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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Essential, Exhaustive Reference to French and World Food,
This review is from: Larousse Gastronomique: The World's Greatest Culinary Encyclopedia (Hardcover)This weighty, 1200 page volume is a reliable gold standard among culinary works. It should not surprise that it is originally a work published in French (Larousse is a major French publisher that specializes in encyclopedic volumes on many subjects). The inevitability of the volume is based on the premier place of French cuisine on the world stage and on the very European tradition of publishing great omnibus works on just about every subject imaginable. It was Diderot in 17th century France who invented the encyclopedia and great references in most subjects are available in French or German or even Italian long before they are available in English.
The blurb on the front of my edition states that the Larousse Gastronomique is the 'World's Greatest Culinary Encyclopedia'. I cannot judge this statement for volumes available in French, German, Italian, Spanish, Japanese, Chinese, Thai, Hindi, or Arabic. But, in English, this is undoubtedly true. This statement is true not only for the size of the volume, but for the great range of subjects the editors have chosen to include. The entries cover all the obvious things such as vegetables, meats, fish, shellfish, herbs, spices, fruits, and spice mixtures.
On these subjects, the writers do not limit themselves to a simple description of appearance, taste, seasonality, geographic distribution, and a statement of culinary uses. It includes representative recipes for almost all basic foodstuffs, the number depending on the relative importance of the food. The entry for aubergines (eggplant) includes a general recipe for the preparation of the vegetable plus eight recipes within the article itself plus references to eight other recipes under other articles. The drawings or photographs accompanying articles on major foodstuffs like aubergines are truly first rate. I am pleased, but not surprised at this, as I have come to expect European editors to do as good or better job of illustrating books than American publishers, especially where these illustrations are an important aspect of the work. Regarding the illustrations in general, the genius of the editors is in the great variety of media used in the pictures. Where technical detail is important, color drawings are used to focus on the important and hide the incidental in pictures of raw ingredients, for example. Where a prepared dish is pictured, photographs are typically used. Where the subject is a geographical or historical subject, the first choice is usually an historical engraving, painting, or cartoon.
If the book covered no more than these foods, it would be a valuable work indeed, but it also covers such diverse subjects as geographical regions of culinary interest such as Provence, both common and rare kitchen tools such as the autoclave and the bain marie, culinary songs such as chants used by street vendors in Paris, types of eating establishments such as café, bistro, and restaurant. One of my favorite things is to be looking for a particular entry and run across some other totally appropriate, yet totally unexpected entry. My most recent find is an article on the traditional fraternal orders and associations of culinary professionals in place in France, some since the Middle Ages. This relatively long article is accompanied by full color pictures of the robes worn by members of these orders.
The range of subjects covered by the book is quite international, but there is a clear emphasis on French techniques, history, produce, and dishes. The coverage of wine and cheese around the world is extensive, as these products are so important to French gastronomy. Some subjects that are very important to Asian cuisines get relatively little attention. Soy gets a half page article, and miso gets no more than a paragraph. Lemons get a page and a half, yet lemongrass has no article at all. On the other hand, techniques for butchering a chicken get two full pages.
I do not often refer to the Larousse Gastronomique for recipes, but it is always my reference of last resort when all other sources fail. The only culinary question on which it is mute is on substitutions. A replacement for buttermilk can be found in any number of lesser references, yet the Gastronomique simply does not cover this.
The Larousse Gastronomique is simply the essential reference to French technique, ingredients, culinary history, and geography. Get this before you get your Julia Child and your Jaques Pepin and your Patricia Wells. I seriously doubt if the latest editions have any significant improvements over used editions of thirty or even fifty years ago. Just be sure to get one in good condition. You will refer to it often.
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Tout le Monde,
This review is from: Larousse Gastronomique: The World's Greatest Culinary Encyclopedia (Hardcover)Certainly the grande dame of cookbooks can't be everything to everyone but what it does do, better than anything else, is teach you the proper way to master the myriad of cooking techniques. If the book is heavy, it's because it's the foundation of every other cookbook you could own. Certianly "Joy of Cooking" is also remarkable in this respect, but if you want to rise about just being good, Larousse will teach you. Yes it is Franco-centric but deservedly, the French have a culinary legacy second to none in the world and the techniques you learn in Larousse will serve you well no matter if cooking Chinese, Italian, or even New American.
The four foundations the book synthesizes are: Technique, Tools, Ingredients, and Creativity. Ever wanted to know the essence of celery? Just how an egg does all the things that it does? Larousse will tell you. Similary, with tools, Larousse is an illumination. If Williams Sonoma ever seemed superfluous, Larousse will shock you into realizing there are advantages to owning copper pots, balanced wisks, and a bombe mould or two. Correct tools are essential to exemplary results.
Larousse is not a dead book of "ancient regime" heavy sauces (though they are included), but rather a living book, inspirational in its depth. If it can be accused of being stodgy, and it has, it's because it wants to emphasize the basics of cooking and, once that is mastered, leaves you free to go out on your own. Once the four foundations have been mastered it's up to you to excel. That's not to say there aren't complex and difficult recipes, there are; but they tend to be more traditional though make no mistake, the top chefs of France have contributed recipes to Larousse.
