The Technique and The Method

Posted by on Jun 30, 2017

The Technique and The Method

Recently Debbie and I watched a Public Broadcasting remembrance of a fascinating Frenchman who made the USA his home and adopted nationality. The AMERICAN MASTERS program “Jacques Pépin: The Art of Craft” structured the story of his yet to be completed life into a beautiful biography. The truth of the “Old School” manner by which this unquenchably curios and ever ambitious achiever assailed life shined through in a manner that inspired Debbie to insist I make a blog about it.

This man’s significance to the world of food is already well established and I hope he will keep feeding posterity from his larder of knowledge and cornucopia of inspiration. I’m interested in him because I believe his life to be a great rerun, in the food world, of Manuel Garcia’s life in the opera world. He hasn’t attained to Manuel’s longevity, but he has certainly matched Manuel in the realm of universal respect in his industry.

There is no doubt about his convictions concerning the technical foundation for his “Art”, and so refreshing to read his humble words of estimation of his “Art Form” in the interview, “Blue Collar, White Hat”, in The Columbia Journal of American Studies. One of the parallels I see to Garcia’s time line; Pépin might never have written his books “La Technique” or “La Methode” without a disaster forcing a hard turn for his ascending star as it traveled through time with us. Pépin almost died in an auto accident. It forced him from behind the stove at his restaurant onto a path of advocacy for his “Art Form”. I would say the world of food is richer for this turn of events, even if Pépin had to suffer. He serves society in a much larger way now than would have been possible to him as a chef in even the most celebrated restaurant on earth.

Disaster struck the Garcia family when Manuel Sr. was robbed by bandits in Mexico. They took the fortune he had amassed in the New World from him before he could get it back home. What little money the bandits missed in their search of the Garcia entourage was about enough to pay for their passage back to Europe. The great tenor had to start from scratch to build a new nest egg. When the old man got back to Paris, he had little time to wait before his son recounted his disastrous debut in Naples, and announce his desire to begin building a life outside of music. In the fullness of time the elder Manuel’s voice began showing signs of age and the singer, still short of the nest egg lost, had to turn to teaching to make a livelihood and about this time the younger Manuel set his sights on supporting himself while traveling the world. His mother talked him out of it, and I thank God she did. Papa Garcia had already founded a school of singing in Paris and Garcia Jr. signed on to help his dad. Disasters; dad’s forced contribution to Mexico’s benefits for bandits program, young Manuel’s failure to launch as an Opera Star and papa’s voice surrendering to the pressures of Father Time, set the stage for Garcia’s stellar teaching career and his two wonderful books. Garcia’s “Ecole de García” part one and part two could have been call exactly the titles Pépin used for his two books. Maybe Pépin had a better editor.

Garcia lived 101 years. I pray that Pépin, if he so desires to endure, may exceed Garcia’s record. Given the content of the interview to which I link above, I’m inspired to pray that he keeps talking, teaching and writing. Old School is really hard to find.