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Mastering The Art Of French Cooking Is A Bestseller

The article is both encouraging and slightly sad. I am shocked that this book didn't sell more then 20,000 copies per year prior to "Julie and Julia".

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/08/24/bus...

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  1. especially considering the amazing reprint with both books sold as a set for under $40. I have my Mother's copies. She is not interested in cooking like that at all anymore, and, well, I am. Love finding her old notes in the margins.

    3 Replies
    1. re: smtucker

      My fiance just bought me the book for a gift upon my request and I am so GLAD to see a post on it, but kind of bummed out that it is kind of old and people are probably done with it! it took me a while to figure out the topic of this discussion, then I read the article. I love reading old books and I loved the movie and story of Powell. It is fun to look through old stuff and the recipes are great. I wish I could have found a really old copy; that would be soooooo cool. I don't know why people make such a big deal that the recipes use butter, some RECIPES IN HEALTh books are HEALTH ARTICLES contain butter. THESE RECIPES are not SUPPOSED to be eated in large portions cause they are soooooooo filling who could eat a tone of potato soup or beaf boulion. Actually most of the recipes do not call for as much butter as one would think. Some equal to only like less than a tsp per serving. I am not a carbohydrate phobic and I believe carbs are fine to eat. The recipes are a lot of work they are a challenge; you might not like the results at first, but follow them carefully. I like the easier recipes like the potato leak or onion soup one. By the way, I do not think society is obese or unhealthy from eating food with butter; they are obsese from eating all that FAST FOOD AND JUNK FOOD. THE same people at my job who read calories and sugar grams and carbs on everything are the same people who buy their children all that sugar cerial and processed food. Of course if you eat big portions of those recipes you will be overweight, but you should not eat a lot of anything. I care a lot about my health and love to eat healthy, nutritious food. I don't like red meat cause I love animals, but I love all the other recipes in the book. Also, she tries to make the recipes affordable for almost anybody; that is why she give you suggestions on how to use frozen or fresh or canned veggies and does not say you need specific brands, also she says you could omit the liquor I believe and that is the only thing that cannot usually be sold in a regular store I guess. However, it is often difficult to cook a recipe for a family that everybody will like; perhaps not a lot of Americans will eat liver or brussel sprouts and calf brains and I thought that aspics thing sounded a littoe questionable, so before you buy it, see if you like it the recipes; maybe get it from teh library. THERE IS a LOT of recipes though and I think most people will at least like the desserts, which are fine in modeation. But Remeber, most people are probably NOT OVERWEIGHT From eating this stuff, as I said.

      1. re: krissyafite

        You might enjoy perusing the threads linked to here:

        http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/4463...

        This is when Julia Child's books were "Cookbook of the Month" - I did quite a bit of cooking from Mastering the Art .... I was thrilled that, while I was in London, I found a small trade paperback copy of the book - perfect to throw into a suitcase when traveling somewhere where I know I'll be cooking.

        More about Cookbook of the Month -

        http://www.chow.com/cookbook_of_the_m...

        1. re: MMRuth

          I love the idea of loving a cookbook so much that you need a traveling copy of a it.

          ~TDQ

    2. Yeah, I have my mom's reprints from the sixties! I used to read them like novels...mouth watering.

      1 Reply
      1. re: amyzan

        Coooooooooooool! Of course you are a lot older than me; the book was kind of out of style in the 80s! That was when everybody became butter and carb phobic. (Actually in the 80s and 90s everybody was on that all carb little fat binge) so you rarely saw these books stores and the Internet was not seen in homes back then. We take amazon for granted. Still I like my new copy and it is still cool to look at.

      2. Ha! That is great. I'm disturbed by this quote from the article, however, discussing some substitutions someone made to Julia's bouef bourguignon recipe because she was "horrified" to cook with pork fat:

        "I actually did a can of cream of mushroom soup, and a can of French onion soup, and a can of red wine — it was the same can — I filled it with the bottle that I had been drinking the night before."

        Oh my.

        ~TDQ

        29 Replies
        1. re: The Dairy Queen

          That is one of the quotes I found slightly sad.

          1. re: KTinNYC

            I have been thinking about this issue a lot lately, particularly after reading Pollan's piece in the New York Times a couple of weeks ago, as well as some posts on the Bittman expert thread.

            I have decided that I am all for people cooking, period, and that, whereas I have made my own choices about my cooking, and the time and money I have available to me to cook, many others make other decisions. I'm married, no children, not currently working, and with a household income that, at least for now, enables me to indulge in more expensive ingredients. Not working means I also have a lot more time. My situation probably puts me in a v. small percentage of the population (the one Pollan says is cooking more - married, no children, not working) and, as a result, I'm finding it more and more difficult to make judgement calls about decisions others make about their cooking choices.

