It was just about two years ago that I had the opportunity to meet Sylvie Bigar, the author of Cassoulet Confessions: Food, France and the Stew that saved my Soul published by Hardie Grant.
Together, we shared a love of food, travel, and pottery. This September, we’re launching a new take on our cassole form. It’s a nod to the vessel that Sylvie’s cassoulet master uses in the Occitanie region of Southern France.
We’ve tried the recipes included in the book and you will love them! On September 13th, you can purchase Sylvie’s new book and the cassole. Both the book and the cassole will be available in the Gallery and online.
Read more about Sylvie’s story below:
When food and travel writer Sylvie Bigar accepted an apparently anodyne assignment on cassoulet, France’s ancestral bean and meat stew, she could not have known that she was about to jump into a rabbit hole that would lead her miles away from her upper-crust childhood in Switzerland, and force her to reckon with her identity and her own dramatic family history.
Today more than ever, we recognize the magical power of taste. From Proust’s madeleine to the cozy sense of comfort yielded by a sip of chicken soup, we let emotions transport us back in time, but even orange blossoms can taste bittersweet and Sylvie’s first cassoulet bite somehow carries her to the gilded mansion of the dysfunctional childhood she’s spent decades trying to forget.
Cassoulet Confessions, a poignant gourmand memoir, traces Sylvie’s journey through the stunning French countryside near Carcassonne, as she learns the deeper meaning of authentic cassoulet from her culinary guru. As the book vacillates between generational family drama and Sylvie’s gastronomic training, the reader is engulfed in the simmering smells of the French kitchen, then suddenly thrown in the front seat of the family car, her schizophrenic sister at the wheel.
This manuscript is a sensual experience extolling the pain of hunger for home and authentic, sumptuous food along the dramatic backdrop of Sylvie’s Jewish family. Her poetic and deceptively simple prose offers an immersive experience, both delicious and terrifying at the same time.
A literary feast, you will want to place this book on your shelves right next to the beloved Language of Baklava by Diana Abu Jaber, Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat, Pray, Love, Gabrielle Hamilton’s Blood, Bones & Butter and the works of Ruth Reichl.
Award-winning food and travel writer Sylvie Bigar was born in Geneva, Switzerland, and is based in New York City. Her writing has appeared in The New York Times, Washington Post, Food & Wine, Forbes.com, Saveur, Bon Appetit, Food Arts, Departures, Travel & Leisure, Town & Country, National Geographic Traveler, Gotham, Hamptons, Time Out New York, Air Canada, Passport Magazine, Narratives, Southampton Press, and New York Resident, for which she has also served as food editor. In French, Sylvie has contributed to Le Figaro Magazine, Histoire magazine, Le Temps and FrenchMorning.com.
In 2020, Her uncle died with the French Resistance, and she had to visit the spot for the Washington Post won a New York Press Club Journalism Award in the Travel Writing for a newspaper category. In 2018, Departures magazine’s Hunting Gooseneck Barnacles on Vancouver Island won the bronze award from the Society of American Travel Writers Foundation for Best Culinary Travel. Back in 2016, French Cassoulet, an Obsession boils over for the Washington Post won a gold Travelers’ Tales Solas Award for Best Travel Writing in the food and travel category.
Sylvie co-authored Chef Daniel Boulud’s definitive cookbook, Daniel: My French Cuisine (Grand Central, 2013) as well as Living Art: Style Your Home with Flowers with floral artist and designer Olivier Giugni (Atria, 2010). Her New York Times essay about Aimé Césaire, “Beneath Martinique’s Beauty, guided by a Poet” was published in Footsteps, a curated collection of the New York Times’ travel column.