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    Mastering the Art of French Cooking (1970)



    The French Chef Cookbook (1968)

    From Julia Child’s Kitchen (1975)

    Julia Child & Company (1978)

    Julia Child & More Company (1979)

    The Way to Cook (1989)

    Cooking with Master Chefs (1993)

    In Julia’s Kitchen with Master Chefs (1995)

    Julia’s Kitchen Wisdom (2000)

    My Life in France, with Alex Prud’homme (2006)


    Julia and Jacques Cooking at Home (1999)


    Simca’s Cuisine (1972)

    More Recipes From Simca’s Cuisine (1979)

    Illustrations by Sidonie Coryn



    Copyright © 1961, 1983, 2001 by Alfred A. Knopf

    All rights reserved under International and Pan-American Copyright Conventions. Published in the United States by Alfred A. Knopf, a division of Random House, Inc., New York, and simultaneously in Canada by Random House of Canada Limited, Toronto. Distributed by Random House, Inc., New York.


    Knopf, Borzoi Books, and the colophon are registered trademarks of Random House, Inc.

    Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Child, Julia. Mastering the art of French cooking.

    Rev. ed. of: Mastering the art of French cooking / Simone Beck, Louisette Bertholle, Julia Child.

    Vol. 2 by Julia Child and Simone Beck.

    Includes index.

    1. Cookery, French. I. Bertholle, Louisette. II. Beck, Simone. III. Beck, Simone. Mastering the art of French cooking. IV. Title.

    TX719.C454 1983 641.5944 83–48113

    eISBN: 978-0-307-95817-4










    La Belle France








    by Julia Child

    WHAT WAS AMERICAN food like forty years ago when this book first appeared? It’s hard for me to remember since the “now” is so much with me. I grew up in Southern California, in a comfortable family, with a New England background since my mother was from Massachusetts. We ate in the typically middle-class WASP American way of the teens and twenties—a big prime-rib roast of beef for the traditional family Sunday lunch of twelve to fourteen people. If not beef we might have a fine, big, well-aged leg of lamb—always cooked medium gray, never pinky-red rare, and always served with mint sauce as well as gravy. Or there would be a fat roasted chicken with creamed onions and mashed potatoes. Always an enthusiastic carnivore, I particularly remember the beef, not only rib roasts but also magnificent big well-marbled porterhouse steaks. They were full of real beefy flavor in those days, and they were juicy. Of course, that was the happy era when emphasis was on the quality of the beef, not the fat content. Our family cooking was essentially simple and straightforward, and since it was California we always had plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables.

    As to specifics, I remember aspics. Jellied madrilene was a favorite fancy soup of the period, a beef consommé flavored with fresh tomato and topped with a splash of whipped cream—that was before sour cream came upon us. Melba toast was a standard accompaniment to the soup at ladies’ luncheons—and there were many of them then because running a household rather than having a career gave many women the leisure time. These carefully orchestrated meals often featured a large molded ring of tomato aspic, its center filled with chicken, crab, or lobster salad.

    I cannot forget one ladies’ lunch back in the 1950s. Our hostess proudly led us to our seats around a nicely appointed table where we each sat down to a pretty china plate upon which stood an upright, somewhat phallic-shaped molded aspic holding in suspension diced green grapes, diced marshmallows, and diced bananas. Surrounded lavishly but neatly with squirts of whipped cream, this lovingly constructed edifice rested on several leaves of iceberg lettuce far too small to hide anything under. After the main course, and grandly brought in to the acclaim of the guests, was a very large and high coconut cake, almost certainly made from a cake mix and, again, constructed with utmost care. That was a quite typical, dressy example of the period, created earnestly and with the most generous intentions.

    When Paul and I married in the mid 1940s I had very little kitchen experience, but since his mother was a fine cook and he had lived in France, I went into it seriously with Gourmet magazine and Joy of Cooking as my guides. It took hours to get dinner on the table, but he was encouraging. A year or so after our marriage he was offered a position at the American embassy in Paris.

