Occasionally I go through periods where I just can't motivate myself to go to the gym. I just don't see the point. When this happens and I get stuck in a rut, I like to pick up a glossy fitness magazine and fawn over beautiful people and read their magic workout tips. I don't realistically aspire to look like them, nor are most of their exercise tips accessible to me. But the point is that I understand again why I workout. A little bit of glamour and excitement makes my workouts more enjoyable.
Believe it or not I get in food ruts as well. I go through the every day grind of making three meals a day with limited time and budget and pretty soon I'm eating plain slices of bread for lunch. Each trip to the fridge brings dread as I think about the uninspired shelf of bland vegetables that awaits me. All I need is to be reminded of why I eat. Not just to sustain me but because it can be glamorous and exciting.
Who better than my hero Anthony Bourdain to provide this reminder along with some much needed humor? Enter the Les Halles Cookbook, a highly entertaining read that will impress any Bourdain fan and many others. I keep returning to him in my time of need, mostly because I just need to be assured that food is about pleasure, and that there is joy in the (quest for the) perfect meal. I know they say that emotional eating is bad, but when done right I think combining emotions and food is something that we all should aspire to.
I also appreciate his brazen honesty. Many of his recipes require more time, money and equipment than the average home cook has access to. But he's not writing some Sandra Lee guide to home cooking on a budget, nor do his recipes have any redeeming healthful qualities. This is hearty, classic, french fare. Like the glossy fitness magazines, sometimes it's just the inspiration that counts. The thought of the perfectly cooked pot-au-feu or cassoulet is enough to get me back in the kitchen with renewed vigor.
As a practical guide, this is also a wonderful introduction to some terminology that every respectable foodie should know. If you don't already have a solid basic french cookbook, or if you just really appreciate Bourdain's cynical and humorous writing as much as I do, put this one on your wishlist.