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FoodMan

French Cookbooks

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I want to buy a French cookbook but I am not sure where to start. Should I buy Julia Child, Jaque Pepin, or Robuchon. I am leaning towrads getting "Le Quisine De Robuchon" (sp??). Any recommendations would be appreciated and please specify the name of the book in addition to the author if possible.

Thanks

FM

PS: I've never owned a French cookbook.

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'Mastering the Art of French Cooking," Vols. I and II, by Julia, Simone Beck and Louisette Bertholle (Vol. I only). It may be dated in some respects - e.g., pre-food processor - but it's still an extraordinarily thorough grounding in classical French cuisine.

This is not to slight Jacques Pepin's "La Technique" and "La Methode," which are also must-haves.

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Many will have advice on this. Everything depends on what level of expertise you start at and what you want to achieve. At the simplest level, Patricia Wells' _Bistro Cooking_ has a lot of uncomplicated but tasty recipes with solid tradition behind them. My personal favorite is Richard Olney's _Simple French Cooking_, which isn't quite as simple as it sounds, but is more demanding of time than of high skills. And it has the real *flavor*, not only of French food but of French culture.

Pepin's old classics, _The Method_ and _The Technique_ are, I think out of print, but they're obtainable and are crystal clear in their exposition of classic practice.

Diving straight into Robuchon could be a bit like learning to play the piano starting with Liszt. But perhaps you're already skilled in other cuisines.

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'Mastering the Art of French Cooking,"  Vols. I and II, by Julia, Simone Beck and Louisette Bertholle (Vol. I only).  It may be dated in some respects - e.g., pre-food processor - but it's still an extraordinarily thorough grounding in classical French cuisine. 

This is not to slight Jacques Pepin's "La Technique" and "La Methode," which are also must-haves.

Julia is a must. It is great to have her books on hand for those rainy days.

Patricia Wells is excellent!

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How could I not have mentioned Richard Olney?? 'Simple French Food' and 'The French Menu Cookbook' are treasures. So is 'Lulu's Provencal Table.'

Ali-Bab's 'Encyclopedia of Practical Gastronomy' is another wonderful resource.

Yes, FM, tell us more about what you're after. Recipes? Technique? Classics? New ideas?

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Cathy

I consider myself a good cook, not in the professional sense but a goog home cook. I can do pretty much anything in the kitchen (or at least I would try). My experiences include baking breads, Pizza, homemade pastas, Middle eastern food in general (Lebanese). I love making pastries especially soufles(sp??) tarts, custards/flans and all kinds of cookies/biscotties. I cook at least 4-5 times a week and I love trying new stuff.

That should sum up my "cuisine" :smile:

So i guess what I'm looking for is a French cookbook that is both challenging and very educational in terms of ingredients, technique, regions as well as tasty recipes.

The lates addition to my cookbooks was Mario Batali's "The Babbo Cookbook" and I simply love it with all these "not too common" ingredients. I cannot wait to try the "beef cheek ravioli".

So from what I got from you guys and gals I should probably get Julia or Jaque (I saw Jaque's "celebrates" and "The Complete Technique" but I guess " "Le Mehtod" and "Le Technique" are indeed out of print).

Thanks for all your input

FM

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If you want to know WHY you should do what they tell you to do, definitely Mastering the Art. You will not only learn French food; you will learn HOW TO COOK ANYTHING. La methode and La technique are also excellent, but are best for learning very specific information. Julia et al. can turn any careful reader into a cook. Everything else is commentary.

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I would just add that St. Jacques' two books are now combined into one volume (Complete Techniques) and have hundreds and hundreds of detailed photographs of how to hold this, turn that, cut here and so on. :wub::wub::wub:

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Jacques Pepin`s books are really important but i would also suggest books by Madeleine Kamman (she has a few one) and a very important one for me;Paul Bocuse La cuisine du marche.

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I would just add that St. Jacques' two books are now combined into one volume (Complete Techniques) and have hundreds and hundreds of detailed photographs of how to hold this, turn that, cut here and so on. :wub:  :wub:  :wub:

Jin

I was waiting for your response and i knew it was going to be Pro-Jacque (The big Jacque fan that you are :biggrin:) . I am checking the "Complete Technique" out on Amazon and it looks very interesting and informative. Do you own it?? what about recipes?? I am sure it will have more than enough of those. right?

FM :biggrin:

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Foodman, Jacques' sainted hand guides my knife in all things. Yes, there are recipes. This is not to say that Julia's books are not classics. All that Suzanne said of Mastering the Art is true.

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As someone who is very heavy into French food — see my web site if you want to see how heavy — I can not honestly recommend any of the books listed above.

Mastering the Art of French Cooking is a landmark and was a watershed when it was published 40 years ago. It taught Americans how to cook French-style food using commonly available American ingredients has has lots of basic instruction — which it sounds like you don't need. Now that most French-specific ingredients are available in the U.S., making do with what was available in 1961 is of less importance.

