Tuesday, November 22, 2011
Two Of My Favorite Cookbooks
I have discovered that I enjoy reading cookbooks for shear pleasure. Ive also started collecting them in my library. Cookbooks are fascinating science books filled with logical interesting knowledge. The act of cooking is essentially a molecular chemical reaction that produces something delicious to savor and enjoy. Period.
They are excellent conversation pieces to any library of substantial merit. They may seem expensive, and many of them are; however, the price is well worth it in the end. What you may not realize is that the author has tested the recipes time and time again through every reconcilable scenario. They have encountered all the malfunctions, and disasters. All you need is the right equipment, and the precise ingredients. All you have to do is cook it forward.
If your conscientiously worried about the prices (that's fully understandable) I suggest hitting up elite bookstores during their annual holiday sales. On the other hand, check out used bookstores. Those are my personal favorite places because they are immense treasure troves. If its a good used bookstore, you will be pleasantly surprised and in a merry nirvana when you start realizing what's truly around you. The "coming across" is my favorite part of pillageing dilligently through those lofty wooden shelves. My second favorite part is checking the price. Many of these used books will be half price or lower. And maybe...just maybe...you'll come across a first edition, which is something that will satisfy you immensely.
Here is a list of cookbooks that I've discovered are well worth having:
1. The Joy of Cooking by Irma Rombauer, "Mrs. Joy" as she is affectionately called. Her claim to fame: Her husband committed suicide by purposely shooting himself in the skull. She was in an awful depression and started cooking. She then took her late husband's life insurance money and published The Joy of Cooking, which became a classic in kitchen literature. Sadly, her publisher swindled Irma and she lost a great deal of money. The Joy of Cooking became a classic and is regarded as the first mainstream cookbook for Americans.
2. Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child, Simone Beck, and Louisette Bertholle. The claim to fame: Simone and Louisette were two French cooks living in Paris who dreamed of producing a French cookbook for American housewives. They produced a staggering manuscript filled with errors. The measurements were not even converted from the metric system and into customery units, basically making the recipes impossible to create across the pond.
Paul and Julia Child were Americans working in Paris for the government after War World II. Julia was becoming unsatisifed with her work and wanted to so something more. She liked to eat and was in love with French culture. She enrolled herself at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris and started learning to cook. It was there that she met Simone and Louisette. They told her their vision for a French cookbook for American housewives and asked Julia to help them since she was an American and knew what life was like back there. She jumped at the chance and the book became an obession and labor of love. Julia converted all their recipes to customary units, and made subtle changes that the hardheaded Simone and Louisette could not understand. Julia promised them both that they had to do these changes otherwise the books would be a waste of time and energy. During this time, the three cooks formed a cooking school called L'Ecole Trois Gourmands which ran out of Julia's Parisan apartment on University Avenue.
Julia developed a pen-pal relationship with a woman named Avis Devoto who lived in New York. Julia shared some of their secret recipes. Avis was so impressed that she shared them with an editor from the Alfred E. Knoph publishing house. This was completely against Julia's standards because she was in fear their work would be stolen! Knoph was bedazzled by what they found and agreed to publish the work. However, they didn't realize the work was the size of an encyclopedia. They covered EVERYTHING. This wasn't feasible so Knoph asked them to pull up their sleeves and meticulously attack the work and break it down. Knoph paid Julia and her team $200.
Louisette began to distance herself from the project and the cooking school, it had initially been her dream all this time, but she was now going through a rough divorce. This unfortunate event landed Julia Child at the helm of the project now. Julia and Simone took on the brunt of the work and made Louisette a contributor.
Mastering the Art of French Cooking was published by Alfred A. Knoph in 1961 and became a beacon of light for the culinary world and the American housewife. Mastering brought the magic and culture of Paris into the American kitchen for the very first time. It became a classic, a best seller, and a bible of inspiration for chefs and cooks alike . It outsold The Joy of Cooking, its predecessor, and is regarded as one of the most distinguished books ever written. Julia, Simone, and Louisette gave back to the world, and the world is forever grateful.