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My Grandfather Vs. Escoffier

post #1 of 23
Thread Starter 
A lot of my love for cooking comes from my grandmother, who is still, at 92, an amazing cook.

My grandfather and she were both writers and later, published authors. Anyway, someone recently sent my grandmother a copy of an article that my grandfather had written for This Week magazine, a Washington, DC publication for which he was an editor. It's a very witty article about his battle with the Escoffier cookbook, and I thought I'd share it here. :)

My Gram said the conversation and ensuing events did happen to a degree, but that he was kind of free in fictionalizing and exaggerating the smaller details -- for instance, my grandmother speaks fluent French and she knew the Escoffier pretty well, despite the way he portrays her -- she could have given Julia Child a run for her money. :)

From This Week Magazine, July 16, 1950:

Man Vs. Cookbook
by (My grandpa, lol)

Subscript: When a man tries to be friends with Escoffier on short notice, he needs a wife with foresight...

"I wish I knew what to have for dinner tomorrow night when the Smiths come," said my wife.

At this moment I was hungrily reading the newspaper account of the annual dinner of the Friends of Escoffier.

"Why don't you have Poulet Saute Chasseur?" I inquired.

"What's that in English?" she asked suspiciously. "New England boiled dinner?"

"It's something the Friends of Escoffier had last night," I said.

"Who is Escoffier and what kind of friends did he have?"

"Don't scoff at Escoffier. He is the world's greatest authority on cooking, and the Friends of Escoffier is a club. Every man in it is an expert cook."

His Pride Aroused

"That's ridiculous," she snapped. "Men can't cook. You, for instance. You can't make a liverwurst sandwich."

"Oh, is that so?" I rejoined warmly, my masculine pride aroused. "Just for that I will prepare dinner tomorrow night. And guess what we'll have."

"A mess," she said.

"Poulet Saute Chasseur," I replied coldly.

Later, when she wasn't looking, I got out my college French book. Poulet, as nearly as I could make out, was either a chicken or a mistress. I decided it would be wiser to bring home the former.

Next day I stopped in a bookstore and bought a copy of the Escoffier Cook Book. Poulet Saute Chasseur, as a hasty glance reassured me, was a simple dish involving barely three sentences of instructions.

I arrived home, strode to the kitchen, donned an apron and opened Escoffier.

What, No Sauce?

"Let's see," I said, reading, "Swirl the saucepan with a few tablespoons of white wine...H'mm, I'll have to run out to the liquor store."

I was back in ten minutes with a bottle of Chateau Pasternak Sauterne. Pouring two fingers into the pan, I turned to the recipe again. "Ah, a quarter pint of Chasseur sauce. Where do you keep the Chasseur sauce?"

"Guess again, Escoffier. All I've got is ketchup," my wife answered sardonically.

Glancing at the book I discovered that Chasseur sauce was explained in Recipe No. 33. I leafed quickly back. "Six medium-sized mushrooms," I mused, "a teaspoonful of minced shallots, a half pint of white wine and a glass of liqueur brandy --" I broke off. "I'll have to run back to the liquor store. And what's a shallot, anyway?"

"A kind of onion," she explained with a trace of contempt.

"Then I'll have to stop in the grocer's too," I said, dashing out.

In fifteen minutes I was back, with brandy and shallots. "All set now," I said cheerfully.

"Not quite," she informed me. "This Chasseur sauce recipe calls for a half pint of half-glaze, a quarter-pint of tomato sauce, a tablespoon of meat glaze and a teaspoon of chopped parsley. All I've got is the parsley."

I stared at the recipe. She was right. To make a Chasseur sauce, I had to make three other things first. Escoffier supplied recipes for all three. I looked up the half-glaze.

Boon for Liquor Business

"Half-glaze," I read, "is obtained by reducing a quart of Espagnole sauce and a quart of brown stock... It is finished with a tenth of a quart of excellent sherry."

"This is the greatest thing that's happened to the liquor business since Repeal," said my wife. "But how do you make Espagnole sauce?"

Espagnole sauce, I discovered, was made with a pound of brown roux -- Recipe No. 19 -- six quarts of brown stock, two pounds of tomatoes and a pound of Mirepoix -- Recipe 228. And brown stock took four pounds of beef, four pounds of veal, plus ham, port, carrots, onions..."Seems like quite a few ingredients to fry a chicken, " I muttered. "But if the Friends of Escoffier can do it, so can I."

A half hour later I staggered back from the store with two huge bags of delicacies which I dumped on the kitchen table. "Guess I'd better hurry," I said, fastening my apron again.

"Yes," agreed my wife, "because I see that brown stock is supposed to cook gently for twelve hours."

I snatched the book from her. "Twelve hours! That means dinner won't be ready til nine o'clock tomorrow morning," I clutched my forehead. "And I think I hear the Smiths driving up!" I turned an appealing look on her.

"Come, come," she coaxed. "What's a little delay to a Friend of Escoffier? You still have to make the Mirepoix, the tomato sauce and the meat glaze. For the Mirepoix you'll need, let's see -- two tablespoons of Madeira. Back to the liquor store."

Unconditional Surrender

"No, No!" I begged. "not that. Not again!"

"And for the tomato sauce, you need two quarts of white stock -- Recipe No. 10."

"Stop!" I cried. "No more recipes! I give up! I surrender. I quit."

"Then get out of the way," she said, "and let me get the lamb chops out of the broiler. I put them in the last time you went to the liquor store. And go answer the door."

