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Review: Mastering the Art of French Cooking

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Mastering the Art of French Cooking
The 40th Anniversary Edition
By Julia Child, Simone Beck & Louisette Bertholle
ISBN: 0375413405
Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf
Publication date: Oct. 9, 2001
Format: Hardcover
List price: $40 (Canada, UK)
Type: Ethnic: French
Sample recipe: Reine de Saba, Filets de Poisson Bercy aux Champignons
intended audience: novice advanced beginner good home cook gourmet professional
apparent goal: stocking stuffer sampler comprehensive Biblical stature coffee-table
competition: outclassed also-ran midrange strong challenger leads the pack
# of recipes: <50 <100 <200 <300 >300
practical recipes: <20% <40% <60% <80% >80%
# of ingredients: <3 <6 <9 <12 >12
ingredient hunt: 7-11 pantry supermarket online airfare required
recipe complexity: baby steps simple medium intense professional
instructions: inadequate bare bones full figured educational verbose
time conscious: outright lies speed of light fairly quick takes time takes all day
photos/drawings: skimpy adequate generous instructive glorious
recipe results: dorm food casual food family meals fancy food fit for royalty
flavor quotient: disappointing fair good delicious exceptional
layout: ick cluttered clean kind to cooks work of art
legibility: microscopic challenging adequate clear brilliant
production quality: cheesy questionable years of service gift-quality stunning
value: ouch! a little pricey on the money excellent worth splurging
Ease of Use
page numbers: invisible hard to find spotty adequate obvious
table of contents: missing frustrating passable useful helpful
index quality: none tragic adequate good excellent
page flipping: infuriating tedious acceptable rare never
writer: hack cook turned writer writer turned cook comedian auteur
cook: self-taught non-restaurant chef teacher celebrity
overall rating: fair good above average excellent Ochef Top 100
Comments: No cookbook has had more influence over how we cook and eat today, spawning, at the very least, a 40+ year interest in good food, in using great ingredients, and mastering certain fundamental cooking techniques. Mesdames Child, Beck, and Bertholle did much more with this book than teach generations of people how to prepare French dishes. They taught us how to get around in the kitchen, how to taste — and their efforts have raised the standards of home and restaurant kitchens immeasurably.

Do you need a copy of this anniversary edition if you have an earlier edition? No, even the 1983 revision took into account certain changes in the kitchen, notably the availability of the food processor. But if you are remotely interested in classical cooking and you don't have a copy of this book, you absolutely should.

The book is exhaustive in its instructional approach, reflecting the authors' determination to make French cooking available to American cooks. The few illustrations are instructive and useful.

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