I didn’t make the obligatory pilgrimage to Europe straight out of college. Instead, I went to French films, cultivated European friends, and read every Mediterranean cookbook I could find. The writings of Richard Olney (another American transplant) provided a kind of inspiration for my generation of cooks, and it was easy to see why he wanted to live in Provence.
My European friends seemed to share a sense of the table that felt normal to me. The simple white cloth, the bottle of wine, the ancient ladle that served the soup. I was drawn to the idea that the experience of dining is an end in itself—so very different from pretentious American restaurants that claimed European inspiration.