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French Provincial Cooking [Hardcover]

Elizabeth David , Juliet Renny
4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
Price: CDN$ 39.62 & FREE Shipping. Details
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Book Description

Feb. 1 2008
Elizabeth David's books belong in the libraries of everyone who loves to read and prepare food and this one is generally regarded as her best; her passion and knowledge comes through on every page. She was one of the foremost writers on food in the latter half of the 20th century and this book has her most celebrated writing. "French Provincial Cooking" should be approached and read as a series of short stories, as well written and evocative as the best literature. The voice is highly personal and opinionated, sometimes sharp but always true and always entertaining. Here is a long essay on French cuisine, offering background stories and sketches of recipes more than the slavishly didactic type of recipes that most modern readers might be used to today. For many Elizabeth David was the first to introduce us to the French notion of la cuisine terroir, sometimes interpreted as 'what grows together goes together'. For David, this is the heart of regional cooking, and the thing which most distinguishes it from cooking in haute cuisine restaurants where diners arrive at any time or any season and expect to be able to order any well known French speciality. One of the passages which best characterizes David's approach to a lot of cooking is her opening statement on the perfect omelette: 'As everybody knows, there is only one infallible recipe for the perfect omelette: your own.' The book starts with a short essay on each of the major culinary regions of France, starting perhaps not surprisingly with Provence which is blessed an abundance of produce. The largest portion of the book consists of chapters on cuisine by type of dish: Sauces, Hors-D'oeuvres and Salads, Soups, Eggs and Cheese, Pates and Terrines, Vegetables, Fish, Shellfish, Meat, Composite Meat Dishes, Poultry and Game, and Sweet dishes. The book is all the more valuable in that it paints a picture of a cooking style which existed before modern equipment such as the food processor. Most importantly, the recipes work if your aim is to produce the most excellent food imaginable. What initially may seem to be annoying details (e.g., for omelettes, eggs 'should not really be beaten at all, but stirred,' whereas for scrambled eggs, they should be 'very well beaten') are actually secrets to be treasured, that elevate a good dish to a superb one. The lesson is that good food should be done simply, but it takes care, attention to detail, and frequently, time. A hardback edition of "French Provincial Cooking" has been unavailable for many years and Grub Street is re-issuing it because of overwhelming demand. It should become as popular an edition as the best-selling "Elizabeth David Classics".

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From Library Journal

France and Italy are especially famous for wine and food. David studies and analyzes cooking the way a scholar analyzes literature, and, as a result, her titles are far more than just cookbooks. Along with the recipes, of which there are many, she explains at length the histories of the dishes and offers splendid advice on serving wine with the meals. Both volumes, published in 1960 and 1958, respectively, contain forewords by Julia Child. Italian Food was the author's personal favorite.
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

Review

It is difficult to think of any home that can do without Elizabeth David's French Provincial Cooking.The Observer

