“Eating is not merely a material pleasure. Eating well gives a spectacular joy to life and contributes immensely to goodwill and happy companionship.” ~ Elsa Schiaparelli
Good morning, dear friends. Welcome to the first in the series of ‘At Table.’ I sincerely thank you for visiting and look forward to your comments. For those who may be new to this blog or have not commented before, simply scroll down to the end of the post and you will see “Comments.” Click on it and it will say, “Join the Conversation.” Please do. Remember, this series is about learning from each other. I want to learn from you, hear your thoughts and stories, and I feel certain other readers do also.
That said, I would like to begin with a little information about a great chef who had a profound and lasting influence on other chefs. Additionally, he was a leader in the culinary movement which brought to life inspiring new gastronomy. He introduced Americans to something different. French food, made with excellent ingredients, which could be prepared at home. Not convenience food, frozen or processed. This great chef was, Richard Olney (1927~1999). An American who pursued the French way.
Richard Olney ~ Photo from his book, “The French Menu Cookbook.” Published by, Penguin Random House, Canada, 1970.
“I like the atmosphere in which, whenever one sits down to a meal, however simple, it is conceived as an aesthetic experience…” ~ Richard Olney
Richard Olney was born and raised in Marathon, Iowa. He was educated at the University of Iowa and the Brooklyn Museum Art School, before leaving for France in his mid-20s to become a painter. In France, Olney resided in Paris and Provence. He is considered one of the most distinguished and influential food writers in recent history.
In 1970, Olney published his first cookbook, “The French Menu Cookbook.” And, in 1974, he published “Simple French Food,” which included several of his own drawings. These books brought him extremely high praise from professionals as well as amateurs. This praise was not just about recipes, but about his philosophy of “At Table” ~ sharing good food, wine and a little beauty with family and friends. Something he taught to many and which is part of his remarkable legacy.
“If you really want to make a friend, go to someone’s house and eat with him… the people who give you their food give you their heart.” ~ Cesar Chavez
While I will not go into the details of listing all the many publications for which Olney worked or list the eight books he authored, I will tell you a little about the deep influence he had on one man ~ Frank Stitt. In 1978, for the entire month of May, Stitt worked for Olney as his assistant. Typing, editing manuscripts, and assisting Olney in any way he could with his demanding schedule of delivering manuscripts on time. Stitt worked and resided at Olney’s home in Solliès-Toucas, France. A small town in Provence near Toulon. This month, however, was not totally about work. Much fine cooking was going on as well as forming a great friendship.
It was during this month, that Stitt learned the magic of ‘At Table.’ In an article written in “Food and Wine,” magazine (October 2018), Stitt said, “That month was one of the greatest highlights of my life.” Stitt is the owner of four restaurants in Birmingham, Alabama. One of which is the acclaimed Highlands Bar and Grill. Many guests who visit Stitt’s restaurants often remark about a certain magic and the beauty they so enjoy. Always, Stitt explains to his guests what they are enjoying can be traced directly to what he learned during his special month in Provence while working for and learning from his friend and mentor, the late Richard Olney.
“You don’t need a silver fork to eat good food.” ~ Paul Prudhomme
I would like to share a favorite recipe of mine from Richard Onley’s cookbook ~ “Simple French Food.” You will see this is not a complicated recipe. It makes a lovely meal along with a salad and bread, followed by fruit and cheese for dessert. And, of course, Olney would want you to serve it with wine. (See my notes at the end of this post.)
Also, I thought you might enjoy the recipe for Frank Stitt’s Vinaigrette, to dress your salad. This recipe is from “Food and Wine” magazine, October 2018.
Zucchini and Chard Gratin ~ Serves 6
2 pounds zucchini, coarsely grated, salted in layers, and 15 minutes later, squeezed free of water.
2 medium onions, finely chopped and stewed gently in 2 Tbls. olive oil, until soft and yellowed – about 20 minutes.
1/2 cup long-grain rice, cooked for 15 minutes, rinsed beneath running water and well-drained.
2 pounds Swiss Chard, the green leafy parts. Washed, drained, and shredded.
3 oz. of bacon slices (about 4 or 5 slices), chopped or sliced crosswise into 1/8 inch ribbons, not cooked. Note: I prefer this chopped.
3 large cloves garlic, peeled, finely chopped. Note: I mince the garlic.
1 large handful chopped fresh parsley or 2 tsp. dried.
Salt and pepper to taste
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese plus a handful more for sprinkling over the surface
1/3 cup olive oil
Directions: Because of the bulkiness of the uncooked, shredded chard, you will need a really large mixing bowl in which to mix the ingredients. Combine everything, with the exception of the final handful of Parmesan and the olive oil. Mix well with your hands, pack into a large oiled gratin dish, pressing the surface smooth with the palm of your hand, sprinkle the remaining cheese evenly over the surface, dribble over olive oil in a crisscross pattern, bake in a medium oven at 350 for about 1 hour, turning the heat up to 450 for the last 10 minutes or so to give the surface a rich gratin.
2 Tbsp. fruity red wine vinegar
2 Tbsp. Spanish sherry vinegar
1 Tbsp. honey or apple cider vinegar
1 Tbsp. minced shallot
1 Tbsp. fresh thyme leaves
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Whisk together red wine vinegar, sherry vinegar, honey or apple cider vinegar, shallot, and thyme in a medium bowl. Season with salt and pepper, let stand 15 minutes. Whisk in oil and check the seasoning for salt and pepper.
