Although they were now over, people had not shaken off the distraction of the holidays. Still the city empty of tourists was a ghost town of daydreamers always fatally heading towards the waking hour. I did not mind, I sat in the cafe sketching and enjoying the peace and quiet. The me attached to the end of the pen had only to concern himself with making the ink flow. I ordered another coffee from Giselle whom everyone called "The New Girl" although she had been here for at least a year. Leaning back, in lieu of people I watched the sky. The clouds leisurely slid across the sky, stingrays whose expanding outlines would eventually enlarge them to abstractions. After she dropped off my second cup I peripherally watched Giselle rapidly walk back and forth behind the bar like a tin duck before momentarily disappearing, popping back up, now coming back over to me with something in her hand.
She handed me a thickish envelope that had come for me registered mail. I had to thank her with a smile even though I knew that she had been debating whether she would be found out, if she were to maliciously "forget" to give it to me by way of payment for the time we flirted at Olivier's party until I decided to go home and paint instead.
I waited until she was gone just because I know that she often tries to get in with people using gossip as her entree. Inside the envelope was a smaller one, a holiday card from Scotty and inside that, an American Express gift check. I did not need the money, not even to spend on fun and leisure but I was disappointed by the amount. I had repeatedly done all the things which he had never wanted to for fear of getting his hand dirty and disrupting the course of his charmed life, yet here was a check the size of which one would give to the office receptionist for a wedding gift to bow out of having to go to the actual event. After all these years why could he not be extravagant, just once? Was it my fault, as I was always saying that it was the ritual of respect in the giving, not the actual amount nor thing? That made sense but I still felt that one way or another it was a slight to me in either the small amount or the fact that the amount did not even enter into his thoughts. I would shake it off; to all of them back stateside, I was just a ghost that no one conjured up as to not have to hear my version of history which would be more truthful. Now would be the silence again until this time next year and another card. I do not exactly even know why I wanted for just once a showing of extravagance, perhaps subconsciously I felt it was needed to break some spell. I would do my shopping as the mini-city made up of all the kiosks offering spices, cheeses and produce always cheered me up, even the abstract expressionists smears of fruit rinds and cherry seeds on the cobblestones could offer up a potential inspiration. I forgot my grocery list and had to make the short walk home to get it. I grabbed the list and decided to do the few dishes which I had been ignoring. I snapped on the stereo letting fate DJ, offering up whatever I had last been enjoying. Billy Holiday, it was not too much of a surprise as the big boxed set it belonged to was resting on the mantle.
It always manages to excite me, each time I notice something else. "I Don't Want to Cry Anymore" Benny Carter's alto sweetly murmurs behind her, it coats the soul. So much in my life I could not control despite my growing adeptness of navigating the agent and gallery scene, the frustrations of which I sometimes took out on Giulietta. Even though we had already exchanged gifts, I would get her a copy of the boxed set, she was not by any means an aficionado but who knows what path such a gift could put her on for future passions. Although he would neither know nor ever hear about it, I felt my extra gift to Giulietta served as a sort of bite-back to Scotty. Mind made up, I grabbed my list and book bag and was off.
I decided to get the boxed set first, not being cheap, it was irrational to think that the one copy which had been sitting on shelf in the warped plexi-glass case behind counter ignored in favor of the far less expensive single albums would suddenly be snatched up during the hour it would take me to shop but fate could be like that sometimes and I did not want to chance it. The owner nodded to me as I entered. We chit-chatted a little then when the silence did not bloom anymore conversation I pointed to the box;
"S'il vous plait."
He did not act too excited as it was assumed I was just looking at the track listings to see which individual albums the set was culled from. As I actually bought it, his mood improved. He put the hot-plate on to heat up the percolator. We drank strong coffee from the type of tiny paper cups hospitals give patients their pills in. He told me that many times his father had seen Coleman Hawkins back in the day play on the Quai de Chat qui Peche. He said that I was going to be blown away by the music. It seemed that it would lessen his excitement were I to tell him that I already owned it and this was for a gift so I merely nodded. We shook hand and I left.
I got my shopping done fairly quick as I already had known what tonight's menu would be. I had to be careful; I may be more excited about giving her the gift than she would be about, thoughts aside, getting it. I put the Palermo sauce on and did a series of sketches on the extra onions I had bought because of their sweet fragrance.
