E Sweetman's Reviews > Mastering the Art of French Cooking

Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child
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's review
Dec 13, 2009

it was amazing
bookshelves: classics, influential
Recommended to E by: Julia Child
Recommended for: anyone who has their own kitchen
Read in January, 1967 — I own a copy

A must-have for all who have their "own" kitchen. It's a monument, the sign of someone who knows how important it is to be able to present a beautifully roasted chicken, a perfect white sauce or asparagus done to the "nth" degree of tenderness.
Keep in mind I said someone who knows how important it is to cook this way. The actual execution of nearly ALL of my beloved Ms. Child's recipes require a professional kitchen, an arsenal of specific and expensive cooking tools and at least a week to pull it off--and of course nothing really came out as good as it was supposed to.
This is Mastering the Art of French Cooking, a lifetime of experience in the perfect cookbook, written in the voice of my hero, Julia Child. She kept me company when I was sick on the couch, she enthralled me with her genuine love of cooking and knowledge of what she created. I never tired of her standing in front of the counter telling me in her inimitable voice (that's right, you don't sound like her when you imitate her) that we were going to make a souffle! Creme Fraich! or Cervelles au Beurre Noir!. She was the first woman in my television memory who donned an apron and didn't mince around the table looking perfect (June Cleever) or bumble around the set like a clown (Lucille Ball).
Cooking shows as I recall at that time, numbered a total of two: The Galloping Gormet and The French Chef on the public television network (channel 13 in the NYC area). Most women of my mother's age seemed to prefer Graham Kerr, something about a man vaulting around the staged kitchen seemed to set their hearts afire. On the days that I faked or was actually sick, I kiboshed my mother's routine and watched as much of The French Chef as I could. Julia Child worked the set, the food, the props. I remember best those roaster chickens who were slapped, tossed, flipped, stood up and posed before they were chopped apart, had the skin ripped up for seasoning, or heaved into a skillet of spitting oil. it was even better when things went flying or fell or splattered all over the place because that was really cooking!
Even as a kid, I knew I'd never cook the way she did. The amounts of butter nauseated me (I ate a whole spoonful on a bet as at a church dance and the taste of plain butter still makes me sick), the ingredients--especially the minute "dabs", "pinches" and "a touch" were things I'd never have just waiting to be added to any dish I'd ever prepare in my kitchen--I knew this as a child! But I adored her passion and her desire to share what she loved with the rest of us. This cookbook, following me around from kitchen to kitchen with me leafing through the recipes and reading the introductory chapters is my testament to her as a Master French Chef.
Julia Child matters. This book was in most of the households I knew as a child: I remember seeing it in my grandmother's kitchen and at friends houses. I began leafing through it when I was 6. I was given my own in 1985 as a bridal shower gift (the marriage tanked but the book stuck with me like a loyal friend). I know she is now a current darling, the flavor of the month due to the book and the movie Julie and Julia (or is it the other way around? There is a universal love for this woman and I think it's for her passion for her work and how she's lived a genuine life.
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