This is a combination memoir and cookbook highlighting the seemingly effortless accomplishments of the French in preparing delicious food. As Loomis explains:
“Whether or not they like to cook doesn’t really enter into it. Food and eating are simply priorities, equal to if not more important in status than work, exercise, entertainment. And it’s not just any food that they make a priority – it has to be really good food.”
She also observes that the French don’t snack, so they are actually hungry at meal time, a condition that always helps food taste better.
Loomis sets out all kinds of guidelines to help you achieve what the French have done with meals, from a list of essential kitchen tools, to what to keep in your pantry, which cheese is which, what utensils to use on the table (and where to place them), to how to serve from a platter, and so on. An especially useful section called “A Dozen Great French Techniques” outlines methods for emulsifying, carmelizing, braising, making pastry, making crème anglaise, and other processes that look intimidating until you read her guidelines.
Finally, there are the recipes, interspersed throughout the text and also some arranged seasonally at the end of the book. A few of them, I admit, you will never ever see in my house – such as Succulent Beef Cheeks. But others, like Rhubarb and Ginger Tart (“this combination will send you to heaven”) are definitely on my to-do list.
Evaluation: Foodies and Francophiles will appreciate this useful and entertaining book. It’s full of “secrets” to increase awareness and appreciation of an activity so central to everyone’s days, and to help make ordinary meals turn into sumptuous repasts.
Note: You can see some of the author’s recipes on her website, here.
Published by Gotham Books, a Penguin Random House Company, 2015