When restaurateur Nora Pouillon moved to the United States from Austria in the 1960s, she was surprised by how hard it was to get really fresh food. Everything was packaged and processed. Pouillon set out to find the find the best ingredients possible to cook for her family and friends. She brought that same sensibility to her Restaurant Nora, which eventually became the first certified organic restaurant in the country.
Pouillon writes about her lifelong devotion to food in a new memoir, My Organic Life: How A Pioneering Chef Helped Shape The Way We Eat Today.
Restaurant Nora is tucked into an old brick building on a busy corner in the nation's capital. An herb garden takes up part of the sidewalk outside the restaurant.
Pouillon traces her interest in food back to her earliest years when she lived on a farm in the Alps during World War II.
"This time showed me how food is like a treasure and how difficult it is to grow and raise food enough to feed you and your family all year round," she says. "And it gave me a big respect for food."
Today Pouillon channels her passion for food into her restaurant, which has been a fixture in the Washington, D.C., food scene since 1979. When Pouillon was getting ready to open the restaurant, she was introduced to then reigning power couple of that era, Washington Post editor Ben Bradlee and his wife, journalist Sally Quinn. They agreed to invest in the restaurant, but Pouillon says Quinn offered a word of warning:
"I told them ... that I really wanted to do natural food and she said, 'Just don't tell them that it's health food because people hate health food; they think it's bad.' So anyway, I just called it 'additive-free food," Pouillon says.
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