She showed up right on time, avoiding one of my pet peeves, wearing the dress that as she lost weight was now a little big on her and which we jokingly referred to as her eating dress as no matter how much she had there would still be a little room. She was an expert on Palermo Sauce and could tell if it was done to its exacting specifications just by its color. She lifted the lid and nodded approvingly.
I poured the wine and she choreographed us sitting on the couch until dinner was ready.
"I got you a gift."
Her body shivered, subtly almost invisible to the naked eye. I had a moment of vertigo as I imagined what, for one second she thought it could be while equally as quick ruling it out with her rational mind. The same thought flashing through both of our minds now made me wonder if I had made a mistake in getting the gift or not going with something more out right sentimental. Nerves now made me stall with a sort of preamble as part of me seriously questioned if the main motive for having done this was not some odd sort of spite on someone who would never know. I went to my book bag which was hanging off the closet door;
"Your ancestors and mine had one thing in common, their household Gods, totemic symbols intricately sculpted in bronze, chipped into stone or carved from bits of bones. They drew comfort, strength and inspiration from them. I am giving you this Lady Day boxed set, keep it on your bookcase or something, you needn't pray to it or ask it for favors but I do think even if you are not into it upon first listen that you can get something from it if not now, then eventually."
She took it from me, surprised by its heft. I had noticed that she had blushed upon seeing how big the gift was before consciously registering exactly what it was, as if in her head she was telling herself how silly to have considered that it could have been that. I was lucky though that she was bemused and not angry or disappointed. We kissed and the feeling of her lips sliding over mine, I had not done too badly. She wanted to put it on. I told her that I had the same set and it might be easier to get hers home still wrapped. As illogical as it was, for they were exactly the same, she wanted to listen to hers. We ate while the music played. Afterwards she insisted on showing her appreciation by doing the dishes. I stood by the window smoking, glancing around my place I wondered not just for others but for myself what constituted my totems of inspiration, the household Gods which dwelled here. Of course there were the obvious well-worn tools I used daily to create and the music which so often inspired it all but what more?
She came out of the kitchen, my musing stopped as I became distracted by all the good things that are there when the boy-girl thing is going smoothly. We went to bed, the real world with its practicalities would return tomorrow.
The next day I woke up before her and could tell by her breathing that no matter how much moving around I did, nothing was going to disturb her from her sleep. I decided to run out and get her the raisin escargot she liked from the patisserie by St. Michel. The bookstore began to unfurl its tables from under the red awning, stretching out to bask in the sun of a new day. Breakfast in hand, I slowed down to do quick glances at all the discounted coffee table books. The tables closest to the street cater to the tourists with the books being on dead, famous, local artists or things publishers had projected to be popular due to the public's brief infatuation with them but largely passed over for the next thing. There are a large number of celebrity and TV personality cookbooks. It does not surprise me, no matter how hot a TV cook currently is, I just cannot picture years down the line passing on one of these volumes with the smiling cook pictured on the cover, to a descendant.
I got home to find that she had woken up and put the coffee on. As I was hanging up my hat my eyes drifted to the bottom of my bookshelf, the deities that the bookstalls had reminded me of, my cooking tomes. Even if one had no aspirations to professionally cook anyone who enjoys eating, who cooks for themselves, should be familiar with several names. With all these volumes one need not try to make the recipes but they offer a living glimpse into the past which if desired can be pulled from the past back into the real world, materializing at the end of a fork. These are the books to be passed down; the notes from a long stilled hand spilling down the page's margins.
The first book is the smallest of the lot but its size serves as no indication of the importance or enjoyment it offers up. The Physiology of Taste (Physiologie du Gout) is perhaps what Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin(1755-1826) is now best known for and even then, largely only to those in specialized fields or like myself, bookworms to the extreme. Since its initial publication which was private and anonymous in 1825 it has never been out of print. His biography being full of dramatic episodes which had nothing to do with anything gastronomical, there was no sense of inevitability for Brillat-Savarin to write this book.
His familial heritage consisted of lawyers and politicians originating from the area of Belley, France. Early on he studied law, medicine and chemistry and he would maintain a lifelong habit of never restricting his fields of inquiry, the only prerequisite ever being that it mentally stimulated him and could incorporate his humanist leanings. Once his studies were completed he began his own law practice in Belley. Although part of the upper class he never felt a person should be judged on their social position but more on their thoughts and actions. Because of his overall popularity, he served as mayor of Belley for a year. A favorite aunt willed him an inheritance with the only stipulation being that he take her surname "Savarin" which was how he went from Brillat to Brillat-Savarin.
