So You Want To Be A Waiter

The best book on waiting tables that you have never read – yet

Cookbook of the day – Larousse Gastronomique and The Food Lover’s Companion


Larousse Gastronomique

by Prosper Montaigne (ed.)

Clarkson Potter; Rev Sub edition (October 2, 2001)

  • ISBN-10: 0609609718
  • ISBN-13: 978-0609609712
  • 51DED8KZ6PL__SS500_

    Food Lover’s Companion, The (Barron’s Cooking Guide) 3rd Edition (Paperback)

    by Sharon Tyler Herbst

    Barron’s Educational Series

  • ISBN-10: 0764112589
  • ISBN-13: 978-0764112584
  • I combined these two reference works because every server should have at least the Food Lover’s Companion. A compact and comprehensive list of ingredients, techniques, tools and history, this volume is small enough to keep in your backpack or locker as a go-to reference when you are confronted with a term or foodstuff that you aren’t familiar with. You can also settle arguments with this thing as well.

    But I included the venerable granddaddy of culinary reference works (along with Escoffier’s Cookbook), Larousse Gastronomique. Yes, a current edition is over $50 new. Yes, it can be used as a stepladder – that’s that thick. But it’s a reference work that presents the classical culinary world better than any. Yes, it’s a narrow in its scope in that it doesn’t address a lot of exotic cuisines and cultures. Yes, it isn’t quick to give the lowdown on trendy dining fads. And, it’s a bit ponderous (like this blog can be sometimes). But any really serious culinary fan should have an edition around the house, even if they do as I do and buy a cheaper older version used. I have the 1961 edition that Rebecca Dazell wrote about on Gourmet’s website:

    “Like The Joy of Cooking, the Larousse had later editions that brought it into the modern era, made it more palatable. But the edits also took away the original’s unabashed exultation of food; the writing in that first edition drew me back for pleasure reading, if not real instruction. Were it not for the 1961 Larousse,I doubt I would have ever discovered the 17th-century poet St. Amant and his ode to Brie:

    Now then, let us shout with all our might:
    Blessed be the land of Brie…
    For one has only to press it with one’s fingers
    For it to run over with fat.
    Why then, is it not endless,
    As indeed its circular form is endless?”

    I bought my copy for around $18 plus shipping (not cheap to ship, this 6 lb book) on eBay. There are several intermediary editions since the original ’61 English edition and they can be had used for various prices. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if they weren’t revising this at the moment and that soon, you’ll be able to get this edition for half price at a used bookstore. It took them 25 years to update the first English edition but only 13 years for the second, so perhaps we’ll see a new edition around the turn of this decade. The latest edition is still a bit creaky considering the explosion of cooking channels, mega culinary stores and an everwidening interest in the culinary arts. 

    I would have thrown in Escoffier’s Cookbook for the überfan, but that deserves its own post down the road. Escoffier did write the introduction to the original 1938 French edition, which came out after he died. The original editon of Larousse was published by Crown, the NY publisher that also published my ’63 slightly abridged edition of Escoffier’s Cookbook. But more on that at a later date.

    3 responses to “Cookbook of the day – Larousse Gastronomique and The Food Lover’s Companion

    1. waiterextraordinaire May 26, 2009 at 2:08 pm

      The Larousse Gastronomique is good. I got that one.

    2. Kim - Easy French Food May 27, 2009 at 2:21 am

      I enjoy my Larousse just to browse through. Also it’s handy when you’re having an argument. I was gifted with my French edition upon arriving in France and I have looked at it so often it is now in tatters. Time to update. The other book you recommend here sounds like a worthwhile one to have around. I’ll look into it. Merci.

    3. teleburst May 27, 2009 at 9:38 am

      Thanks for your comment, Kim. There’s a question that I’ve been meaning to ask for a long time. Do most French folks use regular chicken to make coq au vin these days like the rest of the world does? Or are they rather strict in their usage of the menu name and refuse to allow anything other than a cock to be used?

      I’ve wondered that because I’ve seen French recipes that don’t require the use of a cock and, in fact, the English ’61 Larousse states “Cut up a young chicken into six pieces”.

      Seems to me that the dish has been adapted to the modern world and has become a rather generic term for a chicken stew with red wine. I was wondering if it was the same generally in France as well.

      Your thoughts?

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