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April 9, 2023

Dear Isabel P.

Dear Isabel P., what a nice surprise! Your interest in me is refreshing and I am happy to answer your questions. I gather from your letter I received yesterday at the Cora Breakfast and Lunch head office that you work in communication. Your latest project is to interview a well-known figure from the restaurant industry.

I have to tell you, dear Isabel, that I am truly honoured you chose to interview me. In today’s world, full of young and older chefs, you easily could have asked a bright rising star. You chose an old hard orange instead; a colourful blood orange at that, but one that is getting harder by the day... Go on, dear Isabel, and get your list of questions! I am rarely at a loss for answers.

— “Madame Cora, I should first tell you that I’ve decided to take a personal approach. I read your Sunday letters and I’m positive I know what your readers, who toured Gaspésie with you last summer, are really curious about. They’ve heard all about your professional path, your awards and the number of restaurants you opened, but they actually want to learn about your relationship with food, your preferences, your habits and what you cannot get enough of.”
— “I love this type of interview, dear Isabel. Start your inquiries and pluck this rare bird bare!”

— “Alright then! What is your favourite recipe to cook?”
— “Spinach puff pastries (spanakopita) because it’s what my children and grandchildren prefer to eat and because I’m very good at making them. ”

— “Who is your favourite chef, other than Cora cooks?”
— “I have two: Matthew, our bright young corporate chef at the company, and Éric, an old prune who’s my age. He’s a dear friend, a chef by trade and a graduate from the great culinary schools in Switzerland. Éric excels at sauces, and his caramel, I must admit, is better than mine. I’m not kidding! ”

— “What’s your go-to food when you feel like a real treat?”
— “For the longest time, when I had to work fast, it was pizza and lasagna. Comforting, delicious and filling. A single big meal every day saved me time. The way I eat today is a lot healthier. I accompany each meal with raw veggies (radishes, Nantaise carrots, celery sticks, pickled daikon and Lebanese cucumbers) instead of bread. I prefer fish and seafood to meat, but well-done lamb chops make me drool.”

— “Are you the sweet or salty type?”
— “I’m definitely salty, even if as a young woman I couldn’t resist sugar pie. I no longer eat dessert or sweets; maybe a bite or two when I have to taste dishes at work and a good dollop of jam on toast when I make some.”

— “If you could only eat one type of dish for the rest of your life, what would it be?”
— “Spinach puff pastries (spanakopita), in moderation, accompanied by raw veggies. And if there was no spinach left on the planet and the price of lobster was still reasonable, I would eat a big one cold with mayonnaise or warm with garlic butter morning, noon and night.”

— “Which country do you appreciate the most for its culture or cuisine?”
— “Greek cuisine, obviously, because I know it very well and master it like a chef. It’s the one good thing my husband gave me, along with my three children.

— “Do you have any weird cravings? Something that might raise eyebrows?”
— “Not really. I eat a lot of fish, smoked herring, dried capelins, plenty of smoked salmon and cod, fried calamari once in a while and big Argentinian shrimp on festive occasions.

— “Are you a finicky eater, someone with a taste for fine dining?”
— “Not at all! My specialty is breakfast food and I would walk on my knees all the way to Boston just to taste a new amazing breakfast.”

— “Do you believe a man could seduce you by appealing to your stomach?”
— “What a question! I have been marinating for so long in the waters of celibacy that I despair. When men look at me they see a success story; but it has been checkmate for this queen’s heart for nearly 60 years.

— “When you opened your first small breakfast restaurant, in 1987, breakfast wasn’t known as a trendy or popular meal. What made you decide on making it your specialty?”
— “Believe it or not, an angel from above put the idea in my head. The heavens had mercy on me when they sent a buyer for my house. Selling my property allowed me to open a small restaurant and make a living. Inspired from above, I focused on morning dishes and my creativity did the rest.”

— “Do you have a particular weakness? Something you are unable to resist?”
— “Unfortunately, no. But if one of these blessed mornings all the great poets magically came back to life in my backyard, I would absolutely have to prepare a huge table of all my best breakfast specialties.

— “Thank you very much, Madame Cora.”
— “Thank you, dear Isabel.”