Double interview Naessens and Meus
As published in De Morgen Zeno on 02/11/2014
You need to have passion, she says. He thinks so, too, although you need to be careful how you use that word. She is Pascale Naessens, who is signing books for a long line of people at the Antwerp Book Fair. His line is even longer: the name Jeroen Meus still attracts the crowds. 'I'm ashamed to look the real authors in the eye.'
A kiss on the cheek. A brief 'ça va?' Next, we are sitting in a concrete room, far from the outside world - or so it seems. Pity, it's a lovely October day. But who's complaining? Against hope, our last-ditch effort to bring Pascale Naessens and Jeroen Meus together for a joint interview has succeeded! He drinks coffee; she sips tea. Is this the prelude to a clash of ideas?
Two days earlier on the telephone: 'Yes, I'd like to do an interview with Jeroen, but not if you are going to turn it into a battle between healthy and non-healthy eating.' Not that Meus would have minded. We caught up with him in Leuven, where he was doing a day of interviews in the Hotel Hongaria Production House. 'Of course, you'll have to ask as question about that. No problem. But let me tell you this. If we both did what we do in America, we would both be heroes. But here in Belgium there is always a need to compare. It's in our blood. But speaking personally? I don't give a shit. Scout's honor.'
The reason for this aside is an article in the morning newspapers, which reported that the sales of cookbooks had 'slumped dramatically' in recent months. The article was on the front page - along with the rest of the world news. 'Between 1 January and 20 October sales have fallen by 20% compared to the same period last year.' There was a cartoon on the same page, with Pascale Naessens, Jeroen Meus and Piet Huysentruyt in a cooking pot; the caption read: 'Sale of cookbooks on low heat'.
Judging by the crowds, lots of people have books written by both of you. So it is possible?
Naessens: Absolutely! I've got all his books.
Meus: And I've got all hers. What really impresses me about Pascale is that she does it all by herself. I've got the entire VTM machine behind me. I first met her at VTM when I was doing 'Met Meus en vork' [With Meus and Fork]. I could see instantly that she knows how to cook. Pascale is someone with a vision, not just 'a celebrity with a cookbook'. She never sat down and thought: 'What should I do to be successful? That's it, I'll write a cookbook!' That's the difference between her and Lesley-Anne Poppe.
We quickly move on to other people who inspire them.
Naessens: Someone like Chavela Vargas, a Mexican singer who died last year. Or César Manrique, an artist from Lanzarote. And Lucie Rie, she was a ceramist. These are all people who lived tobe old, but until their dying day they carried on doing things that gave value to their life and to the people around them. That is also my driving force. If people react positively to my books, it gives me new energy.
Meus: The most important thing is being able to listen to others. Marc van Dinther is a culinary journalist in De Volkskrant, the gastronomic specialist in Holland. I used to write a weekly article for him and for two years he really put me through hoops. But he made me aware of the ecological aspects of cooking, responsible eating and a thousand and one other things. I need to believe people. I believe Jan Eelen. Jeroom too. As for the rest...'
* For full article, see attached PDF file (in Dutch).