Wednesday, July 16, 2014

De Pomiane in Ten Minutes

Today I'm linking up with Jessica for What We're Reading Wednesday. The book? French Cooking in Ten Minutes: Adapting to the Rhythm of Modern Life by Edouard de Pomiane.

I love this little book, and I think that I would get along swimmingly with the author, were he still alive (sadly, he passed away over fifty years ago).  De Pomiane's writing style is conversational, yet clear, witty, yet kind. You feel he has faith in your taste and abilities, no matter how inexperienced you may be. While de Pomiane's background as a doctor and scientist is apparent in his methodical approach and his faith in process, he refuses to reduce cookery and consumption to cookery and consumption.

And that brings me to my favorite thing about this book. It's really about more than French cooking, and you can profit from it even if you never prepare a single recipe from it's pages. It's a reminder: that meals are for nourishment and delight, that anyone can cook, that life is beautiful. Let me share with you one of my favorite passages, where the author describes what one ought to do following the stress free, quick, and delicious meal one has just prepared and consumed:
Fill your cup with the hot coffee... Lean back in your armchair and put your feet up. Light a cigarette. Take a nice long puff, then blow the smoke to the ceiling. Enjoy the coffee's aroma, take a long sip. Close your eyes. Think about that second puff, that second sip - you're rich!
And if that is all a little too esoteric for you, here are a few concepts that make this book a practical gem.

Courses: At the time of publication (1930, but maybe still?), French habit was to compose each meal with four or five small courses. While I personally love meals that have courses, I don't serve them at my house. In my mind, courses equal waitstaff and chefs. De Pomiane outlines how the cook pressed for time can plan, prepare, and serve just such a meal with a minimum of difficulty.

Cooking Methods: De Pomiane outlines the basics. He lists three cooking methods that can be accomplished quickly, and explains a bit about what is happening and why. He gives the reader an understanding, rather than just a process. And this is his modus operandi throughout the book. I think most of us have had a sauce turn out lumpy or an egg curdle and turned to takeout none the wiser for our failure. None of that with the good monsieur. If you fail, there is a reason, and he does his best to make sure that you understand why.

The Master Recipe: I recommend reading the book from Introduction to finish, all the way through. De Pomiane doesn't designate it as such, but he often starts each section with a master recipe that can be used, built upon, or modified. The cook is an artist and masterpieces start with basics. I love this concept, because it gives the novice cook an invaluable starting point rather than a deluge of recipes that can't be remembered.

So there, I think you will love this book even if you don't particularly care for French cuisine or such foreign wonders as Honeycomb Tripe with Tomato Sauce or Breaded Pigs Ears. De Pomiane wouldn't judge you, for as he says, "If you're not convinced, do as you like. After all, that's the best way to enjoy what you're eating."


  1. I just love the way you write, Mary. I want to sit down and drink a glass of wine with you.

    1. Thanks, Jenny! And, me too, at least one ;)


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