SINGAPORE (Reuters Life!) - Cooking and love can both be hot and steamy affairs that require little training but lots of effort, according to cook and author Elizabeth Bard who learned how to channel her passion after moving to Paris.
Bard, an American journalist and historian, fell in love with a Frenchman during a trip to Paris, married him and moved there with just a smattering of French and lot of expectations. She then learned how to cook, live and love like a Parisienne.
Her memoir, "Lunch in Paris," published this month, details the journey she began some 10 years ago and is essentially a love story that revolves around mouthwatering recipes. "Food has always been the way I have explored other cultures whenever I've traveled," Bard told Reuters during a recent trip to a writers' festival in Australia.
"And I always knew I was going to write about international romance and intercultural marriage, and meals were a natural way to structure my book."
Although writing came naturally to Bard, who maintains a popular blog and has had articles on art, travel and culture appear in a list of publications, the path to cooking, and love, in France didn't always run smooth.
Admitting she'd eaten her fair share of processed foods growing up in the United States and with little hands-on experience, Bard taught herself how to gut a fish and improvise meals with whatever ingredients were in the fridge.
But her biggest challenge, she said, was learning to let herself go, both in the kitchen and in her relationship.
"Cooking and falling in love are both very seductive processes, you have to let yourself be a little free, to experiment, to feel things, to try things that you would not really try," she said.
"I was a type A control freak American, very much on a straight and narrow path from Ivy League college to so-called success and I think that getting off that track and allowing yourself to feel things -- both for a man and in a kitchen -- is as ... scary as liberating."
With the aid of a dictionary, she learned how to decipher her lover's emails as well as how to order a deboned leg of lamb from the butcher -- "they don't teach you that in high-school French," she quipped -- while battling the loneliness that comes with living in a foreign land.
"Any living abroad experience has a fantasy part and the reality part," she said. "For me, the language barrier was the hardest part. The French administration is also a famous mountain that anybody who moves there has to climb. And there's always that feeling of not belonging that stays with you."
Bard's recipes range from appetizers, such as zucchini flowers stuffed with goats cheese and mint to wild salmon with dill and cucumber salad, to the more elaborate rabbit with cider and honey.
Each comes with a history described in the preceding chapter: the first meal her husband cooked for her, how she discovered the French version of "death by chocolate," celebratory meals that bind families and friends.
Her favorite recipe? The molten chocolate cakes, of course, which were listed on a menu as "kitu" or "to die for."
Recipe: Individual Molten Chocolate Cakes
150 g unsalted butter
150 g dark chocolate, 70 percent cocoa
A good pinch of coarse sea salt
2 egg yolks
1 tablespoon flour 6 thick foil cupcake liners
Method: Preheat the over to 220 degrees Celsius
Melt the butter and chocolate together in the top of a double boiler or in the microwave. Add sea salt.
Beat together the eggs, egg yolks and sugar until light and slightly foamy.
Add the egg mixture to the warm chocolate; whisk quickly to combine. Add flour and stir just to combine. The batter will be quite thick.
Divide the batter evenly among the moulds. Baking time will depend on your oven; start with 7 minutes for a thin outer shell with a completely molten interior, 8 minutes for a slightly thicker crust and a gooey heart.
Editing by Belinda Goldsmith