Being born into a family of hoteliers had some advantages, to be sure. As a kid I used to spend most of my winter time reading in the hotel larder because it was quiet, the overhead lighting was good and the smells were reassuring. And it was also a place where I could sneak in a few slices of bread and hack a bit of hard cheese, sit on my chair and dream about the origins of all the products we managed to store between bouts of reading. René Descartes liked to do his thinking in bed, I did mine in the larder. It was my domain throughout the winters and certainly not the place to be in the summertime as the hotel was taken over from April to October by a brigade of noisy, fellow loons.
So it was in that larder that I became seriously interested in food and I made a point of scrutinizing and itemizing every tin, bottle, bag, boxed spices, jars, blocks of cheese, preserves and all the hanging charcuterie; the country hams from various regions, the army of salamis, the rings of smoked sausages…I became an expert in label reading and developed a nose for sniffing out rancidity and spoiled goods.