In August, I saw the movie Julie & Julia with a couple of friends. I vowed to get the cookbook Julia Child is writing in the movie, Mastering The Art of French Cooking, her first cookbook, co-authored with Louisette Bertholle and Simone Beck, published in 1961. I'd decided to borrow it from the library, but not surprisingly, it was already checked out, so I was put on the waiting list. Today I went to the library to pick it up--it was in at last! The book I brought home is actually Volume Two, which was originally published in 1970. I was pleased to bring home a beautiful copy of this book. In fact, it looks new. I was also pleased to see that the library has some new check-out machines. I guess they have some money, after all. But back to the cookbook.
"Anyone can cook in the French manner anywhere, with the right instruction."
~Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Julia Child, Louisette Bertholle, and Simone Beck
There's no need to be intimidated. Although French cooking has a reputation for being complicated and out of reach for most people, this book explains things clearly and makes it seem almost easy. The authors adapt French cuisine to what's available in American supermarkets, describe cooking techniques in simple language, suggest which dishes and wines complement each other, and include some helpful illustrations. These recipes do not seem terribly difficult or fussy--I'll attempt some of them; even the soufflé au chocolat seems possible (and isn't that what cookbooks are all about--possibilities?). Julia Child's friendly, down-to-earth personality and joie de vivre shine throughout the book. I think this would be a terrific cookbook for someone who's about to start their own household, or for someone with an interest in French cuisine or Julia Child's cooking career.
Here are seven sundry facts and ideas I gathered while leafing through this cookbook:
- The French do not eat much broccoli. They prefer turnips, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, and other vegetables.
- The essential rule of the French technique for vegetables: Do not overcook.
- A very savory way of serving tomatoes is à la Provençal, tomatoes stuffed with bread crumbs, herbs, and garlic.
- Fluted mushroom caps add a nice professional touch to your cooking. (I will try this!)
- Never stir cooked rice with anything other than a wooden fork or chopstick, and be gentle.
- In a true sauté, cut-up chicken is cooked only in butter or butter and oil, and seasonings, without any liquid, until the very end, for poulet sauté.
- You can judge the quality of a chef or a restaurant by the quality of their roast chicken (unless you're a vegetarian).
Kudos to Rebecca Reid for hosting the delectable Spice of Life: A Reading Challenge.