My quickly assembled pot of vegetarian chili became an unexpected culinary hit during the holiday season. More surprising was the fact that the recipe came from a French cookbook entitled Protéines Vertes (Green Proteins). I had purchased it at the colossal FNAC store in the Paris Forum des Halles.
So why were there so many different varieties of peppers in this chili? I counted chipotle, cayenne, paprika and smoked paprika. Did the author know something about seasonings I hadn’t learned? As It turned out, the chili fragrances fused to form a spicy taste with no distinct aroma. Oh well, spicy peppers are not typical French seasoning. I wrote off the recipe’s addition of Greek yogurt rather than traditional sour cream as a hip way to extinguish the heat on more sensitive palates
Was the author’s addition of the subtitle, La Bible, just an example of French extremely high self-esteem? With religious thoroughness, each plant is identified with a photograph and its protein content; each recipe is marked with the amount of protein per person it contains. A table of ingredients under headings: vegetables, seasonings, herbs and textural elements straddles two pages. There’s also a chart showing long to soak and then germinate each grain, cereal and bean to amplify its enzyme, mineral and vitamin content. Are you still with me?
This cookbook was becoming less and less French with each discovery. Not only do the French believe they are born knowing how to cook, they have great confidence in the quality of their ingredients. Why would they need a Bible or fuss with amino acids?
On further inspection and a little Googling, I discovered that Proteines Vertes was originally published in English in Australia by the French publishing house Hachette. The book’s author, Fern Green, is a food stylist by trade and runs a boutique hotel with her husband in Italy.
The takeaway: a cookbook printed in French was not necessarily written in French. My common sense should have told me that finding a French recipe for chili is as likely as finding a short order cook who can whip up a cassoulet. I really wanted that chili to be French. Everyone who enjoyed eating it didn’t give a #*@# where it came from.
If you are curious to try the faux French chili, here are links to the recipe and an eggless cornbread I served with it.