            Now, did I wince slightly at the cans of soup, well, yes. But, maybe this person had never even tried to make such a dish before, and, inspired to make it, made it quickly. I'm the first to laugh at Semi-Homemade, but, if it inspires some people to get into the kitchen who otherwise order in or go out to feed their families, well, I think that is a good thing. Ditto for Rachel Ray. I have two step siblings who routinely go out to eat - one maxed out the family credit cards doing so b/c his wife wouldn't cook (she didn't work, three kids), and another one with four kids, no husband, job, and only recently off food stamps. My sense is that they are not making good choices for their families, either nutritionally or financially, and that if Sandra Lee or Rachel Ray inspired them to cook at home, my kudos to both women. And, as I noted in the Bittman thread, the idea of good meals cooked quickly is hardly a new one - just take a look at Edouard Pomiane's French Cooking in Ten Minutes - he usually has a multicourse meal fixed in that time (more or less).

            I'll digress a bit here to add that I think that it is unfortunate that for many, cooking seems like such an overwhelming task. I don't think that pressure from society to make gourmet meals instead will help that. And, rather than Sandra Lee's show, I'd rather see shows that show people how to make simpler but nutritious and delicious meals using a few fresh ingredients, with help from the pantry (spices, oils, etc.), rather than making what sound like fancy meals with bells and whistles, but with prepared foods.

            In some ideal world, in which very few of us live, working parents would be able to stop off on their way home from work at the market to pick up beautiful well priced produce, etc., to add to meals that were prepared and frozen ahead of time etc.

            So, I've decided to stop feeling so sad when I read something like the quote above, and try to look at the positive side of things. More digression - but I was so chagrined to see Pollan dismiss Jamie Oliver's upcoming reality show (which I believe is about feeding school children in Chicago) in the same breath as he did other food-related reality tv programs.

            I wish I knew what to do to help increase the number of people who cook at home rather than eating out, ordering in, or putting prepackaged foods in the microwave or oven.

            OK - off my Hyde Park Corner soapbox now!

            1. re: MMRuth

              I agree. She used the recipe the way we all use recipes: as an inspiration or jumping off point, and she acknowledged that what she made wasn't Julia's recipe. It wasn't like one of those people on the recipe websites who completely change a recipe and then when it doesn't turn out, give the original recipe a bad rating!

              1. re: Ruth Lafler

                Hmm...actually, I respectfully disagree. Of course, I applaud anyone who tries something new and puts a sincere effort towards doing so. Afterall, we don't learn unless we try. I'm not harshing on people for being beginners, for making mistakes or even for making substitutions.

                However, as someone who has invested a huge amount of time and energy over the past couple of years to become more competent in the kitchen, I find it silly that someone who is at the condensed soup level of cooking would purchase a cookbook with the title "Mastering..." and use a couple of cans of soup in order to complete the dish. It's like encouraging someone to take on a big mortgage and buying more of a house than they can afford.

                I just think we don't do anyone any favors by pointing them towards a book that is way over their heads and then praise them for taking the easy way out. It would be one thing if she perservered through the recipes and made all kinds of crazy mistakes that she could learn from. (If you want to see what a pathetic cook I can be, please refer to my post in Krissywats Elvis cake thread, or in the Dunlop COTM "eggs and poultry thread" or even the Ottolenghi "baked goods and sweets thread.") I would even be okay if she said something like, "Wow, I didn't realize how many steps there were to cooking a dish like this, next time, I'll plan ahead a little so I have time to prep the mushrooms..."

                This isn't about achieving perfection or making mistakes or being a beginner or even about making substitutions, but about making a genuine and valient efforts towards accomplishing whatever it is you choose to tackle.

                Personally, I think she needs more of a beginners book.

                ~TDQ

                1. re: The Dairy Queen

                  " I find it silly that someone who is at the condensed soup level of cooking would purchase a cookbook with the title "Mastering..." and use a couple of cans of soup in order to complete the dish."

                  And my take, much as I don't love the idea of using canned soups, is that well, hurrah for her for being brave enough to buy such a book and taking the first steps. Yes, might she be better served by a "beginner's book", yes. But, she was inspired by this one and went for it.

                  1. re: MMRuth

                    Not to nitpick, but I guess the point I'm making is that she didn't really "go for it," she plunged in half-heartedly and that's what makes me sad.

                    But, I understand (and agree with) your primary point, as I understand it: some cooking is better than no cooking.

                    Yes, absolutely.

                    ~TDQ

                    1. re: The Dairy Queen

                      And I'm just saying that, perhaps, for her, this was "going for it".

                      1. re: MMRuth

                        I am certain that you are right, but, if that's the case, it still makes me sad. But, the sadness leads me to another (broader, larger-than-Chowhound and beyond the scope of this forum) discussion about how the cult of self-esteem we seem to have adopted in our modern culture and the rise of the belief that results no longer matter, than only trying, even half-hearted trying, matters.

                        But, yes, some cooking and some trying is better than no cooking and no trying.

                        Bookmark this thread and check back in in 5 years. If we have a great renaissance of cooking in the U.S., then we'll know that you are right and I am wrong and, as your reward, I'll COOK YOU DINNER. :).

