prepare dishes to preserve their natural flavors and with the simplest of sauce.”

La nouvelle cuisine is not, incidentally, what many people mistakenly presume it to be—calorie-free but nonetheless delectable. To the contrary, the vast majority of the Girardet sauces, just as in the kitchens of

, Vergé, et al., are based primarily on cream.

I don’t love cream like those Lyonnaise chefs,” Mr.

observed, but added that he does use 100 quarts each week as well as 160 pounds of butter.

re-created the dishes we had dined on for the readers of The Times, substituting striped bass for the loup de mer, which is not found in American waters. And on subsequent trips to Crissier we have found Mr.

to be one of the great creative forces in the world of chefs today.

Incidentally, I did go to several spas during my travels, most notably to Montecatini in Italy and Eugénie-les-Bains in France. But with all due respect to Michel Guérard’s considerable talents as a chef, his cuisine minceur left me cold. It was not until I went to the Golden Door in California in 1981 that I learned to love abstinence—at least for one week.

acts as sous-chef, helping in the preparation and questioning the visitor as to techniques and ingredients. I stand at my typewriter in the kitchen, watching the chef and talking to him, taking down each step in his preparation of a dish (he frequently has three or four going at once). On a later day,

and I make the dishes again to assure ourselves that the recipes are clear. Incidentally, it took time in the beginning to persuade

that it was vital to measure ingredients accurately if readers were going to be able to follow recipes easily and with assurance. Now he does this reflexively.

There was a joyous two-day visit in 1978 with Jean Troisgros, who, with his brother

, created the cuisine that gave their restaurant in Roanne a three-star rating in the Guide Michelin and international esteem. Jean reveled in our local produce—tomatoes, fresh corn on the cob, clams, fish, mussels—and gorged himself on a two-and-one-half-pound lobster at a nearby restaurant. His only reservations about the American kitchen were our cream (not enough body) and our flour (too much milling). He cooked an unforgettable meal for

and me and our guests that started off with a salad, a concept that I had always thought was very unsophisticated. But this was no mundane tossing together of quelques feuilles vertes. It was an inspired orchestration of greens and herbs and quickly sautéed thin medallions of chicken, the whole anointed with a celestial sauce, the soul of which was oil of walnut.

With the salad came a splendid, dry, full-bodied white Burgundy. It was followed by mixed steamed fish fillets with a beurre nantais, accompanied by a young, red, slightly chilled Beaujolais. That’s right. Red with fish. As Jean Troisgros asks, why not? Later there were scallops of veal, lightly coated with Dijon mustard and whole mustard seeds, sautéed quickly, and served with a fresh tomato sauce. That, plus a fine wheel of Brie with crusty French bread and fresh local strawberries with a dry white champagne.

If you must be trapped in a blizzard, there are far less comfortable ways to do it than in your own home, the snow slashing against the panes and a roaring fire in the fireplace. And to have as company one of New York’s finest chefs, who had committed himself to cook a half a dozen of his specialties. For a dedicated chef, a promise is a commitment, even if the power fails, the furnace is kaput, and the cooking must be done by the light of candles and a kerosene lamp. It happened during the Great Blizzard of 1978, when Josef Renggli, chef of The Four Seasons restaurant, showed up one February morning after a five-hour drive on the Long Island Expressway, a trip that usually takes about two hours. Brushing snow and ice from his hair, he entered my kitchen with crate after crate of choice victuals that included veal and beef, salmon, striped bass, oysters, red snapper, and a mass of fresh herbs and vegetables from the restaurant’s larder.

Seppi, as he prefers to be called, doffed his heavy outer coat and donned an apron. For the next eight hours, he chopped herbs and vegetables with the staccato precision of a sewing machine he confectioned a dazzling assortment of dishes including leek leaves stuffed with trout mousse, striped bass in phyllo pastry, a consummately good court bouillon of salmon and oysters, and an uncommonly sophisticated version of steak au poivre. By 7 P.M., four guests invited to share the meal had telephoned to say that their cars were stalled in their driveways. Mine was impassable. At eight o’clock, Seppi and I sat down to that several-course collation. With the court bouillon of salmon and oysters and the paupiettes of trout mousse, we toasted our friends in absentia with a chilled bottle of marquis de Goulaine muscadet, 1976. With the steak au poivre and its accompaniments, sautéed green and red peppers and sautéed mushrooms with herbs, a bottle of Nuits St. Georges, 1949. As the fire dwindled we ended the meal with pears stewed and stuffed with gorgonzola cheese and served with a sauce containing fresh ginger slices and chopped pistachios spooned over.

