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French Haute Cuisine Basics

When I was nine, my father gave me a cookery book from which I was to learn the basics of my craft over the next years. However, the recipes had been mainly converted from French and then spoken with an English accent into something that never was quite right.

Upon my entry into technical college, I found that the need to learn and master all the facets of the trade was going to be covered and I had to learn it in French first in order to understand in English what I was doing.

We would have a morning of theory, which nobody enjoyed. I wondered where this study was heading when all I wanted to do was cook, which was the afternoon class.

But cooking needed to be understood -- the historical importance, the ingredient aspect and of course the technical. The final taste seemed always to end in "adjust to taste", or "season to taste".

Books, which I had borrowed from the library, became my reading during the free moments of the day when between shifts and jobs. I often worked in two or three restaurants so I would brush up on my practical skills and knowledge.

Professional books were expensive and hard to obtain but the best few I started with would build my professional library.

I found a goal to aim for is was to allow myself one book a month that I would buy for my personal library and for my culinary education as I called it. These might be tax deductible, so ask.

Knowledge in these culinary descriptions has helped me in all aspects of my life.

When we needed 50 famous French names for the streets and avenues in the miniature town project we built for school, Le Repertoire gave the answers.

In French classes, when the boys needed to research a few recipes and prepare them, again it came to our rescue.

But in the 80's, a trend towards the coffee table cookbooks came into vogue and the pretty pictures and the one, two and present cookery came up -- the old Haute Cuisine took a backward step.

When Asian tastes were introduced to the culinary arena, the death seemed obvious: new chefs would be taking shortcuts and creating hybrids. With no classical reference, the Jew sauce was supposed to be Jus, but had been made by the glace method.

So if you're starting your career in Cookery, or just needing reference, consider the following books as a good investment for the library.

The culinary bible would have to be the Le Repertoire de La Cuisine by Louise Saulnier ($13 US).

Another good book to have on sauces is The Sauciers Apprentice, A Modern Guide to Classical French Sauces for the Home by Raymond Sokolov ($18 US).

To end, I think the best quote today:
"Somebody taught me and I forgot.
Then somebody showed me and I learnt.
Then God reminded me to read and pass it on to another so they could remember when I could not."

The next stage comes when you wish to compare the methods and the menus of historical chefs, when brigades worked in coal-fired kitchens.

But for the interested, a good site to explore and start to appreciate the classical is Tallyrand's Culinary Fare.

Blessings from Anne-Marie (DOWNUNDER)
Food Specifications Officer, Sydney, Australia

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Whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. -1 Cor 10:31 ESV

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