At the outbreak of the French Revolution he was called upon to serve in the Estates-General which morphed into the National Constituent Assembly, as a deputy. His oratory was popular and garnered him a reputation. One of his most famous speeches was in defense of capital punishment.
As the dream for a sort of everyman Utopia gave way to the bloody realities of the Jacobeans and their de-facto head Maximilien Robespierre (1758-1794) he grew disillusioned with the movement. He was now deemed "too moderate" in his sympathies, the same charge which fell upon fellow author (and philosopher?) Marquis de Sade (1740-1814) who would orate at Robespierre's key rival, George Jacques Danton's (1759-1794) funeral. With a price on his head, in 1792 he would have to flee the revolution to Switzerland initially disguised as a woman. He would go further afield to New York where he earned his daily bread by teaching French and also playing first violin in the John Street Theater. He would then move on from New York to Boston and Philadelphia where he would hunt game fowl and learn of the preparation of wild turkeys and other New England cuisine from Thomas Jefferson. In 1797 as the bloody flame of revolution had largely burnt itself out from fierce infighting, he was able to return to France. He was repatriated and deemed an honorable person by the directory. He was given the post of a judge of the supreme court of appeals in Paris, a post he would hold despite several changes in regime/government for the rest of his life.
With the nation now facing the semblance of stability, thoughts other than those of revolution or mere surviving could be entertained. Even with his republican/humanist leanings Brillat-Savarin socialized with the cream of Parisian society. He especially enjoyed the companionship of doctors, scientists and thinkers.
There was now, post revolution a new emerging bourgeoisie (really, an until then unknown upper-middle class) who had earned their power and money as opposed to having just been born into it. Brillat-Savarin would draw from the burgeoning zeitgeist to direct people towards an enjoyment of food while shedding the pomp and excess as put in place under Louis XIV's (1638-1715) gastronomical architect Francois Vatel (1631-1671) and carried on by the upper classes' lush banquets and personal chefs right up until the revolution.
Often when people say "Foodie" now, the word is used incorrectly. It conjures up the near cartoonish spectacle of the white plate with baby carrot spooning a row of four shiny green peas and perhaps a dollop of molecular gastronomy foam. That is actually minimalism which does not necessarily connect to being a foodie. Post revolution Brillat-Savarin made a point of letting people know that it was not the ostentatious pomp which made the meal but the preparation and ingredients. He would unabashedly tell his upper class friends that he could easily enjoy a fresh trout meal taken in a tavern among workers so long as the ingredients were good and the preparation well done. He also emphasized that an ingredient's value came not from its rarity but how good it was, its quality. This was the origin of the foodie in its accurate definition. Nearly a century later a similar message would be continued by author M.F.K Fisher (1908-1992) who would do the definitive English translation of Brillat-Savarin's (1949) work along with many of her own which could be considered kindred spirits.
Starting as a little boy when he would hang out in his family's kitchen, Brillat-Savarin had a lifelong love affair for food, its preparation, theories and rituals. In secret he wrote his food book which he would self-publish anonymously. It is mainly known for its opening pages of epigrams which, while good, give it almost the appearance of a work of meringue weight to anyone who delves no deeper. It is actually to some extent a philosophical/scientific work that seeks to show the effects of food on the body, mind and soul. Throughout the work are anecdotes, scientific expositions, the importance of food's preparation, ingredients and taste. Brillat-Savarin was an early exponent of nutrition, mentioning white flour and sugar as being the leading causes of obesity. The book does not seek to be academic but more like an entertaining conversation with someone of high intelligence who is refined but not pretentious in their taste. Stylistically Brillat-Savarin was a great fan of Voltaire (1694-1778), Francois Fenelon (1651-1715) and George Louis Leclerc Buffon (1707-1788) and he uses their work as a sort of template, adding his own spices to the stew. This work is often considered the first in the (essay) genre of the profile. French literary titan Honore Balzac (1799-1850) would draw on Brillat-Savarin's work for his own Physiology of a Marriage (1829) along with a host of lesser imitators. He wanted people to enjoy food on multiple levels, physical, mental and spiritual regardless of where and what they were eating. He felt that this enjoyment should be accessible to all, naming the shops in Paris he frequented where anyone could buy the ingredients to prepare the dishes themselves. In his book he also sought to make the reader know it was not merely a French thing as ingredients from many nations are included. Subtly implied is that food like music transcends national boundaries. Anyone, regardless of where they may live or what language they speak can enjoy a bowl of soup or a Duke Ellington melody. When the book initially came out the general public clamored for it and whole heartedly embraced it whereas some of his direct peers responded hostilely to the work, ostensibly because he lacked the formal degrees to write about food and science but really because it made some of the upper class who still had memories of the revolution fresh in their minds nervous to have anything completely accessible to the everyman. The book is highly readable and while not every single thing he has written about is still applicable in the modern world the overall message found in his second epigram is still an important truth;
"Animals feed themselves, men eat but only wise men know the art of eating."