La Cuisine de Joël Robuchon is a recent British translation of his 1990 Les Dimanches de Joël Robuchon, which is a collection of magazine articles written by Robuchon over the period of a year. The translation has many errors in both technique description and ingredients. The book has relatively few recipes, two or three per chapter. If you'd like a English-language version of one of Robuchon's books, I'd recommend the Patricia Wells translation and adaption of his Simply French. But be warned, this is not a book of simple recipes, many are very complicated and use expensive ingredients. Also, in many, she has modified the recipe to such a point that the recipe no longer matches the picture.

Wells' Bisto Cooking suffers from much of the same problems. The recipes presented in the book don't acurately reflect the original dishes.

Ali-Bab's Encyclopedia of Practical Gastronomy is a 1974, 374-page translation of a 1281-page masterpiece — Gastronomie Pratique — written in 1907 (or 1912 depending on the historian) by Henri babinsky. It had almost 20 editions published up to 1950. A facsimile of the 5th edition (1928) was published last year. The original work is a fascinating read, if you read French. It is highly detailed and rather complete. The publisher claims 5000 recipes, which would include every variation listed. I haven't counted them, but there are lot there. However, it's not the place to start a journey in to French cooking.

Bocuse's La Cuisine de Marché was translted into English as Paul Bocuse's French Cooking. It's a faithful, almost literal translation of the original. (It amazing how many of the the recipes in the original are almost word-for-word copies of Escoffier's Le Guide Culinaire from 1921.) This is an advanced book, not one to start off with.

I find Olney's books are dated and somewhat eccentric, even for when they were published originally.

But not to be totally negative...a few that I'd recommend:

French Farmhouse Cookbook by Susan Hermann Loomis. A broad range of recipes from both home cooks and Michelin-starred chefs. Every recipe I've tried has worked out-of -the-box.

Bisto by Gerald Hirigoyen. This thin book has most of the essential bistro dishes. The recipes are well presented and all are illustrated. It's a great first book of French food.

Parisian Home Cooking by Michael Roberts. Just like the title says...

Paris Bistro Cooking by Linda Dannenberg. A well written book of recipes from a variety of Paris bistros and restaurants. Another book where the recipes work.

If you read French, then there are many others that I can recommend.

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Bouland, you have a wonderful web site and on the whole I agree with you. Further, as you do not directly dis my sainted Jacques (most of whose actual dishes I'm not interested in, but whose manner of educating I admire) I raise not my hand in wrath but in a toast.

Is there a book on classical technique as such you would recommend?

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Further, as you do not directly dis my sainted Jacques (most of whose actual dishes I'm not interested in, but whose manner of educating I admire) I raise not my hand in wrath but in a toast.

Is there a book on classical technique as such you would recommend?

I don't think Jaques Pepin has published a French cookbook, has he? Le Technique and Le Methode seem to be applicable to most Western cuisines, not just French. I have not seen the new combo version, but I've always wished that the originals were in color with better printing. Jacques Pepin is my favorite TV chef — I love watching him work — I like watching his hands.

Other technique books that come to mind are Anne Willan's and the one put out by the Cordon Bleu Cooking School. Both have their good points, but I have to admit, I've learned most of my technique first hand in kitchens. (In March of 2001 I worked in three different Michelin-starred restaurant kitchens and each had their own way of shucking scallops — and each had reasons why their method way best. I learned a fourth in the fall at a different restaurant.)

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Bouland, thanks for your post. You mention several cookbooks I wasn't aware of, which I will track down forthwith.

Please tell us about the French language ones you recommend. I have a Petit Larousse around here somewhere...

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There are hundreds of French cookbooks, old and new, and the ones mentioned are absolutely the best. There are others to use for different points of view or for the color pictures you are craving. All of these are in English, but some can be found in French, too.

L'Art Culinaire Modern by Henri Pelleprat

Ma Cuisine by Escoffier is available in several translations

The Making of a Cook (1971) and The New Making of a Cook (1997) by

Madeleine Kamman

Bouquet De France by Samuel Chamberlain

The Hundred Glories of French Cooking by Robert J. Courtine

Gourmet Cooking School by Dione Lucas

The Time-Life Foods of the World Provincial and Classic

La Cuisine by Raymond Oliver

France the Beautiful by Gilles Pudlowski

Anything by the Roux Brothers

La Varenne Practique by Anne Willan

Jean-Louis Cooking with the Seasons by Palladin

All of these can be found with a used book search with prices ranging from $2 to several hundred dollars. Please let us know what you try.

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Peter Hertzmann’s comments on French cookbooks and his fascinating web site take us back into that often-occupied battleground of “authenticity”. His analysis of Julia Child’s approach to French cuisine is accurate -- indeed, she explained that she did these recipes over and over using only ingredients available from the US military PX in Paris so that they would be feasible in the American hinterlands. It is also true that authentic French ingredients are now much more readily available in the US than they were when she wrote the book. But in most of non-urban America it is as difficult as it ever was to obtain anything beyond the commonplace. Those not living in a metropolis who want to pursue French cuisine untutored will still be grateful for Julia’s compromises – unless, of course, they can afford to have their ingredients flown in to special order.

