Food is a window into our past, says Jacques Pepin

Jacques PepinSome of our strongest memories are tied to food, writes esteemed chef Jacques Pépin, who associates specific dishes and ingredients with his family members and the places he has lived. "Going back as far as my memory can take me, I see a kitchen in my vision of my mother, my aunts, my cousins, and I visualize a specific dish for each of them," he says. In an essay that is an excerpt from a longer piece he wrote for his 80th birthday celebration, Pépin looks back to his earliest years.  

Recalling his earliest food memories, Pépin travels back in time to the Second World War. "My mother took me to a farm for the summer school vacation when I was 6 years old with the knowledge that I would be lodged and fed there. I cried after she left and felt sad, but the fermière took me to the barn to milk the cow. That warm, foamy glass of milk is my first true memory of food and shaped the rest of my life, he recalls.

The story doesn't delve much into the professional realm, as Pépin chooses to share memories about family and about places, such as food markets in the various cities in which he's lived. When recalling very personal food memories, he says, "The greatest taste for me may be a perfect crunchy baguette slathered generously with the very best sweet butter, and the greatest dessert, besides dark, bitter chocolate, may be the succulent apricot or strawberry jams made with very ripe fruits and spread thickly on pieces of warm brioche. Read more at the NY Times »

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