Orphaned in the street during the zenith of the French revolution, Antoine-Careme would work his way up from kitchen boy to an artist; seen to stand shoulder to shoulder with the royalty for whom he would eventually cook for. His first lowly kitchen job was done solely for a place to stay and regular meals. Becoming adept at his job and having it rapidly grow from mere means of survival into a calling he was able to apprentice to famed patissier Sylvain Bailly (1798). In this shop in a popular newly bourgeoisie neighborhood he was able to earn a reputation through his intricate window treatments made up entirely of edible sweets/pieces montees, which were meant to be used as table center pieces. His employer was supportive of him and he used ideas gleamed from studying books on architectural history in the Bibliotheque Nationale. He would also use his unorthodoxy to create gros nougats, grosses meringues, croquantes and solilemmes.
His following helped him establish a power base that would allow him to open his own place, Patisserie de la rue de la Paix. This self-made fortune was in many ways indicative of the era. Working for diplomats brought him into the orbit of powerful statesman Charles Maurice de Talleyrand Perigord (1754-1838). Talleyrand was a true connoisseur of food and he quickly snapped Careme up. During their association they would play games such as having Careme plan out a year's worth of menus with no repetition. It was during this time too that Careme honed his chops beyond desserts and sweets. Napoleon (1769-1821) always surrounded himself with the best and brightest. He inherently knew the value of propaganda and appearances. Despite the early republican leanings of his reign he modeled his regime off of components of the better Roman Emperors and the French Royalty that he had witnessed deposed as a young man. In 1804 having heard of Talleyrand's rave praise of this chef he gave him money to buy Chateau de Valencay as a sort of proto Camp David, where the chef was quickly installed. Diplomats and envoys were dined there, Careme's creations being a factor in brokering countless deals and feelings of goodwill.
Careme would outlive Napoleon's reign and serve other rulers (Tsar Alexander, London's then Prince Regent (later) George IV). He would utlize possibilities opened up by Brillat-Savarin in his emphasis of simpler sauces, using seasonal ingredients and fresh herbs. He was also in touch with the not too distant past that could be seen as (almost) anti-Brillat-Savarin in that he was the chief progenitor of haute cuisine which by no stretch of the imagination could be said to be accessible to the average Parisian citizen. While he left behind texts on sauce classifications and various recipe books there was no one big embodying volume which best represents the man's life mission but he can easily be said to be a building block used for the work and life of Auguste Escoffier (1846-1935).
Escoffier was born into a happy family; his father was a blacksmith and also grew tobacco in Nice. He showed great ability in sketching and drawing and took joy which was unusual for someone his age in beautiful things. Like Brillat-Savarin before him, he spent a lot of time in his family's kitchen watching his grandmother cook. At the age of thirteen as was typical of the time, it was felt he should get started on learning a vocation. As apparent as his abilities with brush and pen were there was still somewhat of a stigma attached to someone who was going to try to make it as a professional artist. His pragmatic father had no problem with him keeping up his art but as a hobby only.
He was taken to the restaurant his uncle had opened Le Restaurant Francais in Nice. There was no nepotism and Escoffier had to work as hard as the rest of the staff, starting out as low man on the ladder. Aside from his duties in the restaurant he was given chores and also shown how to shop for all the restaurant's ingredients and arrange the service. During a vacation in Nice, the owner of Le Petit Moulin Rouge took notice of him and invited him to join his team in Paris. Escoffier was short and would wear lifts not out of ego but to be able to see into the pots. Escoffier's time at the restaurant was cut short by military service during the Franco-Prussian war during which he served in the army as Chef de Cuisine. It was the logistics of feeding an army and the belief that an army lived on its stomach that made Escoffier one of if not the first chef to seriously research the canning of meats, vegetables and sauces. The technical considerations of canning/tinning also were in line with part of Escoffier's burgeoning philosophy of vibrant but simplified sauces.
