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Plates from an Expat

I'll bet any one of you ten bucks that when you were 19, you were nowhere near as productive as Eléonor Picciotto.

 

Picciotto, an expat hailing from France and a recent Boston University grad, is the author of a new cookbook right up my penniless alley: French Cuisine for the Young & Broke.  When I graduated high school and packed my life into suitcases bound for college, my relatives gave me awkward dorm cookbooks, straight out of the 80s. They were full of ramen, rice and clever ways to use hot plates, which of course, are now banned. I wish she'd written this thing sooner.

The recipes, ranging from crêpes to croque monsieurs, read easy and don't send me loading up on overpriced ingredients at Shaws--which is exactly the point, Picciotto tells me over the phone from New York in a clipped, elegant French accent.

"I've always loved cooking and eating good things," she says. "When I arrived in the U.S. I was shocked at how badly people eat. But, the reason is because of a lack of knowledge, not a lack of money, which is what everyone thinks. If you know how to make a grocery list, which is the hardest part, you'll be fine."

After a skiing accident took Picciotto, a former member of the BU Ski Team, off the slopes and landed her in a cast for eight weeks, her friends suggested putting together a cookbook to keep her occupied. She began to host dinners with friends, affectionately named "Supper Clubs," during which she would create easy desserts or sauces, much to the amazement of her guests.

"People couldn't believe the stuff I was making, and it was all very simple," she says.

About a year and a half later, after impersonating a teacher to gain entrance into the BookExpo America in New York, finding a publisher, and revising her recipes seven times, French Cuisine has become a reality.

Though it's easy to imagine that all French college students whip up pristine petit-fours for breakfast, Picciotto says the biggest difference between us and our cousins across the pond is a sneaky reliance on take-out.

"The big difference is that here, you are used to ordering in," she says. "We don't do that in France, because there aren't really places to order from. No matter how late you are, how long a day you've had, you always cook. Even if it's just pasta, because then you know what's in it!"

 

Eléonor Picciotto will appear at The French Cultural Center, 53 Marlborough Street, Boston, samples in tow, on Thursday, January 12, 6:30pm-8:30pm. $5. To RSVP, call 617.912.0400.

 

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