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Mastering the Art of French Cooking:
40th Anniversary Edition


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Writer's Recommendations



About the Author Excerpt Recipes Praise Making The Book
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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 who know what they are doing. According to me, if you are thoroughly skilled in French techniques, because the repertoire is so vast, you have the background for almost any type of cuisine. In other words, and at the risk of creating mayhem in some circles, I think you are better as an Italian, Mexican, or even Chinese cook when you have a solid French foundation.

There is certainly nothing particularly difficult about the basics. It is a question of getting started, and of learning how to pick the best and freshest ingredients, and of knowing, reading, seeing, or being shown how to hold the knife, chop the onion, peel the asparagus, make the butter and flour roux, and above all of taking it seriously. If you are not used to slicing potatoes by hand or peeling, seeding, and juicing tomatoes you will be slow and a little clumsy at first. However, once you decide you are really going to do it right, you will find that with surprisingly little practice you are mastering the techniques. The recipes here are thoroughly detailed since this is a teaching book. How about eight pages on making a simple omelet? You've got all the directions and if you can read, you can cook. You are learning by doing, and if the dish is to turn out as it should, no essential direction can be left out. How far, for instance, should the chicken be from the heat element when you are broiling it? Five to six inches. Or how fast should the oil be beaten in when you are making the garlic-and-mustard coating for a roast leg of lamb? Drop by drop. Every detail takes up space, making some actually quite simple recipes look long.

Certainly one of the important requirements for learning how to cook is that you also learn how to eat. If you don't know how an especially fine dish is supposed to taste, how can you produce it? Just like becoming an expert in wine--you learn by drinking it, the best you can afford--you learn about great food by finding the best there is, whether simple or luxurious. Then you savor it, analyze it, and discuss it with your companions, and you compare it with other experiences. Above all--have a good time!

What a happy task you have set for yourself! The pleasures of the table are infinite. Toujours bon appétit!

Julia Child
Santa Barbara, California

Excerpted from Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child, Louisette Bertholle, and Simone Beck. Copyright 2001 by Julia Child. Excerpted by permission of Knopf, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.