After the war he was able to return to Le Petit Moulin Rouge. He worked for several years in different restaurants whose clientele were the cream of Parisian society, slowly garnering a loyal following who moved with him from restaurant to restaurant. In 1871 he finally opened his own place in Cannes Le Faison d'Or (The Golden Pheasant). He started formulating new ideas not just for dining but the serving and preparation of food.
The Maison Chevet (Palais Royal) offered him the position of manager in 1878. This hotel/restaurant was known for its lavish banquets. This was one of the first places that some of Escoffier's innovations met practical application. He arranged the kitchen using the brigade system (basically different stations for each part of the meal/dish overseen by a sort of governing kitchen hierarchy such as head chef et al). Before this kitchens could be chaotic and hazardous this new system cut down on food wastage arising from two cooks making the same dish. To further cut down on food wastage he got rid of the practice of the giant gaudy ornamentations made of edible (or semi) materials. Food expertly prepared and in echoing Brillat-Savarin's mantra, made from the best ingredients should be enough to bring joy to the diner. He also implemented dishes being brought out and served as they appeared on the menu (service a la Russe) one at a time and not just all at once, which was to great advantage to both chef and diner as now each dish could more easily be known and appreciated. In his striving for a simple perfection Escoffier created the first a la carte menu which allowed someone to eat just as much and what they wanted, their senses no longer being overloaded by an undesired periphery of morsels.
After marrying Delphine Daffis in 1880, Escoffier and his bride moved to Monte Carlo. Here he was in charge of the kitchen at The Grand Hotel during the winter and in summers he headed up the kitchen of the Hotel National in Lucerne. More of his innovations were applied; his wife was the daughter of a publisher and an author in her own right. Escoffier worked out a classification system for mother sauces and other sauces which could be born from them. He published a book on them. This system allowed for a sauce which was derived from another (mother) one to more accurately and quickly be replicated consistently.
Before Beethoven (1770-1827), there had been plenty of composers who had been admired but they were still, when lucky enough to find a steady patron, merely considered part of the household staff. He elevated the status for composer much as Escoffier would now do for the profession of chefs. The French government would award him one of their highest honors, making him a Chevalier of the Legion d' Honneur (1928) the first chef to ever receive such recognition. Escoffier would further the dignity of how chefs were perceived and also how they lived after leaving the kitchen by starting a financial assistance program for retired chefs which was just one of the philanthropic societies which he created.
As Careme had been called before him, Escoffier was now often referred to as "The Chef of kings, King of the Chefs". Csar Ritz (1850-1918) was a luxury hotel magnate who was spoken of in similar terms for his field. The two men formed a long lasting partnership (1890) opening a string of luxury hotels all over Europe which made Ritz the shorthand for luxury (origin of the use "ritzy" for something fancy). They were kindred spirits in wanting to offer up the best services to their guests, Ritz like Escoffier bringing more efficient practices to the hotel industry. They started with The Savoy Hotel in London with The Prince of Wales and his circle as part of the initial group of loyal patrons. A lot of the royalty and upper crust who patronized The Savoy under Ritz and Escoffier had never dined out in public before. The novelty of it held appeal. Like the setting for a fine gem, the removal of Careme era over ornamentation on the table meant that neither the upper crust in their finery nor the food were detracted from which furthered the appeal and underscored this new social ritual. This combined with Ritz's innovations made the rich and powerful comfortable venturing outside of their usual private clubs and vast homes to socialize and dine. The two men would be caught up in a scandal when 3400 (British pounds) worth of wine and alcohol went missing. Neither man was hurt by the allegations which had become confused as Escoffier was constantly receiving gifts from various suppliers. They would leave the Savoy because of the controversy. The two men formed The Ritz Hotel Development Group with which they were able to spread their empire out to many of the major cities in Europe. Escoffier would organize the kitchens and hand pick everyone who worked in his kitchen, including at one point a then young Ho Chi Minh (1850-1969) (pastry chef). The Ritz in London would poach all of the clientele away from the Savoy. The Ritz in Paris became famous for its high tea which Escoffier was actually against as he felt filling up on pastries so soon before dinner dulled both the appetite and senses.
