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Durham, NC 27701

Writing Workshops & Retreats - France, Italy, North Carolina


Allison writes - "Ugly Dinner Never Tasted So Good"

Mimi Herman

Ugly Dinner Never Tasted So Good

Allison B.

Listening to Manul singing from the kitchen, I realize the distinct difference between when she is doing what she loves and when she is teaching what she loves. The low melody strikes a peaceful chord. I don't know if she is baking dessert or preparing dinner for later, but the sounds she makes come from deep within her body and, I have no doubt, fill the food she prepares.


Manul seems to float about the kitchen when teaching. Her assistant deftly keeps track of oven temperatures, dirty utensils, and needed ingredients. Without a word, Manul converses with the food and her assistant. We are merely there to glean a bit of Manul's theory on food and actual cooking style. Her explanation of where the recipes come from adds intrigue to the experience and balance to the menu in front of us. We have only the ingredients listed, with space for us to interpret the steps for creating the final dish.


Manul shares her techniques along the way, but you can tell, her hope is that we will take away from the lesson an appreciation for creating a meal from within, not just using our hands to hold knives and our eyes to test size and our noses to calculate freshness.


Aside from Manul as chef, she shared brief insight into her personal philosophy on time and what we do in our time. She fascinates me, not only because she has a pure heart and pure understanding for food, but also because her way of being is calming and something I find attracted to in an existential way - I want to learn more about how life can be simple and choices intentional. Having met her and worked in her kitchen, dined at her table, slept in her house, the seed is planted and my mind will explore more after I leave. With full faith in Manul's relationship with food, I chopped and prepared foods I'd never encountered before. The gnocchi, I thought would be pasta wrapped around a filling, looked quite earthy and unedible, but tasted sweet and delightful and was NOT even close to being pasta wrapped around filling... uh, that's raviolli!


Fennel salad? Who'da thunk I'd actually like it. And, the true icing on the cake, the puffy egg and sugar and hazelnut goodies for dessert, the perfect end to a lovely experience. I left dinner satisfied that I may not be able to make what we did, but I appreciate it and the experience and will certainly take it with me in my steps outside this peaceful retreat.

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