    It was a dream fulfilled. I had always yearned to know France, and Paul, having lived there for several years as a penniless young man, dreamed of returning. He had a gift for languages and spoke beautiful French. As for me, although I had taken French all during my school years, it was taught in that useless old-fashioned way where you rarely heard the spoken language but you knew the declensions of all the verbs. Thus, I could neither speak French nor understand it. We were fortunate indeed to rent the top floor of a fine old Louis XVI-style private house, and as soon as we settled ourselves I enrolled in the Berlitz school of languages for two hours every day. Then, when I had a foot on the language, I enrolled in the Cordon Bleu cooking school. With Paul’s help plus the Berlitz, and especially being at the Cordon Bleu where at that time all the lessons were in French, conversation was slowly beginning to come.

    Nobody I knew, either American or French, seemed at all interested in la cuisine française. My American colleagues had little femmes de ménage who did the housekeeping, shopping, and cooking, and I was considered more than a little odd because I did all the cooking and marketing—such fun!—as well as the serving when we had company. Then one day a friend in the embassy introduced me to Simone Beck Fischbacher—a tall, blond, vivacious Frenchwoman, known as Simca. She was passionate about cooking, had grown up in a household of fine food, and had taken many lessons with the Cordon Bleu school’s master chef, Henri Pellaprat. We took to each other at once, and she introduced me to Le Cercle des Gourmettes, a French ladies’ gastronomical club that met every other Tuesday to cook and eat lunch in the kitchens of the electric company.

    The members of Les Gourmettes were mostly in their sixties and seventies and came just for the luncheon. Simca’s friend and colleague Louisette Bertholle was also a member, and the three of us made a point of arriving at 9:00 a.m. so that we could work with the chef. We helped in the preparation of wonderfully elaborate dishes such as stuffed pheasants, poached oysters served in classic wine sauces, and beautifully molded desserts. What a marvelous opportunity it was for me, a foreigner, to be accepted in a totally French atmosphere and to be witness to and participant in the preparation of the most stylish type of la cuisine bourgeoise. My several Paris years with them gave me an invaluable experience and background.

    During this period some American friends of mine asked Louisette, Simca, and me to give them cooking lessons. They wanted a real introduction, from cuisine ménagère, such as how to boil a potato, on up to pâtés en croûte. They didn’t speak the language and preferred us to a school. Simca, always the enthusiast, agreed, and L’Ecole des 3 Gourmandes—School of the 3 Happy Eaters—was born in 1950. We not only conducted the classes ourselves, but we also enlisted the professional help of my favorite Cordon Bleu teacher, Chef Max Bugnard.

    Chef Bugnard had begun as a young apprentice in his family’s restaurant kitchen, then did classic “stages” in Paris, on several luxurious transatlantic steamers of the period, as well as at the Ritz in London, where he worked briefly under the great Escoffier. Before World War II Chef Bugnard had had his own restaurant in Bruxelles, Le Petit Vatel, but was forced to flee before the occupying Germans. When I became one of his pupils, he had retired from restaurant life and was teaching.

    We raided the Cordon Bleu again in soliciting the services of its excellent pastry chef and teacher Claude Thilmont. As a younger man Chef Thilmont had been the pâtissier at the Café de Paris, during which period he also worked with the author herself in the writing of her seminal book for the French home cook, Le Livre de Cuisine de Mme. E. Saint-Ange.

    You may well wonder how we were able to acquire such real treasures in our modest classes. I think that in their later years many chefs of the old school welcomed teaching. They were adored by their pupils, their work hours were civilized, and the pay was undoubtedly superior to what they could make in restaurant kitchens. We three teachers were thus being subsidized by our own pupils—not a bad idea!

    For several years before we met one another, Simca and Louisette had been involved in writing a book on French cooking for Americans. They needed an American collaborator, and I was delighted to join. Because we had to write up all the recipes for our school, the basis for our book slowly took shape. We gave especially full directions for all the dishes we cooked in class, and we also wanted to discuss in detail hows and whys and basic techniques. In general our aim was to take out the mystique and to make French cooking make sense. As the work progressed Paul and I were transferred from Paris to Marseilles, and then to Germany. Our last post was in Norway, where he finally left the diplomatic service. We then settled in our big, old, gray-clapboard three-story house in Cambridge, Massachusetts. During this separation, voluminous recipes and discussions flew back and forth.

