Cooking For Me and Sometimes You: A Parisienne Romance with Recipes

photo: Barbara-Jo’s Perfect Salade Niçoise, served at a salon lunch at Barbara-Jo’s Books to Cooks

In Cooking for Me and Sometimes You: A Parisienne Romance with Recipes, author Barbara-Jo McIntosh, re-affirms being “bien dans sa peau” (comfortable in one’s skin). En français, the term relates often to a woman well beyond the blush of youth who is at ease with her years, her appearance, and her status.

Some years ago, a friend encouraged the Books to Cooks owner to write a book called “Cooking for One”. But for the culinary bookstore owner, the project was too impersonal.  She opted for a more literary, closer-to-the-heart (if not home) culinary quest, and decided to spend a month in Paris living, eating and writing about it.

So turning “the knob on the hob to high”, Barbara-Jo crossed the pond to cook for “me” and as it happened on occasion, for a very special “you”.

Many of us only know the Barbara-Jo, the shopkeeper. But in a mere 136 pages we are introduced to the many sides of Barbara-Jo through her Paris and her culinary adventure. There is the career girl who calls at 4:30 am to check up on the bookshop two days in. There is the “successful, single, happy in her own company” woman who delights in her vintage French flat with its comfy bed, and ordering a glass of red wine at lunch in a café, or dining-in with a crab salad, a glass of expensive white wine and a good book, or scouting out solo neighbourhoods and food markets. There is the social Barbara catching up with friends, fellow professionals, in cafes and or sharing a meal at their homes. But mainly there is the romantic whose love affair with Paris, the cooking, and “a brief encounter”, is penned always with sense and sensibility and a not without a touch of wit. One recipe from the Ménage a Trois—three composed salads is after all “best after it has rested for awhile”.  Other delightful recipes are a “serves me” simple roast chicken [leg] with a not-at-all sweet orange sauce, the most sensual “serve me and you” scrambled eggs with sautéed cherry tomatoes, and Ginger Poached Pears with Coffee Cream, “inspired by a dessert I didn’t actually enjoy”.

Like Barbara-Jo, Cooking For Me also has a practical side. She uses ingredients (like quality salts, mustards, oils and butter–and a decent bottle of wine) that are wise to have on hand anytime. Espelette Salt, Roquefort and Red Pepper Butter and Lemon Chive Mayonnaise are quick to prepare and kick up any number of dishes.

The book’s grace notes are the “New Yorker” style etchings, the charcoal-grey linen cover, ivory matte pages with their lightly rough edges, and royal purple ribbon bookmark.

At an intimate informal salon luncheon at the bookshop Barbara-jo eased into the afternoon by inviting guests by to share their Paris stories over Roquefort toasts drizzled with honey, a Perfect Salade Nicoise and Apple Armagnac Ice Cream.  Elegantly sufficed we trotted off with our copies of Cooking for Me… comfortable in our skins—and in our waistbands.

french apple press $29.95

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