Thursday, December 13, 2007

The Second Book of Christmas

On the second day of Christmas, I realized I was really far behind in my holiday baking and decided it was time to learn how to make a croquembouche, so I pulled out my copy of the classic French encyclopedia of food and got even further behind as I spent the afternoon leafing through it.

The Larousse Gastronomique is a fantastic resource for both the casual and serious cook. And yes, although the title is in French the book is widely available in English. (Click on the cover to buy.) The focus is on French cooking but it contains entries on food and cooking from all over the world. There are a lot of recipes as well. I am a competent cook and a semi-serious baker, and most of the recipes seem on the advanced side to me but doable as an adventure. I've made a few little things from the book that turned out fine, but it's not a conventional cookbook- it's a reference work on food. Entries are alphabetical and unsigned but the contributors represent a good mix of viewpoints and areas of expertise- everyone from journalists to restaurant managers to cooking-school bigwigs and French government officials from the Ministry of Agriculture contributed their knowledge to the creation of this opus.

In addition to being a great reference when you have a question about food, the Larousse Gastronomique is also a great book to relax with and flip through and enjoy. It's also the kind of thing that I think people don't often think to buy for themselves and would make a wonderful gift. Oh and the croquembouche recipe is great!

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