    When at last our book was published the Kennedys were in the White House and whatever they did was news, including how they lived and even what they ate. They had a talented French chef in residence, René Verdon, and one read frequently about their spectacular dinners. In 1961 Americans were beginning to go to Europe almost by droves, taking but a few hours for the voyage by plane rather than almost a week by boat. People were interested in more adventurous foods, and serving those meals at home was becoming a matter of pride.

    Simca came from Paris to help launch the book—her first visit to America. Although she spoke English, she did so in a delightfully French way, and was in every aspect very French indeed. In fact Paul and I always called her “La Super Française.” The cooking classes that she had been conducting for Americans in Paris during the years before the book came out meant that she had friends and former students in various cities here. It was she who suggested we go out and drum up some sales. Book tours were something of a novelty then even for well-known authors, and certainly unusual for writers of cookbooks. I don’t know how we had the chutzpah, but off we went, Simca and Paul and I. We had announced to our friends that we were coming and asked them to provide us with opportunities.

    Our first stop was in Chicago, where Simca and I both had friends, and we did interviews and cooking demonstrations in private houses and for the Chicago Tribune. Then we went on to Detroit, and when in San Francisco we were asked to do a demonstration at one of the big department stores. The wife of the owner, in a fit of exuberance, had purchased dozens of madeleine pans—the kind you use for those shell-shaped little French cakes made famous by Marcel Proust in Remembrance of Things Past. But nobody there was familiar with them. Simca, of course, knew all about madeleines, so we made them by the score during our demonstrations, the audiences gobbled them, and the store sold so many pans it had to order more.

    The demonstration in my hometown of Pasadena, California, was in the theater of a private club where there were no cooking facilities. However, we had managed to procure a portable stove and cooktop, buckets for water, and a six-foot demonstration table, and were able to produce a quite complicated menu. We started out with Roquefort quiche, an exotic dish at that time, which you’ll find here. Then we demonstrated a handsome fish mousse baked in a ring mold, an example of which is on this page, and we finished with Simca’s signature Queen of Sheba chocolate almond cake, and my all-time favorite. Looking back on the menu, I am amazed that we managed such sophisticated food in such minimal conditions.

    The morning went off very well, but then we were to repeat the performance for the afternoon demonstration. While Simca and I had to stay onstage signing cookbooks and receiving the audience, my Paul, who always volunteered to do anything that was needed, was left alone to clean up—a sticky, fishy, chocolatey mess. And where did he wash the dishes? He took over the tiny closet-size ladies’ room with its little sink and soap dispenser, and he cleaned up every plate, utensil, and platter. I often marvel at this valiant and uncomplaining contribution to our cause by a former diplomat and cultural attaché.

    Our tour ended in New York, with a dinner at the restaurant of Dione Lucas, the country’s most revered and well-known teacher of French cooking. When Simca had arrived in New York before our tour, Judith Jones, our young editor at Knopf, asked us whom we would especially like to meet. I had always wanted to know James Beard, and Simca wanted to see Dione Lucas, since they had mutual friends in Normandy. A date was made in Dione’s restaurant, where we sat up at her counter and talked while she made us her famous omelets for lunch. She and Simca had immediately started an animated conversation about Normandy, and finally Dione said to Simca, “I want to give you a dinner party!” What unheard-of generosity! We fixed a date in December, when we were to have finished our tour.

    We had numerous telephone calls with Dione during our trip, and one endless conversation between Simca and our future hostess involved a pay telephone at Disneyland, and multiple quarters supplied by Paul. The menu was finally agreed upon. Dione was to prepare the first course, her renowned filets of sole in a splendid classical white wine sauce, and the dessert. We were to furnish the main course, Epaule d’Agneau Viroflay—the boned shoulder of lamb but with a spinach and mushroom stuffing. We were to provide the wines—fortunately, Simca had a cousin in the business. We were also to supply the guest list.

