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178 of 179 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Enters the realm of superb literature
What I wanted was a book of unfussy French recipes to be done in 15 minutes. What I got was a book with no list of ingredients, no photos, no color, and "a useful dish for those who have to get a dinner ready when they get home from the office" taking 3 hours to cook (Daube de Boeuf Provencale). Obviously, it seemed, I had made the wrong choice.
On...
Published on August 17, 2000

versus
2.0 out of 5 stars Two Stars
Recipes may be good but couldn't get past the poor printing job,
blurry letters and rough paper. -
Published 1 month ago by HC


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178 of 179 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Enters the realm of superb literature, August 17, 2000
By A Customer
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
What I wanted was a book of unfussy French recipes to be done in 15 minutes. What I got was a book with no list of ingredients, no photos, no color, and "a useful dish for those who have to get a dinner ready when they get home from the office" taking 3 hours to cook (Daube de Boeuf Provencale). Obviously, it seemed, I had made the wrong choice.
On further reading, however, what unfolded was something beyond a "cookbook," and ultimately more useful. This is a superb book. French Provincial Cooking should be approached and read as a series of short stories, as well written and evocative as the best literature. The voice is highly personal and opinionated, sometimes sharp and catty, but always true and ultimately sympathetic. It is always entertaining.
And the recipes, it turns out, are less intimidating than at first glance. Most importantly, they work if your aim is to produce the most excellent food imaginable. There is nothing slick here, no L.A. hype or N.Y. blah blah blah, and obviously, they have been tried and perfected; what initially seem to be annoying details (e.g., for omelettes, eggs "should not really be beaten at all, but stirred," whereas for scrambled eggs, they should be "very well beaten") are actually secrets not to be skipped, that elevate a good dish to a superb one. The lesson is that good food should be done simply, but it takes care, attention to detail, and frequently, time.
I find these recipes don't stint on the butter, cream, and wine, making them seem a little frumpy, but every one I've tried has been delicious. Ratatouille, salade Nicoise, terrinee de porc, piperade are all the best I've had. It doesn't get much better than this. Deserts are a model of simplicity and elegance; peaches with sugar and white wine; bananas with sugar, kirsch, and cream; pineapple with kirsch. These ARE easy, and thankfully, E. David had the self-confidence to actually put them down in a book.
French Provincial Cooking is superb in all ways. It's the real thing!
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83 of 83 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Fountainhead of Modern American Cuisine, December 12, 2003
Elizabeth David is one of foremost writers on food in the latter half of the 20th century and this book has her most celebrated writing. For this reason, I was inspired to write this modest review when I saw Amazon feature the volume as an offering, 43 years after it's first publication in England.
It is a coincidence of no small meaning that this book appeared within two years before the publication of Julia Child et al's landmark `Mastering the Art of French Cooking'. Child was even worried, when David's book appeared, that it may steal a lot of the thunder from Child and her colleague's effort. The fact is, the two books are very much like the Wittgensteinian `duck rabbit' optical illusion in that they deal with the same subject but from different points of view.
One distinction is that while Child's book is simply a cookbook of French recipes, David's book is a long essay on French cuisine, offering the sketches of recipes more as exercizes to be completed by the reader than as true recipes. In fact, it is one of the most enduring legacies of Child's book that it redefined the detail to which a recipe writer should go in order to adequately communicate the process of preparing a dish.
A second distinction between the two is that they deal with two different facets of French cuisine. As David recites from work by Curnonsky, there is haute cuisine, la cuisine Bourgeoise, la cuisine Regionale, and la cuisine Improvisee. David discourses on the third while Child, et al present the second.
For many, including such luminaries as Jeremiah Tower and Alice Waters, Elizabeth David is the fountainhead of thinking on the French notion of `la cuisine terroir', sometimes interpreted by the notion `what grows together goes together'. For David, this is the heart of regional cooking, and the thing which most distinguishes it from cooking at restaurants where clientele arrive at any time of the year or the day and expect to be able to order virtually any well known French speciality.
One of the passages which best characterizes David's approach to a lot of cooking is her opening statement on the perfect omelette: `As everybody knows, there is only one infallible recipe for the perfect onelette: you own.' I'm sure this would not work for Daniel Boulud, but it works just fine for me, after having seen about five (5) different, contrary techniques on how to make the perfect omelette.
It's interesting to constantly encounter reminders that the book was written before the widespread distribution of Teflon coated cookware, as there is no mention of it, even for egg cookery. I believe the book is all the more valuable for this fact, in that it paints a picture of a cooking style which has irrevokably been changed by technology. A second technological change brought upon the world by the French themselves is the 'robot-coupe' or food processor. It's noteworthy that the device is only mentioned in Notes to the 1985 edition where it is pointed out that the device was a major contribution to both the good and the bad aspects of nouvelle cuisine.
As stated above, the recipes are not as much presented as a blueprint to reproduce every dish cited, but rather to illuminate the discourse. One of my favorites is the entry for Salade Nicoise, where not one but four (4) different variations are given, including the variation of Escoffier.
The sections on French kitchen equipment and French techniques appear to be quite complete and absolutely essential if you embark on reading a cookbook written in French. The book has a short essay on each of the major culinary regions of France, starting. Almost obviously with Provence which is blessed not so much with great culinary talent as a great source of produce, similar, perhaps to the situation in California where the `la cuisine terroir' could take root much more easily than in Toledo or Albany. The largest portion of the book is chapters on cuisine by type of foodstuf or type of preparation such as:
Sauces
Hors-D'oeuvres and Salads
Soups
Eggs and Cheese
Pates and Terrines
Vegetables
Fish
Shellfish
Meat
Composite Meat Dishes
Poultry and Game
Left-overs
Sweet dishes
The book ends with a bibliography which alone is worth the price of the paperback volume.
This book begs to be read from cover to cover. The only other writers who come to mind of a similar caliber are John Thorne, M.F.K. Fisher, and Harold McGee. Elizabeth David's books belong in the library of anyone who loves to read and prepare food and this is her best.
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56 of 58 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A trailblazer for all cooks, January 20, 2003
The truly remarkable thing about Elizabeth David was not so much that she could write enthralling and compelling cookbooks ("Mediterranean Food", "French Provincial Cooking", "Italian Cooking"), but that she transformed a glum, drab post-war England by the beauty of her prose and her ability to evoke the sunshine and brilliant colours of the mediterranean. And, further north, the simple beauty of cuisine bourgeoise, home cooking french style.