When Alain Chapel, generally acknowledged to be one of the ten or twelve finest chefs of France, was invited to my home, he telephoned early one morning, his voice alive with excitement, to state he had found a fantastic source for calves’ ears and thus would be pleased to prepare one of the dishes most in demand at his restaurant, La Mère Charles, twenty kilometers from Lyons. It was good news, for I knew the dish by reputation to be one of his finest and most talked-about creations. Well, he didn’t bring his calves’ ears—they sent him three cows’ heads instead. But he did prepare many other fine dishes, including what surely must be his ultimate triumph, one of the absolute cooking glories of this generation. It is his gâteau de foies blonds, a blissfully silken, creamy, mousselike creation made with puréed chicken livers and beef marrow. It is indecently rich and is served with a sinfully seductive sauce of lobster and cream. Come to think of it, we didn’t even miss the calves’ ears.

I have a very fond memory of watching a spectacularly colorful young Italian chef standing on a step stool in my kitchen preparing a fantasy of spun sugar to be served on a dessert called zuccotto alla Michelangelo. Spun sugar looks like angel hair and it is made by tossing a hot sugar syrup into the air. By the time Mariano Vizzotto, pastry chef of La Pace Hotel and restaurant in Montecatini, had finished bandying about his forked whisk, my kitchen did indeed resemble the remains of a dismantled Christmas tree.

made his presence known in my kitchen, he had in his satchel a kilogram of Stygian-black truffles, valued at slightly in excess of two hundred dollars. He combined these with cubes of truffled foie gras, a hastily made but rich and full-bodied chicken consommé, and a topping of butter-layered puff pastry, to make a soup that he had created for the occasion of his being awarded the Legion of Honor by France’s president, Valéry Giscard d’Estaing. Before

arrived, we had spent the morning shopping for the finest and freshest vegetables available at our local market, plus fresh chickens and lobster, which would be turned into a navarin—a sort of stew based on the traditional and more common navarin of lamb.

The chef was obviously impressed with the fare, which was in all respects of first quality. “Impeccable,” he stated, a word that he uses with enthusiasm and cunning abandon as he works. He sipped the lobster sauce from a wooden spoon. “Impeccable!” (pronounced am-pay-KAH-bluh!) he exclaimed. The sauce for the chicken pleased him. “Impeccable.” But when he broke into the puff pastry that glorified the truffle soup, I beat him to the draw. “Impeccable,” I said.

Some of my pleasantest moments have been spent in the company of amateur chefs—both in my home and theirs—and many have become close friends. I count among them Diana Kennedy, with whom I share a love of Mexican cooking. Diana is ebullient and extremely knowledgeable and set, before she left and moved to Mexico as her permanent home, what must have been the best Mexican table in all of Manhattan.

The word amateur should not have a pejorative connotation. It stems from amare, meaning, of course, to love. It is a fine and flattering thing to be called an amateur in French, to indicate that you have a special enthusiasm toward one pursuit or another. It is inevitable that in any profession one is notably influenced by amateurs. One of my most prized acquaintances is Ed Giobbi, who is a true amateur of the kitchen in the finest sense of the word. It is not an exaggeration to say that he is a creative genius, particularly in the cuisine of his family and ancestry. Ed is a successful artist, but he also “puts up” his own tuna, raises his own pigeons, makes his own pasta, and grows a wonderful array of good things in his garden.

For years I had heard of Danny Kaye’s prowess as a chef, particularly in the province of Chinese cooking, but I tended to regard it with at least a touch of skepticism. One more touch of Hollywood, I mused. But when I visited his Beverly Hills home in 1975 my scoffing quickly turned to awe as he proceeded to bone a chicken or two with surgical skill and, at the moment of cooking, wield his cleaver, wok scoops and spoons with maestrolike dexterity. Danny learned to cook in one of the best-known restaurants in San Francisco’s Chinatown, and he has what is undoubtedly the finest Chinese kitchen of any private home in America and as far as we know the world. When he entertains—and he regaled me and other guests with a banquet that would have pleased the palate of the Dowager Empress—he never sits at table until after the end of the meal. He presides over the woks, preparing one course at a time, each of which is served in succession on a lazy susan permanently placed in the middle of a large round table.

This interest was germinated, I suspect, during my childhood when my aunt

returned to America after twenty years as a missionary in China. Shortly thereafter, when I was seven or eight years old, my family took me to Birmingham to visit another aunt or relative. In that time and place anyone’s idea of excitement or genuine adventure was a trip to a big town like Birmingham or Memphis. I remember— to tell the truth, it is the only thing I do remember about that trip— being taken to a Chinese restaurant. There were hanging Chinese lanterns and foreign waiters and real Chinese china and chopsticks and very hot and exotic tea. I cannot recall the menu in precise detail, but I did eat won ton soup and a dish that contained bean sprouts. I marveled over those bean sprouts. What an odd, enticing-looking vegetable! To this day I have not got over an inordinate fondness for won ton soup, and I have retained an all but insatiable appetite for any dish—even a mediocre dish—made with bean sprouts. It is reasonable to suppose that the food I ate then was quite spurious, adapted to the southern palate, and dreadful. But it kindled a flame.

