Writing and Ratatouille

My first written language was French, and like children in écôles everywhere, I learned at the age of five to do joined-up writing, as the Brits would say, or cursive as the Americans call it. When I started  second grade in the US, my teacher couldn’t cope with this aberration (the rest of the pupils would not learn this skill until third grade); she insisted that I print. I blame my miserable handwriting on all this chopping and changing!

The French publish entire books in joined-up writing — for adults as well as children. The French editions of the Babar series use joined-up writing; the US editions are printed in an innocuous serif typeface. My first cookbook, La cuisine et un jeu d’enfants, (Cooking is Child’s Play), used this same script typeface as does my favorite summer cookbook, Recettes en Provence by Andrée Maureau. I find this old-fashioned, friendly script creates an accessible and friendly text — easy for a child to read, easy for a cook to access. The whimsical drawings add to the charm.


Here is my translation of the recipe:

“Ratatouille is one of the most famous dishes. Each house has its recipe, and each recipe its own particular taste.

It’s up to you to add others.

It is tradition that you start cooking all the vegetables separately the night before. Frankly, that’s the secret of a great tasting dish.

Courgettes/zucchini: 1 kg
Aubergines/eggplants: 1.5 kg
Tomatoes: 1.5 kg
Red peppers: 1 kg
Onions: 500 g
Garlic: 3 cloves
Salt, pepper, thyme, bay leaves, olive oil

Cook all the vegetables separately for 30 minutes in olive oil. [The recipe calls for them to be peeled first, but I don’t do this step.] Peel, seed and press the tomatoes.

Add all the cooked vegetables together in a pan. There’s no need to add additional olive oil. Add the garlic, and salt and pepper to taste. Cook for another 30 minutes.

Delicious hot or cold.”

[This really does take more than an hour to cook. Each vegetable takes 20 minutes or so… It’s another great idea to involve all the would be consumers in the preparation, as with soupe au pistou.]

Back to typefaces and fonts. The BBC recently ran an interesting story about typefaces here. In choosing a serif typeface, I often choose one that has nonaligned numbers, like these — 123456789.


About Cleopatraknows

I was living and working in Cairo. Now in New York City, which is another city that never sleeps.
This entry was posted in France, Reading, Recipes. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Writing and Ratatouille

  1. Barbara Hanville says:

    I’ve been enjoying your blog! I love to cook as well, and it’s always fun to try new recipes. On a side note, when we moved back to the States from Antigua (British schools), my sister was starting 2nd grade and had the exact same experience as you. Her handwriting is horrible now too (and she’s a doctor which makes it that much worse!!). Enjoy the rest of your summer! Barbara (from CHS)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s