It was this book that got me started on a lifetime of home cooking. Like all great cookbooks, it can be read and savored without cooking at all. Her ability to evoke time and place is startling -- for example, her recipe for little courgette souffles is wrapped in the story of how she first enjoyed them. Of course, this was in a small country restaurant where the proprietor used his own recipe to make them for her.
She talks vividly about La Mere Poulard and her Mont St. Michel omelettes, for which she offers the original recipe. Roughly translated from the french, it reads: "Monsieur, I get some good eggs, I put them in a bowl and beat vigorously. Then I put them into a pan with good butter and stir constantly. I will be very happy if this recipe gives you pleasure".
I remember, over 30 years ago, the first time I made her recipe for pork chops "to taste like wild boar". They do indeed, and very good they are. Her recipes for classics like Cassoulet, and Bouillabaisse are vivid and provide the cultural context as well as precise directions. Her description of a bouillabaisse on the beach makes you want to catch the next plane there.
She explains the environment of her recipes, their milieu, and their progenitors so that you get right inside the whole theory and practice of french cooking. This is not haute cuisine, though it is not always simple to execute. But her sympathy for the process of cooking and her ability to describe it precisely prefigured writers like Richard Olney and Alice Waters, who owe her, as do we all, a great debt.
In any case, she is directly responsible for the appalling culinary assaults I have perpetrated on family and friends for longer than I care to remember. I still use the book, though most of its pages are now stored directly in my memory.
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19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I love this book for its authentic recipes., April 12, 1999
By 
divinecomm@erols.com (Allentown, Pensylvania) - See all my reviews
While living in France, I was given this book (written by a English woman) by my sister, who lived in London. I have worn out the pages from constant use. These recipes are so authentic and so easy! (which is unusual for many french recipes). I am ordering another copy for the next 20 years!
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27 of 31 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Elizabeth! My guide! My guru!, July 19, 2000
Elizabeth David went to France in the still dark days following WWII -- an English friend told me that meat was rationed in Britain until 1953 -- to earn a master's degree in romance languages and discovered that there was a way to prepare food undreamed of in still wartorn England. I bought the book nearly a quarter of a century ago in a tiny, independent bookstore, a white-painted, uninsulated building with flowers growing all around it, in a resort town in NH. I took it back to where I was staying and read it avidly: if you don't cook, it is a wonderful evocation of French life in a simpler time, before Robert Mondavi tried to buy vinyards in Langue d'Oc. I am still reading it, although the original book, stained and darkened with age, has been replaced. It may sound dramatic to say that it changed my life but I think it did. Elizabeth made me think of food and France in a different way. The next time I returned to that bookstore, I bought a novella by Colette. Later, I had a daughter who I swear was born speaking French. Oh, but that doesn't address the really important issue: YES, THE RECIPES ARE WONDERFUL. Get used to pouring a teacupful of wine into sauces. You'll love this book.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars La Bonne Vrai Cuisine de France, January 22, 2002
This book is unequaled, engrossing, superlative. It remains, despite the four decades since its publication, the finest book on authentic French cooking in the English language. To that extent, it is uncompromising - a quality not likely to endear it to the timid or fadish american cook - but never daunting. The sheer sensuous beauty of the food evoked in these pages is a loving, prolonged essay on one of the glories of western civilization.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars If you like your family and friends you will buy this book., October 13, 1999
By A Customer
Then you will look up the chocolate souffle recipe and make it. It is wonderful, and you can make it while your guests are digesting dinner, sitting around the table and being terribly impressed by your culinary skill. My only change is I omit the water or liquer while melting the chocolate (because every time I added it, the chocolate seized). Also, right before I serve the souffle, which I usually bake in individual dishes, I make a whole in the center and pour in chocolate sauce (melted chocolate, butter and heavy cream heated in the microwave to a sauce) and whipped cream. Oh, everyone died and went to chocolate heaven. Once you fall in love with Elizabeth David, order South Wind Through the Kitchen.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Simply the best, December 27, 2000
By 
Tom Munro "tomfrombrunswick" (Melbourne, Victoria Australia) - See all my reviews
Before Elizabeth David Britain and Australia had no cuisine. Meals consisted of overcooked meat served with three types of boiled vegetables. Garlic was seen as a foreign evil the onion treated with suspicion. Spaghetti was only available in a can overcooked in a flavorless thing tomato sauce.
Elizabeth David changed all that. She spent time in the Mediterranean and when she returned to England she began to write books about her time in those sun drenched lands. She was able to convey the delight of a fine tasting olive oil,or the joy of visiting a market full of fresh produce. How the use of flavorings can enhance a dish and bring out the character of ingredients.
After Elizabeth cooking stopped being a chore processing in an unimaginative way the same tired old dishes again and again. Cooking began to be something that was fun to do. It could bring pleasure and be simply rewarding to cook. Meals began to be focus points which could bring families together something to look forward to and to enjoy. An interest in food could lead to an interest in the passing of the seasons as vegetables appeared making possible new dishes.
Elizabeth's first book was on Mediterranean cooking. This book is on French Provincial Cuisine and outlines what are now known as the sorts of dishes which you will see on most French Restaurants menus. The recipes are explained in a way that it easy to follow although this is one of the older books which does not have the sorts of illustrations of technique which are now the norm.
Never the less each chapter is a gem. The section on soups and vegetables is especially good. The book also explains techniques in French cooking if you have note come across them.
This book is however more than cook book. It is a passionate introduction to the art of food. The people of Britain and Australia are grateful to its being written as it is one of those books which have changed what happens in day to day life in a way that is quite remarkable. Elizabeth David should be made a Saint.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Beware of the small print and light paper weight of this version!, June 24, 2010
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This is a 5-star book getting a 4-star review for this paperback edition. I ended up giving this paperback book to my newbie teen child, who is learning to cook, has spent a couple of autumns eating in Paris and Lyon, and loves French cuisine. The print was too small (but still readable) and the pages too lightweight for my preference. I ordered the hardcover version for myself after I received this paperback version, and am delighted with the hardcover version for my cookbook collection.