    The three of us professional neophytes, however, had no friends in the New York food establishment, although we knew some of the names. So we turned to nice James Beard, who entered into the project with his usual enthusiasm. Under his guidance we invited all the “who’s-a-whoms” we could think of, and surprisingly almost all of them accepted—some thirty or so people.

    On the day of the dinner, while Simca and I were closeted with our lamb in my niece’s tiny fourth-floor walk-up apartment way off on New York’s east side, Paul took over the front of the house. He found a printer to produce the menus in record time. He made out the place cards, arranged the seating, and even opened the wine just before the guests arrived. Kind James Beard got there early and introduced us and our Knopf friends, Judith Jones and Bill Koshland, to all the guests as they arrived. It was a wonderful dinner, everyone had a good time, and no one left until after midnight.

    That was our beginning. We had received a marvelously favorable review from Craig Claiborne, the influential food editor of the New York Times, and we even appeared on NBC-TV’s morning Today show. A few months later, while Public Television was still “Educational Television,” our local Boston station decided to enlarge its programming from almost exclusively academic “talking heads” to a more diverse menu. They inaugurated an art program and a science program, and I was asked about trying out a cooking session. I had already done a book review with them, which involved, besides talk, the then highly unusual methods of making a tossed French omelet and the beating of egg whites in a big copper bowl. We agreed to try out three pilot programs, which appeared in the summer of 1962.

    The station put us in the charge of Russell Morash, then a young producer of science programs, now the well-known master of This Old House, The Victory Garden, and other successful series. They also gave me Ruth Lockwood as associate producer—she had been with the Eleanor Roosevelt series. Ruthie and I worked closely together, with Paul in attendance, to block out three half-hour shows. They were on coq au vin, that famous chicken stew in red wine, see this page, a non-collapsible cheese soufflé, titled as an unmolded soufflé, and French omelets, fully described and illustrated, see this page.

    The first was shown on a Monday in July, at 8:00 p.m. The evening was so hot and humid, and we had no air-conditioning, that we set the television out in the garden, turned on a large fan, and watched while dining with friends. Our other two shows in succeeding weeks gathered an appreciable audience even for that time of year. Although Dione Lucas had hosted the first full television cooking series, she had been off the air for several seasons, and we had the only one at that time. The station asked us if we would do thirteen more—a year’s fifty-two weeks, by the way, are divided into four thirteen-week sessions. We agreed, and The French Chef was launched, following the general ideas in this book.

    Why The French Chef, since I am neither the one nor the other? The first reason was that I always hoped we would have some real French chefs on the shows. We never managed that until later on. The second and more important reason: The title was short, it described the shows as real French cooking, and, of equal significance, it fit on a single line in the TV guides. It seemed that a goodly number of people wanted to know about la cuisine française, and it was an almost immediate success. At first we were on only in the Boston area, then Pittsburgh took us up, then San Francisco, finally New York—and I felt we were made! WGBH-Boston asked us to do thirteen more, we continued on, and the television shows certainly helped the book. We even made the cover of Time magazine at one point.

    This fortieth anniversary edition is essentially the same book that first came out in 1961, which was reedited in 1983 to bring it up to date, especially because the food processor had appeared in American kitchens. Before the arrival of that incomparable machine, we did have the electric blender and heavy duty mixer, but the food processor revolutionized many otherwise almost hopelessly onerous tasks such as the making of fish mousses and quenelles. It simplified such often tricky procedures as pie doughs, and made fast work of routine dog work like mushroom dicing, cheese grating, bread crumbing, and onion slicing.

    Mastering the Art of French Cooking is just what the title says. It is how to produce really wonderful food—food that tastes good, looks good, and is a delight to eat. That doesn’t mean it has to be fancy cooking, although it can be as elaborate as you wish. It simply means careful cooking, la cuisine soignée, by people


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