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looking for help with a French cookbook and/or country french recipes

post #1 of 13
Thread Starter 

I've never been into French cuisine and I still have no interest in cordon bleu. (I'm a heathen I know) I do, however, now have a desire to learn more about French country/peasant food and I'm having no luck finding the right books. In particular, Northern regional cuisine.

 

It's a pretty exciting time for me and OH, as we recently bought a wreck of a house in a wee village in Pays-de-la-loire. Just south of the Normandy border. It'll be a year at least till family & friends can use it and when its up to spec, we'll rent it out too. We travel down from Scotland every 6-8 weeks to work on it when OH is on leave. My French is "passable" and improving and I'm now needing to learn as much about this new environment as possible. In particular the food.

 

I have really enjoyed learning about the of regional cuisines of America over the years here and now I want to learn about French food. I have had a lot of help from ex-pats, but they're learning too. I know we have some amazing experts here at CT ( are you reading this BDL and Petals)

 

I have bought books, mostly in charity shops, but I'm not willing to fork out good money without some guidance, so please help me

 

Thank you in advance

"If we're not supposed to eat animals, why are they made of meat?" Jo Brand
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"If we're not supposed to eat animals, why are they made of meat?" Jo Brand
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post #2 of 13

From my experience French people love to promote their culture.  If you tell them you are there to learn their culture and their cuisine you will be embraced.  Usually there are many small classes and groups that do this or that - most of them are free to join.  You could probably find a regional cuisine class and free French classes there.  Here is an example: http://www.etab.ac-caen.fr/hotellerie-restauration/Saveurs_Savoirs/Confreries_Associations/teurgoule/teurgoule.htm

 

As far as cookbooks specific to that region I don't have anything.  I know the region is held in high regard for its wine and dairy products (think Jersey isles and Bordeaux).  I would suggest researching wallonian cuisine; it is close by and has many good and proud cookbooks dedicated to it.  Here is one Normandy cookbook that looks decent: http://www.amazon.com/pas-que-lescalope-crème-Normandie/dp/2845677472

 

So, you rent this place out, ea?  [rubbing goatee] Hummmm.....

 

CDF

post #3 of 13

I know you're in the North, but when you say French Country cooking I can't help but think of Paula Wolfert's The Cooking of Southwest France. It's a classic on peasant cooking that has recently been updated.

 

Patricia Wells is worth a look. She has a couple of cookbooks on Provence but also one called Simply French (which won the James Beard award for best European cookbook when it came out) and another called Bistro Cooking, which has been around long enough to also be considered a classic.

 

Also, when I was in Brittany several years ago, all of the local museum gift shops had locally produced cookbooks featuring that region's cuisine--in English as well as French. A word of warning, though: some of those hyperlocal cookbooks left a lot to the divination powers of the cook attempting to interpret the recipes. Lots of errors--things like forgetting to mention if they are using teaspoons or tablespoons and occasionally no mention of what the unit of measure is at all. 

 

ETA:  I almost completely forgot Elizabeth David. Also classics--French Provincial Cooking and French Country Cooking. She is Goddess.


Edited by ChicagoTerry - 12/11/12 at 7:24pm
post #4 of 13
Thread Starter 

Thanks for the recommendation Coup-de feu, but its in French n I'm not that good with the language yet. I'll look into Wallonian cuisine tho. 

 

Cheers

"If we're not supposed to eat animals, why are they made of meat?" Jo Brand
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"If we're not supposed to eat animals, why are they made of meat?" Jo Brand
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post #5 of 13
Thread Starter 

I had thought of Elizabeth David Terry, but didnt she tend to stay around the med? Correct me if im wrong. Patricia wells definitely looks worth researching. Simply French kinda says what I'm looking for.

 

I was going to delve into breadmaking and patisserie. But it will only now be as a hobby thing. in the few times I've been in the region, I've found that one buys. One doesnt bake. Seriously. Every village in the area has an artisan baker producing phenomenal bread and pastries. The lady of the house simply orders in...And why not!   Unfortunately our baker closed, but we can still get fresh bread twice a day sent in from the next village at the local store and on wednesdays we buy it from the bar across the street. That is until someone buys the bakery. We viewed it when we were house hunting and its beautiful. Needs lots of work, but the original oven and all the paddles etc are still there. Apparently, the oven is actually worth more than the price of the house, which is mega cheap anyway...About 50,000 euros. What a great opportunity for someone wanting to start up a business eh?