After reading reviews of French Provincial Cooking, I ordered this paperback edition under the mistaken impression that it was akin to a kind of Peter Mayle-type French travelogue, but with recipes. What was I thinking?! Oh, but what a fortuitous mistake! As the title promises, this book is a compilation of French Provincial Cooking recipes. Unlike most recipe books however, the author's style is to take you in hand, like an older sister or mother, to impart the secrets of making the dishes come out perfectly.

Ms. David's writing style is conversational, with recipes written in prose. Reading them, one feels transported in time and place, as if she and we are in a kitchen in France, and she is teaching us how to prepare a delicious dish for our meal together. Her recipes are more letters from home imparting instructions from Mama on how to make her favorite dishes, than assembly instructions PDFs. Both presentation styles may result in a flawless dishes. It is a matter of preference.

Elizabeth David's style of presentation feels personal and nurturing. So, this book will be perfect for my teen, as she seeks to learn to cook from one of the grande dames of the culinary arts, and throw garden luncheons, for us or her friends, in lieu of summer school. When I gave my daughter French Provincial Cooking late last night, she could barely contain her excitement and delight as she immediately plunged in and began to avidly pore over Ms. David's recipes. I went to sleep filled with hope and deeply contented to have my gift so joyously received!
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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Inspiration, November 18, 2000
In 1968, twenty years before I wrote "At Home With The French Classics", two books started me on my lifelong quest for raising ones appreciation and enjoyment of fine food. The Foods & Wines of France, by Roy Andries De Groot and Elizabeth David's French Provencal Cooking gave me an understanding of French food and cooking that has stayed with me ever since. Elizabeth David writes recipes that you can taste and smell while reading. You can see the color of the vegetables and the slow simmering of sauces, and you are inspired to cook. Anyone who is interested in French food should make this book mandatory reading.
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French Provincial Cooking
French Provincial Cooking by Elizabeth David (Hardcover - 2007)
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