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54 of 54 people found the following review helpful
on August 21, 1999
If faced with having only one cookbook, this would be it. I have seen no better reference for finding not only the answers to the simple day-to-day questions, but also, the answers to those wierd questions questions that crop up from time to time.
I believe that this book is the perfect book for the beginning cook with step-by-step instructions for making omeletts, peeling shrimp, chopping onions, etc...
I also believe that this is the perfect book for even the most experienced cooks as it demonstrates complex techniques in very straight-forward, illustrated terms. Topics like making aspics, pastries, cleaning monkfish, piping chocolate decorations...
This is the book I go back to time and time again. Pretty enough to be on the coffee table as long as your living room is close to the kitchen!
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42 of 42 people found the following review helpful
on September 24, 2002
I got this book as a freebie when I worked in publishing, and after ten years using it I'd be glad to go back in time and pay full price.
Clear, well-directed photography shows you exactly what to do and what your ingredients should look like. The focus is on methods and techniques, not recipes, though there are some recipes too. The skills described range from boiling an egg to making the most sophisticated souffle, so there is useful information for really plain cooking to fancy gastronomie and everything in between.
The only area this book falls short on is the nitty-gritty basics like how to measure flour or bake a potato or calculate how many tablespoons in a quart. For that, get yourself a copy of the Joy of Cooking (1962, 1963, 1964 or 1975 edition much better than modern "improvements"). With these two you'll have virtually all the info on how to cook (aside from specific ethnic cooking techniques), and can focus on collecting recipes to your liking.
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45 of 47 people found the following review helpful
on February 1, 2004
La Varenne Pratique by Anne Willan bristles with more than 2500 full-color photographs. Willan is the founder of the famed Ecole de Cuisine La Varenne in Paris. Her standard are high, yet the text is as crystal-clear as her consommé. I opened the book at random just now to be dazzled by a two-page, twelve-photograph spread on just how to remove lobster meat from the shell. The instructions for complex operations like boning a leg of lamb, shaping a braided loaf of bread, baking fish in parchment paper, share quarters with basics like properly shelling peas, lining a pie mold, or testing the doneness of pan-fried meats.
I have bypassed wedding gift registries three times now and given brides La Varenne Pratique; two of these brides have already validated my boldness by doing the same.
Open randomly again, behold: color photos of fourteen types of root vegetables. So that's what salsify and scorzonera (vegetables common in Italy) look like! With photographs like these (eight varieties of beans, ten of rice, eleven of lettuce varieties) I am amazed that some magazines have to resort to publishing photographs of naked people in order to coax people into reading their trenchant articles.
Food writer Elliot Essman's other reviews and food articles are available at [...]
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22 of 23 people found the following review helpful
on May 27, 1999
The book itself is an outstnding guide to understanding techniques that are time honored traditions as well as adaptability to newer methods and styles of cuisine. This book more than any that I have used before attending the C.I.A, as well as during my education here has been a device that I have used to reference frequently. It not only has practical methods but suggestions so as not to intimidate the non-professional cook. This is really the only way I know how to thank Anne Willan for creating such a lovely instrument of cuisine.
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21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
on August 5, 1999
I'm a complete novice to cooking. On the advice of the local chef academy, I picked up this book along with my first real set of cutlery and cookware. It's fabulous! To paraphrase the introduction, success in the kitchen is predicated upon a mastery of ingredients and a mastery of technique. This huge tome covers both in fine detail, with exquisite photography and clear prose.
It covers a vast array of ingredients, from selection at the market all the way through preparation, presentation, and (my favorite) potential problems with each.
This is a truly encyclopedic volume and the finest instructional book I've seen on any topic. Bon appetit!
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on December 10, 1998
The book is not only a beautiful cookbook with all color pictures, it is a marvelous reference guide. Directions are clear and consise, many have pictures to accompany them. The author has covered kitchen skills that normally only professionals are taught. The format is indepth yet understandable. Although it does contain many fine recipes, it is more like a cooking guide showing classic french cooking tecniques. The reader is shown for example, how to cut, what to look for in ingredients and how to use ingredients to their fullest potential. Unlike many guides, this book sticks to the agenda of teaching readers about good cooking and good food.
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25 of 30 people found the following review helpful
on March 5, 2000
I bought this book when a friend recomended it to me. I used this book for everything dealing with cooking and baking and have been for a long time now. My brother-in-law came to me last week and asked me if I could recomend a good over-all cookbook and I didn't have to think twice. La Varenne Pratique is the only way to go. It covers everything dealing with techniques, cooking methods and general information on practically all foods. I also had the chance to go to France and work with Anne in her cooking school at the Chateau du Fey. It was by far the best experience that I ever had in the cooking field. Bon Appetit!
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on February 22, 2009
I borrowed this book from my public library to see how accurate the rave reviews were. My only disappointment is that I waited until the book went out of print. There's a good reason used copies are selling at around twice the original cover price.

This book really has it all. The photography is both beautiful and informative. Instead of showing just finished products that offer more spectacle than instruction, these photos give you a practical look at what the steps along the way should look like. The text, while sometimes brief, is clear and concise. Some books offer instructions along the lines of "beat until soft peaks form" for even the most complex procedures. One will find almost the same brevity here, but the author manages something of an instructional miracle here. The statements are short, but they offer the Goldilocks touch of giving you enough detail to get it right but not so much info that you can't keep it all in your head.

There's plenty of general info on all manner of ingredients, technique, and basic preparations as well. Did I mention that I am devastated that the publisher has withdrawn it? Let's hope for a new edition. The current asking price for used editions may be a little out of reach for most of us, but if you're looking for a special gift for that cookbook junkie on your list, you will make someone very happy with this one. (To my friends and family, that's not a hint. I swear.)
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on September 16, 2007
There are many books on basic skills to advanced skills in the kitchen. However, I think this book still remains one of the best. I have seen books come and go, but this stands the test of time... Excellent descriptions, excellent pictures and inclusive of all that you should know and want to know as a chef. Foodies at home will appreciate it too. This book is a classic.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on March 8, 2007
Amazing book, great practical info on the ins and outs of cooking and ingredients, realize that this is not a cookbook.
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