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Hardcover The French Menu Cookbook Book

ISBN: 1580083854

ISBN13: 9781580083850

The French Menu Cookbook

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Format: Hardcover

Condition: Very Good

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Book Overview

Richard Olney was one of a kind - a scholarly cook who had a tremendous influence on American cooking via his cottage on a hillside in Provence. Born in the Midwest in 1927 and drawn to France as a young man, Olney was attracted to the style, flavours, and tastes of French cooking. Brimming with compelling explanations of how the French really cook and with over 150 authentic recipes, this book is a masterful resource.

Customer Reviews

4 ratings

Before there was "Simple French Food"...

Others here have written lengthy and lyrical paeans to this book, so I will try to be brief. It is a masterful book, no doubt about it. Originally published in 1970, "The French Menu Cookbook" reflects a level of sophistication -- and of authentic French sensibility -- that could not be found anywhere else, "Mastering the Art" included, back in the day. Many of the seasonal menus are precisely what one would have at a family gathering or a good solid bistro "over there" -- take, for example, one of the "informal spring dinners": Filets de Sardines Crues en Marinade Grillade de Boeuf, Marchand de Vin Gratin de Pommes de Terre Salade des Champs Fromages Tarte aux Pommes And of course there are the formal menus, with foie gras, truffles, lobster, pheasant and sauteed cepes. All along the way, there is Olney's elegant prose. The essay on wine that spans perhaps thirty pages is the most readable, comprehensive and succinct review of basic principles of wine making and service, and of the key French varietals and appellations, I believe I have ever seen. A lot of knowledge and instinct is distilled in these few pages. This book, which preceded "Simple French Food" by a few years, is more the traditional "cookbook" with reasonably detailed recipes, unlike the Olney masterwork "Simple" that followed it. I still think "Simple French Food" is his crowning achievement, because as my review of "Simple" indicates, it is a book of general principles and a guide to improvisation, not a "recipe book" at all. If you spend a lot of time with "Simple," you will learn to make your own recipes and compose your own menus because it encourages you to riff in the kitchen, to work on your own chops. But with "Menu," you have a very detailed roadmap -- start to finish menus, recipes and pitch-perfect wine suggestions for each course. It's all good. But to me, by distilling it all down to first principles in "Simple French Food," Olney really climbed the mountain. Perhaps my preference for "Simple" is just because it was the book I came to first -- I bought "Simple" in 1977, used it over and over and over again, and bought my first (and still my only) copy of "Menu" when the revised hardcover edition from David R. Godine came out in 1985. Whichever of the two books you may regard more highly, both of them belong on every serious food and wine lover's bookshelf.

This book needs more reviews!

Richard Olney is one of the main voices for French cuisine in the English-speaking world, and yet this book also goes beyond the basics of French cooking and reintroduces to the American public concepts of eating by season and constructing menus based on each dish's impact on the palette, contrasting and matching flavors and textures. In fact, the chapters at the beginning in which Olney simply introduces these ideas, giving helpful tips that can be applied to cooking of any kind, not just French, are worth the price of the book alone. Read the small chapter on menu composition and you can just picture it hammered to the kitchen wall of every fine dining establishment today. However, the main point of this book is clearly to teach French cuisine, and this book is full of information on that topic as well. The book feels much more like a culinary journal or memoir at times than a cookbook, and you could, as I sometimes do, just read the book as it is without trying to pick out something to make for dinner. Although Olney stylistically toes the line in his prose and dictation in coming across as lofty and reprimanding, there somehow remains just enough dry humor and flexibility that the reader never feels berated. The recipes themselves aren't always straightforward or simple, although practically every curious ingredient is explained for the reader in great detail. Olney is one of the surprisingly few French cookbook authors who considers the price and availability of several ingredients such as Perigord truffles and even foie gras, and would probably have done so with veal had this book been written after veal was made somewhat of a taboo in this country. I've practically cooked through this book by now (although, I've never actually prepared a suggested menu all in one sitting) and Olney walks very thoroughly through the more complicated recipes, while simultaneously taking simple recipes up a notch, giving the reader something new to try. Don't be put off by the dated look and feel of the book, the content has aged quite well and the information, ahead of its time then, is still completely relevant to today's home cook. And better, this is a cookbook you can actually read, and become incredibly well-versed in French cuisine by the time you've finished. This is the printed product of a lifelong devotion to the food and wine of France, and I hope it is not forgotten.

A great supplement to Simple French Food

This book is a great addition to Olney's classic Simple French Food.

Possibly the most sophisticated cookbook in English

Looking back to 1970, the year this book was first published, puts its sophistications in context and underscores the enormity of its contributions. America was deep in culinary ignorance, eating out of cans and supplementing that metal-tinged blandness with gut-busting mountains of artificial 'foods'. America was lost somehwere between the post-war meat-and-potatoes era and the chemical concoctions of the 80s and beyond. Small glimmers of possibility illuminated the occassional suburban cocktail party, when hostesses under the influence of Julia Child trotted out a few hotel-food hors d'oeuvres, and a few ethnic enclaves still held up a candle of flavor, but America was largely a culinary wasteland. Servings were large, everything was bland, and mealtime had become TV time. Without flavor or family, American meals were effectively dead. It was into this lunar food landscape that Richard Olney introduced several revolutionary ideas at once in The French Menu Cookbook. I should say that he RE-introduced these ideas, because they had existed, with varying degrees of sophistication, for as long as people had eaten, but an industrial food system had interrupted that great cultural memory. This book's structure is its message: the food is introduced not by category, but by course within menus, and the menus themselves are organized by season. For those of us who have heard the gospel of seasonality and regional availability and freshness from Alice Waters and Paul Bertolli, at al, it can be easy to forget that this idea is still, 36 years after The French Menu Cookbook, radical, and so against the grain of the industrial food complex as to be almost an act of treason. But Richard Olney's way with food started that revolution at possibly the most inoportune moment in Americna history. A sample menu says it all: An Informal Spring Dinner Hors d'oeuvre of Crudites Shrimp Quiche Coq au Vin Steamed Potatoes Wild Green Salad Cheeses Flamri with Raspberry Sauce all of the above matched with appropriate wines. Notice the careful development through the courses, the constant shifts of flavor to keep the palate alive, the seasonal ingredients... All of this was deeply shocking at the time. But there's one more big surprise: this book is every bit as good today as it was in 1970. It doesn't feel even remotely dated, like Julia Child's books do. Maybe, in hueing so faithfully to the principles of freshness, seasonality, and regional availability, Olney tapped into something timeless. And so this book was a classic the day it was published, and remains one of the most sophisticated, satisfying, and inspiring cookbooks ever published. Very highly recommended.
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