Monday, December 24, 2018

French Regional Cooking

Recently, a friend asked me to recommend some regional French cookbooks. I found quite a few books about the cuisine of Provence and southern France, but quite a few regions are missing from my collection. To be thorough I would need to find cookbooks that featured the Basque region, Normandy, Brittany (especially for crepes!), Lyons, Alsace (especially recipes for the famous choucroute), and several other regions. My favorite regional French recipes are for Gratin Dauphinois (blogged here) and Salade Niçoise (blogged here), but these are now so popular that you can find recipes in a variety of cookbooks and online sources, and you can order them at many American restaurants as well.

As I looked through my shelves I did find quite a few relevant cookbooks. I've written about many of them before, over my years of blogging. Here's a list of my books that emphasize French regional cooking, with links to previous posts. This list reflects only books that I own, so it's not meant to be comprehensive or systematic in any way.
  • French Provincial Cooking by Elizabeth David (editions in 1960, 1977, and 1983) includes an overview of the cuisine of a number of regions, and then provides recipes and techniques for French cooking.
  • The Cooking of South-West France by Paula Wolfert (1983) describes the agricultural products of this region, along with many recipes.
  • The Cuisine of the Sun: Classical French cooking from Nice and Provence by Mireille Johnston (1976) offers many good recipes, which I've been trying -- most recently a daube, the famous Provençal stew (blogged here).
  • Cézanne and the Provençal Table by Jean-Bernard Naudin and others (1995) is an amusing discussion of the environment in which the artist lived and worked -- with recipes and many illustrations (blogged here).
  • La Cuisine Corse by Christiane Schapira (1979) is unfortunately in French, but I find it intriguing to learn about Corsica, a somewhat exotic region of France; I'm including it because it's my most obscure French regional cookbook!

  • The Auberge of the Flowering Hearth by Roy Andries De Groot (1973) documents his stay in an auberge in the Dauphiné region, with descriptions of the meals served to guests there, accounts of the way the owners shopped and cooked, and also recipes (blogged here).

  • Madeleine Kamman's Savoie: The Land, People, and Food of the French Alps (1989) presents the cuisine of the next region over from De Groot's book.
  • Simca's Cuisine by Simone Beck (1972) is a general French cookbook with many regional recipes; it's often overlooked in preference to her collaborative work with Julia Child.
  • Madame Maigret's Recipes by Robert J. Courtine (1975) includes some of the cuisine of Alsace, home of the wife of the famous detective. If you've read the many police procedurals by Georges Simenon (who of course invented Inspector Maigret, his wife, and her cooking) you'll appreciate this cookbook (blogged here).
  • Quiches, Kugels, and Couscous: My Search for Jewish Cooking in France by Joan Nathan (2010) is not about a region, but about the multi-ethnic Jewish cuisine of France (blogged here).

... of course, if you want to know everything, you can always consult the Larousse Gastronomique!

French food has always been Americans' model of quality and excellence starting when Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson described it to their fellow citizens. French cooking, both in restaurants and homes, has reflected an identity of its own in the US. In particular, we have not been as conscious of French regional differences as French people are. In the late 20th century, Julia Child made a big difference both to Americans' cooking and awareness of French food; since her peak of influence, many English-language works have appeared in books, magazine articles, TV programs, and online, and I would say that French regional cuisine is of increasing interest.

1 comment:

Jeanie said...

I am so into the Maigret books. I don't read in order but I love them all and can't wait to see the new series with Rowan Atkinson as Maigret. Not my visual of him but we'll see! So, of COURSE I want to check that one out and will return soon to your blog on that one.

Thanks for all the list. They do look wonderful. And if that glorious spread on your other post was any indication, the recipes work!