I had the supreme pleasure this week of cooking with Ann Clark, one of Austin's most accomplished food experts. Who is Ann Clark, you (perhaps) say? Being the know-it-all whipper-snapper foodie that I am, I knew nothing about Ann, an essential part of Austin culinary history, until I was introduced by her nephew, my friend and early Soupie Colin Clark. When I was a mere babe in arms, Ann was founding a French cooking school (La Bonne Cuisine) in the provincial little town that was Austin in 1973. The great local food writer MM Pack wrote a very good bio of Ann in 2002 which chronicles her many accomplishments... essentially a life immersed in great cuisine, restlessly learning, teaching, leading culinary tours, catering, consulting. Most importantly, nurturing a culinary movement in a town where there was little to none. She now focuses her professional life on kitchen design consulting... a recent Statesman article properly calls her "the kitchen whisperer".
We made a date to cook together, perchance to drink a little wine, while the Clark and Ansel families frolicked on her hillside swimming pool. Appropriately, the evening stretched longer than expected as Ann and I cajoled our paella into shape. Her kitchen was sensible and none-too-fancy. I believe I was a little underwhelmed... that is, until I was ushered into the holy of holies... her garage, which houses her collection of over 7,000 cookbooks and her enameled cast iron, copper, and earthenware collections. You could sense the depth and breadth of her experience simply by this mute array of objects. I had been promised a demonstration of one of her favorite soup recipes but we were having too good a time to get around to it. For this evening, the pure joy of learning from a master and sharing great cuisine would have to suffice.