Customer Reviews

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Most helpful customer reviews
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Fountainhead of Modern American Cuisine Dec 12 2003
Format:Paperback
Elizabeth David is one of foremost writers on food in the latter half of the 20th century and this book has her most celebrated writing. For this reason, I was inspired to write this modest review when I saw Amazon feature the volume as an offering, 43 years after it's first publication in England.
It is a coincidence of no small meaning that this book appeared within two years before the publication of Julia Child et al's landmark 'Mastering the Art of French Cooking'. Child was even worried, when David's book appeared, that it may steal a lot of the thunder from Child and her colleague's effort. The fact is, the two books are very much like the Wittgensteinian 'duck rabbit' optical illusion in that they deal with the same subject but from different points of view.
One distinction is that while Child's book is simply a cookbook of French recipes, David's book is a long essay on French cuisine, offering the sketches of recipes more as exercizes to be completed by the reader than as true recipes. In fact, it is one of the most enduring legacies of Child's book that it redefined the detail to which a recipe writer should go in order to adequately communicate the process of preparing a dish.
A second distinction between the two is that they deal with two different facets of French cuisine. As David recites from work by Curnonsky, there is haute cuisine, la cuisine Bourgeoise, la cuisine Regionale, and la cuisine Improvisee. David discourses on the third while Child, et al present the second.
For many, including such luminaries as Jeremiah Tower and Alice Waters, Elizabeth David is the fountainhead of thinking on the French notion of 'la cuisine terroir', sometimes interpreted by the notion 'what grows together goes together'.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A trailblazer for all cooks Jan. 20 2003
Format:Paperback
The truly remarkable thing about Elizabeth David was not so much that she could write enthralling and compelling cookbooks ("Mediterranean Food", "French Provincial Cooking", "Italian Cooking"), but that she transformed a glum, drab post-war England by the beauty of her prose and her ability to evoke the sunshine and brilliant colours of the mediterranean. And, further north, the simple beauty of cuisine bourgeoise, home cooking french style.
It was this book that got me started on a lifetime of home cooking. Like all great cookbooks, it can be read and savored without cooking at all. Her ability to evoke time and place is startling -- for example, her recipe for little courgette souffles is wrapped in the story of how she first enjoyed them. Of course, this was in a small country restaurant where the proprietor used his own recipe to make them for her.
She talks vividly about La Mere Poulard and her Mont St. Michel omelettes, for which she offers the original recipe. Roughly translated from the french, it reads: "Monsieur, I get some good eggs, I put them in a bowl and beat vigorously. Then I put them into a pan with good butter and stir constantly. I will be very happy if this recipe gives you pleasure".
I remember, over 30 years ago, the first time I made her recipe for pork chops "to taste like wild boar". They do indeed, and very good they are. Her recipes for classics like Cassoulet, and Bouillabaisse are vivid and provide the cultural context as well as precise directions. Her description of a bouillabaisse on the beach makes you want to catch the next plane there.
She explains the environment of her recipes, their milieu, and their progenitors so that you get right inside the whole theory and practice of french cooking.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Enters the realm of superb literature Aug. 17 2000
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
What I wanted was a book of unfussy French recipes to be done in 15 minutes. What I got was a book with no list of ingredients, no photos, no color, and "a useful dish for those who have to get a dinner ready when they get home from the office" taking 3 hours to cook (Daube de Boeuf Provencale). Obviously, it seemed, I had made the wrong choice.
On further reading, however, what unfolded was something beyond a "cookbook," and ultimately more useful. This is a superb book. French Provincial Cooking should be approached and read as a series of short stories, as well written and evocative as the best literature. The voice is highly personal and opinionated, sometimes sharp and catty, but always true and ultimately sympathetic. It is always entertaining.
And the recipes, it turns out, are less intimidating than at first glance. Most importantly, they work if your aim is to produce the most excellent food imaginable. There is nothing slick here, no L.A. hype or N.Y. blah blah blah, and obviously, they have been tried and perfected; what initially seem to be annoying details (e.g., for omelettes, eggs "should not really be beaten at all, but stirred," whereas for scrambled eggs, they should be "very well beaten") are actually secrets not to be skipped, that elevate a good dish to a superb one. The lesson is that good food should be done simply, but it takes care, attention to detail, and frequently, time.
I find these recipes don't stint on the butter, cream, and wine, making them seem a little frumpy, but every one I've tried has been delicious. Ratatouille, salade Nicoise, terrinee de porc, piperade are all the best I've had. It doesn't get much better than this.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars La Bonne Vrai Cuisine de France
This book is unequaled, engrossing, superlative. It remains, despite the four decades since its publication, the finest book on authentic French cooking in the English language. Read more
Published on Jan. 22 2002 by Christopher Johnson
4.0 out of 5 stars Good food, good times
An enjoyable, anecdotal cookbook that has rightly become a classic. Having inspired a whole generation of post-war cooks, this text remains relevant to readers and cooks today. Read more
Published on July 18 2001 by little_bounce
4.0 out of 5 stars Authentic Cooking of the French Provinces
I have little that is critical to say about this book: I bought it with certain purposes in mind (to find a few authentic recipes for certain classic French dishes such as Coq au... Read more
Published on March 3 2001
5.0 out of 5 stars Simply the best
Before Elizabeth David Britain and Australia had no cuisine. Meals consisted of overcooked meat served with three types of boiled vegetables. Read more
Published on Dec 27 2000 by Tom Munro
5.0 out of 5 stars An Inspiration
In 1968, twenty years before I wrote "At Home With The French Classics", two books started me on my lifelong quest for raising ones appreciation and enjoyment of fine... Read more
Published on Nov. 18 2000 by Richard Grausman
5.0 out of 5 stars Elizabeth! My guide! My guru!
Elizabeth David went to France in the still dark days following WWII -- an English friend told me that meat was rationed in Britain until 1953 -- to earn a master's degree in... Read more
Published on July 19 2000 by "really-siobhan"
5.0 out of 5 stars Finally in print again
I bought this book while living in England over 20 years ago. Needless to say, my book is falling apart and when I wanted to buy a new copy a few years ago, I was very... Read more
Published on Dec 7 1999
4.0 out of 5 stars Straightforward, written with a definite point of view
This book is straightforward, written with a definite point of view, and upon occasion absolutely hilarious. Read more
Published on Oct. 23 1999
5.0 out of 5 stars If you like your family and friends you will buy this book.
Then you will look up the chocolate souffle recipe and make it. It is wonderful, and you can make it while your guests are digesting dinner, sitting around the table and being... Read more
Published on Oct. 13 1999
5.0 out of 5 stars I love this book for its authentic recipes.
While living in France, I was given this book (written by a English woman) by my sister, who lived in London. I have worn out the pages from constant use. Read more
Published on April 12 1999
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