                        ~TDQ

                  2. re: The Dairy Queen

                    I agree with MMRuth; I think there's nothing wrong with shooting for the moon sometimes, even if you fail. Just because someone takes some shortcuts doesn't mean she needs a beginners book -- some of the recipes in Mastering are pretty simple, and a beginner could do them. Sure, some are more complicated, but you shouldn't be relegated to a beginners book just because you're not going to do every single step of every single recipe in it. I've made that Bouef Bourginon recipe, and it's great, but I've taken some shortcuts in it, because it takes hours to prep everything for it. Sure, maybe my shortcuts are more chowhound friendly than using a can of cream of mushroom soup, but I'd rather applaud someone for even trying than condemn them for not doing it exactly.

                    1. re: JasmineG

                      I don't agree that she shot for the moon. She gazed at the moon for a bit and then decided to just enjoy the moonlight and stay earthbound. I agree, it's okay to shoot for the moon and fail, but I don't think she a) shot for the moon or b) knows she failed. How can you fail when you don't really try?

                      ~TDQ

                      1. re: The Dairy Queen

                        I genuinely don't understand the problem here: so you think that no one should try any of those recipes unless they are willing to make no substitutions? What is enough? I'm just glad that people are cooking, and realizing that they can make good food come out of their own kitchens, buying a cookbook doesn't mean that you have to pass a test on making the perfect bourguignon afterward.

                          1. re: JasmineG

                            I never said no substitutions or perfection was necessary, in fact, I said quite the opposite.

                            ~TDQ

                          2. re: The Dairy Queen

                            But, what is "trying"? We have no idea, in her case, how what she did here differs from what she usually does. And, in terms of her failing, who are we to judge? She made a meal that she and her husband both thought was delicious.

                            1. re: MMRuth

                              I seldom fault people for failing, only for not trying. I don't know where the line is exactly, regarding how much trying is "enough", but assuming she's a competent literate adult, I think adding several cans of soup to a recipe is far enough over the line that in my judgment, I think it's "not trying very hard." In fact, just the fact that she called the dish "fauxguignon" is her recognition that this was a "faux" attempt, not a real one (in contradiction to what I said earlier on this point.)

                              Maybe this more effort than she's ever put into cooking before, maybe the dish was delicious, maybe she'll be inspired to cook other recipes from the book (with or without canned soup), but given the limited information I have about this situation, if the book is so complicated that this recipe caused her to turn to canned soup, if she were my friend, I might encourage her to start with a more basic book. I don't think blowing sunshine at someone and telling them what a great job they did when I don't sincerely believe they did a great job serves them well.

                              ~TDQ

                              1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                What I can't understand is why people are judging this woman. People (on this thread and on some of the other Julia threads) act as if anyone who doesn't hew to their standard of orthodoxy in approaching this book should be taken out to the village square and stoned. What business of yours is it what books she buys and what she does with them as long as she isn't misrepresenting herself?

                                1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                  Well, of course, it was none of anybody's business until she decided to talk to the New York Times about it. Certainly it's my business to have an opinion on a "news" story. Isn't that what the news is for? To be read and for people to become informed and think critically? If people want their business to be private, they shouldn't blog about it, write two books about it, sell the rights to their story for the purposes of a movie about it, talk to the New York Times about it. It's entirely appropriate to have an opinion on what's published in a newspaper and if weren't, every single word typed on this Media and News board is out of line.

                                  I'm not suggesting this woman should be sent out and stoned. But neither do I think she should be applauded or showered (or sprinkled, no one's really showering her as far as I know) with false praise.

                                  Some people (without trying to put words in their mouth or misstating or oversimplifying their positions) find this kind of news story encouraging, that here's someone who was inspired to buy a classic cookbook and cook from it. They see it as a starting point, perhaps. Perhaps I should be more encouraged by it, too, instead of being such a Debbie Downer about it. Maybe, I'll even wake up tomorrow thinking that way. But, unfortunately, I looked at the same situation and thought it was sad. We're all entitled to our opinions, even if we disagree with each other, but surely let's not expect that people should stop thinking or talking about what's going on in our society.

                                  ~TDQ

                                  1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                    No one is applauding her with praise, but I don't understand why people are showering criticism down on her. The attitude that people are objecting to is that she shouldn't have even bought the cookbook if she isn't prepared to make the exact recipes.

                    2. re: MMRuth

                      Overall I agree with you but the Boeuf Bourguignon recipe has about 10 ingredients and is as simple as can be. It's a great starter recipe. I'd bet the woman quoted in the article could have made the original recipe in almost the same amount of time as her faux version.

                      1. re: KTinNYC

                        Well, she might have been able to, but she might not have realized that she was able to. There are 18 ingredients, two of which refer to other recipes in the book (mushrooms and pearl onions). I note that JC calls for beef stock or canned beef stock. I just think that I, over the years, have made a lot of assumptions about what others know about how to cook that are probably erroneous, which is leading me to rethink a lot of these issues.

                        1. re: KTinNYC

                          KT, I'll confess, I looked at this recipe and when that I saw that it was 5 pages long (including the auxiliary recipes), I decided it was a recipe for another day. http://cooking.knopfdoubleday.com/200...