 

Anyway, thanks for the info. I'll look into it, but I think I'll stay away from the museum books. I always buy them when in USA at tourist points and can't use them anyway 'cos we dont have many of the ingredients. And if we do they're mega expensive

"If we're not supposed to eat animals, why are they made of meat?" Jo Brand
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"If we're not supposed to eat animals, why are they made of meat?" Jo Brand
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post #6 of 13

I think you'll enjoy Madeline Kamman,  look for Madeline Cooks (although it's oriented towards Americans), The Making of a Cook, and especially When French Women Cook (you'll adore it!). 

 

BDL


Edited by boar_d_laze - 12/12/12 at 2:46pm
post #7 of 13
Thread Starter 

The reviews I've read make me want to read Madeline Kammans books immediately. Thank you so much for the recommendation. I knew i could count on you.

 

Fix

"If we're not supposed to eat animals, why are they made of meat?" Jo Brand
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"If we're not supposed to eat animals, why are they made of meat?" Jo Brand
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post #8 of 13

David spoke excellent French and lived in France during a couple periods of her life. She also traveled there extensively while researching and writing those two books.

post #9 of 13
Thread Starter 

Thanks for the info Terry. I guess I need to look into her writings a bit deeper

"If we're not supposed to eat animals, why are they made of meat?" Jo Brand
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"If we're not supposed to eat animals, why are they made of meat?" Jo Brand
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post #10 of 13
Thread Starter 

I've ordered When French women cook from Amazon BDL. Managed to get an acceptable standard, used copy for £5.03. Not through mean-ness, but because i enjoy seeing previous owners foot notes and the grubby pages are always their favourites so worth a try. 

I'm looking forward to the story as well as the recipes. 

Thanks

"If we're not supposed to eat animals, why are they made of meat?" Jo Brand
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"If we're not supposed to eat animals, why are they made of meat?" Jo Brand
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post #11 of 13

Definitely Elizabeth David's "French Provincial Cooking" in which she elaborates on the idiosyncracies of the various French provinces including, of course, Normandy.

Patricia Wells' "Bistro Cooking" is one of my favourite French cook books.
 

post #12 of 13

By the way Bughut, don't be intimidated by cookbooks in French.  You only have to learn about 200 words to read a typical cookbook.  If you learn just 10 words a day you could be reading one in less than 2 months - it's a good place to start learning the language.  On top of that, 10% of the words will be recognizable even if you don't know any French at all, like salad de fruit and chocolate blanc to name just a few.  Maybe 10% will be French (or Latin) words we use in English anyway like creme brûlée, sautee, cafe, roux, entree, souflee, fondue, au gratain, julienne, menu, and so many others.   You could figure out another 10% with the big pictures that are usually in cookbooks and we have not even picked up a dictionary yet.  Seriously, cookbooks are easier to read than comic books.  And for a native English speaker French is easier to understand than whatever is that barking-growling tap-dance-cadence-language spoken North of the Antonine Wall  ;-)

 

CDF

post #13 of 13

Well...

 

Somebody mentioned Wolfert and she's great. But more to the north you've got Mireille Johnston's Cuisine of the Rose, which is dedicated to Burgundy and Lyonnais and is an amazing book. There isn't anything about Normandy, Brittany, Val de Loire or Picardie in English, I believe. Though I haven't read it, Le grand livre de la cuisine normande seems to be a highly respected reference to Normandy if you read French. Also, in French you have those series like La cuisine de XY d'hier et d'aujourd'hui, Cuisinière XY-e etc., but I've never been a fan of cookbook series, so I wasn't really into checking them.

 

As for those general books on regional cuisine, you can't go wrong with Elizabeth David's French Provincial Cooking, which has a marvelous selection of tradition recipes of every region including some nice description of the regional cuisines. However, if you're interested in the latter, a much better source is Waverley Root's The Food of France, which is simply stunning. It's not a cookbook and you won't find any recipes though (but 11 or so pages dedicated to bouillabaise must be enough to be able to cook the dish, right?). No doubt though that it's the best general reference on regional cuisine, in English that is (as for French sources, Curnonsky did write a similar book, I believe, but most of his oeuvre is helplessly out of print and impossible to get).

 

I case you'd like some southern cuisine, too, Médecin's La bonne cuisine du Comté de Nice is the only book you'll ever need on Nicoise cookery and there is nothing as authoritative written.

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