Good to be fat, or good to be thin?
Jacques Pepin is one of America's best-known chefs. He is the author of 24 books, including a best-selling memoir, The Apprentice: My Life in the Kitchen. He has also hosted nine public television cooking series, the most recent of which is called More Fast Food My Way. Pepin was born in rural France and his first exposure to cooking was in his parents' restaurant, Le Pelican. He began his formal apprenticeship at the age of thirteen and went on to work in Paris as the personal chef to three French heads of state, including Charles de Gaulle. He moved to the United States in 1959 and studied at Columbia University. Pepin is a former columnist for The New York Times and now writes a quarterly column for Food & Wine. He received France's highest civilian honor, the French Legion of Honor, in 2004. He lives in Madison, Connecticut.
Jacques Pepin: Well the perspective on that . . . I mean it’s a deplorable situation. I mean we add close to 2,000 book published this year in America – cooking book, diet book. We didn’t have any diet book published 25 years ago. And since 20 or so years ago, I would venture to say there has been over 10,000 or 15,000 book on dieting with the net result that we are 35% fatter than we were 20 years ago. So obviously it doesn’t work. So you have to go back to the beginning. You have to go back . . . It’s very important to start with the children when they are small. There is no place more secure than the kitchen for a child who come back from school. You know because the noise of the kitchen, the smell of the kitchen, the voice of the mother or the father, all of that are going to create memories, you know – effective memories which will stay with you for the rest of your life without any question. I think it was a Chinese philosopher who said, “What is patriotism but the taste of the dish that you had as a child?” And that is very, very true. Because you see those young kids in Iraq now. They go back to mother’s apple pie, or ice cream, or something that brings them . . . There is something secure in this. There is something comforting to do this. So we are going back to those tastes of our youth. And certainly that’s what Proust discussed in the effect of memory. And so certainly for me as a cook, the memory of the senses, the effective memory that is the eye, the nose, the smell, you know, the taste as well as the touching of the food is much more important than the memory of the intellect. If you asked me, you know, to try to remember where I was eight years ago at a certain time by working my brain a lot I remember where I was. But it’s a different type of recall, a different type of memory that when I walk in the wood, and all of a sudden I smell something and I am six years old, or I am seven years old smelling that mushroom or whatever, that memory of the senses is very immediate. It’s very powerful. You know it overrides any other type of emotion that you have at that point. And those memories, that’s what you create with a child, you know, in the kitchen when that child is an infant. From the beginning that’s where a child should be doing his homework – in the kitchen next to his parents. And after sitting down around the table . . . And it’s not . . . I remember when my daughter was small, you know, to sit down every night and recall what happened in school, and eat. It’s not necessarily pleasant. Sometimes it’s not. But yet unless you do that, you don’t communicate with your children, you know? So you have to do that. It’s absolutely necessary.
Recorded on: 09/04/2007
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