                          I find it very enlightening that you say this is a good beginner recipe from the book.

                          I wonder if the "condensed soup woman" simply scanned the recipe (as I sometimes do) and didn't realize, until it was too late, that there were these other auxiliary things she needed to do, and that's when she turned to her cans of soup. If I recall from memory, the article said the cans of soup entered the equation when the woman decided she didn't want to cook with pork fat, but, maybe (similar to the point Old Spice made below) it's because the auxiliary ingredients caught her off guard. And that is a beginner's mistake (one, alas, I occasionally still make. I guess I'm still a beginner.).

                          ~TDQ

                          1. re: The Dairy Queen

                            <KT, I'll confess, I looked at this recipe and when that I saw that it was 5 pages long (including the auxiliary recipes), I decided it was a recipe for another day. http://cooking.knopfdoubleday.com/200...>

                            But you aren't going to make all the auxiliary recipes! I was in the book at that recipe last evening, and the recipe itself is less than 2 pages long. and the reason it is that long, is that she tells you what to expect at every step.

                            It IS a great "beginner" recipe from that book.

                            1. re: ChefJune

                              I think maybe what TDQ meant is that the recipe refers to recipes for each of the mushrooms and the pearl onions.

                              1. re: MMRuth

                                That's how I read TDQ's post as well but as ChefJune says it's a very specific step by step recipe as are all the recipes. But the this recipe is really good for beginners. It's not very technical and the results will encourage anyone to keep cooking!

                                1. re: MMRuth

                                  Yes, that's exactly what I meant.

                                  It does seem intimidating from "afar".

                                  ~TDQ

                          2. re: MMRuth

                            I don't have kids yet either, and that is another issue as far as making something everybody likes when you have a larger group to cook for. Sure you could just give it to them and say that's when you are getting, but if they don't eat it, it would be a shame to waste these hard recipes on people who don't like it.

                        2. re: The Dairy Queen

                          "Oh my" is just the perfect response. : D

                          But I'm not buying the "horrified" to cook with pork fat riff. It seems to me that even a barely competent home cook, looking to substitute something for lardons would NOT come up with: one can of cream of mushroom soup and one can of French onion soup. He or she would just leave out the pork and proceed with the recipe.

                          I'm thinking she thought it made her Campbellfication of JC's boeuf bourguignon sound somehow reasonable. In fact, she didn't want to bother with preparing the mushrooms (thus, cream of mushroom soup) or the pearl onions (ergo, French onion soup).

                          And yes, it's great that MTA is enjoying a revival. Made me smile.

                          1. re: The Dairy Queen

                            <"I actually did a can of cream of mushroom soup, and a can of French onion soup, and a can of red wine — it was the same can — I filled it with the bottle that I had been drinking the night before.>

                            I've been making Boeuf Bourguignon since I was in 8th grade, and personally, I cannot see how anyone could look at any version of the recipe and think that a can of Cream of Mushroom Soup could be subbed for the mushrooms in the recipe.

                            What am I missing?

                            1. re: ChefJune

                              I've come to the conclusion (above) that she was caught off-guard by the auxiliary ingredients. http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/6469...

                              ~TDQ

                          2. Just read the NYT article and came here to post and you beat me to the punch, KTinNYC!

                            MTAOFC sold "22,000 copies in the most recent week tracked, according to Nielsen BookScan, which follows book sales. That is more copies than were sold in any full year since the book’s appearance, according to Alfred A. Knopf, which published it."

                            The book will be No. 1 on the New York Times best-seller list Aug. 30.

                            I just wish Julia could savor it! Imagine her joy!

                            6 Replies
                            1. re: maria lorraine

                              According to Nielsen Bookscan which is probably more accurate but less prestigious then the NY Times bestseller list MTAOFC is already #2 and My Life in France is #5. What is the opposite of the over night success?

                              http://en-us.nielsen.com/rankings/ins...

                              1. re: KTinNYC

                                My Life in France is #3 on the NY Times Aug 23 paperback beastseller list (Julie and Julia is #2). So, by any measure, Julia Child is selling like gangbusters.

                              2. re: maria lorraine

                                Maybe it would even make her appreciate Julie Powell just a little bit.

                                1. re: sibeats

                                  Yeah. Pretty ironic after all the discussion on the "what Julia thought" thread about how Julia wanted to "protect her brand." Actually, it's Judith Jones who looks like a sour old biddy -- no wonder she's been backtracking so fast in her attitude toward Julie Powell in her most recent interviews.

                                  While there may be some newbie cooks who are going out and buying MTAOFC, I bet a lot of buyers are people like me: people who realized that even though they are "mature" cooks who have other Julia Child cookbooks they don't actually have a copy of MTAOFC (although my mother does, I should borrow hers, as I don't think she's opened it in decades).

                                  1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                    I got my copy of Mastering cheap in a used bookstore; I bet those are going for a lot more now!