In 1901 Ritz would have a nervous breakdown and step down from active company duties. Escoffier would continue on, expanding the Ritz-Escoffier branding to now include the luxury liner Hamburg-Amerika line cruise ship company (1912). The largest ship in the fleet was the Imperator whose on board restaurant was a reproduction of Escoffier's London Carlton restaurant.
His hectic schedule slowed down with age until retiring to Monte Carlo in his seventies. He had spent six decades changing the way people perceived and enjoyed fine dining. All his theories on a working kitchens staff set up forever altered how kitchens were run. His mother sauce system maintained the important sensuality of well-done food while introducing an efficiency and modernism which allowed for consistent reproduction. All of this would have been enough to ensure a place in gastronomical Olympus without considering his invaluable tome "The Escoffier" (Le Guide Culinaire) (1903) is a mammoth book and would be a crowning achievement for anyone to have written regardless of how much or little else they had done with their lives. The book is still used by professional chefs but is easily a must have for anybody into food or cooking. Unlike Brillat-Savarin's book this one is without anecdotes or theories. After some recipes are "Remarks upon..." which are technical observations and explanations from Escoffier. The book could be considered schematics for haute cuisine but not everything in it is decadent nor geared solely towards banquet sized meals. Even with how seemingly labor intensive some of his stock recipes may seem, they are more accessible now as opposed to a decade ago or so as one now need not look too hard to find the necessary tools such as a chinois which can be had at most major chain cooking stores (William Sonoma et al). And even for the base ingredients, there has been a slow resurgence of neighborhood butchers as people rediscover the joys of having their butcher; any of whom would gladly do custom cuts or supply the necessary bones. The book provides many if not all the fundamentals of gastronomy.
The English version is 923 pages long. It has a practical set up of each recipe receiving a number. If one recipe uses another (dish) as part of its foundation, that number is given making it far easier and quicker to do. Not every meal has to be fancy but every meal should offer up more than the mere feeling of being full. Eating is one of the simplest pleasures that anyone can do and everyone must do. These tomes radiate not only potential inspiration but also small ways in which we can make ourselves and others happier, fork in hand.
I had earlier made plans to meet Jane for tea at Mariage Freres. Would my running out disrupt our peace? No, something was bound to rear up at some point and make a mess and it would probably be my fault but that would not be it.
I decided to head out early as I wanted to poke around the paint store. Despite the sun now being fully awake it was cold out. I went down the stairs to walk along the Seine as I considered doing a quick sketch of the buildings across the way. I looked down, a stubble of twigs broke through the surface of the ice that had formed where a curve in the wall had stilled the water, impaling the silvered ghost me.
(Works by the spiritual Descendants of the Gastronomical "Big Three")
M.F.K Fisher (1908-1992) She was the English translator of Brillat-Savarin. Her own writings are worth seeking out. They mix the essay with the technical. She is personal but never overly so; the reader is never reduced to mere voyeur to her gastronomical passions. Her joy of food and its preparation and ingredients is infectious. Although chronologically coming way after him, she takes up Brillat-Savarin's mission of articulating the foodie.
Louis Laulnier's "Le Repertoire de La Cuisine". This book was written in 1914. It is similar to Escoffier's but not as ambitious in scope. Within the 239 pages are definitions of sauces, dishes and ingredients but unlike Escoffier's book it forgoes techniques and the actual recipes. Like Escoffier's this one, essentially a dictionary of cuisine, is still used in restaurants and hotels.
Larousse Gastronomique first came out in 1938. Within its 1350 pages are recipes, techniques, terms and histories. The book is all encompassing with many things still of use today.
Michael Ruhlman has written more than one book but my favorite remains one of his first. Whereas M.F.K fisher leaned more towards the essay, with his "The Elements of Cooking" (2007) Michael leans towards the technical. Both authors use their skill to open up the joys of food to the non-specialist. This book inspired partially by Strunk and White's "The Elements of Style" seeks to demystify and simplify without watering down or compromising real cooking techniques. It is not a recipe book but one of technique and foundation as to allow anybody to cook well.
image: Crepe Girl (4x6) Watercolor on paper
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