This post could have easily been considerably longer, as there are volumes more I would like to share about Olney and Stitt. Such as what led Olney to the kitchen, how he and Stitt met, their amazing friendship, as well as Stitt’s long list of outstanding accomplishments. However, the important take away is the significant contribution they both have made, not only in the culinary world but in helping us see the beauty and magic of being ~ ‘At Table.’
“Goodness, how much there is to learn about food!” ~ James Beard
So, dear friends, I hope you have enjoyed your visit and that you will try the recipes.
Do stay tuned there is so much more to come. The next ‘At Table’ post will be October 16.
Wishing you happy times in the kitchen. Enjoy, savor and relish the beauty.
Authors Notes: Please understand I do not claim to be a Wine Connoisseur or a pairing expert, however, I will provide a suggestion to accompany this meal. My first choice would be a rosé, Whispering Angel, or ‘
Images: ~ Via Tumblr and Pinterest. Unless otherwise stated, I do not claim ownership of these photos.
14 thoughts on “At Table ~ Richard Olney and Frank Stitt”
Sandra, I have enjoyed this post very much. I’m so looking forward to your new series “At Table”. Food and eating well is such an important part of living a beautiful life. Our food doesn’t have to be fancy, but prepared in a way that is pleasing to the palette and to the eyes adds so much joy to our times around the table, whether we’re alone or with friends and family.
Wishing you a beautiful day…
Many thanks, my friend. I hope you will enjoy the recipes. Have a wonderful day.
I agree with James Beard that there is so much to be learned about food. Thank you Sandra for teaching us today. I look forward to more of your ” At Table”. I enjoyed learning more about Frank Stitt and Richard Olney.
I have enjoyed dining at several of Stitt’s Birmingham restaurants.
Thank you, Bonnie. There were volumes more to be said about both of these accomplished chefs. I am happy you enjoyed the post. I know to dine at Stitt’s restaurants was a lovely experience.
Have a lovely day.
Sandra, I am so excited to see my favorite chef, Frank Stitt at your first edition of At Table. We only live 60 miles from Birmingham and we eat at one of Chef Stitt’s restaurants as least once a month, but most likely twice a month. We have been most fortunate to travel extensively and enjoy fabulous food, but no food has come close to Chef Stitt’s. His two cookbooks “Southern Table” and “Bottega Favorita” are beautifully written with inspiring shared stories about his food journey. Richard Olney was definitely his mentor and he often has on his menus one of Mr. Olney’s dishes. I am so excited about this series. My mother was the most fabulous cook ever and she taught me to appreciate farm to table food. Her desserts were legendary in our town. Thank you dear friend for your beautiful post, I am in foodie heaven!❤️
Ah, Pam, you are so dear and encouraging. As I said in my post, there were volumes more to be written about these accomplished chefs. I know having Chef Stitt’s restaurants so close by is wonderful for you and Butch to enjoy. Think of me, the next time you are there. I would enjoy anything you ordered, I am sure. I am so happy you are in “foodie heaven.”
Have a beautiful day, dear friend.❤
Sandra, I have so enjoyed this first post of “At Table.” You have done a beautiful job! I so loved reading about these wonderful chefs. The recipes sound most scrumptious! I look forward to your next edition of “At Table.” Take care, and have a most blessed day, sweet friend!!!
Many thanks, dear Shannon. I enjoyed putting it together and the recipes are good. So happy that you enjoyed the post. Your comments mean so much. Wishing you a beautiful day, my friend.❤
Congratulations on a wonderful first edition of “At Table.” I’ve been looking forward to it, and you have not disappointed (but I knew you wouldn’t!) The recipes look amazing, but best of all, I appreciate the philosophy of fine living through mindful food selection and preparation. The French mastered this approach to meals, and I love it. Thank you for this new pleasure I can look forward to.
Many thanks, dear Becky. Yes, the French are truly masters of living well. I recently read that the children in their schools are served their lunch by the school chef. No burgers or fries in their cafeterias. Living well is ingrained in the French as children and this life becomes ordinary to them.
I am happy you enjoyed the post and I will do my best to not disappoint you in the future. ❤
What a delightful and interesting post!The recipes look great! Thanks for sharing,hugs!
Dear Maristella, thank you, my friend. Have a wonderful day and remainder of the week.❤
I am going to LOVE this series. I already love the post and will be copying down the recipe. The At Table concept is one I try to live by (well, especially when dining with friends.) There is nothing better than sitting at the table, enjoying beautifully cooked food (all the better if most of it “came” from close to home) and drinking down the last bits of wine — and maybe even a little more from another bottle! Richard Olney was a big part of the book “The Gourmand’s Way” (Justin Spring) that I just finished reading. His story is fascinating and I loved reading about his life in France, how food influenced him and how he came to influence the world on food. But I didn’t know anything about Frank Stitt. Thanks for this.
Jeanie, thank you so much for your kind and encouraging words. I totally agree with you regarding trying to live well. I do believe many Americans are catching on to the concept and are enjoying themselves in the process. I caved and order “The Gourmand’s Way.” I had promised myself I wouldn’t order another book until I finished my STACK. That didn’t last long. Anyway, I just started reading it and am thoroughly enjoying it. Thanks again, Jeanie and have a great day!
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