                                    1. re: JasmineG

                                      I was at Kitchen Arts & Letters last week and, though they had stocked the shelves well in anticipation of the movie, they were pretty much out. Apparently they have also had many calls looking for first editions of Mastering - and many disgruntled callers about the lack of availability of same!

                              3. Dang... A couple years ago, Costco had a two book set MTAOFC Vol I and II, for $25 or $30. There were 30 copies so I held off assuming nobody else would be interested. They were gone a couple weeks later.

                                1. Sad that someone would have cream of mushroom soup at all.

                                  Maybe she'll get to try Julia's recipe and that WILL ruin the Campbell's product for her for all times.

                                  10 Replies
                                  1. re: shallots

                                    Well, while I absolutely abhor the idea that she used a can of cream of mushroom soup, as well as a can of French onion soup for boeuf bourguignon (despite the fact that she 'renamed' it), I will admit that I *do* use cream of mushroom soup in 1 or 2 recipes - but they are nowhere near the level of Julia's boeuf bourguignon. They are quick stroganoff-type recipes. But that particular person was idiotic to not try and make the recipe as written at least once.

                                    1. re: LindaWhit

                                      I don't know if I'd say it's idiotic for her to use cream of mushroom soup or French onion soup or whatever in her cooking or for her to not try to make the recipe, but what is the point in cooking from a book about "Mastering" a cuisine if you aren't interesting in attempting the techniques (hmmm...maybe I just made Linda's point for her!)

                                      To be honest, I don't own a copy of MtAoFC because I don't have the time or calories to devote to "Mastering" French cuisine, even though I would love to have a Mastery of French (or any other) cuisine. I might dabble in it, but there are likely better books for people who can't be bothered to cook with pork fat or prepare the mushrooms and pearl onions and other dabblers.

                                      I have the feeling that in 5 years, a bunch of copies of MtAoFC will hit ebay and used bookstores and such after all of the "dabblers" realize they don't really want to invest the time and energy to learn how to Master French cuisine and clear it off their shelves...

                                      ~TDQ

                                      1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                        LOL! Thanks TDQ! ;-) And like you, I don't own MTAoFC - it's just me, and that would be way WAY too much food for just me.

                                        But I would like it for an occasional recipe - that Veal Prince Orloff, for example.

                                        A friend will be cooking out of MTAoFC next weekend for another friend's birthday - and I am his prep chef in the kitchen. Have no idea what he's decided on, but I'm very much looking forward to a phenomenal meal! I might borrow his cookbook to note which recipes I'd like to try after my heart recovers from next weekend's dinner.

                                        1. re: LindaWhit

                                          I agree that I would love to have it for an occasional recipe, which is why I've been bookmarking like mad all of the recipes people have been posting lately.

                                          Your cooking adventure with your friend sounds fun! I do hope you post about it on Home Cooking!

                                          ~TDQ

                                          1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                            I will try and remember to do so! I'm the official chronicler (sp?) of our Dinner Clubs (of which this is one), so I always try and describe the courses as best as I can and remember to take pictures of the plated courses. Quentin Tarantino was our last Dinner Club - that was an adventure! LOL

                                        2. re: The Dairy Queen

                                          <To be honest, I don't own a copy of MtAoFC because I don't have the time or calories to devote to "Mastering" French cuisine, even though I would love to have a Mastery of French (or any other) cuisine.>

                                          To be honest.... Mastering the Art does not reflect how most French chefs or home cooks cook today. There are other excellent cookbooks, inclduing Michel Guerard's "Cuisine Minceur" that came out in the 70's when Nouvelle Cuisine with it's butterless/creamless features was "in," as well as other, more modern cookbooks.

                                          But how does one measure the value of a cookbook? For me, if I find ONE recipe that we love, and that I make again and again, the book is a success. That makes Mastering a HUGE success in my house! right up there with P. Wells' Bistro Cooking and "The Silver Palate Cookbook!"

                                          <I have the feeling that in 5 years, a bunch of copies of MtAoFC will hit ebay and used bookstores > Perhaps not. it is, after all, rather the "Bible" for French cooking, and who sells the Bible on ebay? It stays in the bookshelf, but not discarded, I think.

                                          1. re: ChefJune

                                            I'll wait 6 months and hit up the local Goodwill. I'm hoping those inspired by Julie will have given up. Also, found at the Goodwill, Joy of Cooking for $3... which I still think I paid too much... lol.

                                            1. re: ChefJune

                                              Call me butter-holic.
                                              I still have my copy of Cuisine Minceur and it's still, decades later, a virgin cookbook. Honest, I tried to find recipes in it, but it just didn't make me want to do them. (I have seen at least one CM at every big local library booksale that has donated books for the past decade which I noticed because I thought it was pretty much forgotten AND obscure.)
                                              My MTHoFC I & II have not been fully cooked out, but both fall open to favorite recipes. I even found cookable recipes for when I had a dead oven and cooktop and was depending on my electric fry pan (Fricasse of chicken with pearl onions, mushroom and carrots in cream saunce).
                                              For Thanksgiving evening, I used to make a bunch of deserts- the boring old time favourites that Mr Shallots and others demanded as well as one new one from MTAoFC for me, to make it special..

