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Photo: © Francis Hammond
CLOTILDE DUSOULIER lives in Montmartre. Her award-winning blog, Chocolate & Zucchini, was launched in 2003.
Food is at the heart of French culture – it is quite literally the bread and butter of their way of life. Clotilde Dusoulier, a French food writer based in Paris, knows just how important it is. She’s passionate about the fresh, wholesome foods that have influenced her lifestyle and career; she writes about it on her blog, Chocolate & Zucchini, which you can check out here.
We got the chance to speak with Clotilde about French food and culture, her writing, and the importance of learning to cook. Keep reading to find out more!
PENGUIN RANDOM HOUSE: When did food become such an important part of your life? Did you always know you wanted to be a food writer?
CLOTILDE DUSOULIER: I grew up in a French family where fresh, seasonal food was important, but we didn’t make a big deal out of it. It’s only as a young adult, when I moved to California after graduating, that I took stock of my culinary heritage, and became fascinated with food, and what it says about us. I started to cook with increasing passion, as a creative outlet and a way to reconnect with home.
I always knew I wanted to write, and I stumbled upon food writing specifically when I decided to start a blog in 2003 to share my passion for cooking. I realized it was a topic that inspired me endlessly, and allowed me to connect with others in a genuine and meaningful way.
PRH: If someone were travelling to France for the first time, what would be the first thing you recommend to eat?
CD: It’s a toss-up between a baguette and a croissant! Both are iconic products of French baking, and neither is as beautifully crafted as they are in France, and in Paris specifically (pardon my Parisian bias). On my food walking tours, we spend time discussing and appreciating what makes a stellar baguette and croissant, where to buy them, and how to recognize them.
PRH: How does food impact French culture? What are some traditions that have stood the test of time?
CD: Asking a French person about the significance of food in their culture is like asking a fish about the significance of water. It feels like food is so deeply ingrained in everything we do. It’s not just about the pleasure of the senses, it’s about bringing people together joyfully, and it’s also about celebrating nature and the seasons, and feeling connected to previous generations.
PRH: What’s your favorite dish from your book (if you have one)?
CD: Impossible to pick a favorite, but I’m very happy that I included instructions to make the perfect Bistro Vinaigrette (it will transform your greens forever), and a recipe for cauliflower in brioche that is stunning and fun to make for a vegetarian feast.
PRH: What’s one misconception about French food that drives you mad?
CD: I don’t really get mad about anything, but I do want to represent the lesser-known facet of French cuisine that is simple, approachable, and produce-driven.
PRH: Why is it important to teach and inspire others to cook?
CD: Knowing how to prepare simple meals from fresh and seasonal ingredients is an essential skill in life — it should be taught as a priority, even before you’re taught how to drive a car! My mission on my blog and in my books is to give my readers fresh ideas that keep them excited and motivated to cook on a day-to-day basis, with few and readily available ingredients. Happiness is in the kitchen!
PRH: What is your favorite thing about what you do?
CD: I love that I get to share with others what makes me happy — a recipe, an ingredient, a memory, a story — and see it resonate with them, and touch their lives one way or another.
PRH: Do you have any advice for aspiring food writers?
CD: I recommend cultivating your curiosity, and following it wherever it takes you. If you stay engaged, with the mindset of an explorer and an experimenter, you are bound to have plenty of material to share. You will likely write about things others have written about before you, but you will present those things with a freshness of perspective that is uniquely yours.
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