Every year there are probably hundreds of cookbooks, on French cooking, published around the world. Some are good, some are not so good, and some even achieve greatness, but in many ways they are all, for the most part, very similar. Most of these books tend to focus on reproducing restaurant food or focus on what has become to be considered the classics of French cuisine. But every once in awhile a cookbook comes along that breaks out of the mold and offers a deeper insight into the foods eaten every day by the common person. â€œLa Bonne Cuisine de Madame E. Saint-Angeâ€ (hereafter referred to as â€œLa Bonneâ€) is just such a book. In this case, â€œLa Bonneâ€ did not â€œjust come alongâ€, it has been in print, in France, since 1927, but has just recently been translated into English for the first time.
If you are like me you might find the book doesn't read very smoothly. I chalk it up to both the translation and to the fact that the original text and recipes are almost 80 years old. Luckily this problem didn't really interfere with my enjoyment of the book. One reason I really enjoyed this book was the fact that it gives a glimpse into the past. There is a wonderful section on the proper way to build a fire in your coal burning oven, and many of the techniques used are somewhat outdated today due to the appliances we have available to us.
The heart and soul of this mammoth volume (786 pages) though is its recipes. â€œLa Bonneâ€ covers subjects from egg cookery and sauce making, to preserves, beverages, pastries and everything in between. In fact you can learn more about how to cook soft boiled eggs and omelet than you would ever want to know. Madame E. Saint-Ange is meticulous in her directions, some recipes taking up a couple of pages with her description of the techniques needed. This is not to say that this is a beginner's cookbook. Quite the opposite. I found that many of the recipes in this book were rather difficult and time consuming. Madame wrote this book for the housewife of 1920's France, and though she is thorough in her recipes she also expected her audience to have some knowledge about the workings of a kitchen.
Overall, I really enjoyed the book, but it is not a cookbook for everyone. It is a book geared more towards an experienced cook who longs to learn the common cuisine of the common Frenchmen of a time long forgotten. Many of the recipes are overly long and would shock our modern â€œnutritional senses.â€ There is a lot of confusing terms in the book the difference between a jus and bouillon for example, and many of the techniques can be simplified today due to modern technology. But don't let that deter you. There are many wonderful recipes in this book, and, more importantly, it gives you a glimpse into the cooking styles of days long gone.