Showing posts with label French cookbooks. Show all posts
Showing posts with label French cookbooks. Show all posts

18 October 2006

Coincidence? Or a Sign of Approval?

You can't always get what you want. Most of the time.

I had a meeting tonight at the public library. I got there early and went straight to the used-book room, where books are 50 cents each.

There it was. My father’s favorite French cookbook, the one he could not afford to own, but would check out of the library several times a year: “The Art of French Cooking by the Great Contemporary Masters of the Cuisine,” 861 pages with the pull-out gastronomical map of France still in its pocket.

The same book. Not the same book at a different library. The same book, for my husband and I moved back to our hometown a few years ago. The book sat on the library shelves for 40 years. It was already 10 years old when my father discovered it.

I thought about the book once in a while, enviously, wishing I owned it. I assumed the library got rid of it long ago, and since I borrow books from another library, I never bothered to check for it. Or I forgot to. Who knows.

“If you ever want to buy me something, buy me this book,” my father once said. I was in college then and had no money.

It was the book he often took into the pantry with him, to dream, to ponder to create.

Now it’s mine. Grilled Quails Berchoux. Breton Galettes. Anise Cakes. Beef Filet Dauphine. Larks in Shrouds. Spinach Jaqueline.

I may not work my way through the whole book.

But now it’s mine.


12 October 2006

From the Heart of France: Gouere aux Pommes

One of the first cookbooks I bought on my own was Elizabeth David’s "French Country Cooking." I pictured David as a motherly sort, a bit plump perhaps, with an academic interest in the hearty French provincial dishes I yearned to master.

How wrong I was! David was a free spirit, a young woman of means who, after a short stint as an actress, ran off with a married lover. Her marriage to another man was one of convenience. (Like MFK Fisher, she was far ahead of her time in many ways). A cerebral hemmorrhage destroyed her sense of taste at middle age — what a tragedy!

Along with Julia Child, David and Fisher are a triumverate of “French” cooks whose books are now joined by Patricia Wells, Susan Herrmann Loomis and Georgeanne Brennan on my kitchen bookshelf.

Last night, I pulled Elizabeth from the shelf, thumbed through the now-yellowed pages and adapted this easy dessert, which she described as "a country sweet from the Berry district of France."

Gouère aux Pommes


  • one pound apples, sliced and chopped
  • two tablespoons brandy
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • squeeze of lemon

  • 1 ½ cups of plus two tablespoons flour
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • pinch salt
  • two eggs
  • one teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 ¼ cup milk


Wash, peel and chop apples. Place in bowl and cover with brandy, lemon, cinnamon and sugar. Set aside.

In separate bowl, blend flour, sugar and salt. Add eggs, milk and vanilla to create a batter.

Blend the apples with the batter and pour into a square pan. Bake at 350 until top is brown and center of cake is firm, about 45 minutes.

• I used Pink Lady apples, and made cinnamon applesauce from the scraps that were left over, in a nod to my frugal French heritage.

• As always, I used fructose instead of sugar. Any sugar substitute, as long as it can be used in baking, will do. Next time I will use brown sugar for the apples, but not the batter.

• Even with the addition of cinnamon, the dessert is a bit bland for contemporary tastes, which is why I served it with a vanilla sauce made from American Spoon Foods' Vanilla Curd.

Cinnamon, lemon and brandy sauces would work as well. Perhaps a dollop of cream?

If you are lucky enough to watch the BBC, you can see "A Life in Recipes," a program about David, on Oct. 30. More recipes are included in the BBC link.

Finally, I was curious what the word "gouère" meant as it was one I had not seen before. Since I could not find a translation, even in my Harrap's dictionary, a hefty tome I've been dragging around since French 204, I can only guess it is a regional word. I found a reference to apple gouère in a magazine story about the Berry.