Partying With Faith Middleton
Faith Middleton, Host, WNPR’s “The Food Schmooze (r) Party”
It’s a law of the universe, or, at the very least, human life: some people know how to throw a great party. That rare social gift usually involves good food. Faith Middleton figured this out long ago, and devoted herself to sharing esoteric food knowledge with the rest of us. She left the square journalism world—where she had garnered the highest praise with two Peabody Awards—and employed warm banter to enlighten millions of WNPR listeners about stylish entertaining. Along the way she’s imparted valuable insights about nutrition and the art of living. Now embarking on a huge expansion of her popular Food Schmooze® Party brand, Middleton spoke with Coastal Connecticut about her friendship with chef Jacques Pépin, and her favorite food holiday of all.
Jacques Pépin, Gloria, and I met many years ago at Saybrook Point Inn. How do friendships happen? We shared stories about our lives and experiences around various tables. I was invited to play boules with them and their corps of wonderful friends. We drink lots. We eat lots. I’ve interviewed him many times, though the most memorable sit-down was having conversation with him and Julia Child on stage. That night Julia yelled at the great chef Alain Ducasse for charging too much for roasted chicken at his Paris restaurant, and Jacques did what Jacques does; he interwove what he knows about food with his knowledge of literature and art, which is considerable. He’s a Renaissance man.
Jacques continually surprises. How great is it that the former chef to the President of France often behaves the way the rest of us home cooks do? He uses the supermarket as his prep cook, and buys pre-sliced vegetables often. He truly cares about us and our time-starved lives. I think his recipes are so reliable and inventive because he’s grounded in the highest classical training; yet he never forgets his roots.
I always thought Americans in the 1950s were clueless about food, but Jacques tells me that it was the same in France back then; he remembers cooking scallops for 15 minutes! He’s a legend in our food world and has guided us in exploring global flavors, fresh, local ingredients, how to use fats in a healthful way; and he’s given us that thing that can be in short supply in the kitchen—courage.
Starting this month, I end the daily show to begin devoting my full-time energies to expanding The Food Schmooze Party on WNPR and online. We’re hiring new staff. You’ll hear mini Food Schmoozes on weekdays, with the full raucous hour on Thursdays at 3 and 9, and Saturdays at noon. Chris Prosperi, Alex Province, our contributors, and I will give quick, fun video lessons on how to make the best food and drinks we can find. We’ll discover products, cookbooks and restaurants. We’ll be interactive and full of surprises, but as always, it’ll be a rapturous party show. Everybody welcome.
I do eat in restaurants a lot, and I have to say, Connecticut is a star in the culinary scene. I think the growing connection between chefs and our family farms has made for this magic formula in Connecticut, and so we’ve got this gorgeous mixture of chefs from all over the world who are working in Connecticut. We’ve got farms growing things from many other cultures now, and so this scene in Connecticut is vibrant, and alive, and on many occasions can compete with—if not exceed—great restaurants in New York. This is really true, because I eat in those places. It’s wonderful for people to see what is local, and to know that it’s going to have 50 times the flavor because it’s local, and that it’s been treated with some care. I just think it’s the best.
I like the Thanksgiving vibe, I have to say—a holiday devoted to sharing food and drink and being thankful. This year my sister and I are making half the meal from Jacques’ new book, and half from Ina Garten’s Make Ahead cookbook. We have a new puppy in the family, Minnow, a French lab, so we’ll sit around watching her chew on the dining table legs, and we’ll make as much of the meal ahead of time as possible, cleaning up as we go. The game is to expect the day to be unpredictable and imperfect. I try to concentrate on enjoying the people I’m with, but I’m lucky—I adore my family.
Image Credits: Tom Hopkins