In her charming and flavorful memoir, My Organic Life: How a Pioneering Chef Helped Shape the Way We Eat Today, Nora Pouillon recounts the ingredients of a life spent shaping our attitudes toward the food we cook, how we prepare it and the way we eat.
Pouillon, whose Restaurant Nora in Washington, D.C., was the first restaurant in the United States to become certified organic, comes by her love of fresh, local food honestly. As a child on her grandparents' farm in the Austrian countryside during World War II, she learned that food was precious and that growing and producing food required constant work and care, with no waste. When she attended a French boarding school, she learned a lasting lesson that she carried with her as she established her restaurant: When people share good food with others in relaxed surroundings, they treat mealtime with respect and pay more attention to the food they're eating and to each other.
When she turned 21, Pouillon married her French lover, Pierre, and they eventually settled in Washington, where she encountered the shocks of her first American grocery store—bins filled with meat in plastic containers, out-of-season produce and packaged foods. Reading Elizabeth David's French Provincial Cooking stirred memories of the fresh food and ingredients of her childhood, and she was soon off on a search to find the freshest local products to prepare and cook for her dinner parties. After a few successful dinners, she began a series of cooking classes, and her reputation and expertise soon led her to start a restaurant at the Tabard Inn in DuPont Circle. Eventually, after personal ups and downs and financial struggles, she opened Restaurant Nora, had a hand in founding the DuPont Circle Farmers' Market, and became one of the first restaurateurs in America to hire local farmers as sources for meat and produce.
Reading this informative and inspiring memoir is like sitting down to a delicious, healthy meal with a good friend.