ABC of French Food - 1989

Food

Summary

This is essentially a lexicon of French cooking. It is not a complete dictionary or a cookery course, but more a paean to la cuisine francaise which Deighton clearly loves with a passion, based on the descriptions of the food and the culture which supports the cuisine.

Why it's interesting

Food critic Egon Ronay writes the foreword. He writes: 'Len Deighton wrote thrillers with his head. This book he wrote with his heart.' It's not difficult to see why. The reader certainly gleans some unusual facts about food and learns to understand why the French regard their cuisine as in la premiere classe.

Sample text

'Moules: mussels. When I was a studen a plate of steam mussels provided the cheapest protein food available. They are easy to prepare. For moules mariniere put clean, scrubbed, closed mussels into a tightly closed pot, together with a glass of white wine, a finely chopped shallot and garlic, if you like it, and chopped parsley. After a few minutes on a very high heat the steam will have opened the shells. Discard any that are closed and the mussels are ready to eat. But mussels grow fat in polluted water. Buy them from a reliable source.'

Related fact

The introduction is by Jacques Pépin, personal chef to three French heads of state - Gaillard, Pfimlin and de Gaulle - and author of La Technique, La Méthode and the two-volume The Art of French Cooking. Of the book he says: "[its] intentionally limited scope makes it a relaxing read and the author is never far away behind his explanations and always ready to let the reader know his likes and dislikes."

On the back cover is a reference to the fact that the Basic French Cookery Course is in preparation as the companion volume. The mock-up of the front cover is different to the edition that actually emerged.

The book is described by Deighton as essentially an edited version of his loose-leaf notebook from art school, filled with scribbles and observations made when Deighton worked in kitchens while studying.

ABCFrench

ABC of French Food, UK first edition, 1989

The highest praise

On the back cover of the book is a long testimony in support of the book from Jacques Pépin, who was personal chef to three French heads of state, including Charles de Gaulle, and author of 'The Art of French Cooking'. Some accolade!