Book Review: “Everyday French Cooking” by Henri-Paul Pellaprat

Lobster Russian Style: Garnished with hard-boiled eggs and black truffles, though the book allows black olives as a substitute for the latter.

I meant to snap some food pics from Berkeley and the East Bay this week, but my camera battery was drained. Among the missed opportunities: a grilled bockwurst from Top Dog, a falafel pita from Fa-La-La, and a plate of yellow curried rice from Bua Luang. On the upside, I did find several great used cookbooks at Pegasus Books, including “Everyday French Cooking” by Henri-Paul Pellaprat. Originally published in America in 1966, Pellaprat’s book is an obvious response to Julia Child’s “Mastering the Art of French Cooking,” which was first published in 1961. Much like Child’s seminal work, “Everyday French Cooking” aims to assist the American housewife, as the book states in its introduction (the book’s original French title is “Le Nouveau Guide Culinaire,” published in 1956, or perhaps even earlier).

As the author of “Everyday French Cooking,” Henri-Paul Pellaprat began his culinary career as an apprentice in 1881, before training under some of the greatest chefs of Belle Epoque France. After his stint in the professional kitchen, Pellaprat spent nearly 40 years teaching at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris (some also credit Pellaprat as the founder of the culinary school, although I’m not so sure). Once retired, Pellaprat turned his attention to writing in 1932, and is perhaps best known for his comprehensive “L’Art Culinaire Moderne,” which was originally published in 1935. As a friend and contemporary of Auguste Escoffier, Pellaprat is considered one of the fathers of modern French cuisine, and “Everyday French Cooking” — though lesser in scope than some of Pellaprat’s other works — remains a valuable classical resource.

What I enjoy about the 1968 edition of “Everyday French Cooking” is the photography. Of course, it’s not great by modern standards, but technical merits aside, I appreciate the old school composition of the dishes. For me, it’s a trip back in time, and it’s interesting to consider how culinary aesthetics have continued to evolve over the last half-century.

Fried Trout a la Meuniere: Will curly-leaf parsley ever come back?

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Glazed Pork Chop: Garnished with parsley potatoes, grilled tomatoes and English peas.

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Tournedos Chateau Figeac: Garnished with mushroom caps on the steaks, boiled carrots, and artichoke bottoms topped with asparagus tips.

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Frosted Genoise: Garnished with candied oranges and cherries.

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