Getting the Gastronomique

Well, the trusty Astrovan made it to the auction last night and back again.

We returned with a full vanload of furniture – one desk was lashed to the roof rack – along with some old tools and glass bottles.  There were some impulse buys too, like a few trays full of assorted knick-knacks.  I was excited for the $2 meatloaf sandwiches I’d heard the guys talk about, but they weren’t being made that night.  And during the “Happy Hour” portion at the end, where you can grab anything you want that hasn’t made it onto the block yet, name a starting price $5 or over, and the auction goes from there, I scored this book:

The Larousse GastronomiqueRead more about it here, but basically it’s a comprehensive encyclopedia of French cooking.  This is the sixth printing of the 1961 edition, and although when the American editors translated the original 1938 text they pared it down to exclude then-outdated nutritional theory and “some of the very curious articles on foreign cooking” (more’s the pity), they did furnish the reader with full-color illustrations that exemplify midcentury American food photography.  Guess what this is?

That’s right!  “Chicken with rice, sauce.”

All 1960s signifiers aside, this book is so solid.  After the auction, several people came over wondering which cookbook I’d shelled out $5 for and were suitably impressed.  (Also, I had milkmaid braids and they wanted to know if it was all actually my hair.)  I’ve spent every free moment since then immersed in it.  I really, really like reading cookbooks, and a cookbook crossed with an encyclopedia?  Nirvana.  Fun fact: one of my more distant relatives spent his time memorizing a dictionary.  “But,” as Gwyneth Paltrow would say, “I boringly digress.”  So here’s a sample excerpt:

There are recipes, asides, assertions, and small historical treatises.  The text has a great tone – dry, yet conversational.  It’s a cool book.  And it joins the other huuuuge tomes that form the foundation of my culinary library:

That’s a hefty stack.  If whatever you’re looking to cook isn’t in one of those books, you’re trying to cook something from Mars.  The Gastronomique has five different recipes for lamb brains alone!

Can’t wait to put this new font of knowledge to use.  In the meantime, I’ve got turkey leftovers to repurpose.  See above: not lamb brains, but turkey and barley stew, or at least the steam it’s giving off.  Is there a prettier sight on a freezing cold day than hot lunch on the stove?

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2 Responses to Getting the Gastronomique

  1. Debby says:

    A suggestion for your growing pile, “The New Best Recipe from the editors of Cook’s Illustrated.”

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