Thursday, January 19, 2012

From My Bookshelf

A few months back, I wrote a post on some of my favorite books. I mentioned four books out of my ever-growing collection, but choosing those four was no easy task. There are so many great books here in my office! And that reminds me, I could use an extra bookcase for all the new ones that have since been added.
I guess you could say that I never stopped being a bookworm. My passion for books started during the summer vacations of my grammar school years. Our public library was not very far from my house and I spent many an afternoon at that top floor (the children's section) of the library. I was particularly fond of the Ramona series from Beverly Cleary. Just like me, Ramona had a big imagination and sometimes, it got her into a bit of trouble.
During my nerdiest period, probaly while I was attending university, I collected old Dutch literature, and when I say old, I mean really old! I was infatuated (still am!) with Dutch 17th century writers such and Vondel, Cats and Huygens and I read there stories and poems (in old Dutch), over and over. Especially thrilling to me was finding some of their books in antique versions. The older the better! It always felt like those old volumes added just a little extra something to my reading experience.
At this point though, cookbooks have become my addiction. Everything from well-known food writers to books of foreign cuisine and even children's cookbooks. During my travels to France, I love to walk into a bookstore and browse through unkown French cookbooks. A few always make their way home with me.
Choosing four books was a bit of a challenge again this time, but I managed! I bet it won't be much of a surprise that all four of them have to do with France. Here they are in no particular order:

Les Recettes Lorraines de nos Grands-Mères
(Anne-Lise Henry)
This book (which is in French, as you can see from the title) has a lot of charm and even more great recipes. The focus is on simple, regional cuisinine. It has recipes for the type of food that a French grandmother from Lorraine would cook for you. Should you be lucky enough to have a French grandmother from Lorraine. The book taught me how to make a proper quiche filling. Next on my list is the ragoût d'escargots. You won't find any color photographs. Instead, the book is beautifully illustrated with Victorian-style pen drawings, black and white photographs of authentic French kitchens, cooks and scenes, and old advertisements. There are recipes for soups, breads, vegetables, cheese dishes, tarts, sweets and even liqueurs. The blueberry jam recipe in this book is definitely at the top of my list of favorite preserves.

Heimwee naar La Douce France: Recepten om thuis te genieten van de Franse sfeer
(Onno Kleyn)
Onno Kleyn is one of my favorite Dutch food writers. His recipes are well-written, easy to follow and they always work. This little book holds a concise collection of classic French dishes. Things like sole à la meunière, boeuf bourguignon, blanquette de veau, poulet au riesling and confit de canard. Onno is always singing the praises about oeufs durs mayonnaise, and ever since I read this book, the dish has always been a favorite when entertaining. Easy and so incredibly delicious! The last chapter on desserts has a wonderful tarte aux framboises which I've also made with strawberries. The crème brûlée and the bavarois à l'orange are also ones to try- a real treat to make and certainly to eat.

Joie de Vivre: Simple French Style for Everyday Living
(Robert Arbor & Katherine Whiteside)
What is it that the French have that makes them seem to enjoy their life so much? Whenever I'm in France, it becomes obvious. They take pleasure in the little things. From having a coffee at a café with a croissant while reading the paper to growing their own fruits and vegetables. If you crave the French lifestyle, than this is definitely one you'll want to add to your collection. I pretty much read the book in a couple of hours and after I finished it, I felt like I had come back from my France. Everything was so familiar, well-described, inspiring! I especially love the recipe for a simple spice rub for meat. And the recipe for menthe à l'eau.

French Odyssey
(Rick Stein)
How could one not love Rick Stein? Watching his shows is not only inspiring, but also soothing. His voice has a certain something which simply takes me away! I love his passion for food and how he always manages to make me feel hungry. His books are no exception. Especially his French Odyssey which was written to accompany the series that aired on BBC2 in the summer of 2005. From Bordeaux to Marseille, we travel with him to food markets, meet the people behind the food and taste some of the wonderful dishes he recreated during his exciting trip. It is as much a journal of his travels as it is a cookbook for those who love the cuisine of the south of France. The book has bright, beautiful photographs and a handy collection of side dishes and basic recipes at the end. 
*Note: my version is in Dutch.

I hope you've enjoyed my book suggestions and should you know of some books I simply must read, please let me know! Now off to make some poulet Basquaise!

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