As I mentioned last month I received through Library Thing's Early Reviewers Program an ARC of Susan Herrmann Loomis's In a French Kitchen ~ Tales and Traditions of Everyday Home Cooking in France, which I promised to review in exchange. Here's me keeping the promise:
As the daughter of a chef I learned to cook from an expert who was happiest in the kitchen. If Dad taught me anything, it's that there is no better meal you can serve your family than one you prepare at home with a little time, thought and love. I didn't inherit my father's wizardry with food (although I am an excellent baker), but for the last thirty-odd years I've cooked meals nearly every day at home. No matter how hectic life becomes I do believe home cooking is the best food in the world.
With In a French Kitchen Susan Herrmann Loomis does for her readers what my Dad did for me, and shows us the many sides, secrets and little sorceries of home cooking in France. From her own kitchen to those of her friends and colleagues, Ms. Loomis demystifies and illuminates how ordinary people carry on the well-known and often obsessive love affair the French have with food while looking after their families, perpetuating traditions and creating more than a few of their own. That she covers so much in just thirteen chapters, all of which include dozens of recipes, helpful lists and topical spotlights, is just as fascinating as her stories.
I wouldn't say this is a traditional cookbook. It's something of a memoir, as the author offers plenty of tales about her own experiences in France, but it's also an intimate guide to how we can all learn a little from French home cooks to make our cooking lives a little fresher, livelier and fun. I don't see myself whipping up homemade mayonnaise -- I'm a Hellmann's girl from way back -- but I definitely want to try out many of the delicious-sounding recipes, particularly in the chapters on breads and desserts. There are a great many terms in French in the text, but Ms. Loomis deftly translates all of them directly or within context. I particularly appreciated seeing all the various quantities listed in both US and European measurements, which when not offered can be a pain for either side to convert.
Among other things the author is a trained chef who runs a cooking school (in France!) so this is not going to read like your Mom's Betty Crocker or the last issue of Taste of Home. She's a pro, guys, and while she does want to develop her readers' inner French cooks, many of her techniques are fairly advanced. While the dedicated gourmands probably won't bat an eyelash over Lapin Aux Pruneaux D'Edith, if you're a Hamburger Helper-dependent cook you're probably going to feel a bit intimidated. Don't be. Everyone has to start somewhere, and you can try something simple, like the homemade hot chocolate in chapter eight, or the poached pears in chapter thirteen. Once you've tackled a few of the easier recipes (and there are a lot of those, too) you can try something a little more complex, like Edith's Rabbit with Dried Plums.
I recommend this book to anyone who enjoys French cooking and culture and wants to take some adventures with their own cooking -- and if you simply love reading about cooking as I do, then you're in for a treat. This book is scheduled for release on June 16th, 2015. If you'd like to get your own copy, here's where you can shop:
Barnes & Noble