The Tale of Tom Turkey: An American Story!!

Turkey“Tell me what you eat, and I will tell you what you are.”

(I guess it’s not enough to be Tom-Fool but now I am Tom-Turkey too!!)

So says,Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin a lawyer and magistrate in France during the late 18th and early 19th century.  A prolific author, he is most known for his work Physiologie du Goût (The Physiology of Taste.)  This treatise of observations and meditations surrounding food and all things related had a tremendous impact on my education when I attended the California Culinary Academy in San Francisco.  His work was quoted often and shortly after graduation I was thrilled to read M.F.K. Fisher’s translation while touring France in, what was by all definition, the world’s smallest car with my best friend Dale Hill. (A story for another time.)  So subtle are his observations that they easily insinuate themselves into my everyday life.  My favorite quote of his is, “It is the responsibility of the host to provide for all of his guest’s needs while they are under his roof.”  This is the philosophy with which I govern my household and the foundation of my culinary style.

This writing also included more than a few anecdotes, which brings me to the point of this story: The preparation of Thanksgiving dinner.  Brillat-Savarin tells the tale of a man traveling the countryside in France stopping at an inn for the night.  Upon entering he notices 5 large turkeys being roasted in the hearth.  He asks the innkeeper for wine and turkey and in return receives this reply.

“I am sorry sir, I have no turkey to offer you.”

“I see 5 turkeys on the spit right now.” open hearth cooking

“Sir, these birds have been purchased by another gentleman.  He is due to return shortly, perhaps he will share them with you.”

Some time later the man’s son walks into the inn and the innkeeper says, “This is the gentleman who purchased all of my turkeys.”

“Son, what do you need with 5 turkeys?”

“Father, you have always told me the most flavorful part of the turkey is the oyster. Since they are so small, I needed 5 birds to make a full meal!”

Turkey OysterThe oyster meat, for those of you who are unfamiliar with it, is located at the point where the thigh connects to the body of the turkey.  I recommend removing the legs and thighs first by cutting through the joints.  Flip the bird gently on to its breast and just above the point where the thighbone was connected to the body, there will be a small ‘oyster’ shaped piece of flesh that is very flavorful.  My suggestion: Don’t tell any of your guests and save it for leftovers.

But Tom, you said this was An American Story!!

It is.  Turkeys were known in Europe but they were a much smaller bird.  It was not until the New World was discovered that American turkeys became all the rage. Brillat-Savarin became especially fond of them after he spent 3 years in Boston during the French Revolution.  This is one dish the we Americans have proudly given to the world. You may remember that Benjamin Franklin wanted to make the turkey our national bird! Take that bald eagle!!

Over the course of this week I will be posting recipes for preparing Thanksgiving dinner using simple, traditional French cooking techniques I learned, the way I learned them.  Please bookmark this page and keep your eyes open for how to roast a Thanksgiving turkey, prepare whipped potatoes, maple candied yams, traditional stuffing and more!!

I am looking forward to seeing you back soon.


Eat Well and Smile Often!!




p.s. Gobble, gobble . . . Cluck??


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My Tree of Life!!

FigsI live in a modest home. My great aunt bought this house in ’46 and my grandfather planted vegetables in the spacious yard in the years following his retirement. When I got here there were 5 fruit trees.  The old apple I killed accidentally, the peach died from disease and the little plum was just too messy to keep around.  The survivors? – the pear and the fig. Old trees the pair – fruitful, happy and healthy. The pears came in over a month ago and were sweet, ripe and delicious. The fig produces 2 crops each year, one early summer and one right . . . about   . . . now!

Figs 2


Now every belief system has a tree of life in it. Mine happens to be the fig. It’s prehistoric in shape with its misshapen limbs and over sized leaves going this way and that. The gnarled trunk shoots up, the left, then right again.  Water shoots push out from its base and each branch has a new bud bursting even now.  This tree is hearty, ugly and cool. Each year my cool fig friend shares a bounty even my dogs enjoy. Those four legged little monsters run out to the yard each afternoon and sniff around the drip line for any overly ripe figlets that I failed to harvest. For years I wondered why my mutts would gain weight at this time of year, then I saw the reason.  We ALL like them there figgys!

What to do, what to do, what to do??

So what do you do with a bucket full of figs? You eat some as you are picking – Check!  You give some away – Check!  And you cook some – Double Check!!

