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La Bonne Cuisine de Madame E. Saint-Ange: The Original Companion for French Home Cooking Hardcover – November 1, 2005

4.8 out of 5 stars 45 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Translated into English for the first time since its original 1927 publication, La Bonne Cuisine has long been the French housewife's equivalent of The Fannie Farmer Cookbook or The Joy of Cooking—a trusted and comprehensive guide to "la cuisine bourgeoise" or home cooking, rather than the haute cuisine of chefs and Escoffier. Julia Child called LBC "one of my bibles" and drew heavily upon its detailed approach to preparation as she labored on her own classic Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Aratow has retained the book's exhaustive scope and delightfully imperious Gallic tone ("The only true roast is a roast cooked on a spit"). The result is a comprehensive if old-fashioned tome that is an excellent basic guide to techniques, equipment and every staple of the French repertoire, from Sauce Velouté and Fricassée de Poulet to Crème Caramel. Francophiles and food history buffs will thrill to see the legendary book in its entirety, complete with original illustrations, though few modern cooks still need guidelines for lighting the firebox of a cast-iron coal-fired stove or plucking and flaming a fresh-killed chicken. A more detailed apparatus of notes on modernization would've made the book more user-friendly. As it stands, this magisterial translation offers a window into a bygone moment in French life and is a testament to the enduring joy of cooking with cookbooks. (Dec.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


Reviews:“[A] book that I adore and that was my mentor in my early days in France. . . . It was a carefully thought-out, very personal book, and one had complete confidence in what she had to say. . . . I still love it.”
—Julia Child (Simple Cooking, “Reminisces,” 1989)

“It would be difficult to overestimate the service rendered to monolingual English and American cooks by the translation of this massive, instructive, and, in its way, very funny book.”

“This warhorse of French cookery . . . is a proudly hidebound volume on the (Thoroughly French) Right Way to Cook. . . . The book reads like The Joy of Cooking for the dominatrix set. Still, it's hard not to love a writer with such dramatic flair.”
—Bon Appetit

“If you want to add one new definitive cookbook to your larder, we suggest the English edition of LA BONNE CUISINE. . . . This is the tome that got Julia Child cooking as a postwar bride in Paris.”
—Los Angeles Magazine

“[T]his magisterial translation offers a window into a bygone moment in French life and is a testament to the enduring joy of cooking with cookbooks.”
—Publishers Weekly Starred Review

“The gift for the serious cookbook lover who has everything. . . . [T]he go-to manual of the French home kitchen.”
—San Francisco Chronicle

“[A] tidy how-to treatise on traditional (and ambitious) home cooking by a working mother in Paris in the first half of the 20th century.”
—New York Times Magazine

“[A] fascinating work, at once an encyclopedia of the basic techniques o cooking and a snapshot of French cuisine as it existed in the early 20th century.”
—Los Angeles Times

“[A]n important book for both food lovers and cooks, with fine explanations of exactly how to prepare the classic French dishes we Americans already love (and a few not yet discovered).”
—Traditional Home

“A lasting feast for your foodie friends.”
—Budget Living

“One of the most detailed, interesting, well-written, and technically proficient books for the French home cook. . . . I learned one hundred times more from it than I did from Escoffier and other great chefs.”
—Madeleine Kamman

“Julia Child . . . had been much influenced by Mme. Saint-Ange, who in the 1920s wrote step-by-step instructions that guided French women through the intricacies, and also the simplicities, of cuisine bourgeoise.”
—Corby Kummer, The Atlantic

“Finally, this great book has been translated. My French edition has lost its cover from thirty years of almost constant use. LA BONNE CUISINE DE MADAME E. SAINT-ANGE is filled with good sense, logic, and boundless information about the world's best home cooking, and it is deeply grounded in the traditions and techniques that define a great cuisine. It's not just a book of recipes, but helps us master a subtle and immensely satisfying art.”
—James Peterson, author of Sauces

“LA BONNE CUISINE DE MADAME E. SAINT-ANGE is the first French blockbuster written by a woman cook, and it remains my favorite. Saint-Ange has a turn of phrase and a depth of culinary knowledge that have rarely been equaled. At first glance her book appears inordinately long, but she carries us without faltering. Some recipes may take a couple pages of dense print to explain, but at the end you know you will emerge triumphant, with perfection on the plate.”
—Anne Willan, founder of École de Cuisine La Varenne

“Among its many treasures, this marvelous book offers as clear a picture as we can ever hope to get of the workings of the French home kitchen at a time when the meals that came from it were justly the pride of France. The supernaturally knowledgeable Madame Saint- Ange was to her country what Fannie Farmer was to America, but she had the better tools and the better cuisine to work with, and she possessed a forthright Gallic charm entirely her own. For decades, the absence of this book in English translation has been a culinary embarrassment. Paul Aratow has now decisively changed all that, for which he has my endless thanks.”
—John Thorne, author of Simple Cooking and Pot on the Fire

“With his masterful translation of LA BONNE CUISINE DE MADAME E. SAINT-ANGE, Paul Aratow has done a great service to lovers of food, food lorists, and curious cooks everywhere. It's a Joy of Cooking and a Mastering the Art of French Cooking stitched together with dishes from the French family home—all wrapped into one comprehensive volume that will entice and intrigue anyone interested in one of the major foundations of our new American cooking.”
—Victoria Wise, former chef of Chez Panisse

“The classic cooking of Madame Saint-Ange—so fresh and so French—lives on as testament to a true passion for bonne cuisine and a wonderful lesson in echnique.”
—Daniel Boulud, chef of Daniel