                                              1. re: ChefJune

                                                ChefJune, I agree with you that ONE recipe is worth purchasing a cookbook for (actually, think it should be more like a half dozen in this internet age where so many recipes are available online, but I'm sure there are at least a half dozen in MtAoFC so I'll just conceed that point since it's not a matter of principle, but degree).

                                                The problem for me is that I have scads of wonderful, important cookbooks I've purchased and haven't cooked from yet. My New Year's Resolution for 2009 was to continue with my heart-healthy cooking plan (that I started in late 2007) AND work towards streamlining all areas of my life, including in the kitchen. Right now, MtAoFC doesn't fit into either of those goals.

                                                And who would put a "bible" on ebay? Golly, the same gal who used a cans of condensed mushroom soup and French onion soup in her "fauxguignon". I'm personally lining up for her copy as I imagine it won't even have any food stains on it! Seriously, though, I think there are a lot of people who didn't previously own MtAoFC who were inspired by the movie to buy it and cook from it who will love it. But, there will also be a segment of people who couldn't be bothered to cook from it before and, after the sizzle settles, won't be bothered to cook from it now. The condensed soup crowd...

                                                But, if there reaches a point where I have more time and energy to invest in Mastering French cuisine, I'll pick up a copy whether it's on ebay or not!

                                                ~TDQ

                                                1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                  <And who would put a "bible" on ebay? Golly, the same gal who used a cans of condensed mushroom soup and French onion soup in her "fauxguignon". I'm personally lining up for her copy as I imagine it won't even have any food stains on it! Seriously, though, I think there are a lot of people who didn't previously own MtAoFC who were inspired by the movie to buy it and cook from it who will love it. But, there will also be a segment of people who couldn't be bothered to cook from it before and, after the sizzle settles, won't be bothered to cook from it now. The condensed soup crowd...>

                                                  Can you hear my loud guffaw? Thanks, Dairy Queen for the great belly laugh. ;D

                                        3. I'd like to comment on how "horrified" people were about the use of butter in the recipes. In particular, the Poulet Sauté aux Herbes de Provence. It called for a stick of butter and she served it at a dinner party. I looked up the recipe and that is for 6 servings, so that really is not a lot of butter per serving.

                                          Personally, I'd rather eat the real butter in that recipe over any of the processed, frozen, microwaveable "food" that comes out of a box.

                                          9 Replies
                                            1. re: Philly Ray

                                              One thing I thought was interesting when I read "The Tenth Muse" was that one of the things Judith Jones worked with Julia Child (and the other authors) on, was adjusting the serving sizes in the recipes to American expectations. When you point out that a stick of butter is meant in a particular recipe to serve 6, I wonder how much the same recipe would be expected to serve in a French home. Perhaps even more servings than 6! A part of me wishes I could see the recipes before the serving sizes were adjusted. Maybe it wasn't that dramatic or pervasive, but I'm still curious.

                                              ~TDQ

                                              1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                Here is the recipe as I found it...

                                                http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/foo...

                                                I didn't notice this last night since I was focusing on the butter, but the eye opener to me is that a 3-3 1/2 pound chicken is used for 6 servings. That equals a half pound of chicken per serving (before cooking, but that still seems like a lot to me). I think a whole chicken like that could probably serve 8.

                                                1. re: Philly Ray

                                                  8? Not generously - after all a serving is usually a breast or a thigh/leg. Maybe as a main course in a multi-course meal.

                                                  1. re: Philly Ray

                                                    You're not taking into account the bones. A 3 1/2 chicken will well over 1 lb of bones.

                                                    1. re: Philly Ray

                                                      The typical (non-organic) chicken I see in stores these days is well over 4 lbs. A 3lb chicken is pretty hard to find and does not have enough meat to serve eight in a single-course meal. It probably has about 2lbs of meat, so you're talking about 4 oz per person. In a typical party of adults, I'd expect the 3lb chicken to serve 4 people, 6 if 4 are children.

                                                      As for the serving sizes back when Julia and Judith were working on her books, I don't think there was as big a difference as there is now. I'm wondering if some of the changes were due to the different sizes of ingredients. If one size chicken was typical in France while we typically have bigger chickens over here in the US, the recipe would have to reflect that. I know when I lived in Japan, I was amazed by how much bigger fruit was. Some types of fruit were two or even three times as large as the American version, so you'd have to vary the recipe accordingly, while others like grapefruit seemed to be much smaller.

                                                      1. re: queencru

                                                        Our US chickens were not uber-chickens back in the 50's-early 60's. That was an innovation that came in with Frank Perdue.

                                                        1. re: queencru

                                                          Believe me, the size of chickens has changed DRASTICALLY since I was growing up (60s and 70s). When b/s chicken breasts were first starting to be sold, they were relatively "normal" sized, and one would be good for 1 person. Now, they're Frankenchicken breasts - enough to feed 2 or 3 people. A standard serving is about 3-6 oz. of meat for women and men. I remember portions being much smaller when I was growing up...even from my young eyes, they were "normal", and as a growing girl, I could finish the meal - unlike today's portions.

