Monday, March 13, 2017

French Cooking

I recently finished reading the biography of Auguste Escoffier! He was a famous French chef who popularized and modernized French cooking methods. I love reading, but don't delve into the biography or cook book relm much so this was a new bit of reading for me.

I don't like cooking at ALL. But it was still interesting to read about his life and the intricate dishes he prepared. I am SO thankful I live in 2017 with a crock pot and a rice cooker!

 It was a little odd to read about a person talking all about their famousness, but I suppose if you are writing a book about yourself, you will talk primarily about yourself! I would have loved to find out more about his family for reasons mentioned below. What redeemed the account in my eyes, was his humor and his more tragic life experiences. Here are some of my favorite stories from the book:

1. Being a chef, Escoffier served his country for quite some time in the army as a chef. He recounts times where conditions were terrible and there was no food to feed the army he was responsible to feed. He had to resort to cooking and serving the army's horses. He had a whole process for cooking the starved horse meat so it would not be bitter.

2. Apparently in France they eat frog legs. (I had no idea) At the time of one account, Escoffier was a chef at hotel and was a bit humored at the British guests who turned their noses up at frog. He said it became his mission to make them eat frog and enjoy it. He had an event where he served a fancy dish called "Nymphs at Dawn" Everyone ate it an enjoyed it never suspecting that the "nymphs" were actually frogs!

3. During WWI he had a difficult time finding a variety of meats for his restaurant. Venison was one of the only meats that wasn't rationed so he concocted numerous fancy dishes made from venison. Also at this time Escoffier wrote that they had a difficult time procuring fish. And he came up with an elaborate method of preparing, cooking, and serving chicken under the name of a sole fish fillet and no one ever knew!

4.  Escoffier helped pare down French food and food preparation. A funny quote from page 174 reads, "Current fashion and habits are such that one can only spend on hour, or an hour and a half, at any single meal." What a life! I can't imagine taking that long to eat a meal!

Here is a page from the book that pictured some of his menus. I love how detailed and pretty they are! 

What really intrigued me was they actually had a picture of Escoffier's father in this book. Auguste Escoffier was my great great (give or take a few greats) uncle and I was not expecting to find a picture of my great great great (give or take a few greats) grandfather in this book when I requested it through inter library loan. It was a pretty neat surprise! 

The book also includes a picture of this house where August Escoffier grew up. And I would assume his father and brother (my grandfathers) would have lived there as well. It was really neat to be able to find these pictures! 

Well, hope you enjoyed that bit of history today! 

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