There are shortfalls. As noted before it does not cover the other grande cuisines of the world (namely Chinese and Italian) with anything remotely resembling a catholic perspective, but then it doesn't purport to be an all-encompassing cookbook. As a book it is dry and its emphasis on exact, rigid technique seems rather imperious. While the haughty tone may seem to be a fault, it's actually worded so as to express the exact requirement of a task in the clearest terms. When you get to the highest levels of cooking techniques there is no room for error. You're dealing with physical and chemical properties that require exact processes to succeed. Pull them off and you'll amaze yourself.
If you learn to cook using Larousse Gastronomique and follow it faithfully, there won't be a cuisine in the world you can't tackle or a cooking task you won't perform without confidence. I can't say that about any other cookbook.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I would give it more stars if I could,
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This review is from: Larousse Gastronomique: The World's Greatest Culinary Encyclopedia (Hardcover)This book is an absolute "must" for anyone who is interested in culinary arts, food and wine related topics.
I love cooking and have an extensive collection of cookery books, but this is a reference book "par excellence" and is fascinating. I read a little at a time and allow time for each subject to sink in and often have to cross reference. I still have many topics to go, it will probably take me all year to complete this book.
Often I have used this book as a dictionary to find out about a type of food and it has been the topic of many a conversation with friends.
This book is not a recipe book nor for the faint hearted and a sound knowledge of the French language is a definate advantage since so many culinary terms are in French and not translated (and often not even translatable), this book assumes that you already have the basic cullinary language before you start.
This is not a book that I would take a chance on buying as a gift for anyone unless they had specified an interest.
A wonderful book!
5.0 out of 5 stars A Must for Every Kitchen,
This review is from: Larousse Gastronomique: The World's Greatest Culinary Encyclopedia (Hardcover)Perhaps this is the single most important book for every kitchen. It is a vast collection of terms and recipes from around the world. From Mushroom Duxelles to the food of Monaco, the Larousse Gastronomique piques the interest of amateur chefs!
I was introduced to this by a friend and really cannot see my kitchen complete without it.
5.0 out of 5 stars must-have on any foodie's bookshelf,
This review is from: Larousse Gastronomique: The World's Greatest Culinary Encyclopedia (Hardcover)Larousse Gastronomique is the definitive reference work for chefs and cooks interested in the classic European traditions, and presents an exhaustive range of information on its subjects.
This is an ultimate resource, covering two or three hundred years in the history of food, complete with recipes of even the most absurd old-fashioned dishes. There are art reproductions, stories of the great chefs, detailed analysis of every ingredient and dish; and recent editions include a great deal of world cuisine information too.
It is endlessly fascinating - just flip it open and you will be absorbed. I have just opened it to "Honey" - Larousse tells me the amounts of water and sugar it contains, the varieties of imported honeys, how color is determined by the source flowers; how in ancient times honey was a symbol of wealth and happiness, used as both food and offering; how the Romans used it as a confectionary and condiment with a variety of foodstuffs, including pork with honey, mead, gingerbread; how to make grog; how it is a replacement for saltpetre in pickling brine; and so on - just to give an idea of its range.
This is a must-have on any foodie's bookshelf, and of course thoroughly recommended.
5.0 out of 5 stars The Authority in Culinary Cooking of All Time!,
This review is from: Larousse Gastronomique: The World's Greatest Culinary Encyclopedia (Hardcover)This is by far the most inspirational, interesting, intriguing, helpful and compelling culinary book (in my opinion) ever written. This is THE reference book and is jam packed with useful information. If food and cooking are your passions then you MUST get this book. I would give this 6 stars out of 5.
Let me put it this way - if I were deserted on a tiny isolated rat-infested island I would be satisfied if I had this book with me as company.
5.0 out of 5 stars Not a recipe book,
By A Customer
This review is from: Larousse Gastronomique: The World's Greatest Culinary Encyclopedia (Hardcover)Don't get this if you are looking for a recipe book. It is, however, a fantastic dictionary of cooking methods and terms, and it does provide a few recipes for each main type of dish. Excellent if you want to learn how to make sauces.
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent for the future French chefs of the world.,
By A Customer
This review is from: Larousse Gastronomique: The World's Greatest Culinary Encyclopedia (Hardcover)I recently came back from France and this book does a great job on describing the technique on French cooking. I want to become a chef and learn how they come up with all the beautiful sauces and wonderful pastries. I highly recommend if your a student buying the Study Guide for the National Servsafe Exam: Key Review Questions and Answers with Explanations by P. Leonardi and M. Heilman. They also have a baking and advance baking guide books, which are helping me to pass all my culinary courses.
5.0 out of 5 stars A must-have for cooks!!,
This review is from: Larousse Gastronomique: The World's Greatest Culinary Encyclopedia (Hardcover)WOW...what question doesn't it answer? Well worth the money. You can't improve on a book that sets the standard.
5.0 out of 5 stars The Bible,
This review is from: Larousse Gastronomique: The World's Greatest Culinary Encyclopedia (Hardcover)Answers all my questions, and provides pictures of some of the more obscure ingredients I've fretted over in some of my cookbooks.
If cooking were a game of Scrabble, Larousse is the dictionary you turn to in the event of a 'challenge'. Disagreement over the proper way to cook hollandaise? Look it up in Larousse. Forgot how to make a veloute? Larousse.
Great reference for food, wine, and classic recipes.
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Larousse Gastronomique: The World's Greatest Culinary Encyclopedia by Librairie Larousse (Hardcover - Oct. 2 2001)
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