on October 13, 2009
This a a reference A to Z book on world food, but still overweighted on French cuisine. The earlier editions had even more of a French focus and I would imagine that future editions will be even more balanced. I find this edition superior to the 1961 edition Larousse Gastronomique Encyclopedia of F 1961 Ed, which was 95% focused on French food. The current editions contain fewer receipes than the 1961 edition, but you don't buy this book for recipes. You buy it for A to Z entries. I can recommend this book for French cuisine (more modern coverage) and other cuisines (no competition with previous editions but still not great). Off course, this book is a bit like the winner writing history. The book contains some historical sections and they are not very good because they do not go back to original sources. So if Careme considered a dish French it is likely that Larousse will say so too - even if a more detailed analysis would find strong Italian roots. Still, I don't imagine people would buy this book to get historical information.
An alternative is Davidson's The Oxford Companion to Food 2nd Ed. That book is more quirky since it is the work of one person. Both are good, but I would consider the current book as a better general reference.
Update 2010: Having given two positive recommendations I must ask myself how much I consult these two books. The answer is 'not very much'. If I want to know something, I do a google-search or I look it up in a more specialised cookbook. So if you already own several books about food, you probably do not really need this reference book.
I had written a review of the 1961 edition as well, but I think it has disappeared. Some reviewers praise that edition. I do not agree. Even French food develops and a book written 50 years ago is just not up to date. Still, that edition is very interesting if you are a foodie and really like to see how things have developed. In a way I find it more fun to browse the 1961 edition than then brand new edition. Still, if you need a reference book, there is no doubt that you should buy the new edition.
In essence, this volume is an attempt to define French cuisine, French gastronomy, French cooking, and French food. Yes, now you can find the molecular gastronomy influence (look up nitrogen, liquid in this encyclopedia), and you can find ingredients sneaking in from each corner of the Earth, Pacific Island taro, South American tanko beans, and New Zealand spinach. Mole Poblano shows up and there's a turkey mole recipe. French cooking is not just the old cordon bleu, but the vocabulary of that sort of cooking, seasonal and fresh, elaborate preparations of few ingredients is the basis for this. The exquisite souffle section confirms that. Or turn to the basic cooking process/item of panada: seven recipes for the basic repertoire.
Each edition of the book has gotten larger, covering still "French" cooking but it's that subject which is getting larger. Larousse discusses the rodent, informing us that in 1870 Paris (under seige) rats were sold for 10-15 sous, and it discusses wine production in the United States. There's something for everyone who is interested in food.
Since the book is expensive, it's worth noting that most anyone who wants to save some money could sensibly consider the recent editions from 2001 or 2005, and if one is interested in the classic form of French cooking then the 1961 (first English translation) is also worth considering. Just don't complain about the use of butter or lard in the recipes.
on February 10, 2010
Oh what fun it is to peruse through Larousse Gastronomique. I bought it for my French boyfriend as his was very outdated and falling apart. Being a chef, he has always referred to this culinary gem and I can see why. His old version is in French and I was never able to quite understand the details. Now, I see the light. This latest version has many color pictures and added recipes. My complaint is the quality of paper. A bit too thin. And also, enough of the celebrity chefs. Dear God.
on May 6, 2013
For those of us who worship at the altar of classic French technique and cuisine, the Larousse Gastronomique is our Bible. This is not a cookbook (although there are recipes included) but it's really a reference book with dictionary and/or encyclopedic entries on everything culinary. It isn't indispensable in the sense that every home cook needs this book to hone his or her cooking skills. But if you love food, love cooking, and want to know how preparing vegetables a la Grecque differs from a tarte l'Alscasienne, then this book is for you.
It's most fun to simply open to a random page and learn something new. Highly recommended to the committed (mostly French) foodie.
This will add to your collection of cookbooks and it's really wonderful to go to the Culinary Institute of America to see some of the older versions and how they compare. It covers just about every aspect of French cooking aside from what to do about the added pounds you will put on from all the butter and heavy cream.
The recipes are very easy to follow and have been wonderfully translated to English to allow us single language chefs to understand Larousse's techniques. If you need to get back to basics or clarify an issue in cooking class, this work is the go to for the answer. The two main books I use are my CIA Pro Chef 9th version and Larousse's Culinary Encyclopedia.
