Table Talk: At Home With Mimi Thorisson

November 5, 2017

 


For some, entertaining is a treat. For others, it can be a bit stressful. For author and French cooking show host Mimi Thorisson, it’s simply a way of life.

“We entertain a lot—there’s always someone coming or going here,” she tells us as she prepares for an impromptu Monday dinner party. After a busy fall spent traveling, she’s back home in the village of Saint-Yzans-de-Médoc. “But it’s a pleasure—I suppose I’m used to cooking for big groups.”

This, we must point out, is quite the understatement. Even on the quietest of evenings, Mimi’s table is far from empty—along with her husband, Oddur, she has eight children, ranging from 17 months to 22 years. And then there are the family’s eight pups: six fox terriers, an Italian pointer and, for good measure, a German pointer to round out the pack. It’s not unusual to spot a chicken or two roaming about the family’s sprawling 19th-century home.

“There’s an abundance to life here,” she says with a laugh.

Food and family have always been central to Mimi’s life. Growing up in Hong Kong she would accompany her parents on hunts for the best noodles and dim sum. Then, come summer, it was off to her grandmother’s in the south of France, where she learned an appreciation for the easy elegance of French cooking.

“I love the simplicity of classic French recipes,” says Mimi. “My food is always, always simple—simple, but also fresh and inspiring.”

Luckily, in Médoc, the makings of an inspired meal are never far away. Chanterelles, Chasselas grapes, and other fall delicacies await at the market—or in some cases, just down the road at a neighbor’s farm. “We’re surrounded by local farmers here and so much beautiful food,” says Mimi, whose latest cookbook, French Country Cooking, shares regional recipes. “Straight from the soil, straight from the source.”

No matter the menu or the guests, every week begins with a trip to the flower market. “Flowers are a very important part of my life and my entertaining—I can’t imagine home without them,” says Mimi. “It’s one of those things—they’re a luxury, yes, but also a necessity. Hydrangeas are my favorite because they last a long time and they’re so special in the fall with their darker, deeper colors.”

And of course, this being France, you can’t forget the bread. “Having a baguette at the table is a necessity. It’s the French way—we love bread!” says Mimi. “I love going on the baguette run—I always bring home more than we need.”

For last-minute ingredients, Mimi simply opens the kitchen door. Since relocating her ever-expanding brood from Paris to the countryside, she’s developed quite the green thumb. “We have a big garden, so there are always loads of vegetables just outside,” she says. “And I always cut some branches from the olive trees to make little bouquets. I just found these pharmacy bottles at the antique market that I love using as vases.”

Although Monday’s guests are due soon, Mimi isn’t in a rush. Like her cooking, Mimi’s approach to entertaining is cozy and informal—upon arrival, you’re more likely to find her barefoot and enjoying a cocktail than scrambling to tidy the countertops.

“When you’re relaxed, you allow your guests to be relaxed,” she says. “There’s no hurry. We’ll open a bottle of wine, everyone can help chop the vegetables, and we can enjoy the evening. It’s been a busy fall, and this is our time to be together, to be us, to be home.”

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