What they say:
First published in June 1923 to immediate success, Xavier Marcel Boulestin’s Simple French Cooking for English Homes did much to popularise French cuisine in the English-speaking world. In this charming book, chef, restaurateur and author Boulestin dispels the myth that French cooking is complicated, rich and full of nondescript dishes with pretentious names by offering over 300 delicious recipes – including traditional favourites such as Sorrel Soup, Pommes de Terre Boulangere, Entrecote Bordelaise and Galette au Chocolat – which are simple and easy to make. And, very topically, the book also reveals both that many of the very best French dishes are made up of ‘remnants’ and that there is very little waste in the French kitchen. Written in an engaging style and filled with anecdote and advice, Simple French Cooking for English Homes is a timeless classic that demands to be included in any keen cook’s collection. Classic Voices in Food is a significant new series bringing you a fascinating perspective on the tastes of times gone by, as well as delicious recipes, engaging text and original illustrations that will draw you in and leave you hungry for more. Reproduced unabridged from the finest texts on food in English from the 19th to the mid-20th century, each voice conveys the unique flavour of its times, while still being astonishingly relevant to today’s cook. Filled with passion, enthusiasm and, above all else, a timeless understanding of good food, the Classic Voices in Food series is an essential new source of reference and inspiration for all food lovers.
I have decided to review this book as though it were a completely new release rather than a reproduction of a classic and I like this book! It’s retro design speaks to me immediately, as does the dateless appeal of the recipes inside. I have plenty of glossy recipe books, filled with mouthwatering pictures of food and glamorous chefs; but this one reminds me of the classic old tomes that, though a little dog-eared, I return to again and again.
The clue is in the title with this book: the dishes and instructions are simple and are offered in the way that they would be spoken as opposed to being written as a list of ingredients followed by step by step instructions. The tone of the writing makes even the ‘not so simple’ French dishes in this book seem more accessible.
The reader is offered a basic dish, such as Ouefs Durs (hard boiled eggs eggs), followed by numerous variations such as Oeufs Au Beurre Noir (Eggs with Black Butter). I love the fact that even something as simple as a hard boiled egg is given as a proper recipe! Perfect for things you aren’t quite sure how to cook but are too embarrassed to ask? The writing style does however make the task of checking ingredients a little tricky as the reader has to read the full recipe and make their own list of what is needed.
Another criticism, though I hate to criticise such a lovely book, is that not all of the recipe titles have an English translation. I am lucky enough to be able to speak conversational French, but I struggled to translate all of the dish-names without reading through the actual recipe. As this is a book released for English homes, perhaps all of the recipe names ought to have been translated.
Despite my slight criticism, I would recommend this book to both ‘foodies’ and novice cooks. The recipes are simple and can be made with ingredients which are easy to obtain from most Supermarkets. There is a glossary of terms to help if your kitchen knowledge fails you mid-recipe and even weekly and dinner party menu suggestions. With this book as part of my collection, I now feel confident tackling some of my favourite dishes at home. Moules Mariniere for dinner anyone?