                                                          When a place like Olive Garden and their ilk put 2 chicken breasts on top of a humongous portion of pasta (that is probably close to a half pound of cooked pasta), that's way more than what one person should eat.

                                                        2. re: Philly Ray

                                                          Most recipes in contemporary American cookbooks that call for a 3-3 1/2-lb. chicken are for 4 servings. As KYinNYC points out, each serving includes bones, plus that whole chicken includes parts that are more bones than meat, like the back.

                                                    2. I'm actually surprised that MtAoFC *was* selling 20,000 copies, since it's one (two) of the least useful of the 25 or 30 English-language French cookbooks I own.

                                                      Child's 1989 "The Way To Cook," on the other hand, is one of the cookbooks I refer to most often.

                                                      26 Replies
                                                      1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                        I taught myself how to cook using The Way to Cook, but I wonder why you think MtAoFC is so unuseful? Thanks.

                                                        1. re: MMRuth

                                                          Just by comparison. Some of the recipes are too wordy, some things are vaguer than or not as well illustrated as they are in other cookbooks, you have to to skip back and forth to piece things together, etc. For a fairly extreme example, compare her crème brûlée recipe with the one in Joy of Cooking.

                                                          Vol. II is a big improvement over Vol. I. Maybe Louisette Bertholle was part of the problem.

                                                          1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                            From the account in My Life in France, it sounds as if Louise Bertholle didn't have much to do with Vol. I, ultimately. She lost interest long before the project reached fruition. It's more likely that Child and Beck, perhaps with the help of their editors, matured as cookbook writers.

                                                            1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                                                              And 'Simca's Cuisine" is another worthy book, incidenatlly. Some menus to dream about in it.

                                                              1. re: buttertart

                                                                I read on (I think) Gourmet.com that Simca's Cuisine is also currently experiencing a bit of a revival.

                                                                It is pretty neat neat that all of these old books have a flood of renewed interest.

                                                                Funnily enough, I read the The Tenth Muse by Judith Jones as a result of hearing about the movie (hadn't seen it yet) and from some of resulting discussions on Chowhound. As a result of reading the Tenth Muse, I actually wanted to run out and buy the cookbooks from some of Judith Jones' other clients, such as Marcella Hazan (whose book I already have), Madhur Jaffrey, Claudia Roden, and Edna Lewis, whose books I don't have, but have had on my wish list for awhile.

                                                                It will be interesting to see how much of a reverberation this movie will have. Maybe the renewed interest in Julia Child's books will continue to ripple out in many directions.

                                                                What a wonderful unintended (or, who knows, perhaps intended by at least certain parties) consequence, of the blog, the book, the movie...

                                                                ~TDQ

                                                                1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                  We've hit almost all those authors, except Madhur Jaffrey, via COTM. We should try and "fix" that soon.

                                                                  1. re: beetlebug

                                                                    We've still never done an Indian book, have we?

                                                                    1. re: MMRuth

                                                                      Nope. I do think it's interesting that we've hit so many of Judith Jones' book list. I'd like to see her complete list of cookbook acquisitions. Just looking at TDQ's list alone shows that Jones definitely had her finger on talented cookbook writers.

                                                                      1. re: beetlebug

                                                                        I bought Nela's Cookbook (Nela Rubinstein) after reading the Jones memoir. Lots of very good recipes and fun to read - a glimpse into high living of mid 20thC.

                                                                    2. re: beetlebug

                                                                      I know! I think I started participating in COTM right after Roden and I so so so regret not starting earlier because I think I would have really loved that book (but, at the time, didn't think I would). Previous to that, I had some other stuff going on and just couldn't participate, even though I always read the threads longingly and sometimes even voted, thinking my situation might change.

                                                                      Wait, I didn't realize we've done Edna Lewis! *sigh* another great author I've missed out on. Judith Jones made her seem like such a wonderful, warm person, as well as an amazing cook.

                                                                      Well, you have to leave some books for the wish list, right?

                                                                      ~TDQ

                                                                      1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                        It's funny, Lewis, as a COTM, didn't do so well. I'm not sure the reason why since she was a popular suggestion and had many votes. It could have been access to the books. Also, the Roden was a really good cookbook, but if my faulty memory serves, I had hits and misses. I'm not sure we chose the right Roden cookbook for the project. I don't think our Roden COTM was the seminal work like Marcella's book.

                                                                        ETA: I take it back. I did like the recipes in Arabasque (Roden) but some of the directions were sketchy. So, if you were a newer cook to the cuisine, there would have been some guess work.

                                                                    3. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                      I don't think Judith Jones had anything to do with the original British editions of Madhur Jaffrey's books. I don't see her name among the credits in my favorite, "Indian Cookery," which was based on the 1982 BBC series of the same name that made her famous as a cook.

                                                                      1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                                        Her "An Invitation to Indian Cookery" came out in the US in 1973 - it's this one I believe being referred to. The BBC one is my favorite as well, the Invitation recipes are unnecessarily complicated.