“This book will fascinate students of French gastronomy and those with a particular interest in the mores of middle-class French households in the early part of the twentieth century. As a window into French cookery, it is an extraordinary work.When read alongside Escoffier, whilst the scope is very similar, Madame Saint-Ange includes far more explanatory information, and although the tone is formal, it is also meticulous and often illuminating.”
—Stephanie Alexander, author of The Cook's Companion

“Styles of cuisine may change, but the fundamentals are forever. There is more commonsense basic cooking instruction in this book than in most libraries.”
—Russ Parsons, Los Angeles Times food columnist and author of How to Read a French Fry

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 786 pages
  • Publisher: Ten Speed Press (November 1, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1580086055
  • ISBN-13: 978-1580086059
  • Product Dimensions: 7.6 x 1.8 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (45 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #285,832 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By David A. Heintz on November 1, 2005
Format: Hardcover
This cannot be an objective review. I learned to cook from Mastering the Art of French Cooking, as did many. When I discovered that Julia Child relied on another book, by a French woman and published in 1927, I had to have a copy. La Bonne Cuisine de Madame E. St-Ange has remained on my countertop for over twenty years.

Not that I have cooked much from it. My French is poor enough that translating was a chore, and I have dozens (hundreds?) of perfectly fine French cookbooks in English at hand. But this one book remained.

Mr. Aratow's translation was long in the making: my Amazon order was open almost two years. It is worth the wait. He has lovingly, and I believe, faithfully rendered the words of Madame, finally offering them up to me and fulfilling the allure that this book has held all these years.

The French have four basic types of cookery:

La haute cuisine: as you would find in a starred restaurant (mostly by men.)

La cuisine regionale: featuring the local ingredients of a province.

La cuisine impromptue: what we Americans digest most nights.

La cuisine bourgeoise: the cooking - real cooking - of the household (mostly by women.) La Bonne Cuisine is the touchstone of the latter.

This is not to say that you will learn to cook la cuisine bourgeoise from this book. It is not for a beginner. It presumes that one has the basic cooking skills of a Frenchwoman in the late 1920's. One knows how to roast a chicken, for example. (This is only done on a spit, according to Madame. Note that our ovens do not have a control labeled "roast", but "bake.") Also, in the pervasive "Wall-Marting" of American grocery shopping, many ingredients will not be available.

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Format: Hardcover
Most serious cookbooks these days approach their subject with one fundamental flaw: they attempt to convert restaurant cooking to home cooking, and usually steer the unwary toward oversimplified and ultimately unrewarding food. Recently a few outstanding cookbooks have bucked this trend, either by sticking to simple dishes and carefully vetting the recipes for home kitchens [as in Anthony Bordain's excellent Les Halles Cookbook] or by going straight to the farmhouse source of great home-made food [as in Paula Wolfert's contemporary classic The Cooking of Southwest France]. For years, maybe since the early days of Chez Panisse, what we have lacked is the kind of fundamental instructional book, part recipe book, part primer, part Larousse Gastronomique Bourgeois, that could fill out our knowledge and broaden our technique. La Bonne Cuisine is that book. In the month since it arrived it has become a key part of my menu-planning process, and probably the most practical primer on my long shelf of food books. With La Bonne Cuisine, the Oxford Companion to Wine, the Larousse, and Richard Olney I feel connected to a galaxy of masters whose knowledge can filter down to my humble American kitchen in useful and inspiring ways. So, if you have good kitchen fundmentals, love to perfect good rustic dishes, and wish to escape the trap of trying to replicate restaurant preparations, I recommend Mme. St. Ange's book. Next time you're making a Daube Provencal, for example, read the section on braising meats first. It will improve your food.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Madame Saint-Ange is the bible of bourgeois cooking. Written in 1924, I think it's been in print continuously in France. It is now out in an excellent English translation by Aratow, the co-founder of Chez Panisse. I wouldn't have believed that the cadences of the original French could be so well rendered into English, but here they are!

Bourgeois cooking is the cooking of the urban upper middle class, people who in 1924 probably had a servant, but not a full kitchen staff. It is emphatically not "farmhouse cooking" (as another reviewer suggests), but definitely urban and urbane.

Madame Saint-Ange's recipes lay very heavy emphasis on technique, and often build on each other. One of my favorites is the recipe for Boeuf a la Mode (Braised Beef). The recipe itself is only about two pages, but it refers back to the section on "How to braise red meats", which is several pages, and in turn refers back to the section on "How to make a stock", another several pages. And it all pays off with a moist, rich piece of meat in an unctuous sauce.

Although she's a perfectionist, she realizes that you don't always have the time or money for doing things the best way. She often gives variations which are faster or cheaper.

All in all, a marvelous cookbook.
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Format: Hardcover
Beyond the recipes for fine French cuisine lies a vast hidden land of culinary secrets. As anyone who has tried to make really good french fries knows you can't just slice up a potato and stick it into a fryer--you have to understand everything from what type of potato to use to the type of frying fat to the proper temperatures for cooking (and recooking) to get reliable excellent results.

This tome teaches those secrets and many more. Here is a cookbook that spends pages on not just recipes but technique-how to braise, how to sear, how to purify fat for cooking. Although most of us may never have the time to follow these recipes exactly, just reading this book will teach you more about cooking than you every imagined possible and simply make you a better cook yourself. No wonder this book inspired Julia Child to write the seminal Mastering the Art of French Cooking!

The translation is great, the range of the book amazing, heck, we sit around our kitchen table reading it to each other. You can open the pages anywhere and learn something new about meat, vegetables, pastry, any aspect of traditional French cuisine.

Buy it. Learn from this book. You will be not only a better cook, but understand why you are a better cook.
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