I picked up the Escoffier Cook Book and dropped it gently in the waste basket. "Escoffier," I said, "you have just lost a friend."
post #2 of 23
Hilarious! :lol: Thank you for sharing, Dory.
Moderator Emerita, Welcome Forum
***It is better to ask forgiveness than beg permission.***
Moderator Emerita, Welcome Forum
***It is better to ask forgiveness than beg permission.***
post #3 of 23
For many years Ed Zern closed every issue of Field & Stream with a column called "Exit Laughing."

Which is a good way to close for the night.

Thank you, Dora.
They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
post #4 of 23
Thread Starter 

And you're welcome. :)
post #5 of 23
That is one the greatest things I have EVER read!!!!!!!!!
How come "dishwasher" is not listed as a choice for culinary experience?

"...the very genesis of our art."
- Escoffier on grilling
How come "dishwasher" is not listed as a choice for culinary experience?

"...the very genesis of our art."
- Escoffier on grilling
post #6 of 23
Awesome thanks for sharing

post #7 of 23
Too precious! Thank you!
Food may bring us together, but a CAKE makes it a PARTY!!
Food may bring us together, but a CAKE makes it a PARTY!!
post #8 of 23
Heh heh, great read! Thank you for sharing. Definitely hall of fame! :)
post #9 of 23
Thank you for sharing, it put a huge smile on my face.
Baruch ben Rueven / Chanaבראד, ילד של ריימונד והאלאן
Baruch ben Rueven / Chanaבראד, ילד של ריימונד והאלאן
post #10 of 23
You know, there's just a robustness to sauce espagnole that you can't get in a reduction sauce isn't there?
post #11 of 23
Love the story - passed it on to a friend who is having a tough week. The story will surly cheer her up.

post #12 of 23
Thread Starter 
Thanks, guys! Reading it made me miss him all over again -- he passed away about a year and a half ago. My grandmother would write me long letters full of humor and I could always count on seeing notes from him commenting on his version of things scrawled in the margins. He had a very funny, dry sense of humor. :)

So, it's nice to be able to share this part of him and see that, even nearly 60 years after the fact, his humor still connects.

:0) Dory
post #13 of 23
Poulet Chasseur is an amazing dish though... Pity very few restaurants have it on their menu.
post #14 of 23

My grandfather

Not only VERY funny, I have tear on my eyes from both laughter and memories... I love the image of the love you feel for your grandparents. I can smell my gradmother's kitchen. Thank you ( & your grandfather!) for the laughter.
post #15 of 23
Thread Starter 
Aww...That's very sweet. :) I actually moved to Farmington, Maine (what part of Maine are you in?) to be closer to my grandmother when my grandfather died. We're very close, and I think having me here helped her get through this last year -- they were married for over 60 years and rarely spent a night apart.

Funny thing about cooking with my gram...I'm very on the fly with my cooking -- I rarely use recipes word for word anymore unless I'm making something complicated (and I rarely have time for complicated - :lol:). Gram, who made all of her family meals based on Bon Appetit, and elaborate French cookbooks (altho reasonably sure she never attemped Poulet Chasseur, he he), etc., will not hesitate to shoot down any idea I come up with that she doesn't like.

She has this LOOK...LOL. My favorite line from cooking with her, is from about six months ago when we were making Calvados Chicken from her memory of the recipe -- using a bottle of Calvados, an apple brandy from the Lower Normandy region of France that she had saved from her last trip years ago to France with my gramps...I was working from a recipe printed from Epicurious, reprinted from Bon Appetit, that called for apples in the recipe. As I sliced the apples and explained why, she stared me down and just said quietly, "Well. That is an interesting thought."

Nuff said...I roasted the apples instead, LOL. (And the chicken was one of the best things I've ever eaten. :) )
post #16 of 23


I am about 1 1/2 hours from Farmington. Liquid sunshine is my favorite store! will pm you next time I will be in that area!
post #17 of 23
Thread Starter 
I love Liquid Sunshine!! Although my favorite store here is a little farther, in Kingfield...Scentsations, I think is the name? They have awesome pottery...and I love the soy candles. The best part, tho, is the owner who is very sweet and helpful.

Enjoy the snow today! LOL
post #18 of 23
Thanks for sharing this, Dory. It reminds me of a time when I first tried to cook out of Larousse Gastronomique...what a mess I made that day! Anyway, very enjoyable story, indeed. Keep it coming...
post #19 of 23
Thread Starter 
I told my gram today that I had posted Gramps' story here and she was delighted to know you all enjoyed it. She said she thought somewhere Grandpa was loving knowing it was still getting laughs, too. :)
post #20 of 23

My Grandfather vs Escoffier

I am sure he is watching and smiling!
post #21 of 23

Bumping this thread just because.  Yep.  Just because.

post #22 of 23

That was great! I loved it. Kudos to Grandpa!

My latest musical venture!
Also "I'm at the age when food has taken the place of sex in my life. In fact I've just had a mirror put over my kitchen table." Rodney Dangerfield RIP
My latest musical venture!
Also "I'm at the age when food has taken the place of sex in my life. In fact I've just had a mirror put over my kitchen table." Rodney Dangerfield RIP
post #23 of 23

 Yep.  Just because.


That was a good move, Kuan!  biggrin.gif


Hope those two ladies get together soon.


And I'd really like to see an account of their visit.



travelling gourmand
travelling gourmand
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