Hardcover: 976 pages
Publisher: Phaidon Press; US ed edition (September 24, 2009)
Product Dimensions: 7.5 x 3.2 x 11 inches
Shipping Weight: 5.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars See all reviews (53 customer reviews)
Best Sellers Rank: #178,421 in Books (See Top 100 in Books) #173 in Books > Cookbooks, Food & Wine > Regional & International > European > French #17866 in Books > Teens
My jaw hit the floor when I saw this book. I have the French version and I had no idea that Phaidon was working on one of their now-classic spruced-up translations. If nothing else, Phaidon has the cookbook thing down by now -- this is a typically beautiful cookbook, with stunning photography and illustrations derived from the blocky line art typical of books from the 50s and 60s.The original book is certainly not a learner's book; if anything it's more of a complement to something like Mastering The Art of French Cooking, to be used as a reference after working through the more technique-oriented books. Comparisons to Joy of Cooking are apt; while very few books on the market are quite as ambitious as Joy (which has a level of information density that is intimidating even by most professional standards), Mathiot certainly cast her net wide for traditional French cooking, even adding a few foreign recipes (one situation where the book sadly underachieves). This book does take some liberties, fleshing out some of the recipes for overseas audiences and adding the now-traditional selection of specialties from overseas French chefs (including, among others, Daniel Boulud, but sadly fewer other A-listers than you'd expect).
Last July, the Washington Post excerpted a recipe from Ginette Mathiot's French classic and, in the covering article, compared it a French "Joy of Cooking" and compared it the books of Julia Child. On the strength of that article, I ordered the book, and my copy arrived yesterday. I am going to enjoy cooking from it. It is a classic of great depth and we can be thankful to Phaidon for publishing this huge volume. And yet, in my opinion, it is not quite what the Post article touted it to be. It lacks the extraordinary technical precision of Julia Child and "Joy of Cooking." Nor, do I think that, as an introduction to cooking technique, it can be compared to Madeleine Kamman's "New Making of a Cook." The closest American comparison I would make to it is the classic "American Woman's Cookbook," which was my mother's cooking bible and the cook book I first learned to cook from. As a collection of recipes, the Mathiot book deserves a place of honor in the kitchen. Yet the book suffers from some odd editorial shortcomings. As a translation from the French, ingredients are given in equivalent U.S. measurements (mostly by weight); but straight metric conversions lead to odd amounts in the ingredients columns. For example, one recipe calls for 4 1/4 ounces of bacon, 9 ounces of chestnuts, and 1 1/4 cups of Madeira. Readers would have been better served by a list of the original metric amounts and a parallel column that recalculates the recipe in more standard U.S. measures--as for example the U.S. editor of Elizabeth David's books has done with her British measures. Secondly, there is no French-to-English glossary; and, in some cases, trying to find a technique known by a French name is hopeless. Where is "poele," for example?
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