Monday, March 26, 2012

Book Review: Mastering the Art of French Cooking

A Book You Can Buy From Me

Book Title: Mastering the Art of French Cooking (Volume Two)

Author: Julia Child with Simone Beck

Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf

Date: 1970 

Amazon "ASIN" number: B001HTFC5Q

Tip for book collectors: If Volume One of a series was a bestseller, Volume Two through Whatever will one day become A Find.

Well, I have Volume Two of Mastering the Art of French Cooking...the one with the recipe for the simple, gluten-free, somewhat eggy, all-cornstarch cake that can be baked in fancy shapes and sculpted. (A full explication of "La Dacquoise," with variations called Le Succes, Le Progres, Broyage Suisse, and so on, is found on pages 497-504.)

Other recipes include three fish stews that are not bouillabaisse, each with variations; waterzooi (chicken cooked in a non-sweet custard); beef baked in brioche crust; Pommes Anna (pommes de terre, potatoes); cooked pumpkin served in a pumpkin shell; zucchini sauteed, stuffed, or grated; the closest possible American approximation to Real French Bread; puff pastry; fresh-cooked sausages, including sausages with green vegetables ground right into the mix; Vesuvius Surprise, similar to Baked Alaska but flameable; petits fours; flour-free meringues made with egg whites, ground nuts, and flavorings only; and three French versions of chocolate cake.

Everything is discussed in Child's unforgettable style, which simulates authentic French earnestness, bordering upon reverence, toward food. Lots of nice clear line drawings show how to shape things and what kinds of special dishes to look for (good luck finding them).

A guaranteed-clean copy, online, starts at $15 and I unfortunately have to add shipping costs to that, so the best price I could offer online will be $25. Even the paperback edition starts, used, at $9. And unfortunately Julia Child is no longer able to benefit from our royalty system, so unless you want to post a free advertorial on this blog, you might as well just buy it straight from Amazon.

So, if you're in the area, run don't walk to Mountain Treasures...I'm pretty sure that either of the ladies in the store will give you a much better price on my copy, which has been exposed to mold, but has been cleaned and can be safely handled. It's not the first edition. It's the fifteenth printing, dating back only to 1981. It looks just like the first edition, though, and in a fully dehumidified kitchen (e.g. one with a wood stove) it should last for many more years. And that pretty "French blue" printed cover is designed to survive wiping down, with soap and a splash of bleach or Tilex if necessary.