Figs 3

Figs with Blue Cheese and Prosciutto

Bunch of figs
Thinly sliced Prosciutto, about 1 -2 oz.
Bit of Blue Cheese
1/4 cup walnut pieces
Maple syrup, enough to drizzle

Slice figs in half and place on a sheet pan with foil cut side up.
Nest a pinch of thinly sliced prosciutto into the cut fig.
Place a small crumb of blue cheese on the prosciutto and then place a walnut piece on top of the crumb.

Figs 4
Put the pan in a 400 F degree oven for about 10 minutes
Remove them to a plate using a set of tongs then drizzle with Maple syrup

Figs 5
Eat ’em up yum!

Each year at this time, with fall approaching and the days getting shorter and cooler, our lives here get a little brighter, a little better, and a little more fun as we eat figs.



Eat Well and Smile Often


p.s. Figs are meant to be shared so invite a few friends over, it’s what life is all about!

Bloom, Bloom, Ka-Boom!!

Squash BlossomThe first of my harvest has arrived with a bloom and ka-boom!

About 6 weeks ago I planted a number of tender little shoots.  Some tomatoes, some peppers, an eggplant, a few watermelon and a handful of squash; zucchini, yellow crook neck and patty pan to be precise. This last week these little charges bore the fruits of MY labor.  In my post Organic IS Marketing Hype you will see the early photos of my garden and my very first squash blossom of the season (as seen here).  This beautiful little flower yielded the rather rotund patty pan you see below.

Patty Pan

Now every Second Sunday of the Month my friends and I gather around a large table where we drink too much wine, eat too much food and tell each other too, too may lies. Inevitably in this raucous Bacchus caucus, a voice of dubious authority will pipe up and say something like, “These tomatoes taste great but the ones my grandfather grew in his garden were amazing!!”  Now while I am not a grandfather I do have a garden and I can state with some authority that the freshly-grown-in-my-own-backyard vegetables do taste amazing!! Luckily I live in California where fresh really is fresh and the quality and variety of produce it truly remarkable. But even they can’t compare to the incredible difference in flavor, color and texture that home grown, fresh-off-the-vine vegetables have. And I must tell you there is something tremendously cool about going out to the garden every night and harvesting my own dinner.  In my own little mind I hear the plant gently offering up its fruit that I might live another day. “Dear Mr. Tom, You have been so kind to me. You’ve taken me in and given me this wonderful planting bed to lie in.  You feed me, water me, and protect me from vile pestilence.  Please accept this offering in small exchange for your love and protection.”  or something like that.  Out of respect for these noble plants I vow never to waste their efforts.

Sizzling Saute PanSo right after harvesting the mother of all Patty Pan squash I tucked in to it with my 10″ chef’s knife dicing it in to  3/4″ cubes.  The remnants of an onion waited patiently in my fridge for just this opportunity.  A quick chop put this savory bulb into 1/4″ pieces. This onion, with 3 cloves of garlic smashed, hit the hot olive oil soaked pan with a sizzle. On their heels went my darling Patty Pan.

Sitting beside this purple read onion of mine I found a tail-end chunk of prosciutto.  I sliced off a fat inch and trimmed it into lardons.  Into the pan they leapt to join their sauteing brethren. A big fat tablespoon of tomato paste, a cup of white wine, add a big spoon to stir and Voila!  Dinner is served.


I topped this luscious Ratatouille with a heavy hand of grated Parmesan cheese and a chop-chop of basil.  I couldn’t get a fork into it fast enough. Who’s got two thumbs and a mouthful of goodness?  This guy!

Eat Well and Smile Often,



p.s. Why is it Rat-atouille?  Wouldn’t it sound better being Cat-atouille?  (maybe not)

Nothing Up My Sleeve – Presto!!

Union Stree tFair“Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.”

Wait! Please do pay attention.  This next Sunday June 3rd, I’ll be onstage at the Union Street Festival with Suzanne Griffin of Cooking By The Bay fame. You will find us at the corner of Gough and Union at 1p.m.  Suzanne will be demostrating her Asparagus Farotto, Shaved Vegetable Salad and the indescribably delicious Chocolate Chia Pudding infused with Oranges.  Oooo, it’s soooo gooood!

Suzanne and I have recently been comparing recipes and cooking techniques, and she kindly invited me to be her assistant for the day.  Please drop by, sit for our demo and do come up have a taste and say hello afterwards.  We would love to hear your comments.

Eat Well and Smile Often!


p.s. Pay no attention to the man in the chef’s coat  It’s all her show on Sunday!