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Archive for April, 2010

About Heide

Hello. I’m Heide and I am overjoyed to be working with my beautiful daughter, Gabrielle, on The Fig Test Kitchen.

Food has always been a focal point in my life – my husband half-seriously says it’s the reason he married me – but it has taken me a long time to realize that teaching others to cook is what I love most to do most. I used to be a journalist and I was pretty good at getting the scoop, but the grind of the deadline was hard and often lonely. Food is different: I love the texture, the smells, the passion, the chemistry and the creativity food offers. I really love making the rounds to the half-dozen specialty food stores and even the big box warehouses every week to find the freshest and best ingredients. So after many years of just cooking from friends and family, I opened The Fig Cooking School here in central Connecticut to share 25 years worth of experience.

My love for great food and cooking came from my Eastern European parents and their families. We never had a lot of money, there was always something simmering, baking or frying in the kitchen. My German mother regularly prepared favorites such as zwetschgenknoedel (plum dumplings), and we begged her to make our favorite peasant dishes like vogelfutter (translated as bird feed, vogelfutter is really a concoction of sour cream, paprika, ground beef and potatoes) or polenta. Many of my fondest childhood memories center around food – sneaking the crispy fat from the turkey as my grandmother carved, baking at the age of 12 a three-tiered genoise cake for my grandfather’s 70th birthday in the shape of the wide-rimmed hat he used to wear when in the garden, and cooking a formal French dinner for my high school sophomore friends are just some of the warm memories from those early years.

As I think about it, food also plays a pivotal role in most of my favorite adult memories too, like the first time I made a picnic lunch for then boyfriend, now husband Mark, not knowing he hated chicken (I converted him!), serving him bagels with Bon Maman French jam (he was so impressed!), or the great care I took picking out our wedding cake (each tier a different flavor, carrot, walnut and chocolate), only to find out that the baker ruined the outside of the cake by decorating it with bright green and plastic swans. After we married in 1987, it was very common for us to plan entire trips around food, and we would think nothing of doing crazy things like taking a 200 mile detour from Austria to the Black forest in Germany for a meal of trout with wild fruits and venison with spaetzle and cream. That is still true today, as you will see from our travel adventures that span from Paris and Tehran to Nashville.

The list of great food moments is endless, but the point is that on any given day, we, along with our daughters, Gabrielle (19), Isabella (14) and Francesca (6) try to make everyday filled with great food. We don’t wait for a special occasion to have duck with crispy shallots and creamed cauliflower for dinner. Like when I was growing up, the food we eat is never processed; it is always real and made with love. It is the same philosophy we have at The Fig Cooking School. While the training I received at the French Culinary Institute was wonderful and inspiring,  you don’t have to be a chef to make memorable gourmet food. Please join me us on this journey as I share with you our family’s often quirky and creative food, travel and cooking experiences.

About Gabrielle

I’m Gabrielle, college freshman, and daughter of the wonderful Heide Lang. Food has been my biggest passion from a very young age – as a toddler I would tremble when Mom and Dad brought home pizza, and I would keep eating hot salsa despite the tears running down my cheeks. I’ve matured a little in the past fifteen or so years, but I’ve really just transferred my enthusiasm to more acceptable eighteen-year-old expression styles. I’ll eat anything but bugs, olives and cilantro. My favorite cuisines are Indian, because it’s vibrant, French, because it bursts with smooth, elegant flavor, and Southern because it’s the coziest food in the world.

When I’m not doing homework, I’m almost certainly cooking or eating something. My newest habit, one about which my friends tease me mercilessly, is pie invention (I currently have a banana pudding pie in the works. I’ll post the recipe as soon as I get it perfect), like Keri Russell in Waitress. Almost everything I know about cooking I learned from my mom, and refined through cooking contests with Isabella, my 13-year old sister. I love to make everything, from pots de crème to homemade gnocchi to Thai curry to Southern sweet tea.

I’m only eighteen, so I have less to say about how food, for example, greatly affected my marriage, but I, like my mom (and the rest of my family) am willing to go to extreme lengths for food. My parents didn’t stop their culinary adventures when my sisters and I were born. In recent years, we took a three hour detour to Arcachon, France just to sample the oysters from the famed oyster shacks, and more recently we ate two dinners – one at 3:00 and one at 7:00 – our last night in Nashville so we could stuff ourselves silly at two famed local establishments.

I have to sign off (it’s dinner time) but I’ll leave you with a recipe for my favorite late-night-study latte. It’s called a London Fog, and it’s made with Earl Grey tea rather than coffee. I find Earl Grey is enough to keep me up, but lets me fall asleep when I finish my English paper. On the other hand, if you can’t fall asleep, make it with decaf and the warm milk will have you asleep in a blink of an eye. Click for the recipe.

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