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BOOK REVIEW:

French cooking in ten minutes : or, Adapting to the rhythm of modern life (1930)

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Call Number: 
641.5944 P786-1 1986

Ten minutes to cook a French meal? Sacre bleu is what some purists might scream, and a few of them did just that in 1930s’ Paris.  Edouard de Pomiane’s little book, with its very practical advice about cooking and eating well with the least amount of fuss, was a big hit, as were his other books and radio programs.  He was not a trained cook or chef, but a scientist at the Louis Pasteur Institute in Paris, with cooking as a hobby and a second-act career.  De Pomiane was born in Paris, a first generation Frenchman with familial and culinary ties to Poland, very much like Chef Ali-Bab (Hénri Babinski), whose encyclopedic work on French cooking Julia Child found to be fascinating.  He was no fool, so do not expect him to pull a cassoulet out in ten minutes.  Instead he presents everyday good food, most of it very elegant,  for “. . . students, dressmakers, secretaries, artists, lazy people, poets, men of action, dreamers, scientists, and everyone else who has only an hour for lunch or dinner, but still wants thirty minutes of peace to enjoy a cup of coffee.”
 

The ten-minute meal is possible because de Pomiane will tell you how to be prepared with a small number of cooking utensils, an ordinary stove, and an understanding of basic cooking techniques that he explains very clearly.  Some of his method depends on buying prepared foods, such as a roasted chicken, or having a selection of cooked foods always on hand.

 

Pages 23-25 will be a revelation for some modern foodies who think it is necessary to have a professional stove with a gazillion BTUs of power, a huge amount of cooking equipment, and unassailable techniques before even thinking about cooking for others, let alone for oneself. Edouard de Pomiane's way of cooking debunks that sort of nonsense and gives everyone the confidence and methods to derive pleasure and satisfaction from the process and the final product--a good meal and the time to enjoy it, with others or alone.

 

In small ways this book and Cooking with Pomiane speak of their time regarding certain ingredients, such as recommending canned vegetables when frozen were not available. The introduction to this edition points out other differences and provides advice.  However his basic methodology still applies, perhaps now more than ever, with calls for slow cooking and eating, de Pomiane's sage advice, practicality, candor and passion answer those calls.  In the two introductions to Cooking with Pomiane, Ruth Reichl and Elizabeth David validate his contributions and influence. 

 

Here is Elizabeth David on the man and his work:  Gourmet magazine article.

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