Another aspect of authenticity is whether one is in search of historical purity (whatever that may be) or a cuisine that approaches the way that a culture actually cooks today – or indeed, some point along this slippery slope. As Rachel Laudan reminds us, modern Mexican middle-class families freely make use of the bottled ingredients, sauces and condiments from Doña Maria. And according to Valentina Harris, ninety percent of the risottos made in Italian homes, however prosperous, make use of stock cubes.

As for eccentricity, it’s true that Richard Olney’s approach to French cuisine is often idiosyncratic, but the French themselves have nevertheless honored him at the highest level. The essence of a great cuisine lies more in its individuality than its unanimity, and so in exploring its riches I like to be guided by a Virgil who illuminates its detail with his own unique torch.

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I paid a visit to my local book store and compared "The Complete Technique" by Pepin and "Mastering the art of French Cooking" by Julia et al (I looked for "The Way to Cook" but couldn't find it). As soon as I started looking into both of them I realized my mistake. It was like comparing apples to oranges. The Pepin book was exactly what its title says ---a complete book about his technique using the recipes as examples. As for the Julia book it was more about the cuisine with more recipes, how to use them, what to do if they fail,....

So for what I'm looking for currently I will probably go with Julia (online it is $28 instead of $40 from the store). I am not dissing Monsiour(sp?) Pepin, its just that right now I do not care to make ornamental carrots, or fold napkins. I will go through the Julia book first and work on the Pepin technique later.

Thanks for all your help.

FM

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Hello, all.....new to the board here!

I'm a bit surprised no one has mentioned my favorite French cookbook, Elizabeth David's French Provincial Cooking, which is, I believe, still pusblished by Penguin. Her focus is not so much "haute cuisine", but food as it has been cooked in French homes for centuries. And while not a manual of technique, she does tell you everything you need to know to execute the dish. She was not star chef, but the wife of a diplomat (I think) who lived (and cooked!) in a wide variety of places. I suppose she would most accurately be termed a "food writer"--her recipes are more like conversational pieces of prose, but they are the real thing. She's a great read in AND out of the kitchen!

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Bouland wrote, "If you read French, then there are many others that I can recommend."

I would add that if you are studying French, and since you already have a handle on "how to cook", reading a cookbook in French is a great way to improve both your language and cooking skills at the same time. I have found that it is considerably easier to read a foreign language book in a subject about which you already have knowledge or understanding of terms.

Exhibiting enormous hubris, I just returned from France with a copy of "Bras", which of course is worth its price just for the pictures even if I never faithfully complete one of his recipes. :rolleyes:

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Please tell us about the French language ones you recommend.  I have a Petit Larousse around here somewhere...

Of course there's been hundreds written and I've only cooked from just a few, but the ones I like the best are...

Larousse Gastronomic under the direction of Joël Robuchon. This is 2000 edition (copyright 1997) not the earlier version. The English version is not a faithful, or at times accurate, translation — the French original is far superior — and twice the price!

Cuisine en Famille by Bernard Loiseau. Lots of family recipes slightly altered by this Michelin 3-star chef. The recipes work as described.

Gastronomie Pratique by Ali-Bab. Reflect on the comments I entered above...

Le Meilleur & Le Plus Simple de la Pomme de Terre by Joël Robuchon. Although this book only has potato recipes, it's still a very nice collection with good commentary. The recipes are more down to earth than some of Robuchon's other books.

There are a lot more, but these were the first four to come to mind. Also, don't forget about French-language cooking magazines. They have lots a great recipes an most are priced about half the cost of U.S. cooking magazines. Some that I cook from regularly are: Cuisine Actuelle, Cuisine et Vins de France, ELLE à Table, Guide Cuisine, and Cuisine Gourmande & Vins.

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Your comments on the translation of the new Larousse bear out what I've been told by the best gastronomic translator I know. Apparently the accuracy varies considerably from section to section depending on which member of the team was responsible.

As for sources in French, Lacour has done facsimile reprints of a number of classic texts, including Lheureux's _La Cuisine Méditerranéenne_ and Hours/Veeyrun's _La Cuisine de Nos Mamées_. (Photos? What are they?)

The recipes are more down to earth than some of Robuchon's other books.
Appropriate for pomme de terre! :biggrin:

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Anne Willan, French Regional Cooking.

This book is a staple in my kitchen.

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Well I just placed my order with Amazon for Julia's "Mastering the Art of French Cooking-- Volume one". I got a pretty good deal on it $28 for brand new hardcover copy with free delivery. Not bad.

However I was wondering, Why does it say "Volume one" in the description of the book but it is nowhere in the title and I cannot find "Volume Two" anywhere (Book stores or Amazon)?? Are they combined in this 40th Anniversary edition that I ordered?? Is the second volume out of print maybe??

FM

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Have you tried used book stores, such as Green Apple Books in San Francisco?

http://www.greenapplebooks.com/, or if you live in this area, I am sure that Cookin', the well-publicized re-cycled cookware store in SF has a copy of Vol.II. (She categorically refuses to ship or mail goods.)

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