“If I could just have a hot biscuit like Nathalie’s, I’d get out of bed.”
In addition to being one of the more memorable lines from a highly memorable book by internationally recognized chef and award-winning author Nathalie Dupree, this is quite succinctly her quintessential goal in life: to have folks lie in bed the morning after one of her meals, remembering, savoring, and wishing for more. It’s her goal with all of her cooking.
“After all, food is our most essential need as human beings. It controls us all in many ways,” Dupree said. “So it certainly deserves our ultimate care and attention when it comes to preparation.”
Aiken is going to be able to hear much more about the philosophy, technique, science, and art of this renown graduate of the Cordon Bleu when she is guest speaker at “The Art of Taste,” hosted by the Aiken Center for the Arts, on Wednesday at 11 a.m. in the Brown Pavilion at the Arts Center on Laurens Street. Tickets for the event are available at $10 for members of the Center, and $12 for non-members. This is the third annual event of its kind, and promises to be one of the liveliest.
Nathalie Dupree has appeared on more than 300 television food shows, written 13 cook books (two of them James Beard Award winners), and spoken before audiences around the world, made up of individuals as diverse as the foods she prepares.
From those who govern whole countries and states, to those who rule in restaurants, to those who hold court in the family kitchen, she’s been teacher and mentor to a myriad of cooks, professional chefs and even notable authors.
The forewords to her two latest books are written by such respected writers as Terry Kay (“To Dance with the White Dog”) and Pat Conroy (“South of Broad”).
“The ‘science’ of cooking is in the technique of the preparation, the equipment you use,” she explained. “The ‘art’ comes in with the taste of it.”
It’s a fitting definition for this event, The Art of Taste – as well as the master chef’s newest cookbook, soon to be released, entitled: “Mastering the Art of Southern Cooking.”
“Mastering the Art of Southern Cooking” is expected to be one of the year’s most in-demand books – for both gift-giving as well as obtaining for oneself. In fact, its early-release cover photo shows it to be a potential collector’s item for its sheer physical beauty and impact – a “coffee table book” of luscious color photography – photographs of foods that you can practically smell and touch, fresh from the garden basket or warm off the oven rack. And given Dupree’s compelling writing style, it should prove to be a good read in addition to providing a wealth of information and recipes. It’s size alone hints at its depth of information – more than 700 pages containing 600 recipes.
Dupree’s style is long on research and filled with history. Her recipes are extensively diverse with variations and serving ideas. She considers the total meal, while still focusing on the detail of every ingredient of every dish and every item on the plate. Even the time of day a meal is served can become a topic of discussion for her.
“I’m going to be talking about Thanksgiving,” she shared about her upcoming program in Aiken. “And one of the things I’m going to be talking about is the time of day the meal is served.”
That’s also the philosophy behind why she always prepares two turkeys for this holiday famous for its eating tradition – so one is ready even before the guests arrive.
“It can be served anytime it’s needed – and that’s going to be at a regular meal time, not in the middle of the afternoon, for goodness sake.”
The same is true for the mashed potatoes, dessert, and just about every other dish to be served, she believes. “It certainly makes for a more relaxed hostess,” she said.
It’s also a good bet that sharing the table with every turkey served on Thanksgiving will be a plate piled high with biscuits. Dupree makes it easy to make sure those are homemade biscuits.
Her most recent book on the shelves currently is “Southern Biscuits.” Originally planned as a section within the broader-based “Mastering the Art of Southern Cooking,” it became so extensive in content and merit, it became its own book. Dupree will be speaking about the “Southern Biscuits” book and there will be samples of some of its recipes available to attendees at the “Art of Taste” presentation.
But she will also be previewing the upcoming “Mastering the Art of Southern Cooking” as well.
Following her presentation, Dupree will be signing books, and order forms will also be available.
All books will be sold through the Art Center’s gift shop, benefiting the not-for-profit. “Mastering the Art of Southern Cooking” is $45, while “Southern Biscuits” is $24.99.
A teacher at heart (“I love teaching as much as food preparation”), Dupree is expected to touch on subjects from buying fresh ingredients to how we “eat with our eyes.”
She quotes Thomas Jefferson saying, “Meat is a condiment,” and reminds us how pork used to be used only as a seasoning.
She notes that “no one was born with a mixing bowl in their hands already knowing how to bake,” and remembers how society told us that women could never own and run a restaurant ... so she went out and managed three of them.
But perhaps her most endearing promise comes from the opening of her “Southern Biscuits” book, which states: “To make the finest true-Southern biscuits requires a touch of grace – a blessing some people share – which can be acquired with patience and care.”
Marti Healy is a local author and columnist for the Aiken Standard.