I keep it handy and available for any and all questions or for my get back to french basics when needed. This copy is very similar to the latest versions form 2000 on, but if you have an older version it's worth the expense to update to this edition. True the internet is fast for points of reference, but if you need a book at hand this is the one to choose.
on January 28, 2015
This encyclopedia of food has sucked more of my minutes than any other book on food that I have owned. The impressive heft of the tome opens a world of food so enrapturing that time will cease to exist as the gravitational pull of the Larousse Gastronomique's entries work their magic. More times than I can remember, I have been looking for one particular entry only to be distracted by the other entries my eyes scan as I'm flipping through pages to find my target. Fifteen minutes later, I cannot remember what I was originally looking for, but I've learned many amazing things.
The content of the is book is absolutely amazing. With everything that is contained within, however, do not expect this to be an inexhaustible source of information. Since it is a French book, there is a definite tilt here, however other cultural culinary points do appear - they just aren't as comprehensive. So what would you find in a book like this? You'll find great color and black and white photos in categories like squash, cheese, citrus fruit, et cetera. You'll find detailed information about different regions of the world as well as entries about notable individuals that had an impact on the development of food preparation, even those that may be from hundreds of years ago. You will also find recipes and charts that provide valuable information about different food.
As a note, while I cannot speak highly enough about this book as a culinary resource, I do have to provide a cautionary note in regards to the recipes. I have been pleasantly exposed to some incredibly beautiful recipes that worked very well (chocolate mousse that rivaled that which I had in Paris, a chicken liver custard that even non-liver people enjoyed, etc.), but I have also encountered recipes that feel into one of two categories: a) they didn't appear to be tested, or b) they had vague descriptions of quantities. Case in point - "add a sufficient amount of water." So, do your own testing and prepare to make some notes in the book if you're going to utilize it as a cookbook. There are a massive amount of recipes contained in this work, but they are generally short or derivative-based (i.e., prepare x as on page y but make these modifications).
If you are the kind of person that jumps onto your phone or tablet the moment you are confronted with something that you want to look up (for instance, a friend asks you what's the difference between a chowder and bisque), then this may not be the book for you - stick with the Internet. But if you are the kind of person that can get happily lost for a brief period of time in a tome that covers the main point of commonality between all people on the face of the Earth in an encyclopedic manner, then strongly consider adding this fantastic resource to your library.
Disclaimer: I am a home cook, not a professional cook. I have an interest in continually learning more about the exciting world that we live in. I cook on most nights and if I don't, people would starve in the house. I don't believe in doing things halfway, so I have pursued bettering my cooking skills and knowledge not to become a food snob, but rather to broaden my knowledge and techniques to create more enjoyable culinary experiences to share with my family and friends. This book, Larousse Gastronomique, helps me to do just that.
on June 17, 2013
If you are looking to start a cooking library, or enchance an existing one - Start here! It's a mix of definitions, recipes, history and general cooking knowledge. If you are looking something up in this book and can't find it - a pat on the back is in order. You have made a foray into the truly obscure.
It's a great investment, and if you are a real food geek - lots of fun to read. It has some great recipes in it also, so don't overlook those.
on October 7, 2011
I was put onto this book when doing a "Pasta Making Course" and find the references invaluable - so often I have read something and had no idea what it meant or how to do it - this book answers every question and more!! What cuts of meat, different ways of cooking things, basic recipes and more. Absolutely fabulous!
on February 21, 2015
I am lucky enough to own a very old "LAROUSSE" , it was purchased in 1967, as a gift from my late husband. I have used this wonderful "encyclopedia of cooking" often over the years. There has never been a food,a recipe, or a cooking technique that I've wanted to know about, that was not listed and explained in this book !! I have HINTED STRONGLY, to my dear present husband, that is would like the "updated" version available here on Amazon. Since my edition does not contain any mention of microwaves, food processors, convection oven times etc. My old LARROUSE, which sits proudly on the kitchen counter, next to my Jacque Pepin, and Julia Child cookbooks, is very outdated, and heavily worn !! I will update this review, when my "surprise birthday gift" of the new revised edition arrives in March 2015 !!
on February 4, 2013
For anyone interested in fine cooking, this is an essential. Not much of a recipe book, although it has many recipes within. Most importantly, it explains concepts and methods that will stand to help any cook, not matter how sophisticated or experience he or she is.
Buy it and read it, then experiment with the recipes there or modify your favorite recipes using the knowledge learned from this book and you will be able to create your own signature dishes for when family gets together.