On the other hand, the Chinese kitchen seemed as involved and interwoven as a bucket of boiling noodles. I love fried jao-tze (fried filled meat dumplings), for example, but who other than a Chinese could accomplish the technique of a simultaneous steaming-frying process? And who could master those myriad seasonings that blend so marvelously—ginger and garlic, scallions and chives, dark and light soy, and the slightest trace of vinegar and sugar? Having heard so much over the years of the many “schools” of Chinese cooking and the seemingly endless nature of each, I was blindly in awe of Chinese cookery and therefore—with rare exceptions—avoided trying my hand at it. It seemed to me simply too vast to undertake. “If I cannot master the sum,” I told myself, “I choose to ignore the parts.”

At that time I was also on the brink of leaving The New York Times after thirteen mostly happy, always hectic years as that newspaper’s food news editor and restaurant critic. I had just returned from a long and somehow frustrating tour of the world. I was tired. I needed rest and a respite from cooking.

first came to this country, she remarked that wherever she went she heard someone speak of or was served beef Wellington. She decided to create a Chinese dish along the same lines and wrapped Chinese cabbage in pastry. She baked it. It was splendid —so good, in fact, that she named it after her long-time friends, Dr. and Mrs.

On that morning Virginia decided to give cooking classes and allowed me to announce this in The Times. I did and listed her phone number. She was besieged with requests, and among them she found my own.

For the next few months, once a week, I took that long subway ride from Times Square to her simple kitchen above her daughter’s thriving store in New York’s Chinatown. And all my solemn vows about writing another book went by the board. I was hopelessly trapped. I agreed to join with her in writing The Chinese Cookbook, and together we worked for months testing recipes in my East Hampton kitchen.

I would not have traded my upbringing in Chinese cooking with Virginia for—to coin a phrase—all the tea in China. I learned an endless number of things about seasonings and flavors and the countless virtues of the wok. I even learned to use a Chinese cleaver with a certain flair and expertise. But most important, I learned that Chinese cooking is by no means an impossible art. It can be done with ordinary Western cooking utensils, including skillets and kitchen scissors and quite ordinary knives. Although it is equally as sophisticated as the French, I find it to be far less complicated. The greatest French sauces at times take hours to prepare a simple sauce like hollandaise or béarnaise can curdle at a most crucial moment many French desserts—gâteau St. Honoré comes to mind—require three or four distinct and involved preparations and so on.

I have spent many pleasant hours in the company of Dr.

, the distinguished Chinese statesman and scholar, who has a fine sense of humor about the Chinese table (he is also fond of Western wines, and I have always been amused that he serves a red Bordeaux with special dinners in his home). He told me once that there is a Chinese saying, “There are only two things we don’t eat, a nine-headed bird in the sky and a Hupei man on the ground.” And indeed, Chinese cooks are nothing if not frugal.

of an enormous banquet given by Marshal Chang Tso-ling, the famous Manchurian general, when the soup turned out to be inordinately good.

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Turbot Sauce Recipes

  • Steamed Fillet Of Turbot With Smoked Shrimp Sauce

Subtlety is the key to James Tanner's dressy steamed turbot dish, accompani .

Simply poached turbot is perfect with this lower-fat version of a classic h .

James Tanner partners fillet of brill with rich and luxurious ingredients t .

For a classy fish dish try Simon Rimmer's poached turbot, served with a del .

Recipe uses 1 fennel bulb, finely sliced, 50ml/2fl oz lemon oil, 100g/3½ .

Place the turbot in a small roasting tin skinside up. Slash the skin 2 to 3 .

Recipe uses 1 tbsp vegetable oil, 2 shallots, finely chopped, 1 garlic clov .

Recipe uses 35g/1¼oz couscous, 150g/5½oz turbot fillet, skin on, 1 tb .

Recipe uses 16 new potatoes, peeled and cut into barrel shapes, 25g/1oz but .

Recipe uses 50g/2oz butter , 100g/4oz shallots, sliced, pinch salt , 200g/7 .

Recipe uses 1 turbot fillet, skin removed, 1 tbsp plain flour, 1 tbsp olive .

Recipe uses 1 turbot fillet, skin removed, water, to cover, 30g/1oz butter .

Prepare the turbot by removing the fillets from the whole turbot and remove .

Recipe uses 1 turbot fillet, skin removed, 1 tbsp plain flour, 1 tbsp olive .

Steamed turbot is topped with a Mediterranean-style tomato sauce in this he .

Roast Turbot with Vegetables in Red Wine Sauce : Try this Roast Turbot with .

Pan-Fried Fillet of Turbot with Sauce Vierge : Try this Pan-Fried Fillet of .

Recipe uses 110g/4oz butter, 400g/14¼oz watercress, stalks finely choppe .

Recipe uses 55g/2oz butter, 2 tbsp olive oil, salt and freshly ground black .

Recipe uses 3 baby fennel, sliced , 75ml/2½fl oz white wine, 300ml/½ .

Recipe uses 12 razor clams, cleaned and rinsed, 85ml/3fl oz white wine , 12 .

A restorative and warming dish from the Tanner Brothers combining turbot's .

Watch the video: Σπαγγέτι Αglio e Οlio. Άκης Πετρετζίκης (June 2022).


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