                                                                    4. re: buttertart

                                                                      "some menus to dream about in it" was all the umpf it took to get me to a used book site and it's on its way to my kitchen.
                                                                      Used, hardback.
                                                                      Thank you.

                                                                      1. re: shallots

                                                                        I love it. The first fancy meal I cooked for my husband was from it. I love her irascibility - one of the best JC shows had Simca in it.

                                                                2. re: MMRuth

                                                                  I taught myself how to cook using The Way to Cook too! It was my first cookbook (when I was in my teens).

                                                                  1. re: JasmineG

                                                                    I was in my early 20s in a tiny NYC apartment - her book, and Marcella Hazan, led the way for me, and I am grateful to both, and still use both books regularly.

                                                                    1. re: MMRuth

                                                                      Marcella Hazan's books taught me to cook without a cookbook. I can't quite see learning that from MtAoFC.

                                                                      1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                                        Alrighty! Another cookbook to add to the collection.

                                                                        MMRuth and Robert L...
                                                                        Which Marcella Hazan cookbook are you referring to or would recommend?

                                                                        Thanks

                                                                        1. re: dave_c

                                                                          I have "Essentials of Italian Cooking", which was given to me when it came out in 1992. It is now in many pieces. I believe it combined two earlier volumes by her, with some changes - some of which are thought to be controversial, and there are those who prefer the earlier two volumes. I have the second one, and I really appreciate that each recipe has suggestions of what to serve with that particular dish. (The Classic Italian Cook Book and More Classic Italian Cooking.)

                                                                          http://www.amazon.com/Essentials-Clas...

                                                                          1. re: dave_c

                                                                            The original editions of The Classic Italian Cook Book and its sequel, More Classic Italian Cooking. They're available used in hardcover cheap. To quote an article I wrote 15 years ago:

                                                                            "These books capture perfectly the essence of la cucina italiana tradizionale: choose the best seasonal ingredients, then prepare them in simple ways that maximize their unique flavors. Unlike most authors, Hazan starts at the very beginning, devoting long passages (particularly in the second book) to discussing basic ingredients like flour, pasta, cheese, garlic, tomatoes, salt, and olive oil; fundamental techniques like boiling, sauteing, pan-roasting, making broth, and salting; and discussing the several pieces of equipment essential to a proper Italian kitchen. I don't know of a better book for a beginner: Hazan explains each step in great detail, and even the simplest recipes produce delicious results. (The two books were recently combined into the single-volume Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking, but this book is less than the sum of its parts. It has not been significantly updated, butter and oil amounts have been reduced arbitrarily and apparently without retesting, and some of my favorite recipes from the originals are missing.)"

                                                                            1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                                              Fascinating that the amounts of butter and oil have been reduced (but how sad that some of the recipes no longer seem to work as a result)! It seems that many cookbook authors have felt the pressure to reduce fat in their recipes over the years. I

                                                                              only have the new/ "combined" book that MMRuth has (except that mine is only a couple of years old and not in tatters) and had always good luck with it and have been happy with it. I had heard that some people were unhappy with the changes made with the volumes were combined, but had never heard what the source of the unhappiness was. Bummer, Robert, that some of your favorite recipes are gone. Good thing you hung on to your original volumes!

                                                                              ~TDQ

                                                                              1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                                Actually, I replaced my original copy of the first book after it fell to pieces. Usually I have spares around but I keep giving them away.

                                                                                My favorite of the recipes removed from the combined edition was zuppa dei poveri made from stale bread, potatoes, and rocket. I posted my version on my Web site:

                                                                                http://lauriston.com/recipes.html#bre...

                                                                                I've often reduced the amount of fat in Hazan's recipes on my own judgment, but there are some cases where it plays a structural role.

                                                                                1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                                                  My beat-up falling-apart Hazan is From Marcella's Kitchen - a great intro to her food - the cabbage rolls with beef and prosciutto, the veal with hazelnuts, the pasta with veal, cream and saffron, etc etc etc are all on heavy rotation at our place. Also have and use the Classics.

                                                                                  1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                                                    Wait, you mean you replaced your original copy of the first book with the new combined version? Oh how sad. That zuppa sounds simple and delicious. Too bad it was edited out.

                                                                                    ~TDQ

                                                                                    1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                                      No, I replaced my original copy of the first book with another copy in like-new condition. My copy of "Essentials" looks almost brand-new since we don't look at it much.

                                                                  2. MTAOFC is interesting as a historic artifact, but who cooks like this anymore? All of that butter and cream, complicated preparations drown the bright flavors of good, fresh ingredients. And I would like to add, Julie's criticism of Julia's chicken roasting times is spot on. Years ago (when I believed Julia was infallible), I drove myself crazy using her guidelines for roasting chicken: way underdone every time.

                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                    1. re: pikawicca

                                                                      No one is infallible, not even Julia! But try the roasting times in her 3rd book, "From Julia Child's Kitchen." That's the volume of hers that is in tatters in my kitchen. ;)